It may seem unlikely but I now have something in common with Oprah Winfrey, Bill and Melinda Gates, Brad Pitt and the Duchess of Cornwall. Because we’ve all spent time in the misty Himalayan foothills enjoying a genuinely ‘life-changing’ experience at Ananda – the award-winning mind-and-body spa based on Ayurveda, the ancient Indian philosophy of life.
Ananda is part lifestyle reboot (daily yoga/meditation sessions), part hospital for the soul (twice-daily optional philosophy classes) – and importantly, for someone who’s often felt deprived at a spa, all the meals are gourmet deliciousness, personally prescribed and prepared for your own individual dosha (body type).
Your dosha is established at your first consultation with the resident Ayurvedic doctor, whichever package you opt for, which include Wellness /De-Stress/Fitness/Ayurvedic Rejuvenation and more. Or, in my case, Yoga, which meant hour-long one-on-one lessons with inspiring teachers. Despite having practised from my teens onwards, I basically re-learned yoga from scratch – and so much for the better. I loved that I could choose to have my classes outside on a stone amphitheatre, in the hazy late winter Indian sunshine.
Afternoons were devoted to restorative Ayurvedic pampering – including some of the best massages of my life, concluding with an Amethyst Rejuvenation facial that literally took off ten years. Cleverly, my muscle-releasing Thai massage was specifically scheduled to follow a 7 a.m. mountain trek to a Hindu temple – two and a half hours of what felt like a vertical climb, but worth it for the views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
With 24,000 square foot of soothing Oriental décor and dozens of rooms designated for specific treatments – from traditional Shirodhara (in which warm oils are poured onto the forehead to revitalise mind and body), through to quiet meditation spaces – just stepping inside the spa seems to lower the blood pressure. ‘Now, that’s gorgeous spa music,’ I thought to myself when I first visited – only to discover a real, live flautist playing soothing Indian music around the next corner.
Every day at 4 pm, post-pampering, I’d power up the steep, exquisitely landscaped hill from the spa complex to the Viceregal Palace – built by the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwhal for a visit by Lord Mountbatten a century ago – for a cup of Lapsang Souchong and a cookie, prescribed for my ‘dosha’.
Each of my daily three full meals was a delight (and a surprise): fruit and perhaps a dosa pancake for breakfast, a three-course lunch that included dessert, and an equally yummy lighter supper. (Even my seriously detoxing friends were never hungry or light-headed.)
I really don’t use the phrase ‘life-changing’ about Ananda loosely because, at the end of a week, I returned home armed with in-depth knowledge about myself, how to eat healthily (and what to cook), and which times of day are best for me to schedule different activities. For instance it turns out that my love of being in bed by 9 pm at night chimes perfectly with my pitta dosha.
At my check-out consultation with my Ayurvedic doctor, he handed me a detailed ‘prescription’ for life back home that is basically an easy-to-follow – and surprisingly achievable – prescription for a healthier life.
Yes, it seems pricy – but for the amount of personal TLC and the number of treatments/lessons, it actually offers amazing value. Looking at it as an investment in longevity, I now have a special Ananda piggybank – and I will be back.
Wellbeing Escapes offers a 7 night Yoga programme at The Ananda from £4,215 pp double occupancy, £5,245 pp single occupancy. Prices are based on a February departure and include flights, transfers, full board spa cuisine, private yoga, Pranayama & yoga Nidra sessions, spa treatments, personal fitness consultation, hydrotherapy facilities access, daily group wellness activities. Contact Wellbeing Escapes on 020 3735 7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org