Go Behind the Scenes at a Real Detox Retreat

Go Behind the Scenes at a Real Detox Retreat
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When most of us hear the word “detox,” we immediately think of “cleansing” our digestive systems with bottles and bottles of green juice, skipping solid food to meet some health goal. However, cleansing in the way that detox company Amaveda recommends is much more nuanced. Focusing on nutrition, brain health, and mindfulness rather than deprivation, their Ayurvedic-inspired programs and retreats nourish retreat-goers for one week straight. Most recently, they’ve partnered with holistic branding methodology BrandHuman to create a week-long detox and personal positioning experience in Mancora, Peru. Centered around “Body, Mind, and Brand,” this pause encourages entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to boost the body and brand’s productivity. The leaders of the retreat — Amaveda founder Emily Shaw and BrandHuman founder Jasmine Takanikos — talk us through what to expect from a luxurious, relaxing, thoughtfully designed detox retreat.

A woman holds a yoga pose on a beach at sunset

Guests first arrive to the Kichic Boutique Hotel in Mancora, often a bit groggy from the flight, and are immediately dropped into a peaceful zone. To rejuvenate guests after travel and prep them for the first full day of the retreat the next day, they are treated to a meal, a walk on the beach at sunset, and some mindfulness practices to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the part that calms stress and regulates your blood pressure and a number of the body’s other processes).

Every morning, the routine is virtually the same — the day begins with a fresh aloe-vera-based detox drink, followed by some movement in the property’s outdoor yoga space to get the participants’ bodies and energy flowing. Throughout the week, there are then variations in the itinerary and some moments of downtime, such massage treatments, opportunities to swim in the hotel’s pool or at the beach, or private in-room detox practices (including pampering with body oil or aromatherapy or flushing the sinuses with a neti pot). Takanikos adds that a full-on digital detox can be part of the experience: Some participants do choose to go dark with all their technology and social media on the trip, but for other brand leaders, it’s essential to stay “on” to keep their business afloat. No one is required to shut off completely, as long as they’re present and able to get into relaxation mode (which doesn’t sound too hard, considering the amenities).

Shaw has also incorporated skincare treatments as part of the exterior detoxification process. “Nourishing, cleansing, and exfoliating our skin, our largest organ of elimination, is a key component to any holistic detox protocol,” she says. Every ingredient and process is designed to pair with the internal healing that’s also taking place during the retreat: “I highlight the importance of using products made from natural ingredients to promote harmony between the skin microbiome and gut microbiome.” She often uses natural exfoliants like coffee, salt, and ground grains, believing them to be gentle for the skin’s microbiome, which is the balance of beneficial microorganisms that live on the skin. Following exfoliation is the Oil Cleansing Method, an Ayurvedic practice that cleanses the skin of dirt and bacteria with a plant-based facial oil and hot water. After that, the skin is nourished and moisturized with another dose of oil.

Fasting is one of the keys to the interior portion of the detox retreat, but Shaw makes it clear that this is “functional fasting,” in which the body is adequately prepared for a liquid-focused diet, rather than shocked with being suddenly deprived of food. The full fasting doesn’t actually take place until the fourth day of the retreat, so the first few days are geared toward cleaning out the digestive tract. “This is accomplished by eating easy-to-digest cooked foods that are grounding, nourishing, and healing to the colon,” explains Shaw. Basically, the fasting is designed to gear up the body’s metabolism to enter a state of ketosis (similar to what it endures in the keto diet), which burns fat, along with toxins that are stored in our fat cells, Shaw asserts. Shaw also assures that the food doesn’t deprive guests of flavor while jump-starting your metabolism, clearing your colon, and restoring the body’s natural balance. “Liquid fasting can also be a culinary journey.” One of her favorite recipes is a chilled avocado and lime gazpacho with coriander extract, cumin, and coconut yogurt. She’s also known for her medicinal hot chocolate and secret detox coffee recipes. Throughout the retreat, guests also sip on electrolyte-boosting fresh coconut water to stay hydrated, and it’s the basis of many of the liquid meals. During the fasting days, even if the evening “meals” consist of broths and teas, the participants sit together to foster a sense of community — which can also boost the metabolism further, Shaw says.

Plant-based nootropic (AKA brain-enhancing) supplements like coffee are also used to complement the fasting and to boost brain power, right in time for the BrandHuman workshops to begin. Once fasting is in full swing and the energy among the retreat-goers is up, Takanikos and her BrandHuman methodology take the stage. She kicks off each workshop with meditation, using a mental pause and some breathwork to reinforce the mind-body connection of the retreat. Her lessons center on the core of a brand and what it aims to accomplish, creating a strategy around social change, and how the brand presents itself to the world, in particular via social media. She encourages the brand leaders to savor these introspective moments, where you get to take time to observe yourself and your brand. “Rarely do we get the opportunity to truly see [the] self, clearing the body and removing all normal life and external distractions,” Takanikos says.

When it comes to social media strategy, it’s important to meditate on your social media habits: who you’re following and what content you’re constantly seeing. “You become what you absorb, and this directly affects your creative output,” reminds Takanikos. She urges participants to look around themselves at who they’re allowing to influence them and to consider whether these influences are positive or negative. Brands leaders should also take a long look at how they’re influencing their consumers through social media — the story they tell through their social content is a major way to get the brand’s main purpose across and gain their followers’ trust.

To further unite the brand, body, and mind in the detox and nourishing process, the workshops are often sandwiched between free time and some restorative yoga or aromatherapy. Shaw and Takanikos have tailored their retreat’s itinerary to flow well between the elements of bodywork, brand work, and mindfulness. Ultimately, this escape allows leaders to better themselves, their health, and their brands before returning to their daily lives. “Under the physical, digital, and environmental stresses of our modern world,” Takanikos says, “the entrepreneur and intrapreneur must consider and optimize their physical wellness in order to truly thrive.”

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(Photos via Getty)

Mara Santilli

Mara Santilli is a freelance writer based in New England. Her work has appeared in several publications, including Shape and Marie Claire. When she isn't writing, she can be found munching on any piece of dark chocolate she can get her hands on, plunking out her favorite acoustic songs on the guitar, and finding the cheapest Broadway tickets possible. Follow her adventures on Instagram to see where she's headed next.

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