10 minutes with: Wellness Retreats NZ founder Melissa Carroll

Wellness Retreats NZ founder Melissa Carroll is a happy woman. On the cusp of her final retreat for the year when we spoke, she has spent eighteen months gathering inspirational and talented wellbeing professionals, like-minded brands and fabulous venues to create balanced days of wellness. Set in luxurious surroundings, these retreats comprise practical workshops, educational seminars, yoga, meditation and optional one on one consultations to help nourish body, mind and soul, and are the perfect regular “check in” if you’re on the path to wellness.
I experienced one a couple months back at Ponsonby’s Sapphire Room, and came away inspired, informed and reminded why my own self-care needs to be shifted to the top of my list if I’m going to benefit those around me. Each retreat has a different theme and a different mix of speakers, and are held in beautiful locations like Matakana, Waiheke and Ponsonby.
A delicious nutritious lunch and refreshments are served during the day, using a culinary philosophy that draws together the fundamental elements of good eating incorporating fresh ingredients, wholefoods and gluten, sugar, wheat free cuisine. Guests leave with a goodie bag filled with lush products from retreat sponsors and a toolbox full of inspiration and motivation to make healthy changes in life. How great is that?
Mel’s own personal journey to overcome chronic/adrenal fatigue led her to create the Wellness Retreats NZ brand, and she says her aim was always to “inspire, motivate, nurture and educate guests to boost their wellbeing and lead happier, healthier lives”. As a living, breathing example of a truly glowing human, it is obvious that she practices what she preaches.
She drew together her main speakers from a group of people who have personally helped her on her own journey to health – yoga teacher Nikki Ralston from Urban Ashram, integrative medicine doctor Dr. Kathleen Wills, life coach and author Louise Thompson and medical herbalist from Golden Yogi, Erin O’Hara. “I totally believe in what they say and what they do,” says Mel, “and they also happen to be some of New Zealand’s leading wellness practitioners. To get them all together in one space is pretty special.”
Mel’s own journey began after hitting rock bottom several years ago when she was bed bound due to chronic fatigue. She made the decision to put her health and wellbeing first, turning to natural health and self-healing to get her back on the path to wellness. When she was finally back on track her experiences lead her to a role in health and wellness managing a surf and yoga retreat – Escape Haven (then called Surf Haven) in Bali. She says the chance to focus on her own health whilst managing the retreat really opened her eyes and confirmed that it’s this industry that I had finally found my passion for. It inspired her to embark on yoga teacher training, and at the beginning of 2014 the idea for Wellness Retreats NZ was a very real dream.
“I had a real desire to give others the tools I had been given to make change,” she explains, “and really open their eyes to the fact that even if they too have hit rock bottom, they can come out the other side.” She cites her inclusion of yoga in many of the day-long retreat programs as a great taster for those who have never tried the practice before. The retreats also give attendees the chance to hear a variety of wellness practitioners and determine which kind of professional they might like to see one-on-one for nutritional, naturopathic or general wellness advice, where they might be feeling a bit lost.
Her latest retreat theme is the Motivate & Move Urban Retreat at the stunning Biba Boutique, which she describes as a “fun and playful way to end the year”. Others address things like Spring Detoxing and anxiety, adrenal fatigue and corporate burnout, which was the focus of the Vitality retreat that I attended. “The changing themes allow people to become regulars,” says Mel, ‘and the Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter formats appeal to both men and women, and to both new and returning guests.”
In addition to the daylong retreats, she is also developing corporate retreat programmes, taking the retreats to the boardroom or offsite. “We provide a service that aims to help people unwind, de-stress, re-energise and obtain skills to help balance stress and a busy life with overall wellness capabilities,” says Mel, which is exactly what every corporate-dweller I know needs. Wellness Retreats NZ’s corporate programmes are tailor-made to ensure they meet each companies' own needs, and thus far they have delivered some amazing results. They offer daylong or weeklong programmes, and also half days for those wanting an intensive wellness session to kick off a busy time. A great focus for these programmes is redefining your body’s response to stress, “and giving the people who take part the tools to implement change in their work and personal lives”.
One thing that Mel is keen to get across is that time spent at a Wellness Retreats NZ day is time that is completely about YOU. “It’s a day to slow down, relax and recalibrate… and to be inspired by some of New Zealand’s leading health and wellness practitioners. It’s time to check in with your own journey and reconnect with your best self.”
And who doesn’t need that now and then? I heartily recommend. 
Wellness Retreats NZ is holding their first 2016 retreat - a Motivate & Move Women’s Retreat – on February 21st  at The Sapphire Room, Ponsonby Central. For more info head to http://wellnessretreatsnz.co.nz/


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