A Holistic Approach to Health and Fitness

Karina StewartKarina Stewart

Karina Stewart, co-founder of Kamalaya in Thailand has twenty-two years of experience in the study and practice of diverse Asian healing and spiritual traditions. Inspired by her mother's interest in natural healing, meditation and yoga, Karina founded a health centre in Kathmandu, Nepal prior to opening Kamalaya. Her vision behind the award-winning retreat in Koh Samui is integral wellness programmes that aim to access the inner healing power within each individual and support a harmonious integration of heart, body, mind, and spirit


A Holistic Approach to Health and Fitness

What’s new at Kamalaya for those looking to focus on fitness?

Many of our guests enjoy working out in our new fitness centre, which is located at the highest point of the resort with stunning panoramic views over the Gulf of Thailand. Only opened last year, it houses an array of the latest equipment for cardio and resistance training and a 25-meter outdoor lap pool.

In addition to the very successful “Basic Optimal Fitness" programme, we have also introduced a new, more extensive fitness holiday programme. "Comprehensive Optimal Fitness" is ideal for regular exercisers who wish to develop their workouts while also seeking support in finding a balance between tough exercise, relaxation techniques and stretching, optimum nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

How has your personal experience and background influenced Kamalaya’s fitness programmes?

My background in diverse Asian healing traditions, particularly my training in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is foundational for all our wellness programmes which I have designed following a truly holistic approach to well-being. Asia’s traditional medical systems teach us that we are able to have a huge impact on our lives by choosing lifestyle practices that will support health, vitality, well-being and happiness. Furthermore, the person is viewed as a whole, every aspect of the individual is treated as an integral part of the whole.

While addressing particular goals, all our wellness programmes aim to lay the foundation for a long, healthy life which includes physical as well as emotional and mental well-being, happiness and life fulfilment. In line with this, our new fitness programmes integrate various approaches to enhance well-being on a physical, mental and emotional level, supporting each guest to reach their fitness goals in a healthy, sustainable and most beneficial way.

How important is fitness for a balanced healthy lifestyle?

Alongside healthy nutrition and sufficient sleep, physical activity is a core foundation for our overall health, vitality and well-being. In Asian medical traditions, it is believed that exercise is essential for health, as the flow of energy is fundamental to all life and the lack of energy flow leads to blockages and disease. In addition to maintaining an active metabolism, it is essential for circulation and cardiovascular health, transportation of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and brain, as well as ensuring efficient elimination of waste, all of which are essential to our health and longevity. While our fitness level is pivotal for physical health, it also has a positive impact on our emotional health, mental clarity and ability to focus. Studies show that regular exercise significantly improves our moods, our ability to learn and retain information, as well as the health of our brains as we age. Exercise has even been found to be a highly effective treatment for some types of depression.

We evolved from a lifestyle that was very active as hunters and gatherers. However, our contemporary lifestyle has become extremely sedentary so we now have to consciously make an effort to integrate physical activity and exercise into our daily routines in order to maintain vibrant health.


massage at Kamalya

Ayurveda massage at Kamalaya

Why is Koh Samui such a special place for a fitness holiday?

Our guests love that they can invest in their health and improve their fitness while enjoying a holiday on a beautiful tropical island. The stunning natural environment, delicious exotic foods (think fresh coconuts!) and the light hearted, playful and caring Thai way equally nurture body and mind. From my own experience, I have always enjoyed working with our Thai fitness trainers. They seem to have a natural gift to bring lots of fun to exercise – this is so motivating!

How are Kamalaya’s fitness programmes different to other fitness holidays?

It’s our truly holistic approach that makes them unique. Kamalaya guests are invited to develop their workouts with professional trainers, while also being supported in finding a balance between exercise regimens, relaxation techniques, optimum nutrition and a mindful lifestyle. Our new Comprehensive Optimal Fitness holiday integrates daily personal training, private yoga and stretching as well as nutritional guidance by a naturopath, and emotional and mental support with one of Kamalaya’s Meditation & Life Enhancement Mentors. These are complemented by carefully selected wellness treatments.

Starting off with a holistic fitness and health evaluation, Kamalaya’s team of fitness and wellness experts can address specific fitness goals and areas to suit individual needs, developing a regime that is beneficial and sustainable for the guest while promoting optimum results.

What is a ‘body bio-impedance analysis’ and what is its purpose? 

“BIA” is a method of measuring several key health markers, including levels of hydration, the ratio of body fat against lean muscle mass and cellular vitality. Body Bio-impedance Analysis gives valuable information on cellular health, metabolism and toxicity to help create naturopathic, nutrition, or exercise programmes suited to your individual needs. This information helps to determine a realistic measure of your health and well-being. Combined with verbal feedback and input from the guest, its useful for setting goals for weight management and fitness, and for making appropriate recommendations to achieve a better body balance to improve overall health and prevent illness.


Ocean at Kamalaya

Discover more about health and nutrition at Kamalaya

What type of workouts might a personal training session include at Kamalaya?

Every Personal Training session is different – tailored towards personal goals, taking into account individual needs and health history. While someone might want to focus on alleviating or preventing back pain, another guest might be a marathon runner training for their next competition and a third guest may want to expand on their current fitness programme to address optimizing specific health benefits, such as rejuvenation or increased flexibility to alleviate stress. On the basis of a personal assessment, our fitness instructors will use their knowledge in anatomy, human physiology and the effects certain exercises have on the body and mind to create a programme which is optimal for the person they train. This might include cardio training, stretching, strength training (functional strength), exercises to improve posture and stability, but also recreational movements (such as Qi Gong) or breathing techniques.

How do the spa treatments included in Kamalaya’s fitness holidays complement the programmes?

Daily sessions in the Far Infrared Sauna and specific wellness treatments, such as Asian Foot and Hand Massage, Ayurvedic and Thai Massage, have been designed to work synergistically with physical exercise, soothing and relaxing the mind and body after training, rebalancing the nervous system, increasing circulation and boosting results.

What is the best kind of nutrition on a fitness holiday? Is a food for fitness approach tailored for the client?

Whether your goal is to increase strength, gaining stamina, improving tone, developing speed, or simply setting a new target to reach - increasing performance requires the necessary fuel to energize, accelerate recovery and optimize body composition. As part of our Comprehensive Optimal Fitness holiday, guests have the opportunity to work with a naturopath who supports them with easy-to-implement advice on nutrition to help improve their exercise regimen and enhance the results they are seeking.

Tailoring a diet will depend on each individual’s fitness activities and training schedule. Ultimately, to enhance fitness and optimize health, you must have a solid dietary foundation. It is essential to eat a balanced diet, in which dietary intake and energy output are both considered. Additionally, rather than calorie counting, at Kamalaya the focus is placed on healthful eating through the consumption of a wide variety of whole foods while avoiding any processed foods. Regardless of energy output, an ideal diet should focus on maintaining hydration and balance amongst the three macronutrient groups: protein, carbohydrates and fats. A healthy balance of high quality macronutrients generally provides the body with the micronutrients. Vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and antioxidants sufficiently nourish the body to both function optimally and sustain even a more intense fitness routine.


kamalaya cuisine

Indulge with healthy and delicious meals at Kamalaya

How does Kamalaya help guests incorporate a fitness routine into their lifestyle?

We provide the ideal environment for our guests to experience changes during their stay with us, and inspire and empower them to make life-enhancing choices once they are back home. Kamalaya believes in a very sustainable approach to well-being – it’s not about quick fixes but it is about becoming aware of and understanding our natural ways of being, our habits and patterns of behaviour that may contribute to our overall health and well-being. What is more motivating that actually experiencing how good it feels to exercise efficiently and regularly, eat nourishing food and take moments to just be?

Guests who participate in one of our wellness programmes are also given a journal and are encouraged to record practices, suggestions and experiences they feel have had a positive impact in their lives and which they would like to incorporate into their daily lifestyle back home. In order to help them to establish and nurture healthy practices in their everyday lives, we equip them with a lot of valuable health information and give individual encouragement, guidance and inspiration on how to create new habits. Our trainers can design individual training programmes to follow at home, considering individual circumstances


Some people may find a fitness holiday intimidating, what would your advice be to them?

While for some of our guests the idea of a fitness holiday may be new, Kamalaya offers a very personal and flexible approach to all of our wellness programmes. Depending on the guest’s individual preferences, goals, level of fitness and health, our team of trainers will tailor a personalised training programme. We are not a boot camp. Instead, our caring and fun trainers create a light and enjoyable atmosphere, helping you in a gentle and adaptable way to develop a healthy fitness routine that suits and feels good to YOU.


kamalaya yoga

Reach your fitness goals with the help of a professional trainer

What advice would you give to someone who is not used to exercise but wants to start getting fit?

To get started, I think it’s best to book a session with a personal trainer, who will be able to assess your current health and fitness level as well as your goals, and develop a personalised training programme for you. A programme that is not only focused on results, but is also safe, healthy and sustainable.

Then it is important to make a plan - we are creatures of habit and if we don’t plan it (and commit to it and believe in it) we are likely to fail. And equally important is to get excited about your plan! It is important to choose activities you enjoy and feel enthusiastic about doing. The more excited and emotionally connected you are to the new habit, the more likely you are to integrate it into your life for the long term. If you have friends who have a good exercise routine or do yoga regularly, make it a priority to talk to them more often. It will inspire you and reinforce your new passion and strengthen your resolution.


For more information, see Kamalaya Comprehensive Optimal Fitness
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