Bliss Body Retreat, Bali, Indonesia
Slow down and create space for healing in a tropical eden
Bliss Body Retreats in Bali are led by Vlada, a yoga and meditation teacher, wellness coach, detox and health therapist and Reiki practitioner, alongside certified raw food chef Olha. They take place a short drive from the thrust and hustle of Ubud, surrounded on all sides by pure green abundance, with rice paddies and vibrant jungle as far as the eye can see. The noises of the jungle, the sound of flowing water, vegan nutrition, daily cleansing, profound yoga, meditation and spiritual guidance create the conditions for transformation. Bliss Body Retreat also offers virtual retreats.
The tranquillity and spatial harmony of the setting, the abundance of frangipani trees and bougainvillea, pebbled walkways and infinity pools spilling onto a vista of endless green. The intimacy of the group, and the corresponding sense of individual care and engagement from warm and genuine hosts Vlada and Olha, along with the staff who maintain the property immaculately. The sympathetic touches of flowers and petals patterned all over the villa that offset the contemporary neutrality of the décor, the sumptuously comfortable beds, and the vibrant and exceptionally beautifully presented food.
In many of the twice daily yoga classes, a lot of time is spent on discussion and on meditation, and so while the yoga practice you do is strong, there isn’t all that much of it. The bedrooms, especially those on the ground floor, feel a little exposed, since they’re walled with tinted glass – which is spectacular, but means that curtains need to be drawn for privacy. Some might prefer the food to be lighter – portions are very generous and often rich in nuts and oils, with daily desserts.
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The offering combines yoga, meditation, discussion, nutrition, all in the name of slowing down and ‘dropping into the body’. There will be at least one excursion to a water temple, sessions on topics such as raw food and the seven chakras, and lots of time to rest. The mantra here above all else is: take time.
Vlada has been working as a wellness coach, spiritual guide and yoga and meditation teacher for several years. She is dedicated to transformational practices for the body and the spirit, with a focus on divinity and a connection with nature. She also works with white light and reiki energy healing. Her passion for facilitating healing is palpable. Having moved to Bali from Ukraine five years ago, Vlada enrolled on a silent meditation retreat. There, she was placed by chance in a shared room with Olha, also from Ukraine, who turned out to be a kindred spirit, and joined Vlada in running her retreats. Olha has several qualifications in plant-based and raw food cookery, and applies huge love and enthusiasm to the creation of her dishes. Having converted to a raw food diet herself in the last few years, she is dedicated to nutrition as a pathway to a better life.
Yoga practice is twice daily, at 7.30am and 6pm. Vlada leads classes informed by the energy of the group, and blends Hatha, Yin and Iyengar to create sequences that encourage stillness and marinating in tight places needing release. The yoga shala is reset neatly before each session with mats, bricks, straps and bolsters garnished with frangipani flowers. Towels and insect spray are provided, while incense burns, crickets chirp and frogs ribbit. Gentle music plays and there is an atmosphere of intimacy. The best bit: Vlada presses masks infused with deliciously scented essential oils across your eyes for shavasana.
Guided meditation and pranayama are integrated into the morning and evening yoga sessions throughout the week, introducing techniques such as chakra meditation, with a focus on visualising the body’s seven energy centres, and microcosmic orbit meditation, which links focus and breath to distribute energy powerfully around the body.
Vlada talks to the group at length about the benefits of healing and detoxification, on physical, emotional and spiritual levels. She encourages introspection and journaling, drawing the group to revelations that are then committed to pen and paper. You are encouraged to surrender and listen to your heart, to feel embodied and rooted, and to recognise your relationship to the wider universe.
Between meals and group sessions, there is plenty of time for lolling and drifting. Two stunning infinity pools are flanked with comfortable loungers, and there are several places to rest, doze, and gaze out over the horizon. You don’t feel over-programmed in the least – sun-seekers will have ample opportunity for soaking up rays.
On day two, each guest is treated to a private 90-minute spa ritual session in their suite, comprising an aromatherapy massage with essential oils, a Himalayan salt body scrub, a honey body mask and papaya face mask. Additional treatments are available at extra cost, such as facial rituals using oatmeal and avocado, spirulina and argan oil, and full-body treatments.
With humour and passion for her craft, Olha leads a hands-on workshop, where you will make that day’s lunch. Expect to learn more about the benefits of a raw diet, to massage lots of vegetables, and to be encouraged to garnish your meal with flair.
At an additional cost of US$80 per session, Vlada offers one-to-one coaching sessions as well as Reiki healing and chakra-balancing. For the same cost, Olha conducts Tarot and Intuitive readings.
At least one day, you’ll be taken to a Balinese water temple, where you are led through the rituals of offering and prayer. Sarongs will be provided, and you will immerse yourself in purifying holy water, at the point where two rivers meet, understood to be a site of powerful spiritual energy and activation.
There are four deluxe bedroom suites with stylish ensuite bathrooms. All have showers, and all except one have a majestic freestanding bathtub, one in particular being carved from a single block of wood. Another, on the upper floor, has a tub at the foot of the bed, directly overlooking the jungle panorama. The décor is neutral, in whites, beiges and browns, and all the suites combine indoor and outdoor space with flair, bringing the elements and a sense of the organic into your living space. The suites have king beds (or twin, if required), bedecked generously with crisp bedlinen, plump pillows and cushions. They also feature additional seating areas, for example reclining chairs or a writing desk.
A smaller standard room is at the centre of the property (converted into a media room when unoccupied) and overlooks the al fresco dining table, which in turn overlooks the lush green vista. It has a spacious private bathroom that requires you to pass through a shared area (albeit for just a few paces). It’s a toss-up for most spectacular suite between the two first-floor rooms; arguably the one with its own private balcony just edges it.
One of the two infinity pools is overlooked by a shaded open-air cabana, with sofas and two swing seats. There are three day beds on the main veranda, the two circular ones especially generously sized and enveloping in their cosiness. With such an intimate group, these are all places that feel fairly private.
Pack light – you won’t need more than swimwear and yoga gear, and something to cover the shoulders for temple visits. Taper your coffee intake in the week leading up to the retreat – jetlag is not happily complemented by caffeine withdrawal. Keep an open mind and leave rational argument at the door – it’ll be a happier experience if you go with the spiritual flow.
When to Go
June to September are cooler months, while October and November are the hottest. The retreat is open over Christmas and New Year, where they have a celebration lunch and sound healing, with a focus on leaving the past behind and looking ahead.
All meals are taken at the outdoor dining table on the central veranda, a handsome oblong with cushioned benches, again overlooking the breathtaking jungle panorama. The table is laid with elegant place settings and floral decoration each day. The food is strictly raw and vegan, with menus devised by Olha. Ingredients are sourced mostly from organic suppliers in northern Bali, and are all seasonal.
After morning yoga you are served a fresh coconut with a bamboo straw. In fact, coconut water is on tap at all times. Breakfast at 10 will be platters of fresh mango, dragonfruit and papaya and a cold pressed green juice, followed by chia porridge with matcha, avocado, spirulina and aloe vera mousse; or flaxseed porridge with orange papaya jam accompanied by a coconut mango lassi topped with dragonfruit granola.
For lunch at 3pm, expect raw minestrone followed by sun-dried tomato cannelloni filled with almond pesto and cashew cheese; or raw sushi with tahini ginger dressing paired with a salad of wakame, edamame, spinach and red cabbage. The two main meals of the day are both sumptuously generous. Following evening yoga, you are served a cup of deeply flavoured vegetable broth.
Ginger and herbal teas are available all day, alongside tangerines, snake fruit, passion fruit and bananas. There is a strict no alcohol and no caffeine policy.
The retreat operates a zero waste cooking policy, where anything not repurposed for broths or juices is fed to local pigs. Where food is sourced from organic suppliers on the island, the retreat is supporting local permaculture and fair-trade farming. A local initiative called Trash Hero allows for all recyclables to be collected. No plastic is used on-site. There are ten staff, all of whom are from local families, and the running of the villa plays a key role in the local economy.
Br. Ayah Kelusa, Payangan, Gianyar, Bali
Airport: Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar)
Transfer time: 2 hours