Such is the growing popularity of spa retreats that it is just not about relaxing any more. It is more than that. There is an array of indulgences that take the shape of spa menus. A good spa session is totally other-worldly, transporting you to heaven, while still keeping you rooted in what surrounds you.
Spas are increasingly beginning to get a sense of place – of being rooted themselves in locally available know-how, ingredients and philosophy. Whether it is coffee from the plantations that surround it or the coconut oil abundantly available, destination-specific experiences add the charm of ‘sightexperiencing’ to a wellness getaway. Why just ingredients, some spas even tweak their services to add a flavour of local adventure to the therapies. So check-in and bliss-out.
Relax like a Monk
Tibetan Ku Nye Massage, a highly popular treatment at the Ananda Spa in the Himalayas is deeply rooted in the medicinal philosophies of the Buddhist monks and focuses on lymphatic drainage, acupressure that targets the meridians with warmed up Himalayan salt poultices that melt away stress. Infused with cardamom, lavender and jatamansi (spikenard) and topped up with a wonderful head massage, the aim of this treatment is to restore the nervous system and stimulate a free flow of energy within the body.
In India, mud therapy as elaborated by Ayurveda, is based on the principal of two elements, prithvi (earth) and vayu (air). Mud from various places has different medical properties. Soil of the northern hills is good for arthritis, spondylitis, sciatica and paralysis; mud of the desert is good for viral infection, whereas mud from the Deccan plateau has mineral-rich content.
Aarogayam Spa at Aahana Resort, near Jim Corbett National Park, takes pride in elaborating their signature mud therapy programmes, the main ingredient for which is mud excavated from the forest. They dig at least 10-feet ditches deep in the forest to excavate the mineral-rich mud. It is then sieved thoroughly and the fine residue is soaked overnight or at least eight to nine hours. The mud is then dried in the sun for two days and mixed with several herbs and natural ingredients. The combination of clay, aroma oils and natural herbs relaxes muscles and joints, detoxifies skin and leaves it soft and renewed.
One can opt for an Aromatic Herbal Mud Wrap or a Hot Mud Poultice. They also have a Sand Bath Indulgence programme. The properties of a sand bath mainly lies in the comprehensive therapeutic effects of magnetic therapy (the sand contains brown shell, white coral, limestone and magnetic substances) as well as physical therapy (dryness, high temperature and infrared radiation). The Sand bath can remove obstruction of meridians, relax muscles, tendons and bones, eliminate intractable diseases, promote blood circulation and enhance metabolism. Whilst baking in the sand bath, the team of therapists apply a face pack and administer this trance-inducing head massage!
The immensely popular Pehelwan Maalish at the Jiva Spa at the Taj in Udaipur is anything but sweaty and grimy beefcakes breaking your bones! For centuries, Indian wrestlers have taken powerful massages to be fit and nimble. Unlike the therapeutic Swedish massage that mollycoddles your muscles, the pehlwan maalish is deep tissue.
Expect momentary discomfort before the soothing sting of a passive workout. It’s a feeling of sweet pain on the first day of a workout.
Similar to the Thai massage that combines stretching and yoga poses with gentle prodding, the pehlwan maalish works on the principle of slow, deliberate strokes that focus pressure on layers of muscles, tendons deep under your skin. While plain old mustard oil is ideal, spas are also using concoctions of tulsi, lemon and ashwagandha – all known to boost the immune system and increase white blood cell production.
Anything mughlai is grand – from their food to their romance! And now, their spa therapies, too. Supposedly Asia’s largest spa, at over 99,000 sq ft, the Kaya Kalp, at the Hotel Mughal in Agra has a signature treatment, which is an ode to the most iconic figure of love – Anarkali, named after the blossoms of the tree that was introduced to India by Babur, the first Mughal.
The rich red fruit is the theme of the spa and its décor – inlaid into the marble, etched into the tall glass, woven into the tapestry and present on the wall of each of the treatment rooms. Small wonder that the ‘anar’ is the basis of an elaborate Exotic Pomegranate Spa Journey. The exotic fruit is not the only ingredient for treatments that seem they have transcended time and come to you straight from the boudoir of a Mughal empress. What with a Royal Hammam or a Gemstone Massage or a Pearl-Infused Facial – everything about the treatments is regal.
Rolling in peace
Located on a peaceful island, the Jiva Spa at the Taj Coromandel looks over a shimmering swimming pool that appears to merge into the ocean. But that is not the only unique aspect of this getaway. Roll the stress knots open using the humble rolling pin or belan, vellana in the local lingo. The massage therapist will manoeuvre a rolling pin along the body to pamper and penetrate tense muscles to make you feel like cookie dough. The vellana massage promotes blood circulation, improves sensory nerve perception and does lymphatic drainage. This therapy improves blood circulation, flushes out toxins and lactic acid build-up, leading to improved cellular function. Guests can also choose from in-depth Ayurveda programmes, traditional Indian massages, body scrubs, Ashtanga yoga and meditation.
You may drink coffee for the kick that it gives you, but it is more than just a comfort drink. Beauty experts the world over are waking up and smelling the coffee. If they are to be believed, coffee just doesn’t wake you up, it also does the same to your skin and hair. ‘Coffee therapy’ involves using brewed coffee and grounds creatively to enhance the texture, health and appearance of skin and hair. Coffee exfoliates and tightens pores, making the skin looking younger. It also has anti-wrinkle properties.
Nestled in the picturesque environs of Chikmagalur, the coffee country of India, is The Serai’s Oma Spa that derives most of its therapies from the one ingredient that surrounds them – coffee – in all forms and avatars – whether green pulp, roasted grounds or the pulpy ripe red beans. Their signature therapies are based on freshly ground coffee from their own estates, utilising the vasoconstrictor, antioxidant and diuretic properties to tighten the skin, improving elasticity and busting cellulite, while purging the body of toxins. Average duration of the treatments is two hours when you literally soak in the goodness of coffee and wake up to nirvana.
Partly-shaded by a wooden ceiling swimming pool, solar-heated and chlorine-free water, this is heaven on earth at the Dune Eco Resort near Pondicherry. They call it the Magic Water Treatment and you will vouch for it after you have tried it. The therapist with curl, whirl, stretch and sooth you in the water while you just let yourself be! Inspired by Zen Shiatsu treatments, this is India’s first Watsu treatment centre.
The Watsu treatment is done in warm water and rebalances all our energies and is based on techniques and theories of Eastern philosophy for the recovery and maintenance of psychophysical well being. Aqua yoga with reflexology and chroma water treatments make up the three-day Magic Water Courses, even though a single session of Watsu will make you feel like you have been born again!