Discover the Art of Ayurveda
Credit: Luca Tettoni/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
Often translated as the "science of life," Ayurveda is an Indian system of healing that works on the assumption that the body maintains its health through a balance of energies. The three main doshas—pitta, vata and kapha—are achieved through body treatments, a healthy diet, yoga and herbal remedies. "Even though it's a 5,000-year-old system, Ayurveda is very compatible with the modern-day spa philosophy, and more and more spas are increasingly adopting its practices," says SpaFinder president Susie Ellis.
COMO Parrot Cay
When practicing Ayurveda, individuals are classified within one of the three main doshas—pitta, vata and kapha—and they work together to provide optimal health:
Kapha is comprised of the elements water and earth; its characteristics include heavyset; slower moving; slower digestion; calm; forgiving; reliable; envious; and possessive.
Pitta is made up of the elements fire and water; its characteristics include well-built; good digestion and metabolism; intelligent; bold; hot-tempered; and perfectionism.
Vata's elements are air and ether (or space); its characteristics are very short or tall and thin; dry skin; creative; restless; excitable; irregularity in action and fluctuation in thought.
Leela Kovalam Beach
Set on a cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea, Divya Spa at The Leela Kovalam is an ideal setting for all things Ayurvedic. Spa manager Sunil Raj says guests can look forward to yoga, meditation, organic meals and consultaitons with on-site experts during their seven-night Ayurveda Lifestyle Experience, but the real standouts are the spa treatments—offerings that focus on detoxing, de-stressing and rejuvenation.
Credit: Luca Tettoni/Corbis
Mind + Body Treatments
Like the rest of the therapies, the key to Ayurvedic body treatments is customization and a concentration on herbs and oils. Although the offerings are vast and diverse, most treatments aim to balance, improve circulation and immunity and eliminate toxins:
Abhyanga: A rhythmic herbal oil massage, either local or full-body, which uses specific oils to one's dosha.
Shirodhara: A treatment during which a thin, steady stream of warm herb-infused oil is poured in the center of the forehead to help the individual focus, concentrate and relax the mind and body.
Bindi Wrap: A total-body exfoliation and wrap that many therapists boast about for its ability to help boost immunity.
Inside Tip: If you'd like to try an Ayurvedic body treatment at a spa for the first time, Ellis recommends Shirodhara. "It's pleasant, calming and relaxing. Most people fall asleep during it."
Four Seasons Bali at Sayan
The Four Seasons Bali at Sayan offers Ayurveda-inspired body and mind treatments, and they are among the top choices for spa-goers at this resort. The three-hour treatments, though traditional, offer elements of Balinese Hindu and locally sourced medicinal plants, herbs, spices, fruits and flowers. Spa director Helen Norman says the spa's main focus is to educate guests on how to use the "healing system back at home through yoga, meditation, food choices and even the body's energy."
COMO Parrot Cay
The Ultimate Luxury
COMO Parrot Cay's 75-minute version of Abhyanga uses warm herbal oil and herbal powders (for the added benefit of exfoliation). The herbs, which are selected prior to the treatment based on an in-depth questionnaire and "aromatherapy smell test," in which the guest selects the essential oil blend that most appeals to them. For the ultimate experience, spa director Patricia Spahn suggests booking it in one of the uber-private spa suites with two therapists.
The Raj, Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa
The Full-Immersion Experience
Located in Iowa, the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa at The Raj offers treatments such as the Purification Before Pregnancy program and a 31-day detox. The only facility outside of India specifically built to offer traditional Ayurveda rejuvenation treatments, the spa also provides a private consultation, a completely customized program, and two to three hours of spa treatments daily.
Pratima Ayurveda Spa
Often credited as the "woman who brought Ayurvedic to the U.S.," Pratima Raichur's Manhattan day spa is a mecca for all things Ayurvedic. The spot boasts a Rudraksha bead-meditation room (the only one outside of India) and personally prescribed detox programs, and many consider Pratima's consultations as must-haves for boosting overall health. The eight facials on the menu provide something for everyone and all include modern-day modalities.
Sundari Spa at Bovey Castle
The skin-care brand Sundari, started by supermodel Christy Turlington, is known for incorporating Ayurvedic principles into its products. Its flagship spa, Sundari Spa at Bovey Castle in Devon, England, offers custom-made treatments based on your dosha, as well as facials and yoga that also adhere to Ayurvedic principles. You'll want to try the Signature Sundari facial, a holistic treatment using custom-blended oils and active organic ingredients that starts with a foot soak and scrub.
The Emerson Resort & Spa
Located two hours outside of Manhattan, Emerson Spa offers a menu of holistic wellness to match the serenity of its surroundings of the scenic Catskills. The spa recently debuted a new menu with a number of Ayurvedic rituals that includes the Pure Results Facial, a serious skin-reviver customized by an aesthetician to target a combination of skin types. If time allows, don't miss the Bindi Herbal Treatment (the spa's version comes complete with a focus on facial massage).
Perched on a mountain ridge among the Himalayan foothills, Ananda in the Himalayas allows guests to achieve a holistic balance of mental and physical well-being, all in a stunning natural and architectural setting. The 21,000-square-foot spa offers an extensive menu of body and beauty treatments, integrating traditional Ayurveda, yoga and Vedanta with the best of contemporary Western wellness principles. Even the restaurant features a menu designed with Ayurvedic principles in mind and includes Asian and Western cuisine.
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