Fivelements is a luxury sanctuary of spiritualism, spa and sustainability, located a 25 minute drive away from Ubud on the banks of the Ayung River. If you are looking to stay at an eco-conscious boutique wellness resort that offers a complete healing retreat, peace and tranquility in nature, and gourmet plant based food then this is the place for you.
The name of the resort is derived from the Hindu Concept ‘Panca Mahabhuta’, representing the Five Elements of Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth and explaining how internal and external forces work together and are united with the universe.
I came here to escape the busyness of my life and to help me deal with the anxiety and stress I had been suffering from since my father recently died. I needed a space where I could completely let go, with privacy, little intrusion and deep healing work.
Fivelements offer all inclusive wellness programs that integrate yoga, meditation, plant based food and healing therapies from traditional Balinese healers. I spent three nights retreating there, immersed in a wellbeing program of yoga, meditation, ritual and healing treatments.
Built like a small Balinese village, Fivelements opened in late 2010 as the first of a new genre of wellness destinations bridging the wisdom of traditional healing cultures with innovative wellness concepts.
To date, the eco-wellness retreat has been recognised with eighteen international awards spanning across hotel, wellness, spa, culinary and sustainable design industries. Fivelements has earned its position as an innovative leader in wellness concept design, retreats and programmes, plant-based innovative cuisine and wellness hospitality worldwide.
Blending into mother nature and being at one with the Earth is the theme here. A healing village of landscaped tropical gardens, encircled by waterfalls and vaulted bamboo architecture.
The design team carefully developed the retreat with minimal disturbance to re-existing natural systems, ecologies and aesthetics. Built using primarily natural materials including bamboo, rattan, local stone, recycled timbers and coconut wood, all buildings have been designed to represent a cohesive synthesis between eco-consciousness and luxury.
It has been created in the traditional Hindu system of design (vastu) based on directional alignments and sacred geometry to meet the requirements of Balinese cosmology and sense of space.
Fivelements embodies the dual Balinese Hindu philosophies of tri Hita Karana and tri Kaya Parisudha, which serve as the underpinnings of the resort’s concept, design and operating principles. The first relates to the relationship between us humans, the environment and spirit, while the second reflects the ethical triad of right speech, right thought and right action.
Their vision – learning to love and respect life, is realised by creating opportunities for awareness and nurturing supportive relationships that evolve from this awareness.
Their belief – when we first focus our attention on personal wellness, positive transformation becomes possible through engagement with the wider communities that surround us.
Their human-centred Wellness Policy – is built on three pillars: personal well-being, social harmony, and sustainability in the natural environment – all of which are continually cultivated and improved upon.
Eco practices and sustainability
Fivelements is very well integrated in the local culture and traditions, supporting local farmers, sustainable agriculture and environmentally friendly products.
The use of a bamboo as a sustainable material means that the property can be ecologically regenerated without causing any stress to the environment.
Energy saving is a high priority due to Bali’s already stretched resources, as is water. They reduced their electricity for lighting by 95% using an amazingly efficient LED system, Sycamore fans provide low energy cooling and waste management and recycling are central. The vast gardens are irrigated with rainwater and grey water is treated and recycled.
Their intention is to move their operations beyond the sustainability of Green Building and into the realm of Regenerative Design. This means that synergies between elements in the operations and those of partner organisations will create self-sustaining positive impacts on the world around us.
They will begin this process by seeking appropriate Green Building certification for all of their infrastructure projects. Once that infrastructure is in place they will strive to measure the overall impact of their operations and offset any negative impact through equally measured efforts with partners. Offsetting projects include tree planting to balance energy and material use and support of third party managed social campaigns.
Wellness treatments and ritual
Fivelements has sourced the best healers from around Bali to deliver their masterful treatments, many whom derive from generations of healing wisdom.
The carefully curated menu includes deep bodywork and massage therapies, healing energy treatments, water healing programs, blessing ceremonies, and colonic hydrotherapy. All therapies take place within the seven riverside healing rooms.
Balinese priests and healers perform a myriad of deep treatments to holistically embrace the principles of opening up spiritually based on the Balinese belief of Sekala – Niskala. This works on the idea that we live between two worlds – our seen world or Sekala, and the unseen psychic realm of Niskala. Each offering is targeted for purification, balancing and regeneration.
A never-ending fire is maintained at the Agni Hotri pavilion, where a Balinese priests offer prayers to purify the Earth. Agni Hotra is an ancient fire ceremony originating from the sacred Vedic Hindu texts.
Agni refers to fire and Hotra means, healing. This healing fire ceremony is considered one of the highest Vedic rituals. Specially trained priests make offerings of ghee and grains into the fire while reciting Sanskrit mantras to invoke blessings of health and abundance.
Participants are also invited to join the priests at specified times with offerings of rice into the fire, as symbol of divine light. The ritual is for energising and purifying the environment, healing both the participants and those living in the area. There are many anecdotal stories of healing in relation to the Agni Hotra and even evidence of benefits to agricultural areas where Agni Hotra is performed.
During the Balinese Fire Blessing Ritual, negative thoughts or unwanted energy are offered to the fire to be cleansed and transformed into more positive energy. The ritual also helps you to let go of unwanted aspects of your life.
This ancient ritual began with a meditation as the priest chants Sanskrit mantras and offers ghee and grains to the fire to evoke the Divine and blessings of health.
After lighting the fire, everyone was invited to make offerings of rice to the fire, the symbol of divine light, and to recite a mantra. I am handed a coconut to crack open, representing my negative ego and a blessing on my forehead from the priest with holy water. The ceremony ends with a silent meditation.
Chakra Healing (Panca Mahabhuta)
‘Chakra’ is a Sanskrit word that means ‘wheel’ and refers to the many energy wheels we have throughout our body. Seven of these are major chakras, aligning along the spine from the base to the crown. Each one is made up of organs, nerves and a powerful connection to the less tangible psychological, emotional and spiritual states of being.
Keeping our chakras open and our energy flowing is fundamental to our wellbeing, physical as well as psychological, emotional and spiritual. When we fall ill, it is likely that one or more of our chakras is, or becomes, blocked, whether directly through physical trauma, or through more esoteric problems that then manifest physically.
Panca Mahabhuta is a 90-minute healing ritual during which local healer Pak Wayan applies techniques handed down through generations to clear away any unhealthy energy in the body, originating from emotional, mental burdens and physical ailments.
It started with a scan and clearing of any imbalances of negative and stagnant energy from my body, and then removing it to clean and purify the spirit and open my heart.
The second part involved a deep full body massage down the spine along the chakras using Pak Dewa’s family’s own secret herbal oil blend, passed down from his grandfather.
The Balinese Boreh
A Balinese Boreh is a centuries-old healing recipe of herbs and exotic spices traditionally used as a “body revival” in the form of a mask and scrub. “Bo” in Balinese means “ready”, and “reh” comes from the Balinese word for blood, ”rah”, so Boreh literally brings your body to life.
In the past, rice farmers returned from their fields after a day’s work standing in the water tending their crops. In their kitchens they took a mortar and pestle and hand-crushed local ingredients such as cloves, ginger, cinnamon, coriander seeds, rice, turmeric root and nutmeg, among others. They combined them with water to make a thick aromatic paste, and then smoothed it over their bodies.
This aromatic body mask kept them warm at night, warding off chills and colds and providing relief to sore muscles and joints. When the first sunrays came up they took their morning bath in the river and vigorously rubbed the mask away kick-starting their circulation. This ritual prepared them for a new day, while also protecting them from insect bites back in the paddy fields.
This culture of herbal medicine has been passed down through the ages and still today you can find ancient Boreh pastes for sale at traditional Balinese markets.
My ritual began with a deep tissue massage, followed by a scrub and then a wonderfully sensuous bath overlooking the foliage and water, full of all the smells of these wonderful herbs, salts and oils.
Following the massage the Boreh is applied and the powerful herbs are combined with powdered rice and massaged all over my body. This not only removes dead skin cells but promotes circulation. The finale is the beautiful and divinely smelling flower bath.
The therapist added oils and flowers, each colour having a different symbolism. Red to energise, purple for spirit and inspiration, yellow for clarity and green for balance.
Yoga and meditation
The yoga classes take place in a beautiful bamboo temple. Fivelments offer both Kundalini and Scaravelli Yoga. During my stay I practiced with Yogi Bhajan who offered a dynamic blend of postures and movement, therapeutic stretching, mantra, breathing (pranayama), meditation and relaxation.
Fivelements has nine suites also dotted along the riverfront, sustainably built from wood and bamboo. These are havens of sumptuous comfort and peace named after the Balinese elements, such as Teja (fire) and Apah (water), perfectly reflecting the mood. The rooms are enveloped within their natural surroundings, looking out on the gently swirling Ayung River.
The cozy bamboo suites have high ceilings, huge glass fronts, a sofa corner, recycled wooden floors, stunning open bathrooms with massive volcanic stone bathtubs on its own terrace. Some of the villas also have their own private pools.
Bathrooms are open Balinese style and make use of natural materials such as bamboo, wood and stone complimented by homemade natural aromatic bath produce.
The fine dining Sakti Dining Room, an architectural masterpiece is gorgeously crafted from deeply polished bamboo. It’s built in traditional Balinese style, in harmony with nature and with principals aligning the spaces with the energy of the land. The soaring roofline, sculpted from bamboo and thatch, resembles a banana leaf which is a symbolism of nourishment.
The epicurean plant based food is divine, nourishing and nutritious (using only the finest organic ingredients), and a work of art – imagine a menu where everything on it is not only healthy and holistic but also tastes delicious and leaves you with no guilt…even after eating the most incredible deserts! The motto here is ”Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine thy food” and they show you that you don’t have to sacrifice the beauty and pleasure of food in order to enjoy healthy eating.
Each dish is elegantly presented and full of wonderful flavours, colours and texture. My favourites included the tiramisu and lasagna.
A must try is the chef’s specialty tasting lunches and dinners (available in 3, 5 and 7-course menus). Please note that there is no alcohol served – so there is no temptation for you when you are on a detox.
All inclusive Wellness programs are offered from 3-21 days. The Panca Mahabhuta Retreat is their signature program that comprises a holistic integrative approach designed to tune in on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels, allowing an organic healing process to naturally unfold.
The signature cleansing Tri Kaya Parisudha Retreat is inspired by the ancient Balinese philosophy that promotes living with purity of thought, speech, and action. It encourages us to align our heartfelt goodwill and thinking with consistent speech and action. and allowing an organic healing process to unfold.
As our lives become increasingly demanding, fast-paced and over-stressed, we begin to recognise significant impacts in our body’s natural ability to sustain healthy organ productivity, effective toxin elimination and overall health and wellness. The retreat includes traditional Balinese healing therapies aimed to detoxify and purify the physical body, sekala, and the non-physical mind and soul, niskala, unifying body and mind towards a natural harmonious state of being.
My time at Fivelements was truly a retreat for the soul when I was in need of much more than pampering and spa treatments. It was a strong reminder that it’s good to disconnect at times and turn the focus inwards.
Aside from being one of Asia’s best spa retreats, it should also be celebrated as a destination for self-being, betterment and re-connection.
Booking and contact
Double rooms start from from £217 in low season and £375 in high season.