In India, it is the “science of life” that is practiced through ancient healing ways. The healing touch, the gently applied oils and scents, the absorbing of delectable aromas within a meditative steam or soaking session would not be considered pampering per se, but a way of life and a way of keeping the body in harmony with nature in common rituals handed down through the centuries.
This is the discipline of Ayurveda, possibly the oldest wisdom of the body and its healing ways. To experience a spa in India is to experience 5,000 years of Ayurveda practice.
The Sanskrit tradition purports that each person is made up of space, air, fire, water and earth and balancing these forces is the job of a practitioner. Each person thus falls into one of three possible body types or doshas: Kapha (earth/water), Pitta (fire/water) and Vata (air/space) and for each dosha, a system of treatments is devised to help the person detoxify, heal and thrive.
Whether at a resort spa in the southern backwaters of Kerala, an international hotel in the resort beachlands of Goa, a business property in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) or a day spa in New Delhi, the pampering a guest will receive will be influenced by these ancient traditions with herbal oil massages and plant-based medicines that will keep the body in line. Yes, Indian healing is alive with aphrodisiacs.
It was the ancient Hindus who discovered the energizing properties of peppermint and eucalyptus oils and the mood soothing elements of frankincense, rose, myrrh, sandalwood and patchouli oils. They used the seduction of lemon, grapefruit and cypress as well as coconut, sesame, tamarind, datura, ginger, dill and salt to detoxify, cleanse and boost circulation. Today, as then, these attars are put to work in such treatments as the “shiroabhyanga,” that massages the head while oils are carefully and slowly poured on the third eye; or the “abhyangam”-an hour-long oil massage administered in sync by two therapists; or the “pizichil”: an oil bath given in tandem by two therapists as the vaida or doctor orders precise movements. Each session might last an hour or might last four. Special teas and foods will be suggested and offered according to their heat properties and special prayers or mantras may be chanted. The oils will stick and feel uncomfortable, but the cleansing that results will feel indescribable.
Because Ayurveda is as much a part of the India experience as saris, curries and bicycles, these treatments are found at the best hotels, including Oberoi, one of India’s most decadent hotel chains, which features spas by Banyan Tree – the world-renowned luxury spa company based in Singapore.
There are seven such delicious spas in India, including Oberoi Mumbai, Oberoi New Delhi, Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra, Oberoi Rajvilas Jaipur, Oberoi Vanyavilas Ranthambore, Oberoi Udaivilas Udaipur and Wildflower Hall in the Himalayas in Shimla.
The Oberoi in Mumbai overlooks the Arabian Sea and sits in the heart of the commercial district near “Bollywood,” (the largest filmmaking industry in the world). It’s a modern hotel with all the comforts and fine restaurants in the best location for business in Mumbai.
The Oberoi New Delhi is also a primo choice for the modern traveler. In Agra, the Oberoi, Amarvilas is less than a half-mile from the Taj Mahal with eye-popping unobstructed views of this wonder from nearly every room, including treatment rooms at the spa. “Noor-E-Jahan” a signature spa therapy at Amarvilas was created as a tribute to beauty traditions from the royal palace of the Mughals. Who could resist!
Meanwhile, Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur sits on 32-acres of gardens, pools and fountains. Signature spa experiences include “Royal Splendour” and the “Spirit of Ayurveda,” based on strict Ayurvedic formulas.
The Oberoi Vanyavilas in Ranthambore is located in the jungle where tiger safaris are the attraction. The resort combines exhilarating jungle experiences with the luxury of specially appointed spa suites and a range of exotic treatments and therapies, such as the signature “Tree of Life” and “Secrets of the Forest.”
In Udaipur, Oberoi Udaivilas, is themed in the romance and splendor of a bygone era. The spa wing at The Oberoi Udaivilas overlooks Lake Pichola and includes five double spa suites, a separate Ayurvedic treatment room and a steam room. Specialties include daily yoga, meditation and Pranayam sessions in addition to an extensive menu of spa therapies. Finally, Oberoi Wildflower Hall in Shimla located high the Himalayas, is situated on a magnificent perch 8,350 feet into the Himalayan foothills. Two Spa Forest Pavilions on property’s 22 acres of thick cedar and pine forests. The indoor heated swimming pool and outdoor infinity pool provide majestic views of the Greater Himalayas.
Oberoi Wildflower Hall has three- and five-day spa retreat packages that include one 60-minute spa treatment daily, per person, that can be enjoyed upon return from hiking in lush pine and cedar forests; plus breakfast and dinner daily, transfer from Shimla airport or train station, deluxe accommodations and all applicable taxes. Prices start at $1,400 per couple for three nights and $2,300 for a five-night stay. Call (800) 562-3764 or visit www.oberoihotels.com.
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