Ayurveda has been practiced in India for centuries. The holistic treatments offered for free by Hindu Ashramas combined with yoga techniques for better life and health have attracted the Westerners to the East. Almost as relaxing as Spas of the West, there has been increasingly a demand for combined comfort of Spas and benefits of Ayurveda. There are traditional Kerala Ayurvedic health resorts that have been increasingly gaining fame and popularity along with various other Ayurveda & Spa centers that have come up all over India.
These health resorts offer more than 5000 years old, the oldest surviving complete medical system of Ayurveda. You do not simply get a health care system but learn a new lifestyle that can help you to maintain perfect balance and harmony within the human existence. The experience offers us to balance our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components to achieve perfect holistic health.
There are aromatic oil massages; clay and herb treatments and various other treatments are based on the natural products and principles of Ayurveda. Spa services like therapeutic massages; European and Thai facials and body treatments are much welcomed.
Spas and Western - Style health resorts are a recent phenomenon in India. In the good old days, if you wanted steam, all you had to do was step out into India`s baking summers and that cellulite would run for cover. It was cheap and effective. There was also a centuries-old tradition of ayurveda, practised at Hindu ashrams (monastic retreats), offering holistic, life-enhancing treatments including yoga techniques. Today, packaged contortion, aromatic rubs, aura imaging and herbal body pummelling are available in abundance. And traditional ayurvedic health resorts are aplenty in the south where they flourish as an authentic cottage industry in the state of Kerala.
A fashionable spot in which to unwind and literally get high, is Ananda - In the Himalayas. This wellness sanctuary situated in a restored royal palace in the Himalayan foothills claims, among other things, to have the worlds oldest billiards table.
It offers a blend of therapeutic treatments based on traditional ayurveda, yoga and meditation. The spa also offers the latest European and Thai treatments to purify the body and soothe the senses. There are 20 therapy rooms along with yoga venues, and hydrotherapy, relaxation and fitness areas.
Dotting the north and west of the country with excellent facilities are a string of Oberoi Hotels (with spas by Banyan Tree), much favoured by corporate jetsetters. In busy New Delhi, The Oberoi will work off your stress with a range of 60-minute breaks employing aromatic, Balinese, Hawaiian, and Thai massages, priced around US$40. Or take a shorter break with a half hour marma point facial, which is adapted from a traditional Indian natural healing system. This facial stimulates vital energy points on the head, face and ears with aromatic oils and herbal products.
If you`re heading on to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, pamper yourself at Amarvilas where every suite has a view of this Mughal monument to love. Get in early before the summer sun heats up the stone floors leaving you skipping like a cat on a hot tin roof. The spa menu includes an extravagant essence of rice massage where rice, warm buttermilk, herbal and aromatic lotions are used to compelling effect. The "Noor-e-Taj" is right royal three-hour experience that includes an almond cleansing scrub, honey citrus wrap, Balinese massage and an old-fashioned lavender milk bath.
Still in the north, the SVAASA - Sunny View Arya Spa, Amritsar, is a family-run place in a charming red-brick colonial home with enough old world paraphernalia to keep the most fastidious historian in cheer. A one-night two-day single package here retails for around Rs6,800 up including an ayurvedic doctor consultation, personalised menu, massage and steam, herbal tea, yoga and half-day sightseeing (including the Golden Temple).
The Taj Group of Hotels are a polished presence not only in business cities, but in the spas and health arena especially in Goa and Kerala. In Goa, dont miss out on the Taj Fort Aguada Beach Resort. Built on the ramparts of a 16th Century Portuguese fortress, the resort is part of a sprawling 88-acre complex overlooking the Arabian Sea. Situated right on the beach, the resort offers guests a unique opportunity to relax in elegantly appointed villas and cottages, serenaded by lapping waves.
There are two other Taj hotels to choose from in Goa. The Taj Exotica is perched on the southwest coast of Goa, overlooking the Arabian Sea. It is situated on 56 acres of landscaped lawns, complete with tropical plants and graceful palms. The Taj Holiday Village is a complex of terracotta-roof Portuguese-Goan cottages, set amidst acres of palm-fringed landscaped gardens just 45-minutes from the airport.
Bangalore, India`s Garden City and Silicon Valley is blessed with a temperate climate, great cuisine and some good spas to boot. The Golden Palms Spa & Resort is located on the outskirts of the city in several acres of lush garden. Accommodation features include a hypoallergenic pillow, safety deposit boxes, minibar, and rooms with wheelchair access. Theres an extensive gym (with a ladies-only area), a "cardio-theatre", aerobic studio, Turkish hammams, steam rooms and Jacuzzi.
Highly acclaimed, the Angsana Bangalore (managed by Singapore-based Banyan Tree), is located outside town and offers a variety of holistic, therapeutic and customised spa programmes. These include the Tomato Body Wrap for rejuvenating dry skin, the Tangerine Body Wrap for soothing and smoothening skin, the Honey and Sesame Scrub to exfoliate dead skin cells, and the Blended Brush Scrub where exfoliation is carried out with a combination of fresh milk, oatmeal, tamarind and watermelon.
There are six massage pavilions, shielded from the elements by bamboo screens, and adjoining alfresco showers. The Roman pools (for hydrotherapy) are encased in one-way glass windows that afford a splendid view of the landscaped gardens and green lawns. We presume its one-way. The Angsana Spa treatments come with a hefty price tag, but there are attractive spa and ayurvedic packages that include room tariff, vegetarian meals, and a couple of massages and spa treatments thrown in.
Another quiet option is the Taj Garden Retreat, Thekkady. The Taj Malabar on Willingdon Island, Cochin, runs dedicated ayurvedic treatments at its stylish Tamara Spa. On offer are three to seven-day rejuvenation packages. Or choose from the extensive menu a la carte. The three-day programme, single, starts from US$135. It includes, treatments, yoga, and time for shopping and sightseeing.
The Marari Beach, run by the fast-expanding Casino Group at Mararikulam, Kerala, is spread over 25 expansive acres of seafront sand and garden. The 52 cottages are positioned to afford maximum privacy and space. At the private and upscale Coconut Lagoon (you can only access it by boat), run by the same group at Kumarakom, theres a sense of style and tradition in the construction of the Heritage Bungalows and Heritage Mansions set in verdant lawns criss-crossed by canals and waterways. The resort has fine spa facilities and treatments and is an excellent jump-off point for backwater cruises. This is a resort that has very much set the pace.
Further up the hills in the green tea estates and jungles surrounding Periyar Lake and its elephants is Casino`s Spice Village. Its back to basics here but in comfort. As the hotel likes to point out, "Airconditioning? Unnecessary
piped music is no substitute for birdsong." You get the drift. There are 52 cottages set in eight generous acres of hillside.
The Kayaloram Lake Resort on Vemband Lake, near Alleppey, has just four wooden bungalows with tile floors and coir rugs. These are traditional tharavad houses, revived and set to a new purpose. The place is all dark teakwood. The therapies include gentle massages and panchkarma, with its vigorous enemas. Get prepared. In Thekkady, take a break from elephant-spotting and lake cruises to enjoy some spa treatments at the picturesque stone-cottage Aranya Nivas. There is a small pool as well. The hotel offers numerous tour options in and around the scenic Thekkady area.
The two-century-old Malabar House, with its 12 quaint rooms featuring antique furniture and propah four-poster beds, also offers serves up lip-smacking Italian dishes. The house speciality is kalari, which involves medicinal oils. These improve circulation and can alleviate headaches, back pain and arthritis. And at Tiruvananthapuram, if you can pronounce it, the Surya Samudra Beach Garden offers traditional tharavad houses with 25 guestrooms. There is, however, a modern infinity pool set in granite along with an ayurvedic centre that offers, among other things, a "bone shaking" massage. Well there it is. Shake a leg. Or rattle some bone.