Beauty Editor Julia Alfert went for a luxury wellness treatment to the Aja Malibu Resort in California – A place to recharge completely and to detox your mind
They say a week isn’t long enough of a break to rest and recover. That’s not always the truth and, as my trip to Los Angeles showed me, it has a lot more to do with where and how you spend your time. At the end of last year, I spent seven days there. To be more precise: in Malibu. And to be even more specific: at the Aja Malibu Resort in the Santa Monica Mountains.
It took Australian artist Inannya Magick seven years to build the whole retreat, which opened in summer 2016, on a plot of land where President Franklin D. Roosevelt once had a house. Secluded and high up in the mountains with a view of the Pacific, the location is something really special. And even thought I had seen pictures in advance, little did I know what was tucked away behind the almost unassuming entrance next to which the name Aja is immortalized in mosaic alongside a small heart.
Inside is as spacious as it is cozy and I feel good straightaway. From the entryway, you move into a large room with an old stone fireplace at its center. A woven rug lies in front of it with huge colorful kilim cushions spread across the floor and a large sofa. Bookshelves stretch across the walls and hold the in-house library: from Ayurveda and yoga to Buddhism and botany all the way to cookbooks and art books, they have everything here.
From the living room you arrive at a small courtyard, which in turn leads the spa area located a little further back. Go down a long hallway to reach the large, open kitchen and further to the herbal apothecary. The guest rooms – there are seven in different sizes – are spread across several levels.
And everywhere leads out to the garden. But “garden” is an understatement. “Paradise” would more be the word. Connected by small steps and winding paths, this lavish natural area spreads over several levels. Lemon balm grows next to chamomile, white sage next to basil, figs, peach and apricot trees, Ginkgo Biloba, palms, olives, flowers, and plants in all imaginable colors and shapes.
In the middle of it all flows a small stream, where sofas, loungers, swings, and hammocks invite you to linger. Sculptures, lamps, and art from around the world are so naturally placed into the landscape, it’s as if they had grown there. In peace and silent harmony, the whole thing appears really dreamy. Nature is audible, palpable – everything appears to be in unison.
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My suite consists of a larger room with a massive bed in the middle of it. Moroccan lamps are giving off a warm light from every side – the shadows throwing playful patterns on the walls. My view from the bed is a large bathroom with a bathtub completely surrounded by a window. That leaves an unobstructed view on an overgrown slope – everything green and blooming and every now and then I see the flash of one of the gardeners’ straw hats between the herb bushes, the Ginkgo Biloba, and the Hong Kong Lotus. Their leaves look like wings – as soon as they fall from the tree, they fold together and fly on the wind.
On the first morning that I woke up in this room, I already felt like I had been reborn: I completely forgot about my jet lag. I followed the scent that was spreading through the room – in front of the bathroom door on a small stone terrace lay a tray with and incense stick and a pot of energizing Yerba Mate tea. Every morning at 7am, this ritual would come to mean the start of the day. Followed by an hour in which I’d sit on a bench outside, read, drink my tea, and enjoy the silence.
Afterwards I’d go have a shower. But not before I dry brushed my body in circular motions towards the heart with the Japanese brush that I got from Aja. I showered with the in-house pure vegetable shower gel and shampoo.
Sometimes I would also take a bath in the morning with Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) which, among other things, helps release toxins from the body. I combined it with an invigorating minty-lemony herb mixture from Aja’s garden – and in the evening, I went with a calming mixture of lavender and sage instead.
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And afterwards, I attended a morning ceremony wearing comfortable clothing and either going barefoot or in socks where we meditated in a small group – at Aja, there’s only seven rooms, so there’s never many more than seven people there for the one-week program – drank tea, and spoke about the chakra of the day. Each of the days during this “Magic Process,” as the program is called, is dedicated to one of the seven main chakras.
Chakras are understood in tantric Hindu, Vajrayana Buddhism, in yoga, and in a few other esoteric teachings as the seven main energy centers of the body, which, as long as they are in balance, take care of everyone’s bodily and spiritual health and well-being. Every chakra has been assigned a color and different herbs. On the heart chakra day, for example, there was a tea with kumquat, rose petal, rosemary, and tulsi – which is also known as healing basil and is known for its healing properties in many fields.
After the ceremony in the “Om Room,” a breakfast of chia pudding, fruit, and seeds was served – many of which came from Aja’s garden. This pure plant-based diet actually can’t be called a diet in the weight-loss sense of the word. I was never hungry during this week and the vegetable dishes, salads, and other vegan creations and dips made from nuts, spices, and milk (for example, hempseed) I could simply eat forever. In the early evening there was a warm soup, for example broccoli or pumpkin and as much tea as your heart desired.
In the herb kitchen, I tried out different tea blends, some of which I made from herbs I gathered and dried myself. Green hemp, peach and raspberry leaf, damiana, and tulsi are just some of the herbs that I discovered at Aja and drink as tea since. I infuse many different teas in the glass bottle with an integrated tea strainer that we received at the beginning of the stay, or add fresh herbs to cold water that I drink over the day by the liter.
In between, snacks of fermented vegetables, fruit, raw cocoa, and juices make sure that your body has everything that it needs.
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After breakfast, things mostly moved outside: a hike in the mountains or doing Qigong, relaxing, or enjoying the sun on El Matador State Beach. A spa program was waiting for me afterwards, which is individually designed for each guest. I went into the infrared sauna many times, having sprayed myself before with Aja’s own homemade aroma oils and sprays which scented the sauna. Every scent was dedicated to a chakra: lavender, rosemary, and bergamot smell heavenly and each provides relaxation, energy, or calming effects.
A highlight at the spa is the Shirodhara massage, an Ayurvedic treatment in which a constant flow of warm, herb-enriched sesame oil was poured over my forehead while a light body massage and the soft sounds of singing bowls provided the highest degree of relaxation.
But the craniosacral application also makes sure that all tension is released. Far more than the usual noticeable amount in the neck and shoulder area. Afterwards, I feel light and unburdened. They did acupuncture, sonic massage, hot-cold baths, and facial treatments with Aja’s self-made and plant-based care products as well.
In the afternoons and evenings, herbal, breath, meditation, Ayurveda, and cooking workshops brought all sorts of inspiration. Although I took a lot of notes, I have the feeling that I couldn’t write it all down – the offerings are that rich and lavish. And, at the same time, that doesn’t matter. Funnily enough, I don’t have the feeling that I constantly missed something. I wasn’t bored for a moment, and was relaxed and calm. Thoughts weren’t circling around the same topics like they so often do.
Here, stress is in any case a foreign body and in the meantime I forgot how you spell it. And I learned a lot about myself in the process – true to the motto of Aja: “know thyself.” For example, I noticed that neither the telephone or the internet (both of which I did without during the day at Aja) or even my daily coffee were things I missed. Although I know that I don’t want to give those things up permanently at home, it was good to realize that it’s ok without them.
Seven days full of beauty, nature, relaxation, inspiration, health, harmony, and energy that gave me more as many a three-week beach vacation. That are still showing their effect.
Shop the “Aja Magick”:
And besides that, these things have helped me keep a little bit of the Aja magic in my daily routine at home:
- Algae to support detoxification: Govinda Spirulina and Chlorella Tabs
- Ayurveda oil pulling as a two-week treatment: Keeko Morning Mint
- Under the shower: Intelligent Nutrients Harmonic Body Wash
- Smells like peace and relaxation: Lotus Wei Inner Peace Energy Mist
- For a relaxing and nurturing bath, mix Epsom Salts with herbs (ideally picked and dried yourself): Dr. Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt
- My morning reading with my tea in the garden: No Mud No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Tea for the soul: Tusli Rosa Beere from Lebensbaum
- Tea for on the go: Grosche Marino Tea Infuser
“The 7 days signature program is known as The Magick Process for its ability to transform”
1821 Latigo Canyon Rd
Malibu, CA 90265
Translation: Melissa Frost
Originally from Hamburg, Julia Alfert moved to Berlin from Paris in 2010. After completing her studies in Art History and trying out different jobs, her path led her to Harper’s Bazaar, where she worked as Fashion & Beauty Assistant until mid 2015. While she’s harboured a love for all things beauty-related for as long as she can remember, her discovery of the written word is recent. When Julia isn’t busy trying out different creams, oils, and sprays she writes and styles for an assortment of magazines and websites.