Opening late last year in North Male Atoll, Kagi Maldives Spa Island offers a spectacular wellness escape for healthy holiday hunters. The resort takes a holistic approach to hospitality, by focusing on wellness at its core. Its 1,500-square-metre spa and wellness space is an oasis for personalised treatments at Baani Spa, gym sessions, and mindfulness activities. We speak to Kagi Maldives’ wellness director and M.Sc. Integrated Health Coach Renate Hermes on her wellness journey, her first healthy holiday experience, and tips for overcoming life hurdles.
What was your first healthy holiday experience? I think it depends on what you define as a healthy holiday. I grew up in a family where summer and spring vacations were a regular part of our lives. This is something I’m still very grateful for. We would spend our vacations mostly in the European region with a diverse spectrum of activities—anything from hiking in the mountains (which at that time I hated and later got totally passionate about it), to in-depth cultural city trips (after all, I was born and raised in a teacher family). So somehow, I learned from an early age that a “vacation” is always a bit more than just a nice holiday. Somehow there was always an educational value.
I remember in my early adult years when I travelled on my own (including a lot of backpacking in the Mediterranean), I returned back home with an urge that I wanted to change something in my everyday life—something that was inspired by my most recent trip. Often, this would be an element of the Mediterranean life and embracing the “savoir vivre” lifestyle.
My very first mindfulness and zen retreat was when I was 23 years old in Germany during my university years. I think I got hooked to the power of retreats at that time.
In later years, during my professional life, I started to enjoy immersive retreats in various forms. From dedicated health resort experiences (such as Chiva Som and Canyon Ranch Arizona) to healing nature-based retreats with meditation, yoga retreats and more. Shaped by my early childhood and teenage years, I still strongly embrace the power of inspiration and transformation that lies within travelling, particular when done with a purpose. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect deeper with myself, the nature that surrounds me, and to feel inspired to embrace new learnings and new lifestyles habits.
How do you stay in control internally when you can’t control what’s happening externally or what life throws at you? Since I’ve been living for many years on these islands in the Maldives, I spend a lot of time on boats commuting. It’s like being the captain of a sailing boat. You have no control over the ocean or the waves that are coming your way. You accept that there are stretches where it gets bumpy and even uncomfortable. However, you can adjust your sails and your course. In other words, I can control my response to what is happening around me, or what life throws at me. I can choose what meaning I give the external event. I can simply react and get carried away by the emotion that event triggers or I stop, pause and choose to respond differently, maybe asking a question like “okay, even though I seem to worry a lot right now, what is within me, that can emerge to support me to not only overcome this situation, but become even better and stronger…”.
How do you overcome one specific obstacle that you encounter daily? My mind can be quickly overactive and get distracted. My go-to remedy is to breathe, get back into the moment by re-connecting with my body, recite the Mantra “one thing at a time”, and ask the question “what is really important right now?”.
How have you taken a weakness and turned it into a strength? Well, I have to admit I can be quite sensitive and take feedback too personally sometimes because it makes me question myself, and this can really pull me down. It’s because I’m generally a very positive and mindful person but negative feedback can lead me into a self-judgement spiral.
So, what do I do with myself in such moments? Instead of moping about it, I try to challenge myself. How? So first, I allow myself to accept that it’s normal to feel like this. I befriend the feeling, become curious, and I lean into the emotion. I notice it in my body as clear as possible. The worse thing is to resist, avoid, and ignore it As the quote goes, “what you resist will persist, what you befriend you will transcend”. I try my best to breathe into it and then ask myself what this feeling actually wants to tell me and what’s the message here. I think, how can I reframe it and turn it around to an adventure of self-exploration? And as with any adventure or challenge, when I passed a critical point, I celebrate.
You have set and achieved big goals. What process do you swear by? Once again, I go back to my childhood. I recall most influential moments with my dad, which weren’t always comfortable at the time. Some words of wisdom he planted in my psyche at a pretty early age and they stuck like Velcro:
“Don’t do what you think is most popular but do the right thing with the right attitude. Trust yourself. And, respect, honor and value people from all cultures and backgrounds. And, never forget these two important words and use them wisely ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’.”
It took me years to really fully grasp the power of all this. So, I embarked on a pretty unique path that emerged out of my individual passions, likes, dislikes, values and visions, and I reached some great milestones along the way for which I feel very grateful. Along this journey I embrace, honour, and appreciate the people I meet and who have supported me, who were my guides on the side. We can’t achieve great things just alone. We may reach the mountain top in a solo ascend, but at the end there were people close or far who helped us on some level to make it happen.
What is an interesting routine that you do daily that sets you up for success? My routine for success is my sacred morning retreat. This daily mini retreat gets me started and into the right state of mind. It varies, generally I take around 45 minutes and split it into 15 min units: 15 min – mini meditation/visualisation, 15 min inspirational reading or journaling, 15 min express exercise.
How do you remain aware and mindful of your thoughts and catch yourself when you’re in a negative thought pattern? If I find myself going down a negative thought pattern, I pause. And it seems on some days there are a lot of pauses. Being a mindfulness practitioner, health coach, and wellness professional isn’t a free ticket into only positive living. It is normal to have negative thoughts—we’re hard-wired for that. However, I have learned and will continue forever to fine tune and increase my awareness, so that I can detect those repetitive patterns. It’s really important to have this pause for some space from where I have a different vantage point to look at what’s going on.
To support this, I use a technique called EASE. In short: I hold a hand on my chest or heart, breath in that area, and internally say EASE, which creates a sense of calm. Then I function better to observe my thoughts.
I recognise them for what they are—thoughts—no more, no less. They are not me, and they are not defining me. Then I ask myself a few questions like what is the intention or message behind this thought and the emotions it causes, what is here that I am supposed to learn, and haven’t yet? What is the gift in this? What wants to emerge from within that will make me stronger, better? So, I see these thoughts just as messengers that want to help me in my growth. It’s not always easy, but it’s fun when I feel it works.
The most powerful transformations can come through difficult times or a crisis because people are forced to have a breakthrough. How have you changed a crisis into an opportunity? To be honest, I don’t think we are “forced” to have a breakthrough. We can walk through life with plenty of difficult moments, challenges or crises, and don’t have any breakthroughs. Hence, we repeat certain experiences again, and again.
My breakthroughs happened when the crack was so big, that I was really willing to let the light in. Only with that willingness and giving up resistance my shifts started to happen. I learned to ‘fail forward’ and fall onto my feet. After a challenging marriage, and even more challenging divorce, I felt first like being on ground zero.
At that time, I truly understood the power of connection, the appreciation of family and friends who were there for me, unconditionally. I learned to be vulnerable and reaching out for help. I learned first-hand when one door closes a new one opens, and we sometimes need that kick out of the door in order to adjust our course and set sail in the right direction. The tricky part is that we often can’t see it when we’re in the situation. So, after my divorce things were pretty messy, but the light that entered through the crack allowed me to shed light on the path I wanted to follow. So, I started to walk step by step. I’m very happy where I’m today, looking back, I’m in fact grateful for the messy times in my life and I’m excited to continue my journey forward.
In a nutshell: my crises lead to opportunities:
- Started a new career and stepped out of my comfort zone(s)
- Learned to get out of my own self-centered dilemma and focus on how I can help others
- Learned to take myself not too seriously
- Learned to reach out for help, to be vulnerable
- Self-Reliance, Authenticity and Trust – an opportunity to connect deeper to my innate strength, gifts, talents, and true nature
- The power of forgiveness – an opportunity to really let go and experience liberation
What advice would you give to people looking to achieve their fitness goals within a three-month period? It depends on which level do they start with. A few pointers below:
- Tap into the feeling of how you will feel when you have achieved the goal, how you will look like, how your energy will shift and all the other great benefits that comes with it
- Be gentle and kind, don’t underestimate the power of micro steps. Less is more, set a goal that inspires you and yet is realistic. Don’t go from 0 to 100. Example: if you have never had a regular workout routine, don’t start with 5x a week. Start with 3x – doable, practical, simple. E g 30 min units. Make it a habit. Stay with it!
- Find something that works for you and which is simple, practical and doable. If you first have to organise all kind of equipment’s, or have a long commute, chances are high that you may not stick to it as it is too “much work”.
- Get an accountability buddy
- Celebrate every win along the way
- Have fun