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My journey, from beginning to end, fed my soul with a bounty of well-being.
I recently had the good fortune to be invited to evaluate a unique retreat focused on the attainment of emotional well-being through the practice of natural therapies (ranging from diet to energy healing) and yoga and meditation.
When I embarked for Zanzibar last October from Cape Town, 160 years after Burton, I had no idea what to expect. I certainly did not anticipate the same sultry euphoria that the intrepid explorer had so rejoiced in more than one and a half centuries ago; but my journey proved to be richly rewarding.
A PERFECT PLACE FOR HEALING As with many countries in Africa, Zanzibar has experienced its fair share of political upheaval including colonialisation and revolution and it is well known for its notorious history of slave trading. Today, however, Zanzibar is a peaceful semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, attracting visitors whose senses are aroused by the famous local spices, the warmth of the sun and the beauty of the beaches.
I stayed at the Villa Casadamare in Jambiani – a tiny and humble fishing village on the southeast coast. Casadamare is an exquisite villa, designed and built to perfection with impeccable taste while incorporating the natural environment into its layout. Hosts Andrea and Sara and their charming staff make you feel completely at home here and the stage is set for the ultimate retreat. Walks along the soft white sandy beaches bring you into contact with the gentle locals who will always greet you in Swahili with a cheery ‘jambo’, hello, or ‘karibu’, welcome – to which I quickly learned to respond with ‘asante sana’, thank you very much.
THE HEALERSThe aim of the week-long retreat was to bring about and/or enhance physical and emotional well-being. La BohémienneThe mastermind behind this retreat is British-born Rina Henry who now resides in France with her lovely 14-year-old daughter, Eden. Her company is called Les Bohèmes – a reflection of her new French home and bohemian lifestyle. Rina is a beautiful person, inside and out. She started her business, which focuses on international retreats, to escape the survival mode existence and to embrace, instead, the passion of living authentically through the pursuit of healthy food, travel, exercise, interior design and fashion, and to give all of this, with love, to others.
‘Giving people emotional well-being is dear to me. I never thought I could do this and I am doing it,’ says Rina. She adds: ‘My real passion is giving. I think giving people an experience, great service, cooking them a great meal, gives me a buzz like no other.’ She adds, ‘Everything starts with yourself. I must give out what I want to receive; I call this the mirror concept.’
The doctorAfter an inspiring conversation with naturopath Dr Ameet Aggarwal, Rina invited him to offer emotional counselling on the retreat and to give some insight into the advantages of energy healing and psychology, naturopathic remedies and the link between diet and dis-ease.
Ameet is highly intelligent, intuitive and sensitive – qualities that make him the wonderful holistic healer he is. He was born in Nanyuki in the foothills of Mount Kenya and attended high school and university in Edmonton, Canada. He always knew he wanted to specialise in naturopathic medicine because, he says, ‘It resonates with my soul. I feel it is right to do. It treats the root cause without suppressing symptoms, it doesn’t make people sicker, it restores health.’
Ameet attended the excellent Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto and the Gestalt Institute of Toronto and after graduating worked for a year in Vancouver, after which he returned to Kenya. Today he teaches twice a year in Rome and does health retreats mainly in Africa. The health retreats focus on emotional healing.
Listening to Ameet and experiencing firsthand how he works reinforces the importance of the gift of giving and how through giving you can experience the joy of gratitude. He explains: ‘I facilitate people’s motivation to heal themselves . . . I also feel very satisfied and healed myself when I work with people because when somebody transforms their state of mind and energy towards a healthier state and vibration, I feel that change in my body.’
Treatment approachAmeet treats each client holistically, considering past traumas, diet and for how long the condition/health challenge has persisted, the health of the organs and so on. He also looks at all the organs to see if any of them could be a contributing factor.
His tools consist largely of herbal medication, nutritional supplements, homeopathy, counselling, and body therapy.
Ameet prefers energy psychology to analytical psychology. He explains that energy psychology is more transformative and raises awareness. His preferred therapies include Gestalt Therapy and Family Constellations Therapy.
Gestalt Therapy focuses on the here and now. The way the client is telling the story, the tone of voice, is as important as the story itself. The behaviour in the present moment is based on past experience. By bringing awareness that the behaviour in the present moment is coming from a past event makes the client realise how stuck they have been in this current behaviour pattern and how they can now free themselves through the choice of letting go of the emotional trauma.
Family Constellations Therapy, explains Ameet, ‘is based on principles that we are affected by more than our own experiences in this life. We are affected by the experiences and behaviours of our parents, relatives, ancestors and events that happened in their past. Unconsciously we carry certain behaviours that reflect the compensations or adjustments our grandparents and ancestors made due to traumatic or harmful events in their lives . . . Family Constellations Therapy encourages the client to not take responsibility for something that doesn’t belong to them.’
By also working in the here and now, Family Constellations Therapy restores balance in the client’s brain and chemistry. The shift is visible. Neuroplasticity enables the brain to rewire itself after a therapeutic experience.
For those interested, Ameet offers a Cure Your Mind Online Course (http://health.drameet.com/p/5-systems-health) that focuses on anxiety and depression and covers everything from a naturopathic perspective for mental health.
Ameet’s future plans include living by the ocean and owning a health retreat where people can come for healing. At the same time he would like to infuse holistic medicine into poor and remote communities through mobile clinics and teaching workshops.
The yogiPetite, pretty and poised, with an enormous capacity to give and contribute to emotional and physical well-being through her gentle teaching, South African-born yogi Marisa van Vuuren has lived in Zanzibar for 13 years. She is the founder of Yoga Zanzibar and teaches Ashtanga-based and Creative Vinyasa Flow yoga. Her emphasis is on alignment according to the individual’s needs and flowing movements linked with an intense focus on the audible Ujjayi breath or ‘ocean’ breath that is both energising and relaxing.
Marisa first fell in love with yoga at the age of 14. She would practise it in secret in her room away from the disapproving eyes of her father, a pastor, who viewed it as ‘some strange Indian religion worshipping the sun.’
For Marisa, ‘Yoga is a “practical psychology” that provides the tools to cope with daily life and its challenges. Its direct positive effect on the body and mind transforms the relationship with ourselves, others and the world we live in. Yoga can help us discover our passions, allowing us to live a more fulfilled life.’Even though I initially struggled with the yoga sessions on the retreat, I soon began to find a place of peace in Marisa’s lessons: it was almost as though the movements and breathing were releasing deep stress from within me and I had space for something new, something exciting.
CONCLUSIONBeing in the presence of these wonderful healers was akin to experiencing the safest of havens, this in an idyllic setting – an extraordinarily beautiful island inhabited by extraordinarily unassuming and kind people. If you need a safe and tranquil space to find yourself again, a Zanzibar retreat is the perfect panacea – all you can say, with true gratefulness for the moment you are in, for the beauty you are surrounded by, for the sun on your face, and for the peace you have within, is ‘asante sana’.
Contact the healers:Rina Henry www.les-bohemes.comDr Ameet Aggarwal www.drameet.comMarisa van Vuuren www.yogazanzibar.comCasdamare www.casadamarezanzibar.com
NATASHA BOLOGNESI, BA (HONS); MPHIL (Journ)
After graduating with a BA Honours degree from the University of Cape Town, she embarked on a proofreading and writing career before living in Italy for six years. On her return, Natasha completed her Master’s degree in Journalism at Stellenbosch University and worked as a freelance health writer up until the end of 2012 when she joined the editorial team at Natural Medicine.
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