26 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Spa Business
2022 issue 3

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Leisure Management - Soneva Soul


Soneva Soul

The CEO and co-founder of Soneva talks to Liz Terry about the philosophy behind his new wellness concept, Soneva Soul

Soneva founders Sonu and Eva Shivdasani Photo: Soneva Jani By Aksham
The concept of wellness permeates all that Soneva offers – from all-natural locations to a barefoot ethos Photo: Soneva Jani By Aksham
Photo: Soneva soul
Clocks are set to ‘Soneva Time’ – an hour ahead of local time – to help reset circadian rhythms Photo: Soneva soul
Soneva guests come for a deeper sense of recovery, rest and regeneration Photo: Soneva jani
Therapies go beyond pampering, to address the whole person Photo: Soneva soul
Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation programmes are available photo: Soneva soul
Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation programmes are available Photo: Soneva soul

What was the inspiration behind the new brand – Soneva Soul?
It’s the culmination of everything we’ve learned since we launched our spa at Soneva Fushi in 1995 – the very first resort spa in the Maldives. Along Soneva’s journey we’ve gathered knowledge and wisdom from medical science and technology, along with ancient healing practices.

We’re pioneering an approach that combines apparent opposites, to offer our guests a transformative and completely personalised wellbeing experience in inspiring surroundings that reconnects their mind, body and soul.

The concept of ‘wellness’ permeates all we do: our sustainable, barefoot philosophy that reconnects our guests to the earth; life-affirming natural locations; health-focused cuisine; and life-changing guest experiences.

Soneva Soul is located at Soneva Jani on the Island of Medhufaru in the Maldives, and I chose an area on the island’s east coast for the development, high above the mangroves, because it’s such an incredible setting.

Much of the design work for Soneva Soul took place when my wife Eva and I were staying in Istanbul while I was undergoing chemotherapy for stage-four cancer, which is now in remission.

We’ve always been inspired by nature’s majesty, magnitude and mystery. Eva and I feel privileged to be guardians of this area of incredible natural beauty. Nature is awe-inspiring and its beauty is such an important contributor to overall wellbeing.

I believe 60 per cent of healing and wellness comes from the mind. During our stay in Istanbul, I was reading Dr Kelly Turner’s book, Radical Remission – it features nine chapters that talk about a particular action one needs to take in order to achieve radical remission, and six of these focus on mental wellbeing.

How is Soneva Soul different?
We offer each guest a personalised pathway, which means no two journeys will look the same.

Each can start at any point – whether an individual is looking to kick-start a healthier lifestyle, heal following an illness or injury, improve physical or mental performance, or simply relax.

Based on outcomes that target guests’ specific needs, the treatment menu at each Soneva Soul unites traditional wellness philosophies, such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbalism and medicinal mushrooms, with innovative treatment methodologies and therapeutic biomodulation, which will include heart rate variability testing, platelet-rich plasma (PRP therapy), nutrient IV therapy, cryotherapy, ozone therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Yoga, Pranayama Breathing and Meditation programmes reinforce the link between mind, body and soul, while an expert-led sleep programme creates a personalised intervention for healthier long-term sleeping habits.

What makes the concept unique?
We offer a depth of wellness not typically found in a resort spa, as we include traditional wellness philosophies and practices, combined with cutting edge diagnostic technologies, and pioneering treatment methodologies such as stem cell injections, biomodulation, biophotonic therapy and ultraviolet blood irradiation therapy.

Soneva Soul is guided by the principle of ‘lifestyle evolution’, with experts across a spectrum of wellness disciplines working in partnership with guests on rest, recovery, and regeneration, as well as detoxification, movement, and optimisation, following principles such as balance, mindful living and self-care.

Each Soneva Soul is built in harmony with its surroundings, elevating guests’ experiences far beyond pampering or traditional spa therapies.

Our ‘no news, no shoes’ ethos isn’t just about removing shoes and relaxing with the sand between the toes. It’s about re-grounding – making a connection with the earth’s natural electrical charge which has a profound effect on red blood count and has been found to reduce inflammation, promote healthier organ function and better sleep.

Clocks at all of our resorts are set to ‘Soneva Time’ – an hour ahead of local time. Not only does this enable guests to witness remarkable sunrises and sunsets, it also helps reharmonise their circadian rhythms. Likewise, our remote locations mean we don’t have light pollution, and our evening lighting remains deliberately soft, which enables guests to look up to see the star-filled night skies in all their glory, which can also be enjoyed from our private open-air bathrooms – a signature feature in every Soneva villa.

Who delivers these high-end services?
Our experts draw on their knowledge and healing heritage to offer treatments that are unique to them. These include rituals such as the Tok Sen massage by Piyada – an energising, traditional northern Thai massage that uses wooden mallets and pegs to hammer tension away. The rhythmic tapping of the tools uses vibration to work deeply into the fascia while providing a hypnotic relaxation effect. This massage stimulates the circulation, soft tissue and tendons, as well as acupressure points.

How will the concept develop?
We’re privileged to have a high return rate, so want to ensure every visit offers guests something new and memorable. One way we achieve this is through our Soneva Stars calendar, which welcomes experts throughout the year: athletes, Michelin-starred chefs, astronomers, artists and authors; as well as Soneva Soul wellness residencies by health and wellbeing specialists across a spectrum of wellness practices, healing modalities, spirituality and fitness.

The design of our resorts encourages guests to move and explore – each villa comes with complimentary bicycles and tricycles, and paths and boardwalks are rarely straight, their curves and bends invite guests to be mindful of every moment.

We offer cross-functional gyms, equipped with the latest fitness technology and our experiential fitness and movement programmes take place within nature, whether morning yoga sessions on the beach or training at the jungle gym.

Our culinary offering across our dining destinations honours Hippocrates: ‘Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine thy food’. Our skilled chefs craft dishes that are healthy and nutritious, while also being sustainable and organic. For example, we’ve asked chefs to vastly reduce the use of red meat, dairy products and refined ingredients such as sugar and white flour. We’ve already reduced beef by 75 per cent, and dairy has been greatly reduced, too – our ultimate goal is to bring the consumption of these two almost to zero.

What’s next for Soneva Soul?
We’ve recently opened the Soneva Soul resort wellness centre at Soneva Fushi, and are introducing the concept to Soneva Kiri in Thailand.

In the longer term, we’ll work with like-minded partners to launch one-of-a-kind Soneva Soul wellness destinations across the world.

Over the coming months each Soneva Soul will also establish a full permanent team that includes an Ayurvedic doctor, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and integrative medicine doctor alongside our therapists and wellness specialists.

In addition to the Soneva Soul wellness centres across our resorts, we’re also hosting a series of Soneva Soul wellness events and workshops across destinations in Europe and India to showcase our wellness offerings and introduce our management to our key customers in these markets.

Originally published in Spa Business 2022 issue 3

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