Mandala Wellness takes an integrative approach to the promotion of wellbeing and the restoration of balance
I have never tried acupuncture before. It’s not that I have an aversion to needles, but electively having somebody poke me with them never really seemed like a must-do, particularly in the name of reducing stress.
Yet, here I am at the Mandala Wellness (41 Tran Ngoc Dien, D2), located in a villa in District 2, waiting for a lovely acupuncturist named Johanna to stick a bunch of needles in me. She uses a new, disposable set for each session, and as Johanna opens the package I am surprised to see that the needles look more like a wispy strand of hair than what we are accustomed to seeing in a typical doctor’s office.
There are no particular risks associated with acupuncture, she informs me, and the benefits can address a wide range of ailments, from addiction to reproductive issues. Without a specific illness to treat, my visit falls under the preventative medicine category, promising to promote emotional and physical well-being.
Relaxing music plays in the background as I lie down on a table and Johanna begins needling my body: one in each ankle, one near each knee, one in each wrist and another in the chest. At the very most, there’s a slight pinching sensation when the needles are inserted, but at no point would it be described as painful. She leaves me lying there, eyes covered and an aromatherapy oil wafting in the air, for perhaps 20 minutes as the needles stimulate my nervous system, releasing chemicals in the brain, spinal cord, and muscles.
Like most forms of alternative medicine, the effectiveness of acupuncture has been widely debated, though speaking solely from my firsthand experience, I can say that a quick session left me feeling an unprecedented sense of calmness throughout the day.
Acupuncture, however, is really just the tip of the iceberg at Mandala Wellness center.
Goal of Living Well
It started out as a small idea, a passion project of sorts, when two new mothers in the midst of their respective careers, one working in finance, the other in architecture, found themselves increasingly focused on the importance of living healthy and balanced lives. Like many others who are awakening to the concerns surrounding overall well-being in Saigon, from food safety to air pollution, co-founders Huynh Buu Tran and Rosanne Lee saw a need for alternative options, and, pivoting their careers, decided to take action.
First, it was cold pressed juices— the type of broccoli and kale-based concoctions that make you feel like you’ve done something productive simply by consuming—that spawned the Mandala brand, and from there it quickly snowballed into a comprehensive lifestyle platform.
“It was more like a hobby with your friends and then all this happened,” says Tran, as we sit within the newly opened villa-turned-wellness center, occupied by osteopaths, nutritionists, reiki healers, and the like. “We thought, ‘it can’t just be the juice, we want to do something more.’ We know we can’t be the experts on everything, but the idea was to create a platform that brings everyone together and create awareness in Vietnam.”
In addition to the juice, which they continue to crank out in small batches from the center’s kitchen, today, the main points of emphasis under the Mandala Wellness umbrella are holistic healing, educational workshops and fitness. While the latter is one of Vietnam’s hottest industries, with health club chains popping up across the country, Rosanne and Tran see ample opportunity to differentiate themselves from the product offered at mega gyms.
Yoga, for instance, continues to grow in popularity, but Rosanne points out that they concentrate on filling the need for less prevalent types, such as Iyengar, Ashtanga, and soon Baptiste. “the market has predominately Hatha or Vinyasa yoga… The market at the moment is very much focused on a certain type and there’s very little of the other kinds. Our whole mission is to try to offer different things. What we’ve been working on is getting as many different types of yoga that are available and introducing them to people.”
“There are a lot of yoga teachers here in Vietnam and the competition is great,” adds Tran, “but there are many places that just ramp up the students and drop down the fees and you’re not sure how qualified those teachers are.”
Providing the uncommon is a motif that carries over into their event space, as well, where practitioners, homeopathic doctors and health experts of all sorts from around the world come to share their knowledge.
“We officially launched in February with a biotherapist visiting from Bangkok. His work is based on the biomagnetic field of the human body and he uses that to heal,” Rosanne shares, noting even they were surprised by the turnout, which was split roughly in half between foreigners and Vietnamese. “When he came, we had guests from all walks of life come in. We had little kids, elderly, and everyone in between looking for help with a whole gamut of issues.
A testament to the local rise in health awareness, it affirms that the goal of living well, and the ability to achieve it, goes beyond diet and exercise for Saigon’s active community. While it’s easy to get distracted by the grandeur of the Mandala Wellness center, with its immaculate grounds and sparkling swimming pool, more importantly, there’s substance beneath the façade, connecting the health-conscious to a global consortium of well-being professionals.
“This is home for us and we want to give back,” says Tran. “We see what’s happening here in terms of food, diet, and everything else. We want to make sure we can help people to be informed, do research and find alternatives.”
IMAGES PROVIDED BY MANDALA WELLNESS