By Sharmila Chand
Spas or health resorts are increasingly being considered by many for real, refreshing holidays. Thanks to the stresses and hectic lifestyles of modern times, the quality of life is a real concern. And since a spa has the capacity to enrich one’s life and provide that much needed solace, they are becoming the undisputed vacation hot spots these days and their numbers are multiplying.
The concept of spas originated in Europe, where they grew around springs of mineral water with medicinal properties. But lately, particularly in India, any plush health resort calls itself a spa. Ananda in the Himalayas and the one started by actor-TV serial maker Sanjay Khan near Bangalore are the best known, top-end resorts.
The area around Bangalore, with its salubrious climate and a green cover has, in fact, become the spa city with quite a few of them around. Health resorts are mushrooming in Kerala too. Offering ayurveda and panchakarma therapy with modern amenities in plush environs, they offer relaxation and rejuvenation.
The body responds well under the calm and serene tropical climate of the state. While the Ayurvedic clinic of the Taj group of hotels near Kochi was visited by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Coconut Lagoon Resort of the Casino group of hotels is frequented by a celebrity list that boasts of artists, business executives and cricketers.
Somatheeram Ayurvedic Beach Resort near Kovalam, the Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resorts in Palakkad are two other better known ones. Health resorts in Kerala have in fact transformed into a booming industry that accounts for almost 40 per cent of the state’s tourism revenue. They offer exotic massages, baths, yoga,meditation and organically grown food cooked in medicinal herbs and spices.
However, what is common to spas all over the country is the emphasis on refreshing oneself, eliminating all toxic imbalances in the body, boosting immunity, providing protection from stress, fighting fatigue and relaxing the mind. The mission is the same: soothe your body, stimulate your mind, strengthen your spirit.
Hilton Golden Palms, Bangalore
Set up by the Sanjay Khan family, this spa combines the hospitality of the Hilton, the spa expertise of Chiva-Som International Health Resorts and the ayurvedic know-how of Kerala Ayurvedic Pharmacy. So the Golden Palms is a blend of eastern knowledge and western technology of holistic living.
The facilities include sauna and steam rooms, jacuzzi, wraps, hydrotherapy suite and wide-ranging fitness programmes. Each floor has a steam bath, a drench shower and an energising Swiss shower. Vichy showers, Body Blitz, thalassotherapy and a variety of treatments are available including aromatherapy.
The packages are interestingly named: The Glamour Touch, Healing Sea, Jet-lag Solution, Ocean Of Happiness, Bridal Package, each offering combinations of European, Thai, Indonesian, Javanese, Balinese, Indian, Japanese, Turkish and other techniques.
Water seems to be the main element at the resort as one can see numerous fountains decorated with sculptures-most of them having figures of horses, the Khan brothers being passionate about horses. The resort also has one of the largest swimming pools in Asia, featuring islands and a recreated waterfall.
Contact: Ph: (080) 3712222
Spa Oasis at Grand Hyatt, New Delhi
Spa Oasis, a luxurious spa featuring comprehensive facilities, has been started at the Grand Hyatt in Delhi. Its launch makes Grand Hyatt the only hotel in the capital with a day spa, positioning it as a resort hotel.
The spa has been planned with the singular goal of enhancing wellness or total health of both body and mind. Spread over an area of 11,000 square feet, the treatment here is a synergy of various traditional rituals with a scientific base. Different varieties of herbal products have been sourced from traditional bases like Kerala and the Himalayas to give an authentic, unique touch.
To provide a one-stop shop for enhanced wellness, the best of the East and the West have been brought together-from yoga and various massages to aqua aerobics and many state-of-the-art equipment.
Boasting highly qualified instructors who work with you, Spa Oasis can draw a personalised holistic health and beauty programme.
The choice is vast: lifestyle consultation, stress-busting workshops, cardiovascular conditioning, muscle toning, sauna, Turkish baths and herbal mud baths. Its fitness studio has 15 cardiovascular equipment (joggers, steppers, cross trainers, etc.), 13 strength-training stations, fitness testing facilities and body fat analysis.
On sale are various products like sportswear, spa wear, ayurvedic and ethnic oils, lotions, beauty aids, aromatic candles, fabrics like scarves and shawls, bags, pouches, ethnic souvenirs and gifts, teas and herbal tonics. Being readied is a beauty pavilion that will be equipped with sophisticated equipment to help rediscover health and beauty.
Foot care, eye treatments, waxing, hair styling and treatments, depilatory wax, scalp treatments are some facilities that will be available. Enlisting the services of qualified doctors of holistic medicine, Chinese medicine and ayurveda and tai-chi experts, the spa offers an extensive variety of services for total rejuvenation.
Various packages such as the Oasis of Peace and Oasis of Harmony have been developed to suit the needs of all types of clients with different lifestyles, with a focus on their health requirements, leisure hours, etc.
Different programmes include Nirmaya, for stress-management, Ojas, for reversal of coronary arteries disease, Reviver, for weight management, Kati, a calming treatment and Bliss, for post-natal care. These services may be enjoyed with a variety of spa packages as well as on an à la Carte basis to further personalise a spa visit.
Contact: Ph: (011) 6771234
Mandarin Oriental Ananda in the Himalayas
|Photograph: Martin Louis|
Set in the foothills of the Himalayas above Rishikesh, this luxury spa offers a holistic approach to its range of rejuvenation therapies, with the philosophy rooted in ayurveda. Its locale plays a significant role in rest and recuperation.
Ananda’s philosophy is to integrate the traditional healing methods (ayurveda and yoga) with contemporary spa principles to rejuvenate and rebalance. It offers lifestyle assistance by understanding the concepts of natural healing, customised self-care techniques, nutrition and fitness options to take home the knowledge of healthy living, harmonious balance and optimum well-being.
Spread over 21,000 square feet, it consists 13 therapy rooms and three relaxation areas, hydrotherapy facility, fitness centre, a boutique, the Aveda Beauty Institute and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The decor represents the five elements of nature-Infinity, Air, Fire, Earth and Water.
Yantra paintings embellish the spa, symbolizing the ancient Indian meditation system. The day starts with ginger herbal tea before a Himalayan sunrise, followed by yoga at Naach Ghar Palace Roof Pavilion. And then, medical consultations, meditation and spa treatments.
Ananda has an extensive hydrotherapy facility with separate areas for men and women. The Kneipp therapy, foot-bath, steam and sauna chambers, jacuzzi and a relaxation lounge help detoxify the body and kickstart the invigorating metabolic processes. The Aveda Beauty Institute is devoted to performing therapeutic facials, manicures and pedicures.
The hydrotherapy bath tub functions electronically and is sequenced to focus jets on specific areas of the body. The scrub room is designed to facilitate full body exfoliation to slough off accumulated dead skin cells, refining skin tone and texture. The wonderful jet massage room uses the Scots hose where a strong jet stream is focused on all the major muscle groups of the body.
The fitness studio assists guests in establishing a healthy lifestyle and to provide fitness guidance for health and physiological goals. The exercise studio offers a variety of daily fitness activities and programmes like ‘stretch and tone’ as well as muscle specific workout sessions.
The multi-purpose rooms at the spa are named after flowering trees in India and represent freshness and prosperity. These rooms enjoy views of the Himalayan foothills and the architecture allows for natural light and a feeling of being surrounded by nature. By letting nature in, the therapeutic benefits of various treatments are enhanced.
There are two rooms for oriental therapies. While one is solely meant for Thai massage, the other room doubles for therapy rituals and pampering therapies like the pre-nuptial treatments of milk-baths and turmeric scrubs for brides. Ananda also houses a luxurious Kama suite where premium couples’ massage is administered for 1 hour 45 minutes.
There are four ayurveda therapy rooms including one for panchakarma. Ananda’s ayurvedic therapy packages include Abhyanga, Pizhichil and Njavarakizhi. The latter is an interesting massage performed using small linen bags filled with rice cooked in cow’s milk and mixed with herbs after covering the body with medicated oils.
Also included are the Swedish massage, aromatherapy, traditional Thai massage, reflexology, water therapy (using natural spring water) and exfoliation and skincare treatments.
A doctor is available for individual consultations on treatments or even a medical check-up. There’s also a qualified dietician who provides advice and recommendations, plus lifestyle counselling, taking into account stress levels and other related factors. Meditation and yoga are an essential part of therapy.
Contact: The Palace Estate, Ph: (01378) 27500, (011) 6899999
Devi Garh Spa at Devi Garh, Udaipur
Away from the hullabaloo of the city, Devi Garh Spa is the perfect place for optimising your well-being. For renewal of energy and inner peace, one needs an environment of total harmony.
This spa has white rooms that are calming. The effect is enhanced by yoga and meditation on the ramparts of the palace at sunrise. Healing power of the enveloping silence is broken occasionally by the sound of running water in the courtyards.
Apart from the combination of a gymnasium, steam, sauna, jacuzzi and beauty parlour, Devi Garh also offers a smorgasbord of ayurvedic therapies liberally using medicated oils and herbal pastes. A simple massage or a combination of advanced treatments listed below are all prescribed after detailed consultation.
· Uzhichil: A full body massage, effective in enhancing blood circulation, alleviating pain and relieving tense nerves and muscles.
· Abhyanga: Two masseurs perform this full body treatment in synchronicity. It relaxes, improves eyesight, controls high blood pressure and eliminates toxins.
· Nasyam: This treatment purifies the head and energizes the senses. Helps remove microcytic elements by the application of medicated oils into the nasal passage. It stimulates the nerves, tissues and provides relief from migraines, sinusitis and induces sound sleep.
· Sirodhara: Medicated oil is poured continuously in an even stream on to the forehead from a prescribed height through a special apparatus. Besides minimising the effects of aging, it is also effective in improving memory, curing paralysis, anxiety and insomnia. There are several other therapies like Tharpana for eye ailments, Sirovasti for back and spine problems and Pizhichil for building immunity.
Contact: Heritage Palaces, Ph: (02953) 89211-20
Angsana Oasis Spa Resort, Bangalore
This spa has come up in Bangalore more recently. The Angsana chain has resorts in Australia, South East Asia and the Maldives. It is known for its unmatched luxury, highly professional service and the quality and authenticity of its spa treatments.
Nestled in the privacy of lush greenery beneath a canopy of palm leaves and seamless architectural interpretations, the Angsana Spa is owned by the Prestige Group, managed by Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts of Singapore, a renowned international chain of spas.
They spoil you with an extensive range of holistic treatments-luxurious bodywraps, invigorating massages, body scrubs and facials. Though each treatment is special, ‘Taste of Heaven’ and ‘Contentment in Paradise’ are specially so.
They blend aromatic salt scrub and sensual massage, or a honey and sesame scrub with Maui massage, brush scrub and other relaxing spa therapies.
There is also Tomato Body Wrap, a gentle treatment that begins with an exfoliation scrub to cleanse and repair the skin followed by a special wrap of fresh tomatoes and rice flour. There is also the Tangerine Body Wrap where the skin is treated with a special blend of tangerines and rice flour, followed by fruit body lotion.
Contact: Angsana Oasis Spa & Resort, Ph: (080) 8468893-5
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Kerala (in India) is teeming with ayurvedic spas.‘‘It is the natural beauty of the place and the services offered by these centres that accounts for their popularity,’’ says Alkesh Kumar Sharma, director of the state’s tourism department.
The most natural and safest medical system today, ayurveda has become popular among tourists in recent times.
Kerala is the only place where it is practised in its authentic form.
Moreover, nearby Western Ghats, with evergreen tropical vegetation and bio-diversity, abound in all medicinal plants required in ayurvedic treatment.
Kerala was the first Indian state to announce tourism as an industry. Ayurveda here has been elevated as the USP.
Apart form various Government owned ayurvedic hospitals, there are 38 ayurveda centres approved by the tourism department.
Five of these are owned by KTDC and are running profitably.
To grade the quality of services and facilities provided in the approved ayurveda centres, the Department of Tourism classifies them into Olive Leaf and Green Leaf (which has more criteria to be met than the former).