With qualifications in naturopathy, herbal medicine, aromatherapy, spa therapy, complementary medicine and occupational therapy, Bannister is focused on wellness.
I'm doing a day of detoxing, which includes an infra-red sauna, detox herbal body wrap and fasting. The only things we are allowed to consume is vegetable broth, freshly juiced vegetables and fruit, and herbal tea.
Bannister greets me and another detoxer with cup of warming ginger and caraway seed tea, and tells us her story. She used to work as an occupational therapist, but grew tired of working in a reactive system, treating the results of stress and poor lifestyle choices, rather than a more proactive and holistic view of health and wellness.
"I was the biggest sceptic out about natural therapies and spa treatments," says Bannister. "But now, to me, it's too superficial to look at the outside without looking at the inside. Stress is the first stop to chronic illness. It can be a slippery slope if you don't take time out to heal yourself."
Her naturopathic-focused spa is unusual in combining professional wellness with pampering treatments, catering for the rundown and stressed, or those dealing with cancer or serious illness.
Today is all about detoxing and relaxation.
"This has all the antioxidents in the world in it," says Bannister, putting down a glass of freshly made juice filled with fruits, nuts, hempseed oil and herbs. She also makes savoury ones, juicing ingredients such as celery, carrot, parsley, lettuce, and some oranges and apples for sweetness.
After a wellness check, which looks at stress levels and symptoms of body imbalances (everything from bloating and flatulence to energy levels and anger), I'm into the infra-red sauna for an hour while the other detoxer goes for an aromatherapy bath in the other suite. Coloured lights treat various conditions, and I bathe in reddy-orange light, good for giving energy. Warm, dry heat seems to draw toxins out from the pores. Then it's time for Bannister's healthy vegetable broth, which has been bubbling merrily on her stove all morning, using organic winter root vegetables and herbs. The warm, clearish broth tastes better and better as the day goes along, as our bodies crave sustenance during the fast.
Our host is available to answer questions about health and wellness. Although many of the standard spa treatments are available, "it's not just about fluff and buff", says Bannister.
In the afternoon, I get a full-body exfoliation to stimulate circulation and get rid of toxins, and liver-cleansing detox body wrap. Bannister wraps me like an Egyptian mummy, with plastic wrap and warm blankets to help sweat out the bad stuff.
At the end of the day, I'm feeling a bit tired, but that's normal when detoxing, says Bannister. It's been a great way to centre myself and get healthy eating back on track.
A week later, back in Hamilton, I'm getting a regular delivery of organic vegetables and drinking more herbal tea and water, trying to keep the body feeling healthy and energised. So far, no winter colds, and there's a spring in my step.
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