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Natural Health Holidays in Sunny Spain

by Jan Williamson(more info)

listed in retreats and travel, originally published in issue 86 - March 2003


Complementary health care is now readily available to the majority of the population and is much sought after as people become more proactive in their life-style choices. Increasing numbers of people are now beginning to embrace a more natural approach to their health care and are expressing a need to be more involved with looking after themselves. This way is not exclusive and can be combined with other forms of medicine. In addition to receiving complementary health care within the format of a professional consultation, there are some very simple home-care procedures, which can be applied to daily life. This traditional approach reinforces the belief that each person is an expert and co-ordinates their own health care.

Health care holidays combine naturopathic approaches with the sunshine, beauty and energy of Spain
Health care holidays combine naturopathic approaches
with the sunshine, beauty and energy of Spain

There are many ways in which Naturopathic principles involving Yoga-based exercises, Nutritional advice, Massage and Relaxation techniques can be applied to treat a wide range of health disorders. In addition, this approach can be used in self-help programmes tailored to match individual need, life-style and personality. Problems that can be addressed include stress related disorders, menopausal problems, pre-menstrual syndrome, weight problems, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, fluid retention and arthritis, to name but a few.

Self-help programmes can be tailored to meet individual needs
Self-help programmes can be tailored to meet individual needs

The author, a complementary health practitioner based in Exeter in Devon, takes the benefit of this naturopathic approach even further by combining it with the healing properties of the Spanish sunshine and countryside. She coordinates health care holidays in Southern Spain where the aim is to look at effective, sustainable, enjoyable ways to cope with 21st century life whilst soaking up the sunshine, beauty and energy of Spain, surrounded by mountains and olive trees.

The venue is the Cortijo de Santa Cruz, in Orgiva, and the hosts are Malcolm and Shelley de Ste Croix. Participants enjoy therapy workshops, yoga classes and have health care programmes designed for their individual needs. In addition they enjoy a well-deserved break. There is the opportunity to totally 'unwind', to have exclusive quality time and to be able to reflect and evaluate life situations away from the hurly-burly of everyday life.

Retreats are held at Cortijo de Santa Cruz in Orgiva, Spain
Retreats are held at Cortijo de Santa Cruz in Orgiva, Spain

The workshops on offer include Massage, Aromatherapy, Nutritional advice and Hydrotherapy. The self-help aspect promotes an increased awareness of health and also gives a non-invasive, practical and economical alternative to treat some common disorders. Each health care programme could include a combination of the following elements.


The practice and study of yoga can have many practical applications for modern Western life. It can be used to alleviate a wide range of both physical and emotional problems such as asthma, back pain, headaches, fatigue, menstrual disorders, fluid retention, stress and high blood pressure. It is available to everyone, of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities. The classical yoga postures (asanas) can be adapted to suit each individual and modified for all abilities and needs. All the benefits of practising yoga can be further enhanced by the fresh air and sunshine of Spain and by the relaxation that can be achieved by the holiday atmosphere, being free from the inevitable pressures of the modern Western life.

Yoga helps to unwind
Yoga helps to unwind


How and what we eat is a fundamental way to care for ourselves. There are times when we wish to change or adapt our eating habits, either to address specific issues or, because we feel that there is room for improvement. At these times, we can develop a more positive relationship with our nutrition as we begin to see that food is not just fuel for our bodies but it also is a statement about how we look after ourselves on a daily basis. How we choose to nourish ourselves helps to sustain energy levels and protects us is order to stay healthy. Nutrition also has a proactive role to play during and after periods of illness, in that it is crucial in helping the body to repair and restore itself. In addition, when we consider how we relate to food, how we find a way of eating to suit each one of us, then it becomes a much more vibrant, enthusiastic proposition. While changes to eating habits almost always present a challenge, it is possible to plan a way of eating that matches individual lifestyle and taste and becomes both attractive and sustainable.

The traditional Mediterranean diet has now been proved to be one of the healthiest in the world; this is not just because of the content and quality of the food but also, because of the typically relaxed, leisurely manner in which it is eaten. In Spain the food is locally grown and freshly prepared and each meal is a sociable, enjoyable occasion. What could be more nutritious than to pick an orange from the tree and to eat it immediately whilst still feeling the warmth of the sun? Our food needs to suit our way of life and more importantly, it needs to suit our personality so that it is a valuable, enjoyable part of our lives.

There are positive ways in which the food that we choose to eat – or choose not to eat – can help at specific times in our lives. For instance certain foods can reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis, others can help to reduce fluid retention, some will help the body fight off an infection, some can alleviate respiratory conditions such as asthma, others can boost energy levels, while others can offset the symptoms of natural processes such as the menopause. In addition, some foods can help to alleviate stress-related disorders and provide the body with essential rest and recuperation. As a nutritional programme is devised for individual circumstances, we can become aware that the foods that we eat – and the foods that we choose not to eat – can support us both physically and emotionally.

As with yoga, it is often valuable to be away from a normal, busy life to be able to evaluate personal needs. There is great value in just being able to enjoy fresh, natural food and to be in a position where it is possible for meals to be leisurely and sociable. From this situation, it is then possible to plan a way of eating that can be adapted to suit the home environment.


Massage is something that we all do naturally. We instinctively rub an aching shoulder or a child's knee when they fall over, or we reach out to touch a friend who is troubled. The obvious medium of massage is touch and there is increasing evidence to show the therapeutic value of touch. There are times when the need for a professional treatment is indicated: you may feel that you need the knowledge, care and advice of a practitioner. Massage is now firmly established as an effective therapy; a consultation providing with it a safe, supportive environment. The treatments can be applied to a variety of situations – either to restore or to maintain good health, to reduce tension, which is held in the muscles in response to physical or emotional threat or to assist with recovery from injury. The effects of massage are many and varied but they include:

Soothing the nervous system, invaluable for all stress related conditions;
Manipulation of muscles;
Improvement in lung function, assisting respiratory conditions;
Beneficial influence on digestion;
Promotion of relaxation.

Massage has both technical and human elements, each to varying degrees and it can be experienced either in a professional setting or in the home environment. There is a strong tradition of natural therapy, which comes from a culture of home care. There are many massage opportunities to support fitness and to promote relaxation which can be applied to family and friends and which can easily be adapted into the modern Western lifestyle.

In Spain there is the opportunity to receive professional massage treatments and also to give and to receive treatments within an informal, workshop situation. The workshops will demonstrate how adaptable massage can be and how it can be used in a variety of situations, as a natural, intuitive response to need. In this way it is possible to experience the benefits in an idyllic setting and to plan how to sustain them on the return home.

Relaxation and Rest

The benefits of relaxation and rest cannot be underestimated; however, generally speaking, little or no time is allowed for either in modern western life. If these can be regarded as opportunities to restore energy back into a busy life, then they would seem to be essential and for everyone's benefit, for the individual concerned and for everyone that he/she comes into contact with.

We all need an element of stress in our lives providing us with stimulus and motivation. Our bodies are designed to cope with stress in the short term and this can be seen as a positive state. Unfortunately, in the modern world stress is constant, long term and very negative. Spending time away from the normal routine, relaxing and having exclusive time to devote to yourself are all ways in which we can break inappropriate stress patterns. The benefits can be seen on all levels – physical, emotional and spiritual.

This is particularly relevant when we consider the high percentage of all illness, which is now recognized as having a root cause in stress. This includes headaches, back pain, heart conditions, high blood pressure, respiratory and digestive disorders, skin conditions and hormonal imbalances. We can all relate to that feeling of being drained emotionally when under pressure and needing an opportunity to stand back from a situation in order to see events more clearly. Relaxation, in whatever form, can provide this necessary time to look at situations in perspective, to be able to assess and review and to look ahead.

Being away on holiday can provide immediate relaxation just by being there, by having some 'time out' and by being away from the stresses and strains, which are often part of everyday life. This can be further supported by the addition of the slow pace of life associated with a gentle, warm Mediterranean climate. Relaxation can take many forms, some more structured than others; each person will relate to one approach more than another – depending on how they are feeling at any one time, and which seems the most appropriate. To promote the sense of relaxation still more, specific relaxation techniques are taught – these would include breathing techniques, visualization and meditation exercises. The mountains, olive groves, the blue skies and the warm sun of Spain all provide ideal subjects to focus on during relaxation and meditation. Each individual can then find the approach that suits them best, taking into consideration their personality and needs at that time. The benefits can then be 'stored up' and brought home to further enhance their daily life for their benefit and for everyone around them.

While relaxation, visualization and meditation all direct and allow the body and mind to take it easy, there is a great deal to be said for good, old-fashioned rest. In order for any health care changes to be truly effective, they should be accompanied by adequate rest. Resting is given even less regard in modern daily life than relaxation and is often even seen as a sign of weakness; the implication is that if you need to rest it must be because of being unable to cope with demands. However, when considered within the context of an individual's life at any one time, it can be seen as eminently sensible and quite obviously essential. For instance, after a strenuous working schedule, it would be seem to be entirely appropriate to take a break in order to prevent 'burn out' and to maintain efficiency for the future. Resting and creating time for yourself can also have great restorative powers when energy levels are low after a period of illness or after an emotional or physical trauma. Often this seems difficult to integrate into a busy life but perhaps that makes it even more valuable? Ultimately it doesn't need to be justified – it is quite simply a time to look after yourself, as you deserve. There is much to be said for a change of routine, scenery, environment and company in order to 'recharge the batteries'.

This naturopathic approach allows people to become more confident and more aware of looking after themselves. The effectiveness and the benefits are greatly enhanced by being in the relaxing, restorative environment of sunny Spain.


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About Jan Williamson

Jan Williamson MAR, BWY (Dip), ITEC (Hons), Cert Ed is a complementary health practitioner, yoga teacher and pre- and post-natal therapist. She is director of the School of Precision Reflexology and is based in Exeter at the School of Complementary Health. She can be contacted on 01392 499360 email:

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