I ran into an old varsity friend I haven’t seen for a few years on the beach at Plettenberg Bay. He had developed the habit of taking the last week of January off to, as he put it, “Get over the shock of being back at work after a long Christmas break.” When Namasté invited me to join their intensive detoxification week in Natal early this year, I thought it offered a similar way to slow down a year that had started at quite a pace.

With a mix of trepidation and curiosity, I made my way to the Natal Midlands.
I had earlier indicated on the phone that I would opt for the fruit juice fast and also include the optional colon hydrotherapy in my personalised programme. The prospect of daily massages, a flotation tank, a personal fitness instructor and sunrise yoga sessions set my mind a bit more at ease, as did the beautiful drive through the lush Drakensberg on my way down. Maybe I could indeed make it through a week without solid foods and caffeine?At least, my research prior to arrival had revealed that there was some serious science behind this programme.Six of us checked in, and the following morning, with only a hot apple cider drink to start the day, and after our yoga session (my first encounter ever, and a pleasant surprise), we weighed in and had a “before” photo taken. I was about 10 kilograms off my ideal target weight, and despite my vanity, my Body Composition analysis indicated that I was “nominally obese,” an image I associate with fat Americans in shorts and sneakers eating ice-cream while visiting Niagara Falls. I then made my pilgrimage to the dining room for the first of my six daily “meals” of exquisite organic fruit juices and a handful of balanced supplements, swallowed with a dollop of fibre. The next six days were an absolute dream. Extensive talks from experts on exercise and nutrition, stress management, African herbal medicines, allergies and food types, a one-on-one lifestyle coaching session, or naps and bike rides filled the early afternoons. Yet, it was the mornings I would want repeated every week of my life: daily massages by the first-grade therapists, steam sessions, a facial and a pedicure, while the tough choice between the flotation tank and the heated indoor pool helped me viscerally feel the toxins leave my body. I even slipped in a haircut. My eyes turned whiter, my skin started glowing, and I slept so much better (perhaps because of the pleasant aches and pains in my muscles from the daily yoga stretches and personal fitness sessions). The six of us got to know each other well – investment bankers, entrepreneurs and artists alike – and soon realised there was a reason for moving us to our own dining room as our discussions became decidedly more explicit about the various stages of Detox through which our bodies were passing.

I started to understand why the serene and poised 50-somethingyear- old artist in our midst participates in four of these Detox programmes each year. It felt like the autobahn to health, bypassing 20 years of bad habits. By Wednesday, after the only really nasty part of our programme (a liver Detox involving Epsom salts, olive oils and who knows what else), I did not have enough holes in my belt when I dressed for “dinner.” In between, we had the pleasure of a session with traditional healer Elliot Ndlovu. I stocked up considerably on his home-grown range of soaps, body lotions, shower gels and hand creams, mostly because I had come to love the smell of the Artemesia they grow on the farm.

The biggest torture was when, four days in, the Executive Chef gave us a booking demonstration on a few healthy and quick-to prepare vegetarian dishes, which those of us on the juice fast were not even allowed to sample, putting our new found will power to test, despite the aromas of curries, coriander and ginger floating around. After a final fitness session and the steam room on my seventh day, I had my “after” picture taken and weighed in at almost five kilograms less. My Body Composition now made me “nominally overweight,” and I had shed four centimetres off my waist. Stocked with water, fruit and nuts, and a whole new lease on life, I hurriedly made my way back home in anticipation of my wife’s expected oohs and ahhs for this new man in her life.

Namasté Wellness Retreats are hosted at some of the country’s top five-star spas. My thinking is that if you want to Detox and cleanse your body then why not do it somewhere truly luxurious where you can be distracted from the initial unpleasant Detox effects. Namasté’s fully inclusive programmes range from a three night Revitalise programme for a mild detox, to the six-night Detox programme and intensive nine night Weight Loss programme Several therapies are optional, including colon hydrotherapy. The ideal retreat would likely be for you and your spouse to invite some old varsity friends and their spouses whom you never get enough time to see, and spend a week catching up on old times while getting a total health boost under the guidance of Namasté.