The year-round bristling tropical heat prevents Singapore having the same urban rush you find in more temperate locations, but the bustling financial district and tourist-packed gardens are hardly an oasis of zen—it turns out, even in the calmest of cities, you need an escape. On her recent Singapore city break, Compare Retreats Editor Rebecca Cairns takes a morning out to discover a little corner of wellness at the COMO Shambhala Urban Escape Singapore, and experience a Suspend Pilates class that goes far beyond the mat.
COMO Shambhala Urban Escape Singapore, and a favourite of COMO’s founder Christina Ong, provides just that—a boutique urban escape with a healthy dose of wellness. “Boutique is the way moving forward,” says Business Development and Spa Operations manager Lisa Manser. “People wanted individual attention: we all work so many hours, we’re on it all the time, so to have to have that one-on-one and it’s just so much better for you and your body.”
The attention to the individual is obvious from the moment you step through the door, on the sixth floor of the Delfi Orchard Building (take the lift at the back of the building and not the escalators which only go to the fifth floor). Conveniently located on Orchard Road, the spa is an easy distance by taxi or MRT from the most common tourist hotspots: Chinatown, Bayfront, Little India, and Orchard itself. Tea and water await you in the glowing reception area, along with endlessly helpful staff in-keeping with the COMO service style at any of the brand’s hotels or resorts.
Offering a range of holistic activities and fitness classes, the COMO Shambhala Urban Escape is a comprehensive wellness centre ready to meet the needs of both its drop-in and membership guests with a comprehensive schedule of Hatha, power and Iyengar yoga; mat, reformer, suspend and pre-natal Pilates; Barre; Qi Gong, Bosu; GYROTONIC®; mindfulness and meditation sessions; and a spa with consultation rooms for naturopathy, preventative health and massage therapy.
“Wellness is not just movement,” says Manser. “It’s all aspects. So if you travel, travel well; if you eat, eat well; if you think, think well. We’ve been bringing in mindfulness, too—it’s a little bit slow on the uptake, but it just takes education.”
The Urban Escape has both regular instructors and practitioners as well as guest specialists, including COMO’s resident nutritionist Eve Persak. In 2019, the Urban Escape will be adding facial acupuncture as part of the Urban Escape’s TCM offerings.
During my visit to the Urban Escape, I joined a Suspend Pilates class, which is exactly as it sounds: a Pilates class with suspension. Think TRX meets the toughest core workout you’ve ever had. The class, led by Ole who has more than two decades of experience teaching Pilates in the USA, The Philippines and Singapore, begins with a short mat warm-up to open the hips and build stability—which you’re going to need a lot of when you move over to the straps.
The straps look much like the ones used in TRX, but these straps are unilateral and not connected. Ole walked us through a series moves, many similar or identical to a regular mat Pilates class—with the obvious difference being some part of your body was suspended with the straps. The use of the straps enabled me to get more depth in certain moves, while simultaneously offering support on ones that I would have otherwise struggled within a standard mat Pilates class: the suspended hip plank, for instance, allowed me to go deeper into my core than a normal plank would.
The small class size—we were a group of three—also enabled me to challenge myself more, knowing I had someone monitoring my posture and offering constant constructive feedback. “We always try to keep the Suspend classes smaller, three to five max,” says Joanne Ong, Marketing Executive for the COMO Urban Escape Singapore. “Then Ole can one-by-one adjust your posture. That’s what we focus on: quality. It’s a bit cliche, but it’s true.”
With the suspension straps, it was also much easier to use body weight to work through moves that strengthened the arms and legs. Moves like splits and the “upside down stretch” would have been impossible without the straps, and gave the Pilates class a completely new dimension. Ole’s instructions and enthusiasm kept the class moving along at a swift pace: once we had worked through a sequence of four to five moves 10 times each, we would repeat two or three times, allowing me to get into a rhythm and improve my posture and positioning on each round.
While after most Pilates classes I feel the effects most acutely in my abs and core, the Suspend Pilates class provided a full body workout that gave my arms, legs, core and glutes a satisfying ache the next day.
The store in the Urban Escape stocks COMO Shambhala’s spa and beauty products (which are currently undergoing rebranding to make all of the packaging recyclable), and guests looking to enjoy a healthy post-workout meal can pop across the road to SuperNature, a health food store stocking all of COMO Shambhala’s healthy cuisine products in Park House.
Offering a 360-degrees wellness experience, from workout to spa time, COMO Shambhala Urban Escape is the perfect stopover for wellness travellers—make sure to drop by on your next visit to the city.