Kamalaya is the kind of place you want to dig your feet in the sand and never leave – serenity floats in the air.

Karina Stewart is the Founder of Kamalaya, an amazing wellness sanctuary and holistic retreat in Koh Samui, Thailand. Karina imparts a few words of wisdom and her thoughts on superfoods, advice on what you can do to detox at home, and whether you really have to cut out alcohol and caffeine in order to be healthy.

How did you come up with the idea for Kamalaya? 

The vision of Kamalaya began together with my husband, John Stewart, and has been from the beginning a joint vision of what we could create together drawing from our life paths and backgrounds as individuals. Our plans developed over several years and were greatly influenced by our living in Asia and our travels and experiences in India, China, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia. In the beginning we imagined a smaller place with more of a focus on meditation, yoga, pranayama and detoxification. As we developed our ideas more fully the possibility of offering a more in-depth and comprehensive approach to wellness emerged and took shape. Core to this vision was not only to share what had so enriched our lives but also to create something that would have a positive impact in people’s lives, not only guests but also the team that are an essential part of Kamalaya. The concept was greatly influenced by our backgrounds; John spent 16 years living in an ashram in India, while I spent 15 years studying and practicing the healing and philosophical traditions of China and India.

Founders Karina and John Stewart
Founders Karina and John Stewart

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

I make a cup of green tea and sit on the deck, looking out at the trees and the ocean and listen to the birds and watch the sunrise for about thirty minutes. My husband and I believe a connection to nature is a vital, nurturing element overall to one’s health and wellbeing and this is why we have designed Kamalaya incorporating lush vegetation, ancient boulders and looking out on a pristine coastline. For many people, our fast paced lifestyle has disconnected us from nature, from ourselves, and from one another, so I like to reconnect with myself, and with my life partner and husband, John, as soon as I wake each morning.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about wellness retreats? 

That they are going to be punishing, restrictive and that you have to suffer with food deprivation, punishing exercise regime, and lack of sleep and that the whole experience is going to be unpleasant. On the contrary Kamalaya provides a seamless and nurturing experience for guests with no boundaries. At Kamalaya we have a flexible and humanistic approach aimed at accommodating each guest’s personal goals, whether that is to simply find a tranquil healing hideaway or participate in an empowering, inspiring and guided wellness program.

What are your top five tips for someone who wants to do a detox at home?

a)      Start the day with a mug of warm water and the juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime. This stimulates the liver and kidneys, providing a gentle flush from your nights’ rest. It also works to alkalize your system.

b)      Fuel your body – try a green smoothie for a healthy breakfast option. Place a handful of organic dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach, rocket) into your blender with cucumber, celery, ½ a green apple, ginger, fresh herbs, flaxseeds and water. Blitz until a smooth consistency has been reached. Add a scoop of pea protein powder for an alkaline, easy to digest energy boost.

c)       Hydrate your cells. Start your water intake early and continue to sip around 1 ½  – 2 litres of clean filtered water throughout the day. This will help to flush water soluble toxins via your kidneys and you can supplement your drinks with antioxidant high green tea which is high in free radical fighting compounds and also helps to boost metabolism. Aim for 3-4 cups during the day. Another healthy alternative is mulberry leaf tea, which is caffeine-free and very high in anti-oxidants.
d)     Fitness: Light cardio daily for 30 minutes – not strenuous.

e)     It is important to eat an early light dinner (before 7pm is ideal). In so doing you can digest your food and relax before getting an early night, as 8 – 9 hours sleep per night is essential for allowing the body to heal and rejuvenate, especially when detoxifying, an extra hour can give extra support to the organs of your body. Important detox processes happen while we sleep so turn off all stimulating distractions such as the television, your mobile phone and computer and prepare yourself for sleep.

Do you believe in superfoods and if so what is yours? 

Yes absolutely, and Kamalaya’s cuisine incorporates many so called superfoods such as goji berries which you will find in a selection of our salads and sauces.  If I had to single out my favourite I would say the Green Smoothie I make and drink daily which is blend of various green superfoods; spirulina, chlorella and barley green among others. I will make this Green Power Smoothie once or twice a day depending on my energy requirements.

Coffee and alcohol – cut out completely or in moderation? 

While research supports the notion there are some health benefits associated with drinking coffee, there are also health risks therefore moderation is key.  For some people with specific constitutions and certain health conditions, coffee should be completely taken off the menu. During stressful times, coffee is often the first thing people reach for.  Its stimulating effect keeps the eyes open and pace up, but it can also exasperate adrenal fatigue and make for sleepless nights. So, instead of reaching for a cup of coffee try oolong or green tea with light caffeine or caffeine-free mulberry or rooibos. Add ginger or peppermint to those for a slight stimulating effect.

When we are stressed or tired we can turn to alcohol as a relaxant and usually the immediate effects can have a relaxing effect on our mood and temporarily make us feel better. However, in the long term alcohol can damage our health in many ways, including depleting our energy and vitality by disturbing our sleep patterns. If you are going to have one or two drinks then have a glass of water in between. Both coffee and alcohol reduce the effectiveness of the adrenal glands, reduce absorption of nutrients, make you dehydrated and can lead to digestive complaints so it is important to keep your intake of both in check, and reserve these for occasional use rather than daily use.


Take a fresh Breath One great way to slow down and to stay in balance is to ‘pause’ what you are doing and take 10 long and deep abdominal breaths (full, deep, expanding inhalations and slow, long, relaxed exhalations). Ideally, pause for 2-3 minutes every hour throughout the day… the difference in our vitality and wellbeing will be phenomenal…try it and see! Gentle mind-body practices such as yoga, meditation and Pranayama (breath therapy) will help you become free of stored anger, tension and stress. Practiced regularly, they are a very effective way in bringing about and sustain balance in life. #kamalaya#pranayama#breath#meditation

Une photo publiée par Kamalaya Koh Samui (@kamalayakohsamui) le

Does yoga make a person happy? 

Absolutely, it is a tonic for the nervous system and the endocrine system (strengthening and building the hormones) and affects us on a physiological and psychological level. It is a good foundation for happiness and this is why we offer many different types of yoga at Kamalaya.  Guests can choose to do the Personal Yoga Synergy wellness programme, which includes Ayurvedic treatments, or opt for one of the complimentary yoga classes offered as part of the daily holistic activities available each day.

You travel a considerable amount, any tips for jetlag recovery?

When I land at my destination I love to have either a therapeutic foot massage (it is my absolute favourite as it is so relaxing and healing) or a full body massage if possible or at least a neck, shoulder and head massage. I try to get in daily exercise as soon as I arrive – preferably outdoors as this will help with jetlag (sunshine, particularly on the backs of the knees for 10 minutes over the next 3-4 days will help jetlag recovery amazingly well).

What are your must takes with you on a holiday? 

During flights, hydration is very important; I usually carry a large bottle of water and add electrolytes with vitamin C to the water to ensure I am well hydrated. This has the added benefit of boosting my immune system with the extra Vitamin C, and I would always avoid alcohol as it is very dehydrating. I will often carry a healthy snack with me as airline food is not as nutritious as I would like; some good options are fresh fruit perhaps an apple or banana and also nuts and seeds or healthy crackers and protein bars (but try and find sugar-free options as many are full of sugar).  On long distance flights, I carry an additional lightweight jacket or sweater with a hood to keep my head and neck from getting chilled and I also take along my own very comfortable eye-shades to get a complete blackout for restful sleep. A large cashmere shawl that is very lightweight yet ultra warm is my go to travelling companion for flying!

Sea views from Kamalaya
Sea views from Kamalaya

What is the most rewarding thing you have heard a guest say about Kamalaya?

It would be very difficult to narrow it down to one comment from a guest or client as our guests write the most wonderful things about their stay – here are some of my absolute favorites:

“It’s the kind of place you want to dig your feet in the sand and never leave – serenity floats in the air. Every day you get an infusion of tranquility” Teresa Cutter, Healthy Chef – Australia.

“Kamalaya is my Eden, a place where I feel home, loved, cared for, not only physically but also emotionally. A place to grow.” Heinz Rolf Diehl & Lilly Diehl-Graf, Jan 2013. 

“For me Kamalaya is like a rare jewel, just to be here is like therapy and joy for all mind, body and soul.” Sandra Raphaela Henlein, Feb 2013.



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