From tarot readings and shamanism to breathwork and ‘human design’, Jenny Southan discovers a fascinating array of alternative wellness experiences at the Byblos St Tropez.
I am sitting with Melodie in a quiet ante-room off the spa at the Byblos hotel, as she examines a complex chart with strange runes, “gates” and “channels” that reveal a portrait of my personality based on my date, place and time of birth. A combination of astrology, the I Ching, Kabbalah, the chakra system and life coaching, “human design” purports to provide individuals with insights into their personality traits, strengths, weaknesses and life purpose. I don’t have any interest in star signs so arrive sceptical but open-minded – I am curious to hear what Melodie has to say.
Firstly, she tells me I am a “generator” – I have the energy to take on hard projects for a long time. People like me “build humanity”. “It’s important for you to have knowledge and be an expert. You like to take on all the information available to solve problems. But people see you have this ability so it’s important for you to create boundaries. You have a lot of endurance. You are obsessive and you always need to always be busy,” says Melodie. I have to say that as an entrepreneur and freelance journalist, that resonates, but perhaps she could have guessed or intuited this?
Throughout the hour we spend together she goes much deeper. In terms of my emotions, she says I “feel what other people are feeling”. I agree that I am empathetic. “You are very selective about who you connect with and who you build a connection with. You want everyone to feel good so I can feel good. You exert a lot of energy on trying to solve other peoples problems instead of putting energy into want you want to build.” But Melodie warns: “Everyone is responsible for their own emotions. You need to put myself first because no one else will.” She finishes by saying I need to “optimise my energetic blueprint”.These human design sessions are just one component of the Byblos’s new “Holistic Experiences” wellness programme that launched this summer and encompasses a variety of activities and workshops that facilitate a journey of self-discovery for participants. Presented in three stages – depending on how much the participant would like to experience – programme aims to be both “accessible and meaningful”, whether they are already a practitioner or not. Bespoke workshops range from yoga and meditation to reiki healing and shamanism (an ancient practice that connects your consciousness with your “cellular memory”).
For time-pressed guests who want to “taster”, there are 60-minute “Inner Harmony” treatments combining yoga and meditation. They can be done solo (€160) or as part of a group (€80 per person), and can be tailored to the “rhythm and energy” of the individual. For example, morning sessions combine gentle and energising movements or invigorating and dynamic exercises, while evening sessions are designed to relax the body and mind.
- Morning Boost: a dynamic yoga workshop that aims to energetically wake up the body and bring a burst of energy through ‘asana’ movements that are linked to effective breathing.
- Rise and Shine: a more gentle morning class, perfect for individuals looking for a peaceful start to the day. Classes will combine gentle stretching and movements linked to meditations techniques.
- Recharge Mode: an evening workshop aimed to let go of all muscular tension and mental pressures, and to fully enjoy an evening of festivities in St-Tropez.
- Pause and Reset: a parenthesis in the day for those looking to fully relax. In this evening workshop, the deep tissues and meridians are tapped via postures that are held between three to five minutes to help the body open up and enter into a deep introspection.
- Pranayama and Meditation: a respiratory workshop focusing on breathwork. In Sanskrit, prana means ‘vital life force’ and yama means to regain control. Through breathing, guests will learn how to free themselves from stress and experience inner peace of mind, through guided sessions.
Christophe Chauvin, general manager of the Byblos, tells Globetrender: “When people come to our hotel and want to do mediation or yoga, they are already experts. They practise and they have a trainer. So we can’t give them a funky experience. It has to be the best.”
Alternatively, guests can book a personalised one-day retreat, branded an “Epic Journey”. These include body workshops signature spa treatments and a bespoke gluten-free, vegetarian lunch, with dishes designed to complement the theme of the experience.
To get things started, a therapist will help you to identify your specific needs and will propose one of five Epic Journeys, each linked to an element (water, earth, fire, air, ether). Priced at €650 per person, each journey comprises one 60-minute Inner Harmony treatment; one 60-minute “Byblos” signature massage; one lunch and one holistic treatment, such as human design, tarot or sophrology (a practice that incorporates mental visualisation and mindfulness).The Byblos is also hosting immersive weekend workshops (branded “Constellations”) that take place between July and September. The three-day programmes (taking place Friday to Sunday) focus on shamanism, breathwork and sound therapy, and allow people to sample one two-hour 30-minute group workshops (priced at €150 per person) or a selection. Reiki and human design costs €270 per individual session.Since opening in the 1960s, the Byblos St Tropez has earned a reputation for being a somewhat hedonistic and glamorous hideout on the Cote d’Azur, attracting many famous guests over the years, particularly around the Cannes film festival when a lot of Hollywood stars fly in (A-list guests include George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Beyoncé). The compact, village-like resort takes the form of a cluster of houses and bungalows that surround a central swimming pool. There are suites designed by Missoni, an atelier selling works of art, homeware, luxury lilos and cigars (there is also an online boutique) and a buzzing nightclub called Caves du Roy.
Today, the Byblos recognises that “health is the new wealth”, and is tapping into many of the more “New Age” and alternative remedies made famous by actress and wellness entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow. Spearheaded by Antoine Chevanne, the owner of the hotel, he was inspired to launch the wellness concept after undergoing a series of life-changing engagements with shamanic healer and personal development consultant Marion M’Santi (pictured below).Chevanne tells Globetrender: “I am a very pragmatic person. A few years ago I wasn’t super open but I kept on talking to Marion and I was so surprised at how she succeeded in solving many of my problems simply by us talking to each other. In two hours I got answers. It was super intense.
“At a certain point, when I figured out what was going on in the wellness industry, especially in my hotel and the hospitality industry, I had the feeling that wellness trends were changing. It’s now about taking care of your inner self, as well as your outer self. So I asked Marion to help. In January 2023, I employed her to be our wellness and personal development consultant.”
Having spent time with gurus at ashrams in India and shamans in South America, M’Santi has built up considerable experience and knowledge in alternative therapies. At one point she wanted to be a nun but is now curating and managing the Holistic Experiences programme at the Byblos, along with a team of staff hired locally.I am here for a taste of some of the experiences on offer. We do a lovely gentle yoga class with Audrey in the shady courtyard, which is decorated with tiles by acclaimed ceramist Roger Capron. (I like our teacher finishes the session by saying: “Thumbs on your head for clarity of thought, thumbs on your lips to speak the truth, and thumbs on your heart for truth in your actions.”)
Later, this was followed by an hour of meditative “breathwork” with Nana, which (I am pleased to say) was not about inducing hyper-ventilation, hallucinations or tears (“holotropic breathwork”) but achieving focus, peace and clarity (it’s better described as “conscious circular breathing” – in through the nose and out through the mouth).I have to say that I feel really “seen” by Melodie in the human design session. Almost everything she said makes sense to me and I find it helpful to be presented with this bird-eye profile of myself that I have never seen before in full. I recognise that (like anyone) I need to pay better attention to the people I surround myself with, how I invest my time, the environments I put myself in and the demands I make of myself to allow myself to be the best version of myself possible. In certain scenarios I will wilt, while in others I will flourish. Being aware of these propensities is really helpful.After my human design session, I gather with the rest of my group to eat a “God of Fire” Epic Journey lunch, with produce grown in the hotel’s own kitchen garden. For me, good food is integral to a good holiday, especially when I want to leave feeling better than then I arrived. The Byblos scores highly on every front, from the simple plant-based wellness lunches to the multi-course Mediterranean fine-dining dinners it serves in Arcadia, and fresh salads and fish at the hotel’s own Byblos Beach restaurant (pictured below), roughly a ten-minute drive away by the sea.
In the morning, at the hotel, there is a beautifully curated breakfast buffet with chilled yoghurts in glass pots, chopped strawberries, perfect patisseries and gateaux, homemade granola, DIY vegetable and fruit juicing stations, flagons of mint water and loaves of artisan bread wrapped in thick cotton napkins. The Byblos has also revamped its Sisley spa with natural stone, onyx and wood – it now has five treatment rooms, a new sauna, an indoor and outdoor relaxing area, a nail salon, a redesigned hammam, and the introduction of the “Waterfall room”, with sensory showers and jets. Sisley amenities have also been introduced in rooms for the first time this season. I had a 90-minute transcendental massage that was so relaxing it took me to another dimension (€270). Chevanne tells Globetrender: “The Byblos is now more than a hotel – it’s about the art of living.” He says: “As a society, we are constantly connected, performing at a high level as well as travelling extensively. Time, space and having a choice is a luxury today, and I strongly believe that our industry’s future will be guided by our ability to offer our guests the chance to reconnect with themselves.
“It’s not just about offering a yoga lesson or a wellness package to guests, but to go further in offering an experiential journey that will demonstrate results and where we will accompany guests every step of the way. Our curated workshops and retreats go beyond practice, in order to awaken inner consciousness of body and mind.”