The Healing Power of Ancient Greece
Aristotle, the much loved and frequently quoted Greek son said: ‘The energy of the mind is the essence of life’. With that in mind, Jane Egginton set off on an Odyssean quest to find some much needed Greek style healing.
With the modern world in economic crisis, and Greece suffering more than most, there is a particularly pressing need for us all to draw on our inner resources. The rich history of Greece is well known, but now it’s valuable healing traditions are being rediscovered.
Greece has the heads-up when it comes to wellbeing. The country has one of the best climates in the world, a wonderful variety of natural assets and perhaps the healthiest diet on the planet, with UNESCO declaring its cuisine an intangible world treasure in 2010.
In ancient Greece, yoga was known as self-knowledge, with its spiritual approach matching that in the east. Those seeking healing to cure their current ills are now looking to Greece for a range of approaches that draw on the ancient practices of thalassotherapy (thalassa is sea in Greek), yoga and the use of natural therapies.
At Ekies All Senses in Halkidiki, Northern Greece, the modern Greek fusion menu is just one example of the hotel’s balanced approach. I love the fact that you can have ‘lunch’ at any time of day, and even anywhere in the hotel. The reasonably priced organic offerings (salads and appetisers hover around €9, with mains priced at a very reasonable €10 to €12) included delights such as watermelon and feta cheese and tabouleh salad and prawn with Arabian bread.
The name of Ekies All Senses, a special boutique hotel comes from Kambanelis, a well known Greek author who famously – in Greece at least – said: ‘In life you have five senses. In your dreams you have a hundred. Freedom knows no boundaries.’
It is a concept you might come close to feeling after a blissful massage at Ekies’ spa. It features the delicious natural Greek Apivita products (which also grace all the hotel bathrooms) and an innovative range of treatments, many of which draw on Mediterranean traditions. A ‘basic elements of nature’ treatment involves a series of revitalising herbal inhalations followed by a sublime facial massage. Therapists explain that they try to take their visitors back to ancient Greece and the teachings of Hippocrates, who identified the need for balance within the four elements of nature (air, water, fire or earth).
Authentic experiences for every season are on the menu at Costa Navarino, generally agreed to be one of the better resorts in Greece. The luxury complex is located in Messinia in the southwest Peloponnese, which has an extraordinary rich cultural heritage spanning 4,500 years and untouched mountain and seascapes. The wealth of treatments on offer at the Anazoe Spa and thalassotherapy centre include unique oleotherapy (olive oil) treaments based on ancient Greek practice discovered at the nearby palace of Nestor.
Billed as an Agean dream, Karma Pelikanos on the island of Mykonos provides a very 21st century take on holistic health in Greece. Guests are treated to oxygen infusion facials apparently favoured by the likes of Madonna and Justin Timberlake and the ultimate in treatments at the aptly named Karma Spa. The lofty, but achievable aim is to raise the bar in terms of every visitors’ well being.
There is an undeniable gloss on things here, which is not at odds with the holistic outlook. A highly select team of therapists includes traditional healers (massage therapists, facialists, etc) as well as those who specialise in Chinese medicine, including acupuncturists and even more exotic Balinese rituals and ceremonies. Guests can sign up for a range of activities from gentle Tai Chi at sunrise to more invigorating power walks on the spectacular beach.
In Greek mythology, Mykonos was the location for the momentous battle between Zeus and the fearless titans. Today the island is known as being a favoured destination for celebrities and the wealthy, but on a holiday at Karma Resorts you will feel connected with its history. Its luxury residence showcases the best of traditional Greek architecture, with soothing white walls and shutters the colour of the Aegean sea.
The extraordinary villa of Karma Pelikanos has a 180-degree view across the clear calm waters of the Aegean. The interior is highly designed to international standards, with the treatments truly holistic, using certified organic products and renowned local and healers from around the world. Prices though make this strictly for the heavy weights – a six bedroom villa rings in at €28,000 during peak season.
Health Matters 360 in the UK chose Corfu in Greece as the only overseas location for one of its unique health hubs. Offering a wellbeing break that is genuinely holistic, this company is breaking the mould by providing long lasting, truly sustainable benefits to individuals’ health covering everything from nutrition and exercise to mental health.
Guests report becoming fully transformed after a stay at the sublime Rou Estate in Corfu in the north-east of the lovely Ionian island. True to its 360-degree approach, all aspects of an individual’s life – physical, emotional and spiritual health are looked at. The magnificent poolside location, with sweeping views of the coast and nearby walks in the peace of the surrounding mountains soothe mind, body and soul, whilst highly trained therapists create tailor made sessions, workshops and consultations.
Every day guests are treated to yoga and relaxation sessions along with physical workouts such as power walking, stretching and full body workouts. Nutritious food using fresh local ingredients is on the menu with dishes designed by a Michelin starred chef and cooked by a local chef. The organisers are keen to stress that their breaks are neither boot camps or detox breaks but offer something far more meaningful and sustainable. Their approach certainly seem to work, with many guests reporting a positive transformation which has a long lasting effect.
Many of the insightful quotes on health originated in Greece. ‘The greatest wealth is health,’ according to Virgil, a concept that is particularly relevant in the current economic climate. ‘Man is ill because he is never still,’ is the wisdom from Paracelsus, who was Swiss but believed in the Greek concept of the four elements. ‘The part can never be well unless the whole is well,’ Plato, the greatest philosopher from Greece and perhaps of all time, tells us.
Health resorts in Greece are promoting getting back to nature, an all round positive approach and resilience – clearly key qualities to surviving not just in modern Greece but in contemporary society today.