Eve Boggenpoel recharges body and
spirit at a holistic Austrian retreat
I’m standing on the edge of a silver lake
and tears are streaming down my face. But it’s not sadness I feel. The setting
sun has left a fragile pink glow over the mountains and, as I listen to the
slow movement from Mahler’s Fifth on my iPod, I’m surrounded by such beauty
that all I feel is joy, and I realise the work of Viva Mayr Spa is done.
My journey began 10 days’ ago when, after
just three hours’ sleep in two days, I somehow managed to pack a suitcase and
get to Lake Worth in southern Austria. Having been working 14-hour days for the
previous few weeks, I was close to exhaustion, and a trip to the famous health
spa to sample the burnout programme was just what I needed.
Worth in Southern Austria
Nestling on the shores of a 22 km lake,
Viva Mayr Hotel is famed for it’ s strict diet regime – dry spelt rolls,
vegetable broth and cleansing Epsom salt laxatives. Founded on the belief that
most health complaints can be eased by balancing the digestive system, I’m keen
to find out just how accurate that philosophy might be.
food-combining diet aims to balance and rest the digestive system
After a flight that’s shorter than my daily
commute to the office, I meet the lovely Dr. Nadja Aichbichler, who diagnoses
intolerances to gluten, yeast, lactose and histamine, using applied kinesiology
(muscle testing). As I lie on the couch, she places a food sample on my tongue
and asks me to push my raised knee against her hand. Despite being a firm
believer in alternative medicine, I’m slightly skeptical about her methodology.
But my doubts soon fade when I feel the different responses I have to an ‘OK’
food (a strong push) and one I have an allergy to (a weak, ‘zig-zag’ movement).
When she tests the acupuncture meridian that relates to my stressed-out adrenal
glands, I can’t move my leg at all! What’s even more interesting is that her
results match blood tests I had earlier in the year.
delicious organic food is tailored to guests’ individual needs
With gentle reassurance, Nadja plans a full
programme of treatment to help replenish my energy levels and heal my inflamed
gut – which she tells me is compounded by stress and bed Dietary habits such as
eating in a rush or late in the evening. Her recommendations include food
combining, light therapy and herbal baths, plus a daily cocktail of vitamins –
to be given intravenously – to help create more ATP, the molecule that provides
the energy for most cellular activity. I’m also prescribed Sanopal – an
energy-boosting recovery drink normally given to cancer patients after
chemotherapy. It seems I’ve overused my body so much that I need to stay two
weeks instead of one, not just to set myself back on the road to health but,
Nadja tells me, so I can change my life.
Over the next couple of days, I settle into
a routine of therapeutic treatments and daily abdominal massage from Nadja, but
it’s the diet regime that creates a framework around which all else revolves.
When I arrived at the clinic, the amount of food served seemed minute, but by
the third day, my boiled egg, plain soya yoghurt and small buckwheat roll feel
like a banquet, and I’m not convinced I’ll ever get through it.
There’s something very special about
mealtimes at Mayr. The white linen tablecloths, fresh orchids and beautifully
folded napkins (one day a bird, the next a meticulous representation of a
shirt) all reflect the respect given to eating routine. As my fellow guests and
I quietly focus on chewing each mouthful the recommended 40 times, an air of
tranquility settles over the diners while we contemplate the lake and mountains
beyond. Soon, eating feels like a healing meditation in itself.
I’m also struck by how completely Mayr
lives out its philosophy. There’s an on-site lab that test the lactose level of
every dairy product used in the kitchen (if you’re lactose intolerant you can
still eat products that contain less than two per cent of the sugar),
potentially harmful Wi-Fi is banned and there’s even a switch next to your bed
that disconnects your room from the main electricity circuit to protect you
from Electrosmog during the night.
As the days melt into each other, I gently
explore ancient churches in the pine-clad hills behind the spa, visit the
cottage where Mahler composed his symphonies, try Nordic walking on woodland tracks
and cycle to the next village on a power-assisted bike. And, as my energy
returns, I have a private yoga session in the garden sauna room and improve my
breast stroke in the pool. I’m determined to return in the warmer weather so I
can swim in the lake, which has water that’s pure enough to drink.
Shortly before my stay comes to an end we
set out for a trip to Lago di Fusine in the Italian mountains, where towering
snow-capped sentinels surround a crystal-clear lake. And while slippery paths
mean we can’t walk all the way round, it’s so magical that I’m mesmerized by
the awesome beauty of it all. I make our guide teach me how to say, ‘I am
happy’ in Austrian, and spend the rest of the trip saying ‘Ich bin gluclich’
whenever I have the opportunity. It’s been a very long time since I felt so
Two months’ later, back in the midst of my
busy life, the seeds sown at Mayr are bearing fruit. I’ve continued to lose
weight (7 kg in all) on my new, mainly organic diet; had an extension built on
my house (for a new kitchen) and signed up for a yoga teacher training course.
It seems Nadja’s prediction of a life-changing holiday wasn’t so far off the
mark after all.
in the swimming pool you can take in relaxing views of Lake Worth
rainbow colors of the light therapy treatment are deeply relaxing
is a crucial element of the Mayr ‘cure’
morning, I wake to the sound of bells from the church at Maria Worth