Unwind And Reset At NZ’s Premier Spa

It’s true that life can sometimes get too overwhelming at times. The stress of the day-to-day work running you to the ground, the kids driving you crazy and you can’t remember how many years it’s been since you’ve had a good nights sleep. It’s given you a foggy brain and zero motivation. All you need is a place to go to recharge those batteries and regain that balance in life. To transform oneself successfully from a chaotic type of lifestyle to a healthier one, requires a great deal of strength, mindfulness and determination. 


One of New Zealand’s best known health and wellness experts, Rachel Grunwell has made that transition, going from stressed-out investigative journalist to health and wellbeing guru. She has been an Ambassador of Polynesian Spa since 2018, using her vast experiences and passion to help those at their wits end. Polynesian Spa, located on the shores of Lake Rotorua, is a relaxing geothermal spa and is recognised as one of the top 10 spas in the world. Offering 28 different mineral pools of varying temperatures and minerals to create the right balance for any aches, pains or tired muscles, or simply skin rejuvenation, the Spa is the ultimate world-class relaxation tool right here in New Zealand.


Polynesian Spa also offers the Mindful Moments Retreat, an opportunity for anyone to have a bespoke experience catered to their mindful needs. Hosted by Rachel, alongside Spa and Retreat Manager, Helena Keenan, the weekend-long retreat takes attendees through yoga, mindfulness, meditation and wellness workshops, giving them the tools to relax, unwind and reset while surrounded by the soothing atmosphere of Polynesian Spa. 

We sat down with Rachel and talked about wellness, balancing life’s stresses and what to expect at the Mindful Moments Retreat.  




What inspired you to turn your focus to health and wellbeing?

I fell into it by luck. In a former life, I was a stressed-out, award-winning investigative journalist who held politicians and people in power to account. I loved it. While on maternity leave, an editor offered me a weekly wellness column gig for the Herald on Sunday newspaper, which unexpectedly threw me into the world of writing about fitness and health ideas and meeting the top experts in this industry in NZ and overseas.


Before then I had been confused about health and fitness and thought it was just for people who were “born that way”. I ended up loving the wellness industry because people in this profession truly help people uplift their health. I decided to get some qualifications so I could work in this industry and help people too. I’ve transformed from a writing geek to a wellness geek, who now helps corporates to everyday Kiwis de-stress, and feel healthier and happier (with science-backed advice).


When I do speaking events, the audience often tells me they liked hearing about my unexpected transformation. I guess it gives them hope that they too can transform if they choose. Because if I can go from an unfit mum who was sugar and stress addicted, into a woman who is in her mid 40s who has never been fitter, stronger, happier or healthier in her life… then I give hope that anyone can do this. And they can. 


I always joke too that if I had been offered the wine column at the time back then, I would have leapt at that with equal enthusiasm. Thank goodness I was offered the wellness column.


What drew you to helping others reach their wellness goals?

I hated all the “wellness white-noise”. Wellness experts and brands generally can make this industry confusing and so it just sounds like white-noise. I wanted to help people by simplifying it and making it relatable and accessible. I also felt the power of personally transforming through my own wellness journey to feeling fitter, stronger, healthier and happier… to living with more energy and vitality. I wanted to help others to feel this same way. I know what it’s like to live with a foggy brain and feel wired, tired and stressed. I love helping people live differently.


What is it about this modern world that causes people to neglect their wellbeing?

People are confused about where to start and exactly what to do and when and how. I decode it to make it simple and easy. I also see barriers that hold individuals back and know some psychology around how to drive motivation levels and success.


I also think that people feel they have to be perfect in a health transformation to do it well. But they don’t. Life is about “balance”. I too drink wine, eat chocolate and burgers… I’ve just learnt how to balance these things into my life.


What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness?

This wellness tool can be life changing. Mindfulness helps people live calmer and happier. It helps you to avoid knee-jerk reactions, and rather approach life with a more considered, wiser mind.



How did your relationship with the Polynesian Spa begin?

It’s a bit about having a strong skillset, and a bit about a Rotorua girl returning home…

I was approached to be an ambassador for the Polynesian Spa in 2018. They felt I was an authentic fit for the role for a layer of reasons. I’m a qualified wellness expert (coach & yoga + meditation teacher). I don’t just inspire people to feel healthier and happier; I’m qualified to help and empower people on exactly “how”.


I also have a deep heart connection to this place. I was born and raised in Rotorua. I learned to swing a poi and speak and sing some Maori here as a kid. I spent my childhood in the forests, lakes and learning the magic of the Maori culture. So, I’m deeply connected to this incredible and unique destination, the people here and the magic that this place holds.


Every time I’m here I feel like I’m home again. I hope retreat-goers feel my passion for wellness, but also my aroha for Rotorua, the Polynesian Spa and the people here. Retreat-goers can ask me too where to eat, play, stay or where to find adventure… I know this place well.


What makes Polynesian Spa so special?

The place, people and experiences here. There are 28 mineral pools of different temperatures on site on the edge of Lake Rotorua. As you soak and unwind, you look out across the lake to majestic Mokoia Island. It’s bliss. You are transported to another time and place.


Some waters are acidic and help ease sore muscles, aches and pains. While, some waters are alkaline, and you emerge from these waters with smoother, softer, more gorgeous skin. These pools can help to unwind your stress nervous system, so you feel so deeply relaxed and heart-nourished. The therapy treatments here are next level luxury. There’s also a great café onsite for smoothies, ice-cream and other yummy kai. The staff here too are special. Many have worked for this place for decades – and make it like a family. 


Who could benefit from attending the Mindful Moments Retreats?

Corporates wanting science-backed advice and tools on how to unwind, de-stress and rejuvenate in “paradise” and learn relatable tools on how to be healthier and happier. There’s no “woo-woo” stuff here, only science-backed and smart advice.


Girlfriends wanting the ultimate girls’ weekend away! We also get couples, mums and daughters, to women coming on their own wanting to kick-start their wellbeing journey – and they always leave with new friends. The retreat programme is pretty relaxed. The ultimate aim is for our clients to unwind and learn how to live life more mindfully.


What can attendees expect from attending a Mindful Moments Retreat?

This is one of NZ’s most affordable micro-retreats. You get a luxurious treatment in a spa that has won top awards on the world stage. Relaxing time in the historic therapeutic hot-pools. Yoga. Mindfulness. Meditation. Yoga. Time in nature. Attending a wellness workshop with a wellness expert. Nourishing morning teas and lunches both days. An insane goodie bag full of amazing products like the beauty brand Linden Leaves, plus a copy of my book Balance: Food, Health + Happiness (which is a full-colour book including 30 global experts on how to live healthier and happier, plus 30 nourishing recipes).



How do attendees feel after leaving the Retreats?

Changed. Empowered. Relaxed. Rejuvenated. Like they don’t want to leave!


What practices from the Retreat can attendees integrate into their day-to-day lives?

A tool kit full of science-backed strategies and ideas on how to live healthier and happier. Everyone is empowered in a different way to uplift their life from this retreat. Some love the de-stress strategies. Others change their nutrition. Others learn how to kick-start their fitness journey. Some feel empowered on how to live happier and more in “balance”. While some absolutely use every tool and transform their life. Everyone leaves this retreat inspired in a way that resonates with them. It always wows me how it impacts on individuals so differently.


What is your favourite part of the Mindful Moments Retreat?

Everything!! If I had to pick one – then it’s hearing later from clients sharing their joy and excitement about what they have put into practice at home after leaving the retreat. This melts my ice-queen heart, always.


Find out more about the Mindful Moments Retreat at Polynesian Spa.


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