There’s a fabulous treat in store for those of you looking for a getaway from daily life with a difference; after the turmoil of the past 3 years, we could all do with escaping to a place of calm. In 2020, Hong Kong-based artist Eleanor McColl and Pilates & movement specialist Ruth Hogg decided to collaborate to create something they had yet to see: a holistic wellness retreat where participants benefit from the meditative qualities that both art and Pilates can offer.

The oOOMA Body, Art & Mind Retreat was thus born.

A unique combination of two practices: Pilates and art, the retreat will be held over 4 nights and 3.5 days in October at a tranquil heritage resort in Chiang Mai. Not only a boutique resort with award-winning design, but a living and breathing cultural memory, the venue is a truly special setting for this one-of-a-kind experience.

path among guest buildings on kaomai lanna resort thailand
The resort’s idyllic setting (© Kaomai Lanna Resort)

Friends and teachers of more than two decades

American poet Mark Van Doren said, “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” Your teachers during the retreat, Eleanor McColl and Ruth Hogg, have each been teaching in their respective fields for 23 years.

eleanor mccoll, artist and ruth hogg, pilates instructor
Eleanor McColl and Ruth Hogg

Ruth Hogg is a Polestar certified Pilates teacher with a background in classical ballet, having studied at the Royal Academy of Dance in London. She is the owner of RH+Studio which offers pop-up and livestream Pilates classes, and is praised for providing a personal individual touch even in a class of many.

Eleanor McColl has been a practising artist for 23 years, exhibiting at numerous fairs in Hong Kong and abroad. She passes on her passion for art by teaching at her studio when she’s not working on creating her own collections. Eleanor recently launched a brand of homeware and products inspired by her original works of art, which are themselves inspired by Hong Kong’s vibrant culture.

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The name of the retreat, “oOOMA”, comes from combining the first letters of the names of the two teachers’ children – Olive, Otto, Oscar, Max, and Arthur. Friends for 24 years, Ruth and Eleanor attribute their harmonious ability to create a warm and inviting environment for students to their close friendship.

A retreat benefitting the body and mind for all

Held from 20thto 24th October, 2023 at the Kaomai Lanna Resort in Northern Thailand, the oOOMA Body, Art & Mind Retreat will not only be for experienced artists or Pilates practitioners.

The daily free-flow art and Pilates sessions held on the grounds will be accessible to all levels, limited to small group sizes that’ll allow for individual attention for both novice and experienced participants. Indeed, Eleanor has a unique way of bringing the artist out of everybody: “Of course you’re learning art techniques, but it’s mainly about exploring your feelings and thoughts in an unfettered way. You really don’t have to be the next Picasso.”

kaomai lanna hotel yoga sala
The resort’s expansive yoga hall
watercolour art at oooma pilates and art retreat
Abstract colour exploration

The most valuable part of the experience for the pair, they say, is hearing stories of participants’ perspectives about art or Pilates shifting after the retreat:

“oOOma Retreat was an absolute delight. After being slightly sceptical of my artistic abilities I was quickly put at ease by Eleanor’s instruction techniques and thoroughly embraced it. Beginning the day with Ruth for Pilates surrounded by the sound of nature was just magical. I left feeling completely relaxed and rejuvenated. The location was inspiring and peaceful. I look forward to hopefully joining another retreat soon.”

Gia Ferguson, participant who travelled from Sydney

The semi-structured format of the retreat allows participants to take from it what they need. Whether joining with a partner, a friend, or alone, all are welcome to bond in the shared experience as well as to take time to go deep within for some necessary alone time. “We want people to get meditative benefits without feeling like they’re meditating.” Ruth says. “The experience offers so much more than just art or Pilates.”

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buildings covered in vines at kaomai lanna resort
Kaomai Lanna’s guesthouses (© Kaomai Lanna Resort)

You may be asking, why combine art and Pilates at all? The beauty of pairing two practices together is that it offers something for everybody. Touching on all aspects of wellness, from body, to mind, to spirit, the connections between the two show up in various ways: the group sessions invite you to do something as part of a whole while concentrating on your own practice; the safety to explore creativity in a loose structure; and the meditative aspect of focusing on the task at hand.

The award-winning boutique resort

the building which the kaomai lanna resort cafe is housed in
The hotel café is housed in a gorgeous historical wooden building (© Kaomai Lanna Resort)

The Kaomai Lanna Resort is a boutique hotel and heritage site that has been awarded the Chiang Mai Design Award and the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for cultural heritage conservation. The idyllic guestrooms have been converted from 36 barns formerly used for tobacco curing during the peak of Thailand’s tobacco industry.

Set along the route from Chiang Mai city to Doi Inthanon which is the highest mountain in Thailand, the expansive grounds are surrounded by a tropical garden. Kaomai Lanna Resort’s verdant land is home to over 50 bird species and hundreds of plant species.

swimming pool at kaomai lanna hotel northern thailand
The swimming pool (© Kaomai Lanna Resort)

The food served at the café and restaurant has also been grown on-site, a testament to the thrumming vibrancy of the land. During the retreat, there’ll be plenty of time to visit the beautifully-designed coffee shop at the resort for homemade pastries, coffee, and locally harvested tea, swim in the pool, and explore Chiang Mai’s iconic temples and traditional villages.

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What does each day look like?

On the arrival day, enjoy a tour of the design-award-winning premises, afternoon tea, a gentle evening Pilates session, and a homemade dinner.

Afterwards, each day will consist of two Pilates sessions with Ruth held in a peaceful yoga sala surrounded by the forest, morning and afternoon creativity sessions with Eleanor, three lovingly made Thai meals per day, and free exploration time. There will also be one sound meditation evening during the course of the retreat.

Whether looking to spark your inspiration as a creative, refresh your mindset on your approach to daily life, or to just share a special bonding experience with a loved one, join the oOOMA Retreat to embark on a journey for inward and outward wellness in a setting with unequalled natural beauty and historical significance.

pilates group in the yoga room at kaomai lanna resort
Pilates session

Essential details

  • When: October 20-24, 2023 (4 nights, 3.5 days)
  • Where: Kaomai Lanna Resort, San Pa Tong District, Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Price: Register by August 20, 2023 to enjoy the 10% early bird discount of HK$10,800 per person for a Deluxe Shared Room (fits two people) or HK$11,500 for a Single Private Deluxe Room. After this, the regular prices are HK$12,000 and HK$13,000, respectively.
  • What’s included: All-inclusive of accommodation, activities, transportation to/from the resort, and three meals a day. Flights are not included.
  • Reserve: Reserve online or email el@eleanormccoll.com.

Image credits: Unless otherwise stated, images are courtesy Eleanor McColl and Ruth Hogg.

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Born in Canada, Danielle is deep diving into the things that make Hong Kong a city of intermingling identities, and bridging the information gap as someone trying to navigate the city herself as a cultural inbetweener. Sometimes this means examining culture and local people’s stories, and other times it means drinking all the milk tea and doing walking explorations of peripheral districts.

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