Are you ‘bile’, ‘phlegm’ or ‘wind’? Discovering at a luxury Swiss spa the benefits of knowing your Tibetan energy type
- The Alpina Gstaad has 56 rooms, Michelin-starred food and an extensive spa
- A history of glamorous celebrities and winter sports surrounds Gstaad
- Thanks to the Tibetan therapies, Kate Johnson found it a restorative retreat
Antonis, the head therapist of Tibetan medicine, looks me in the eye and says: ‘You’re not very emotional, are you?’ I’m not sure how to respond. I mumble a confused answer and we continue with what’s turning out to be a thorough health consultation, as he checks my pulse and presses me about my diet, digestion, family history and more.
He then explains that, in Tibetan medicine, we are all one of the three energy types: bile, phlegm or wind. Charming. I’m bile, with top notes of phlegm, if you must know. When mind, body and nature are not in harmony, it causes anger in bile, attachment in wind and ignorance in phlegm. Or something like that. Antonis personalises a programme for me.
This isn’t the white fluffy robe and slippers love-in that I was expecting at The Alpina Gstaad. But it’s intriguing, and I have most of the place to myself. Despite the imposing facade of turrets and timber, there are only 56 bedrooms. My ‘group’ tai chi and yoga lessons are just one-on-one. As no one else fancies sweating it out in the women-only sauna or steam rooms, I’m on my own, as I am in the steamy outdoor pool.
Swish: The heated outdoor pool of The Alpina, which sits amid the magnificent Swiss Alps
Good vibrations: A Tibetan singing bowl
My chakras (if I have them) don’t seem to appreciate the hour-long session to rebalance them, and my colours aren’t in the mood to be healed either, but the Tibetan singing bowl therapy is different.
Antonis places copper bowls on my back and gently hits them with a mallet. I feel the sound vibrations through my body.
I’m cocooned and enveloped in the purest sound possible. It’s a ten-minute walk from this elegant, comfortable hotel to the chic, traffic-free, village.
Years ago, you might have been sharing the space with fur-coated superstars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton having a row, or Brigitte Bardot walking her dog.
Gstaad has been a hotspot for winter sports since 1907, but the big, ritzy resorts of Zermatt, Courchevel and Verbier, which are higher up and have longer seasons, may have stolen some of Gstaad’s thunder.
After a few days of lavish and refined splendour, I feel completely well. This is not one of those spas where someone severe in a white coat makes sure that you are chewing every mouthful of your daily portion of kale 40 times. It’s quite the opposite.
Healing: Guests at The Alpina can have meditation consultations with Tibetan therapists
The Michelin-starred food is served in restaurants so special that even the tap water is carbonated, and small footstools are placed discreetly beside female diners so their designer handbags don’t have to sit on the floor.
Returning to my room on the last night, I find a card on my pillow suggesting I practise gratitude meditation.
I’m advised to ‘focus on a few things you are thankful for… you will sleep more deeply and, when you awake, you are more likely to be centred and motivated to start the day’.
Easyjet flies from (easyjet.com) London to Geneva from £48 return. Book Geneva to Gstaad trains via omio.com, from £52 return. The Alpina Gstaad (thealpinagstaad.ch) reopens for the summer season June 9 with B&B doubles from £400 per night including £80pp daily food and beverage credit and access to the spa. More information at gstaad.ch.