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Indagare Insider: Fred Tsao, Wellness Visionary and Founder of Octave Institute and Sangha Retreats

Curious about eastern methods of holistic medicine, health and well-being? We asked Fred Tsao, the man behind Sangha Retreats and the Octave Institute to tell us more about the thinking behind the retreat’s wellness programs. His China-based company, which he launched in 2017, melds eastern practices with western science at a 47-acre wellness community on Suzhou Yangcheng Lake, 70 miles west of Shanghai in the Yangtze River Delta region. It focuses on well-being and personal transformation with extensive programming around mindfulness, self-care and optimizing health through its state-of-the-art clinic and immersive treatments. Here, he talks with Indagare about the mission of his Octave Mindful Living programs and Sangha Retreat and what guests can expect on a visit. 

Contact Indagare to learn more about booking a stay at the wellness program that is right for you (or, when travel to China opens up, a stay at Sangha Retreat, in combination with a trip to Shanghai, the Yangtze River and beyond).

What was the inspiration behind Sangha Retreats and how have you brought this to life?

Sangha is a large-scale wellness and mindfulness community that is the embodiment of the Octave Mindful Living system. For those who might be unfamiliar, this system integrates eastern wisdom and western science, provides people with a new comprehensive health experiences and guides them through the practice of the seven habits: diet, breathing, sleep, exercise, meditation, mindfulness and self-development. At Sangha, people can immerse themselves in mind-body cultivation, enhance their inner awareness and discover a happy life.

How is Sangha different from other wellness programs?

Sangha is not just a wellness retreat. It is also a school of life. We have developed a series of courses around the seven habits to help people better align their minds and bodies, develop good routines and become the best version of themselves. Ultimately, we hope guests experience an awakening and a change of consciousness, and of course, adopt good living habits. Whether you are an experienced explorer of mindfulness or a city dweller who wants to improve his or her health, the integrated mind-body training and immersion exercise programs will bring you unprecedented changes and help you gain a joyful, healthy and free life experience. In addition, Sangha regularly organizes cultural and artistic activities centered around traditional music, games, calligraphy, painting, tea ceremonies, aromatherapy, flowers and also celebrations of traditional Chinese culture and festivals. So, we hope guests also come away with an appreciation for Chinese culture and some of its traditions. Sangha is a place where western guests can learn about traditional eastern culture and discover how to apply their findings to the modern world. We have a series of classes and activities that offer insights into the essence of eastern wisdom, including the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, Chinese acupuncture, food therapy, traditional eastern practices and more.

What is your favorite part of the wellness experience at Sangha?

My favorite is the Mindful Living program, which we started last year. It is a semi-closed  program lasting eight days and seven nights that teaches you how to eat mindfully, how to breathe, how to sleep better, how to exercise and so on. This year we also designed courses on mindful eating and cooking as well as mindful emotions and relationships. We are slowly building a curriculum of mindfulness courses, which will be very advantageous to our guests.

Can you tell us more about the Mindful Living Program? 

The courses in the program are based on profound eastern wisdom and combined with outstanding research conducted by Octave’s expert team in the fields of modern medicine, including psychology, nutrition, integrated medicine, rehabilitation medicine, etc. The integrated mind-body exercises for improving our modern lifestyle and habits have been formed through repeated testing and development. Our unique and creative practice methods, rich course content, as well as group discussions and sharing sessions awaken the energy of body and mind to stimulate inner potential. 

You also mentioned mindful eating and cooking, what is the food like at Sangha? Are guests on a restricted diet?

We promote a healthy, vegetarian and organic diet on property. Each meal is carefully planned with the calorie and nutritional content in mind and can be customized. 

Has Covid impacted travel and your approach to it? 

The year 2020 was, shall we say, a watershed moment in human development. We were forced to stay at home because of the epidemic and had more time to think. Paying attention to our health also prompted us to reassess the meaning of life and how we live and travel. As we come out of this, holistic medicine will continue to grow, and although there remain some geographical limitations for the retreat, I think the concept will be recognized by travelers more and more.

What is next on your travel wish list?

I’ll stay in China for the time being. Before the pandemic, I was always traveling the world, so I really haven’t been to too many places in China. I want to take this opportunity to learn and better understand eastern wisdom and culture.

Contact Indagare to learn more about booking a stay at the wellness program that is right for you (or, when travel to China opens up, a stay at Sangha Retreat, in combination with a trip to Shanghai, the Yangtze River and beyond).

This article was created in partnership with Sangha Retreat and the Octave Institute.

– Bridget McElroy on October 26, 2021

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