A pioneer in holistic wellness destinations

wellness destinations

Any spa will turn out rejuvenated clients, glowing from their day of saunas and massages – glowing more, presumably, if they are emerging from a week-long-or-more retreat-style excursion. But Quebec’s Spa Eastman, Canada’s first destination wellness retreat of its kind, aims to send visitors home with the know-how – and an encouraging head start – to take better care of themselves by assessing what lifestyle changes would best improve their well-being. Nutritional counselling, classes, conferences and an enormous menu of spa treatments provide a complete immersion in wellness that will keep that often-short-lived glow alive well beyond a customer’s stay.

The concept of this multi-modal destination spa came to founder Jocelyna Dubuc in her youth, during the early ’60s, when stories of food-based miracle-cures sparked her curiosity about nutrition, and its potential to affect some more common ailments like menstrual troubles and arthritis. While exploring the role of nutrition on her health, she discovered yoga and meditation. “I went to India for meditation, and at the ashram I was at, I had a chance to work with a doctor who was also a naturopath, and it was he that made me discover thermotherapy,” she says – specifically, Kneipp’s methods of hydrotherapy. “I was fascinated by that – those were my roots.”

Miracle-cures aside, Dubuc dreamed of a place one could visit to experience all-around wellness: “I didn’t want it to be [focused on] cure,” she insists. “It’s an art of living.” At the time, nothing like this existed in Canada. “I had no model,” she explains. Determined to show people a feeling of fully rounded wellness, Dubuc became a pioneer in Quebec’s wellness industry. Spa Eastman was truly the first of its kind.

Since opening its doors in 1977, Spa Eastman’s original five-room, three-employee establishment has expanded into a 43-room wellness mecca, where a staff of more than 120 specialists massage, treat, teach and guide guests of all ages and paths on their journey to better health and well-being.

“Because of all the programs that we have, we’ll have young people come to experience the Nordic spa, and then we’ll have older people who want to get fit or lose weight,” she says. Dubuc is quick to point out that the 326-acre estate is home to 15 kilometres of hiking trails, which guests are encouraged to explore during their visit. The spa also offers a packed daily schedule of classes like “Essentrics” and “The Experience of Essential Oils in Everyday Life,” plus yoga and meditation sessions.

“Then we’ll have people who want to stay for a week to [work with] our kinesiologist and private trainer,” says Dubuc. Guests can schedule a fitness assessment, private training session or work with a personal trainer to develop a longer-term fitness plan to guide them on the path to feeling great.

“But it’s fun, you know – a real vacation!” she adds. The spa is a popular spot for vacationers and honeymooners, and many visitors come for the food. The spa’s claim to fame – and Dubuc’s proudest offering – is the gastronomy. A gluten-free, dairy-free, anti-inflammatory menu developed by Executive Chef/Naturopath/Nutritherapist Veronica Kaczmarowski, with Chief Nutritherapist/Nutritional Trainer and Chef Jean-Marc Enderlin, is tailored to suit the nutrition plans created for guests.

Spa Eastman’s water features might just come second to its food in drawing visitors from around the globe. Two Kneipp basins, one for arms and one for legs, let guests experience the benefits of alternating hot and cold temperatures to boost circulation, aid in relaxation and encourage restful sleep. An icy-cold Igloo Shower with peppermint essential oils makes for an anti-inflammatory wake-up call, infrared and hammam saunas help the body detoxify, while the Finnish sauna uses dry heat to stimulate the immune system, aid with breakouts and alleviate arthritis. Water lovers can swim in the outdoor pools or lounge in one of two outdoor spas, each at a different temperature for guests’ comfort. And perhaps most unique of all: the Watsu massage, which takes place in a hot pool for maximum relaxation.

Of course, guests will also find the usuals here, too – a menu of mani-pedis with vegan SpaRitual products, facials, body scrubs and wraps, so they’ll leave looking as good as they feel. A little over an hour east of Montreal, this spa promises to transport its guests to another world – and transform them, in the process.

by Jayne Ashley Heaton | Spring 2019