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Stress on the good life

R Pallavi        Print Edition: July 10, 2011

In its 2001 annual report, the World Health Organisation (WHO) defined good health as a mix of physical, mental and social well being and worryingly proclaimed that mental health problems will grow over the the next few decades, especially among professionals. This revelation sent many alarm bells ringing, and specifically made way for the rise of a new term- corporate stress. Over the past decade, corporate stress has sparked a trend, making way for countless stress relieving programmes. From meditation courses to stone therapy to chocolate wraps, it's all on offer. In other words, anything that can help overworked and desk-bound professionals relax and destress is a hit. Corporate stress has resulted in some of the most detailed spa menus across the country that cater to this growing group. Think Himalayas and wellness and the Ananda Spa comes to mind instantly.

Ananda's group yoga is a blissful abode
Ananda's group yoga is a blissful abode
Situated a little above the pilgrim town of Rishikesh, this wellness retreat is a household name in luxury healing. Ananda was established to fulfill the innate human desire for inner peace . Its soul vacation programme urges you to combat stress through therapy and lifestyle changes influenced by the art of Ayurveda. "Till a little while ago, going to a spa was a matter of luxury, but in today's fiercely competitive work where a work-life balance remains a mystery, spa breaks are necessary and well deserved", claims Ananda's Spa Manager Mark Sands. He adds that, "This explains the popularity of our Stress Management Program that is grounded in ancient Indian schools of thought."

Since the idea of holistic wellness includes a calm mind and body, Ananda offers complementary lectures in Vedanta every evening. These help you nail the cause of stress and also boost a positive attitude towards work and personal life.

 GLOBAL WELLNESS

Costa Serena, Costa Cruises
Sailing over the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean, the 23,000 sq ft spa cruise is just the place to catch a Turkish bath and dip in a therapeutic watsu pool.

Ritz Carlton Golf Club and Spa, Florida
A sports and wellness destination in the USA, the spa allows you to golf during the day and soak in the spa in the evening.

Terme di Saturnia Spa resort, Tuscany
The spa is famous for employing mud laced with essential oils in anti-fatigue, anti cellulite and body toning treatments. Striking gold with mud, we say.

The Island Experience, Rio de Janeiro
This Brazilian adventure spa couples the enthusiasm of snorkelling, hiking and kayaking with the relaxation of yoga and oil massages. An offbeat rejuvination.

Six Senses Spa, Kimpenski, Turkey
With a Turkish hamam, Russian sauna and crystal therapy, this is the perfect wellness address in the land of the crescent moon.
A healthy meal from Ananda's kitchen
A healthy meal from Ananda's kitchen
Another school of thought, Ayurveda, classifies the human community into three predominant types - Vata (air) or hyperactive people; Pita (fire) or those who are moderate by nature and Kapha (water) which makes for calm people. Ananda's programme is designed to locate and harmonise what is innate in every person, highlighting the importance of diet and fitness. Dr Jitendra Varshney, resident Ayurvedic Physician at Ananda, believes in the philosophy of aahar hi aushadham, or food as medicine. He notes that "Since Ayurveda works on the the senses, to reap maximum nutritional benefits of the food, it is important to stimulate the senses with the looks and smell of the food while its being cooked. Such concentration induces the nervous system to produce digestive juices. A daily intake of oxygen rich foods like fruits and leafy salads, and an exclusion of overcooked, deep fried and spicy food should do the trick." In keeping with the philosophy, the resort's restaurant turns the frugal meal of Saatvik food into gourmet delight with an array of delicacies like the multigrain pancake and the miso soup with rehydrated walkame and tofu.

The Sereno Spa at Goa's Park Hyatt too includes a special consultation session with ayurvedic nutritionists and offers the Abhayanga nerve relaxant massages specific for each body type. The Vata are given a relaxant herbal oil massage that induces sleep; the Pita a deep issue massage that relaxes and restores muscle tone and the Kapha a cellulite reduction and fat reduction massage.

Costa 's spa cruise hydrotherapy at Ananda's private suite
Costa 's spa cruise hydrotherapy at Ananda's private suite
An ancient Indian practice that is now a worldwide phenomenon, yoga is synonymous with wellness. At Ananda, the yogic philosophy involves self awareness followed by recognition of exercises and postures specific to your body's needs. Broadly speaking, these draw on the virtues of Hatha Yoga which opens muscular knots and relieves accumulated emotional stress besides correcting posture (the physical aspect of stress); Raja Yoga which has meditative elements and helps in cleansing your conscience (peace of mind) and finally Kriya Yoga which stimulates psychic awareness, improves concentration and purges fears and phobias. Similarly, in Pune Marriott's new Quan Spa, the specially designed Total Mind and Body Healing Massage supplements yoga with osteopathy and reflexology to maximize a sense of well-being.

For worshippers of modernity who'd rather take the endorphin route to fighting stress, spas like Ananda and Quan also boast of swank gymnasiums.

The Ananda's swank gym overlooks the indoor swimming pool and is furnished with the latest cardio and cross training equipment. The personal trainer at the gym tests one's flexibility, strength and endurance, thus enabling one to identify the key areas that require exercise.

The multi gym at Ananda
The multi gym at Ananda
Increasingly, spas across the country are dabbling in therapies for corporates, especially those situated in business hotels. The new Oberoi at Gurgaon, for instance, offers a Tech Trouble treatment which relieves thumb and neck strain caused by an excessive use of gadgets. In this, the therapist massages the hands, arms and neck in rhythmic strokes and places aroma infused hot towels that relax nerves. The spa also offers gender specific treatments like the back therapy for men. Designed for men, the treatment includes a hot towel compress and warm thermal mud mask that draw out impurities, followed by a soothing back massage that relaxes tense muscles.

Ananda's exhaustive spa menu includes ayurvedic treatments and Tibetan, Thai and international massages that leave you spoilt for choice. Popular stress-busters include the Shirodhara where a steady stream of warm herbal oil is poured on the forehead, thus relaxing the mind and normalising sleep patterns-both of which are notorious bugbears of modern professional life. The novel Tibetan Ku Nye massage, on the other hand, restores the body's natural flow of energy disrupted by stress while stimulating and invigorating the lymphatic system.

Another stress buster that's doing the rounds is water therapy. Mr.Pranay Verdia, Director of rooms at Pune Marriott notes that "Water is an excellent de-stresser which is why most treatments begin with a foot ritual of immersing feet in water". While Ananda's Grounding Hydrotherapy Bath soaks you in a oil infused luke warm water and releases toxins through air and water pressure, Quan's Vichy Shower involves showering large quantities of warm water while being soaked in a shallow wet bed. Making Ananda an exercise in novelty is the use of their in-house oil infusions and the creation of an atmosphere spiritually charged with sounds of Tibetan tingsha bells and Sanskrit chants.

Water babies can head to Leela Kempinski's Divya Spa in Kerala, a backwater haven for soul searching. With undisturbed views of the much fabled Kovalam shoreline, the spa treats you to the Ayurveda Destress and Detox Programme which employs herbal powders and oils in sessions spread out over two days. The spa also charms with Kerala's traditional massages like the Chavutti Thirummu and Kalari that work on pressure points and improve blood circulation. In an interesting variation on the traditional, the Ksheera Dhara here involves the pouring of warm medicated milk on the forehead for calming the mind. Then there's the Njavarakkizhi which alleviates stress through a rubbing of warm medicated Navara rice (a muscle strengthening variety of rice grown in Kerala) all over the body. This is a traditional Kerala technique for purging metabolic waste and easing joints.

In case a full body massage is a tad overwhelming, need-specific massages are the way to go. While Ananda's Indian head massage uses herbal oils for a cooling after-effect, Sereno's traditional foot massage aids flexibility and unties muscle knots in the limbs.

The Oberoi's Padabhyanga is a traditional Indian foot massage. This involves a brisk massage of the feet and lower legs with a metallic kasa(copper and tin) bowl dipped in hot oil. Then there are novelties like the eye care therapies Netra Seham and the Netra Tharpanam that are offered at the Divya Spa. These relieve eye pain and strengthen optic nerves, victims of staring too long and too hard at computer screens.

Myriad therapies like these testify to our curious modern situation where emotion is an impediment, anarchy a norm and survival no longer an instinct. Needless to say, this is just the right setting for switching off from work and soaking yourself in the goodness of a wellness retreat.

Prices:
Ananda, In the Himalayas: Rs 98,560 to Rs 2,42,000(5 nights)
Divya Spa, Leela Kempinski, Kovalam: Rs 2,300 to Rs 6,000.
Sereno Spa, Park Hyatt, Goa: Rs 3,000 to Rs 8,000
Quan Spa, Marriott, Pune: Rs 900 to Rs 5,000
The Oberoi, Gurgaon: Rs 2,500 to Rs 4,500
The prices are exclusive of taxes

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