New yoga retreat centre picked for appealing location

Damian Chaparro, a partner in Glenorchy's new Te Aroha Retreat:  "When the jewels come off, the...
Damian Chaparro, a partner in Glenorchy's new Te Aroha Retreat: "When the jewels come off, the meditating will begin". Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
Construction of Glenorchy's new Te Aroha retreat centre is set to begin at the end of the month. Otago Daily Times Queenstown reporter Olivia Caldwell asks one of the partners what happens at a retreat centre.

American Damian Chaparro has been teaching yoga for 16 years, but he wasn't always this healthy or flexible.

"I would say I rebelled against healthy living for most of my younger years. I would eat whatever I wanted and do whatever I wanted."

This is possibly the reason Mr Chaparro has brought the concept of a "bootcamp-styled holistic retreat" centre to the resort to help locals and internationals alike "detoxify".

He said internationally, this type of settlement is growing in popularity and although New Zealand has retreat centres, his would be unique.

"They're all a little bit different, we're a little bit different, there's enough difference there.""I think it's [holistic health] actually growing internationally in terms of trends because I think we've been moving down a path of non-holistic health and living how we feel and living a life of burning a candle at both ends.

"I think people are realising they could feel better if they just take care of themselves."

Before Mr Chaparro entered the healthy side of life he gained a degree in computer management and information systems and worked as a software developer.

"That was pretty unhealthy working in corporate structure and dealing was lots of stress. I was kind of mildly depressed doing what I was doing.

"I knew probably right away it wasn't me, but I couldn't quite get out of it. Eventually I realised I am willing to get rid of the money, I am willing to get rid of the perks. I just decided it was time for happiness and time to do something I like and so I moved to Los Angeles and became a yoga teacher."

"My mum was a bit of a hippy, you know, organic milk where the cream would settle at the top. She probably really was the start of the whole thing."

Working at United States-based Chrysalis Retreats as a wellness architect, he met his business partner Chris Madison of Boston who was a client.

"I had a concept and developed it with him. We talked about it and we loved it ... so that's how that happened."

The pair are aiming at both the international and local markets as well as allowing other teachers to hire out the venue to take their own classes.

"Those top teachers might go to Bali or wherever else. We want to appeal to them.""We are kind of a turn-key operation. We'll make the bed."

Clients will pay a cost that sits towards the "higher side".

"It's not flash, it's not luxury. The cost is in providing optimal health, there's no facials, there's no manicures.

"When people come to the retreat we would rather them not look at their wallet, and take all their jewellery off."

When the jewels come off the meditating will begin.

"We'll have yoga, we'll have hiking, we'll have meditation and all those bits and pieces.

"We'll have our own yoga teachers, we'll have our own massage therapists, we'll have our own therapist.""We're working predominantly through physical movement of the body and also working on nutrition and detoxification."

Detox is one of Mr Chaparro's favourite words and he isn't just referring to the type of detox used after a week of Christmas pudding.

"Most people come by themselves. In fact, we recommend you come by yourself because you want a detox from your relationships, from your kids, from your work, from your life, from everything."

Courses would run for between a day and two weeks depending on the needs and locality of the client.

The yoga instructor will take a back seat from teaching to begin with, as he said he has plenty to do within the next two years, when the building is expected to be completed.

"I'd like to say that I would love to get back into teaching but I would say it would be quite a while before I do, realistically ... for at least the next four years I won't be teaching."

In the meantime, Te Aroha's 13 to 14 on-site employees will teach and take clients' classes.

He said Glenorchy provided the perfect spot because it had a "clean and pristine" feel to it.

"For us it ticked a lot of boxes. I think for locals the beauty is a little bit lost at times. It's so stunning here and I think energetically it has a really good feel.

"There's nothing we didn't like about it. You've already got an international appeal.

"I think in general the world is really interested in New Zealand."


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