Aro Hā: New Adventures in Wellbeing

New Adventures in Wellbeing
The prettiest yoga room imaginable at Aro-Ha, New Zealand

In Maori ‘Aro Hā’ means ‘in the presence of divine breath’. Now, with the opening of a new NZ$30 million wellness center in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, it is redefining the model of a detox spa retreat.

Aro Hā is the creation of American yoga teacher, Damian Chapparo, and former investment banker, Chris Madison. After meeting in 2005 when Chris was a guest at The Ashram – a spa-style boot camp in California where Damian was a retreat leader – the pair became fast friends and business partners with the vision for an active retreat combining environmentally-friendly practices with transformative health programs.

After scouring the world for the perfect location, they embarked on the process of building what they believe to be the first of its kind in the world – an upmarket, purpose-built facility offering what Damian refers to as “life changing, body morphing, spirit lifting retreats”.

“Aro Hā is not intended to be a yoga retreat or a luxury spa, but a place where people come to change their perspective and return to centre,” he says.

Inspired by the holistic and educational programs offered at The Ashram and the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Aro Hā’s all-inclusive ‘Wellness Adventure’ programs are based on a Yin-and-Yang combination of Vinyasa Yoga, meditation, sub-alpine hiking, physical training, healing bodywork and a detoxifying diet.

Catering for a maximum of 32 guests at any one time, but with a target group size of 12 to 15 guests, the self-sufficient facility also promotes best practices in modern sustainable living. Here, they’ve merged ancient traditions with modern technology. It’s Zen-inspired design was built using energy-efficient Passive Haus building techniques, off-grid power generation and New Zealand’s first renewable distributed heating scheme.

On the yoga mat
With postcard-perfect views of Lake Wakatipu, the daily sunrise and sunset Vinyasa yoga and meditation sessions are one of the highlights of Aro Hā’s program. The retreat is already attracting renowned Yoga teachers as resident Retreat Leaders and is planning to host guest teachers, lecturers and educators from around the world as part of its annual calendar of events.

Off the mat
Aro Hā’s programs push you to the edge of your perceived physical limits with deliberately challenging activities designed to stimulate the body and mind. Sub-alpine hiking, dynamic body movement classes and functional strength training (such as Pilates and T-rex) are complemented with guided journaling sessions, cooking classes, lectures on permaculture and gardening, daily massage and soaking up the views of the Southern Alps from the open air spa. The retreat’s only downside is there are not enough hours in the day for the depth of mindfulness and introspection that being in ‘Lord of the Rings’ country deserves.

On the plate
Designed by Californian-based chef and author of ‘The Ripest Cherry’, Suzie Bohannon, Aro Hā’s signature menu is based on a predominantly raw, vegetarian wholefood diet. Gluten free, paleo and ‘enzymatically active’ are all par for the course in the surprisingly satisfying and healthy dishes served up in the communal dining room.

Getting there: Aro Hā organizes transfers for the 40-minutes drive from Queenstown airport.

The cost: All-inclusive packages including accommodation, meals, airport transfers, daily massage, yoga and activities start at NZ$3,250 per person for 4 days/ 3 nights to NZ$6,250 per person (twin share) for 7 days/ 6 nights.

Bookings: or phone +64 3 442 7011.

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