Como Shambhala Estate suits me at first sight. Set on a vast plot in the jungles of Bali's cultural capital of Ubud, this is a sacred place to take a breather and do some inner accounting.
Despite its fame in wellness circles, the estate's true character is never baldly marketed; even annual devotees tend to keep their experiences off Facebook. The austerity of the site inspires discretion over fanfare. I'm drawn here for the obscure ayurvedic offerings, the non-watered-down variety – bring on the odours and discomfort. This is a serious holistic venue boasting a nutritionist, yoga master, Pilates instructor and executive chef fluent in raw and vegan cuisine.
My first date is with the resident ayurvedic doctor. I close my eyes as he reads my pulse with his index and middle fingers. After cradling my wrists for 10 silent seconds, he tells me I overthink, that my mind is quick to “ambush itself.”
He also notes I could do with more iron in my diet, more cruciferous vegetables. To slow my mental stream, he prescribes a pizichilli session. Formerly reserved for the royal families of India, pizichilli is a continuous stream of warm, herbal oil rhythmically piped over your body with a rubber hose. He tells me that this potent, medicinal oil is flown in from India where it takes days to render a pint of it.
Later that day, my therapist leads me to a special treatment room where I'm struck by how dark the oil is – molasses black– and my therapist says she'll be using a whole bucket of it. She invites me to lie down face up on a specially crafted ayurvedic table – a slab of solid neem wood. Half an hour in, I've entered into another dimension; I feel something like nothingness. Neither awake nor asleep, perhaps I've finally found my “third eye.”
Pizichilli lubricates the body in a manner designed to enhance circulation, eliminate toxins, balance the nervous system, and calm both body and mind.
To describe Como Shambhala Estate as a luxury spa would be doing it an injustice. The idea here is to breathe change in your life and to understand the mind-body connection. The architecture is one of the most celebrated aspects of the venue – a reverent layering of local stone, wood and traditional alang alang (thatched) roofing. Como also has a serious celebrity fan base. Daniel Craig once checked in to get his bod in gear to play James Bond. John Travolta makes a pilgrimage when he's feeling puffy.
General manager John Halpin, a phenomenal storyteller, is always up for communing with guests and one-on-one time with him is not to be missed. One of the three best reasons to book? Breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are two superb restaurants on the estate led by executive chef Amanda Gale: Glow and Kudus House. Glow features contemporary cuisine while Kudus House has a more traditional Indonesian menu. All food here is organic, seasonal and fresh from local fields.
Como Shambhala Estate at Banjar Begawan, Bali, Indonesia; 62 361 978 888; cse.como.bz; $120 for 60 minutes.
Special to The Globe and Mail