Healing mind, body & soul in the Himalayas
10 May 2017
Ananda is an exceptional place, thanks to its incomparable setting and extensive offering of wellness experiences. Embracing the traditional practices of Ayurveda and Yoga to restore and replenish even the weariest of souls, it is the ultimate destination spa. India expert, Kate, discovers the wonder of this one-of-a-kind resort.
Deep within the Sal forests of the Himalayan foothills, yet only an hour’s flight from Delhi followed by an hour’s drive, is Ananda. It means happiness, and here you’ll find mountains of it. Based on Indian Ayurveda principles, Yoga, Vedanta philosophy as well as Western wellness techniques, Ananda holistically combines some the world’s most ancient forms of healing; healing for the mind and the body. It nurtures, nourishes and soothes every inch of rung out bodies and there is no doubt why weary mothers and daughters, surgeons, CEOs, bankers and authors come here from around the globe. It has a reputation beyond compare and after staying here, I can see why. It has a soul like no other spa I’ve seen.
I am writing this blog at the end of my stay, sat on a grassy knoll in my white pyjamas overlooking bamboo and Sal forests with the sounds of birds and swaying trees all around me. A peacock lets me know he’s here. Guests are strolling around the luminous Indian grounds in matching attire; white traditional pyjamas that look similar to dishdashas, robes worn by men in the Middle East. At first, it feels weird and commune like, but after 10 minutes you quickly see the benefit of not having to think about what to wear; someone brings you fresh and pressed pyjamas to you room – every day. Every day! That’s all I needed to know and immediately I settled in to my new look and so do 99% of the other guests. Ananda completely breaks down your routines, any habits or judgements. Everybody here feels and is regarded as the same. No jewellery or designer clothes can set you apart.
James, my husband, joined me on my healing mission and is equally pleased about the pyjamas. Sceptical at first, James was relieved to find out that Ananda have a 6-hole golf course so between treatments he could ‘hit a few balls’. I, on the other hand, chose to bathe around the crisp pool when I wasn’t being buffed, polished and soaked in oils in the spa.
We signed up to a 5 night detox package; after 10 days on holiday in Oman (India and Oman combine brilliantly) and a busy social year, this seemed the right thing to do. However there are numerous well thought out packages, such as stress relief and weight management, on offer too. Alternatively, you can simply opt in or out of treatments and not be restricted by any packages or foods. So, if you want a glass of wine, you can really just have a glass of wine. You can also have lamb tagines, juicy curries, club sandwiches and even chips, if that takes your fancy. All of this is there but just not well publicised, making it easier for those embarking on more restrictive diets.
We were not so lucky and were on a fairly strict regime for the week; starting with a consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor. He works out your body type; kapha, vata or pitta. Ayurveda believes every human fits into one of those categories. I turned out to be Vata and James, Pitta. Your treatments and food for the week revolve around your body type and any personal issues you want to sort out. A personal trainer then analyses your body; your weight, BMI, and muscle tone and makes some recommendations. These form the basis of your stay and you are presented with a plan of mostly foreign sounding treatments. That’s always a good sign, right?
Our week progressed brilliantly – with long sleeps, oil massages, heated wraps, cookery lessons, philosophical discussions, facials, training sessions, herbal treatments, private yoga classes, hydrotherapy and salt scrubs. Every toxin from every inch our bodies was well and truly massaged and sometimes beaten out of us. Combining this with a diet of fruits, vegetables and grains, cooked up in the most extraordinary way, left us feeling clean, polished and energised. Although tough at times, there is no better and easier way to nourish yourself. Every plate that came out was refined, tasty and designed just for us. If you are going to be healthy, this is most definitely the way to do it. We were honestly amazed at how they pulled it off. Every member of staff even welcomed us by name as we entered the spa or dining room.
What we learned is that Ananda is not an ‘instagrammable’ getaway; it’s beautiful, to an extent luxurious, restorative and with views over Rishikesh and the Himalayas it is in a remarkable location. However, it’s the atmosphere, the quality of the treatments, the personalities of the staff and the subtle differences that make Ananda so unique and so special and this is not something you can easily capture in photos. It has far more substance than style, something we rarely see in the travel industry today. It was refreshing to see a resort so humble and true to its origins.
We also realised that Ananda need not be a militant restrictive getaway; at least half of the guests were there for 2 or 3 nights at the end of their tour, or as a weekend getaway from Delhi or Mumbai. You can really make it what you want.
James and I learned how to manage stress, reduce our egos, how to eat better, work out more effectively and breathe properly. We also learned the power of yoga in a simplistic way. If you are looking to get more out of your holiday, this is one place to do it. This is transformational travel and Ananda is easily one of the most extraordinary places you’ll ever stay in. It is without a doubt, beyond compare.