As wellbeing becomes the true luxury in the lives of consumers, A&E Editor in Chief Lara Mansour Sawaya discovers Clinique La Prairie – one of the world’s leaders in finding the healthy balance between luxury and wellbeing.
Read Editor In Chief Lara Mansour Sawaya's diary of her five day stay at the Clinique La Prairie in Switzerland
In my role as an Editor in Chief of a luxury lifestyle magazine, I am privileged to be on a constant journey of discovering amazing locations and having unique experiences and being able to share them after with the readers and the people around me.
Travel will always be my main source of inspiration and cultivation as it keeps me on a constant learning curve. Lately, a new sector has emerged; wellbeing destination, and with it a big hype has been created around this new way to self-care. It was only natural for such a sector to develop so rapidly as today many of us lead fast-paced and hectic lifestyles, where dedicating time to unwinding and looking after ourselves and our own wellbeing has become a precious commodity, in other words, a true “luxury”.
I was invited to Clinique La Prairie last September, but only this summer was I able to dedicate almost an entire week to myself, away from everything and everyone I know. As I rarely get those moments – the moments where you are only in the company of your thoughts and listening to no one but yourself – it was much needed.
This uber-exclusive health and wellbeing establishment is the only one of its kind in the world and is the pioneer in the development of cell therapy and research into vitality, enhancing the immune system and slowing down the ageing process. With a special scientific approach to wellness, Clinique La Prairie approaches the wellbeing of its clientele using intimate and bespoke treatments that really look into the genetic make-up of each and every guest. The intimate 35-room property offers one of the most exclusive experiences in the world and attracts some of the most demanding clientele looking for visible, positive results.
The clinic provides a number of tailored and bespoke programs that attend to the individual needs of the clients – whether it’s weight loss, detoxing, dietary problems or general wellbeing for example – while the Medical Spa of Clinique features over 50 result-orientated treatments carried out by professional doctors.
I managed to fit five days in between my work trips, though the Master Detox Program, one of the four programs offered, requires seven days. Despite the fact that I stayed only five nights, I already felt like a different person the day I left… read on to discover more about my experience!
Day One: The arrival and how what we eat affects our body
I have always considered Switzerland among the most beautiful countries in the world. Its nature, its colours, its weather all this blended together to me has an instant natural therapeutic effect. Montreux, the beautiful town overlooking Lake Geneva and the iconic Alps mountain range was around an hour drive from Geneva airport. It was raining heavily that day and all that was on my mind was, what if got bored, what if it was too strict and the thought thread went on…
I arrived and I checked into my suite which had the most amazing terrace with a view, despite the fact that it was raining. I prayed for better weather and I rushed back down to the lobby where I was welcomed by Christine, my Dietician, who looked after my food program during my stay. We sat in the lobby lounge and the first thing she said was: ‘you will be on a vegan diet!’ Of course, I smiled and said ‘okay’ out loud, while in my mind I said: ‘worst case scenario if I ever wanted to cheat I can’. Christine went on to say that I also wouldn’t be allowed to have any coffee, sugar, or any food with gluten.
Here’s when I forced a smile while wondering how I would survive five days like this. I said ‘let’s see’. So I selected a few dishes from the menu that looked interesting. The way it works is that you select your lunch and dinner every day from a designated menu that supports your program.
After setting my food program I rushed to have the Visia Test during which a device analyses how the skin is ageing and exposes the damage on the skin that the naked eye can’t see. Luckily, my skin wasn’t bad for my age, however, there was obvious sun damage that the Visia device detected. So, it is more sunscreen and less sun exposure for me.
After my treatment, I headed to the medical spa lounge where I met a great person who I now consider a friend, Nigel Franklyn, Spa Consultant at Clinique La Prairie and a world traveller who is on a constant quest to find the latest innovations and solutions to add to the offerings of the clinic. Nigel took me through the clinic’s unique offerings and shared a bit of what is in the pipeline.
The highlight of my day was what was exactly needed after a long flight, a body treatment. It was only then that I discovered the magical effect of the seaweed detoxing body wrap.
Manuela, my therapist, explained the healing powers of seaweed and the relaxing effect it has on the body, as it is known to take away stress. And indeed after this 90-minute treatment, I felt so relaxed that I wanted nothing but to sleep.
Dinner was at 7pm, my choice was pumpkin soup for starter and gluten-free pasta with mushrooms for my main dish which later became my go-to meal choices. But before I started eating I was given a glass of hydrogenated water (meaning it has been infused with extra hydrogen gas) to drink. This was given to me every day before meals.
Relaxed, sleepy and after what was a not-so-bad vegan dinner, I was ready to sleep – 9pm lights off.
Day Two: A new coffee substitute and a not-so-bad feeling
An early rise and an early body coordination class with my Trainer Guillaume. It was a bit tough as he was insisting that I do planks and highlighting the great effect it has on our core’s strength. I will admit that it took me a while to do it right but eventually it worked out. Little did I know that later that night my muscles would be so sore that I couldn’t turn while sleeping.
Okay so back to my day…
My breakfast consisted of a selection of fruit, hazelnuts, raw almonds and fresh juice. Of course, I was longing for a cappuccino but no I wasn’t allowed. So they suggested I try chicory, which looks like coffee in colour and has a certain toasted taste but is basically a plant-based drink. To be honest, it wasn’t bad, the taste is weird at first but in a way it quenches your caffeine craving, in other words, it tricks your brain and gives the illusion of having coffee.
Today’s treatments started with a deep cleansing facial using the signature products of Clinique La Prairie and it left my skin radiant, fresh and bright. Next, I went for a medical consultation with Dr. Magali Flot, the Medical Nutritionist, who carried out what they call the Metal and Mineral Test. This happens with a device that is simply crossed over the four parts of your palm in order to read and detect the average amount of metals and minerals in your body. My result was shocking as I had a very high aluminium count in my body. Dr. Flot even asked me to wash my hands just in case there was any cream left over on them and repeated the test. The result remained the same, so I was advised to check my cooking utensils at home and make sure nothing contains aluminium, check my deodorant and body care products and make sure they are aluminium free and restrict any use of aluminium foil in cooking.
The rest of the analysis looked good. I can’t hide the fact that I was a bit preoccupied but she assured me that, with taking the above precautions, levels should regulate again.
That afternoon the weather got better and I sat on the outdoor terrace looking at the stunning views and wondering how our hectic lifestyles divert our attention from really taking care of ourselves and always listening to our bodies to know when it is time to slow down.
The day ended with a Visceral Massage with Manuela who explained the importance of this treatment. The technique is used to restore normal (organ) movement and function and help to integrate the function of the body as a whole. It’s a very gentle abdominal massage that can be performed by massage therapists, osteopaths, allopathic physicians, and other practitioners to treat things such as constipation, post-surgical adhesions, back pain, and even stress, mood and sleep issues.
Manuela used her hands to assess tense spots and gently compress and move certain soft tissues, feeling out for tender spots and scar tissue. What I recall was that she was focusing on my stomach, and the next thing I knew she was waking me up at the end of our treatment!
Day two ended over a quiet dinner. At the restaurant, each guest has the same designated table prepared daily according to his or her programme. At mine, a detox herbal tea was always keeping me company. I had soup, my main dish and dessert (of course no sugar or dairy products) but it tasted great.
That night I couldn’t sleep well as I was sore from the morning workout.
Day Three: A colourful day
Early rise, feeling light and so peaceful, the weather was amazing as the sun came out again and the view out of my terrace was simply divine. I went out to enjoy a morning walk around the lake. It was so refreshing. The colours of Montreux are just beautiful.
My day continued with a colour and a photo-stimulation session, which is a kind of anti-ageing treatment also known as light therapy. Photo-stimulation uses light to artificially activate biological compounds, cells and tissues. Skin cells can be photo-stimulated in the same way as plant photosynthesis to improve oxygenation and stimulate the skin cells responsible for collagen and elastin production. The means smooth skin which regains elasticity and density, and therefore has an anti-ageing effect.
During the experience, your eyes are covered and all you can feel is the strong light of red, green and white consecutively. The treatment takes around 15 minutes.
Another relaxing afternoon followed until it was time for my highly anticipated Thai Massage. Nithaya, the lovely Thai therapist has been performing these treatments for 15 years as not only a certified massage therapist, but also a medical one as she used to work in a hospital. She is also a physiotherapist. So you can imagine the unique mix in her technique.
When I arrived at the treatment room Nithaya greeted me and asked me to sit on the edge of the bed where she started examining my posture, my shoulders, even the spine alignment. To her, my body was tense (no wonder) and this was negatively affecting my posture and blocking the energy channels in the body.
I laid down and she started the treatment. I won’t hide the fact that I was in pain most of the treatment which she told me is normal and advised I breathe out when I feel discomfort. 90 minutes after this intense massage (yes intense as at one point she was walking on my back), she applied a muscle relaxing cream and asked me to slowly stand up. Here is when I have to tell you that it was the first time since I had both of my kids that I could stand straight! (Did I mention the numerous times I heard my bones crack?) Well, at the end it felt great and I just wanted to sleep!
An early dinner of a very delicious pumpkin and passionfruit soup was waiting for me, followed by a plate of grilled vegetables and hummus dips that really looked great visually and didn’t taste that bad. I then treated myself with my favourite fruit watermelon and called it a day.
Day Four: Mixed feelings of pain and relief
Not a great feeling, I tell you! I woke up super sore from the Thai massage and the muscle stimulation it involved and I was barely able to walk. It reminded me of the last month of my pregnancy, but it seems at Clinique La Prairie they expect these post-treatment symptoms, that’s why I had a planned early session of “Yogalates” with Guillaume, my trainer.
An hour of what was a mix of yoga and Pilates movements with stretching techniques outdoors in the open air and under the beautiful blue skies. Honestly, I enjoyed it so much and felt so good afterwards as it released all my muscle discomfort. Breathing had a lot to do with that since, according to Guillaume, many of us (including me) breathe in the wrong way. Learning how to inhale and exhale properly and deeply soothes pain, relaxes muscles and most importantly brings in the oxygen to all your organs in the right amounts.
Relaxed and happy, I headed to my next treatment – a body wrap that helps with firming and detoxing the skin.
Lunch was followed by a very interesting workshop with Olga the Dietician who took me through all sorts of healthy food components and recommendations for healthy, balanced eating. Olga had a prepared a special table set up at the spa café where she displayed all kinds of important foods with rich sources of minerals and vitamins so I could learn about each one and make sure to eat what is needed for my body.
The agenda that followed had two interesting treatments; the first was Cryotherapy, which literally means “cold therapy”. This is a technique where the body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes. The theory for whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) is that by immersing the body in extremely cold air for several minutes, you could receive a number of health benefits.
Despite the freezing -192 degrees that you are exposed to, there are numerous benefits such as reducing migraine symptoms, numbing nerve irritation, reducing arthritic pain, combating stress and reducing inflammation in the body.
Following this refreshing treatment, it was time for a relaxing massage that included what they call a “singing bowl’.
The so-called Tibetan singing bowls are wonderful instruments made of an alloy of metals that have been used for sound healing and sound therapy for centuries. They are believed to originate in India and its neighbouring countries, although the history does not provide a clear-cut answer to their origins. The special thing about these bowls is that they produce a rich variety of harmonics and vibrations that have the capacity to stimulate us on a physical (relaxes the muscles, increases bowel movement, etc.), energetic (increases our vital energy, harmonises our personal resonance, etc.) and mental level (induces us to a meditative state, opens emotional blocks, etc.).
It was indeed a much-needed treatment to end my day.
Day Five: My last day at the clinic
Adopting a vegan and caffeine free diet wasn’t bad after all! And sugar-free as well! By the fifth day, I felt so relaxed and energetic, but most importantly I felt at peace. My skin was seriously radiant and I was totally convinced on how the food we eat and the lifestyle we lead affects our body and our wellbeing.
I enjoyed a morning swim at the iconic indoor pool with a panoramic view of the beautiful Alps and thanked myself for giving my body and wellbeing such a personal treat.
After checking out and before heading to Milan – my second destination – I had a nice chat with Simone Gibertoni, CEO of Clinique La Prairie. See the full interview here.
Discover more here: cliniquelaprairie.com/en.