The spa at Ananda in the Himalayas offers both traditional ayurvedic treatments and some modern "international" treatments, so we decided to try both, to give you a taste of what you can expect. The focus at Ananda is wellness, as we describe here and that is certainly the aim of most of the treatments: expect healing rather than spray-tanning at this spa.
The Tibetan Ku Nye nassage (75 minutes) which uses products by ila, was carried out, as are all the Tibetan experiences in the spa, by a Tibetan therapist. Anita started the massage with me lying face down on the treatment table, and began with tapping movements across my back and shoulders to block out negative energy.
She then used gentler movements up and down each side of my spine, and across the tension in my neck. The oil she was using contained lemongrass and lavender, and the combination of the scents and the rhythmic, smooth strokes was very soothing. Anita applied firmer pressure to my neck and shoulders, where I had asked her to focus, using lymphatic-drainage techniques and concentrating on acupressure points.
During the massage, Anita used five heated stones, corresponding to the five elements that make up our bodies in ayurveda: air, fire, earth, space and water. The heat melted away tension and, as Anita continued working on my legs, arms and finally my scalp, I felt myself relaxing. This was a good treatment to begin the Ananda experience as it not only unwound me after my long journey, but also freed up some energy for me to contemplate some meditation.
An Abhyanga (55 minutes) is perhaps one of my favourite spa treatments, all the more favoured when it involves two very experienced ayurvedic therapists, in my case Jayanthi and Ranashi. They began the treatment by singing a short prayer over me as I rested my feet in a warm bowl of water with pebbles; this set the mood and tone for a serious treatment.
The therapists started with my head and shoulders, then I lay face-down on the treatment bed. The massage pressure across my back and shoulders was firm, but the strokes were fluid and lengthy as Jayanthi and Ranashi extended the massage down into my legs and out into my arms. (I suspected that they would have preferred me not to be wearing the modesty-preserving paper knickers so that their movements could be unhindered, but they tucked them out of the way as well as they could.) The full-body massage used sesame oil with herbs, which gave a delicious, warm smell, and the whole experience was holistic and harmonious.
When the massage was over, Jayanthi invited me to sit for a while in a unit in the corner of the treatment room, which functioned both as a steam room and a shower. I sat in the pleasantly warm steam for about ten minutes letting the heat relax my de-stressed muscles even further, and was very sad when it was time to rinse away the sweet-smelling oil and return to the world.
The final treatment was the Mukha Lepa facial (55 minutes) which uses traditional herbs to cleanse, exfoliate, tone and moisturise, alongside a dosha-specific "lepa" (mask). My therapist, Liji, talked me through the various ingredients, which ranged from a cleanser with a strong scent of basil, to a chick-pea exfoliant, to a rose-petal toner, taking in some neem and jojoba oil along the way. The facial was certainly a festival of scents and textures, with Liji alternating hot flannels, cold creams, lots of gentle lymphatic-drainage massage, and pressure around my eyes. She finished the treatment with oil through my hair and a head massage that was so wonderful, I never wanted it to end.
"Your skin looks glowing," said people as I made my way back to my room. Always nice when a facial uses natural, gentle products and still achieves miracles.
So, a delicious trio of treatments, every one of which was professional, soothing and de-stressing. You can read more about the treatments on offer at Ananda in the Himalayas here. We, obviously, need to go back as we haven't tried the Shirodhara yet. Or the Energising Earth wrap. Or the Kundalini back massage. Or the...