Courtesy of The Raithwaite Estate Spa, N Yorks

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Ayurvedic spas: Preventative wellness for a healthy lifestyle

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A course of Ayurveda - an ancient Indian therapy - at a western spa - could be a welcome antidote to a stress-filled life, but how can operators authentically integrate the traditional health system whilst still maintaining their bottom line? 

There was a time when you had to go to India or Sri Lanka for serious Ayurvedic treatment. These days it’s possible to experience it much closer to home.

This 5,000-year-old philosophy addresses the question of how to live in harmony with yourself and with nature, using massage, nutrition, yoga, breathing techniques, meditation and aroma to preserve health and treat illness naturally. At the heart of Ayurveda is panchakarma, the classical way to detox the body, carried out using a mix of hands-on therapies, plant medicines and the application of steam, oils and purgatives to cleanse the system of toxic “ama”. Ayurvedic followers widely believe clearing out this old matter can remove the cause of illness and will improve anyone’s general sense of wellbeing.

There are plenty of five-star hotels with a spa which have an Ayurvedic treatment or two on their menu; some even have an Ayurvedic doctor on the staff. But that is very different from carrying the Ayurvedic theme into every aspect of their operation, and so it is important the spa has a good idea of what level they want to offer their Ayurvedic concept at the out-set, Ayurveda at its heart also offers spiritual approach to balancing health. As modern life drives people to seek alternative well-being solutions, we are experiencing a new emphasis on meeting the spiritual needs of clients and Ayurveda offers procedures and protocols designed to ensure businesses capitalise on this, including time for reflection, listening, appreciation and creativity of the well-being programme. 

In my opinion, an Ayurvedic concept fills the gap for venues wanting to serve the needs of today’s more health-driven clients, delivered in a more-value orientated luxury health programme. 

Three levels of Ayurveda for your spa

Taking care of your skin and soul: with an assortment of Ayurvedic massages. By massaging the body with routines using: tadana (tapping); peedana (kneading); uharshan (rubbing) and marjanam (sweeping), the therapist gives the feeling of a deep massage while lengthening and toning the clients muscles, giving them greater range of motion in all the joints including the spine, and a resonant sense of freedom in the body. Ayurvedic therapy is a therapeutic way to go deeper into a meditative practice, or yoga activity, and is a great way to relax and rejuvenate and ultimately heal a depleted soul. 

A bespoke approach: by including a professional Ayurvedic consultation at the beginning of treatment, the spa can offer a unique approach with an authentic diagnostic tool. In an attempt to bring the therapist closer to the client, the Ayurvedic consultation aids the treatment programme by providing a comfortable environment in which clients can open up and feel relaxed. The detailed information the therapist receives during this process about the clients health and lifestyle serves to provide a valuable tool to create a bespoke treatment programme for their client based on their unique Ayurvedic constitution. 

Offer a full detox programme: Administered by an Ayurvedic doctor. Alongside consultation and treatments, alcohol is banned as is coffee, tea, meat and fish. Three daily vegetarian meals are recommended - and dishes are individualised and depend on the clients Ayurvedic “dosha” or constitution type: vata, pitta or kapha (worked out by the doctor according to the clients responses to a long list of questions about their attitudes and habits). Castor oil and ghee are also on the menu, for purgative purposes. So are enemas, generally administered to the 10-day detoxers. Client treatments are not their choice with this programme, but instead are whatever is prescribed by the Ayurvedic doctor in charge. Mobile phones must remain switched off. Instead of television in the rooms, there is most likely a CD player which offers kirtan (vibrational) music from monks chanting the Vedas or Ayurvedic texts. 

About authentic Ayurveda:

Ayurvedic physiology teaches us that human beings are a mixture of matter and anti-matter of five elements called: ether (space); air, fire, water and earth, and it is the constant interaction of these moving elements that determines the state of our physical and mental health. 

From these five elements, seven specific doshas (body types) are then formed, which determines further your physical, digestive and psychological state. 

By firstly finding out the your current dosha, and what is ruling your life, the therapist can objectively recommend the most appropriate treatment delivery – choosing the correct procedure, oil, pressure and aftercare. This means the massage is tailored to the individual; and is addressing your emotional and psychological needs.

Dosha consultation

Before a treatment can start, you will be asked to fill out a consultation form which will enable the therapist to find out more detailed information about your health and lifestyle. This will also enable them to open up discussion should they require a more detailed analysis about your dosha. 

The seven body types (doshas) are:

Single: Vata; Pitta, Kapha

Duo: Vata/Pitta; Pitta/Kapha; Kapha/Vata

Tri-Doshic: Vata/Pitta/Kapha

Basic characteristics:

Being Vata

Vata:   meaning ‘what moves’ in Sanskrit

Elements:    ether (space) and air

When balanced:   vibrant, enthusiastic, imaginative

When out of balance:   restless, anxious, underweight

Being Pitta

Pitta:   meaning ‘what cooks’ in Sanskrit

Elements:   fire and water

When balanced:   articulate, courageous, sharp intellect

When out of balance:   irritable, demanding, hot-headed, skin problems

Being Kapha

Kapha:   meaning ‘what sticks’ in sanskrit

Elements:   water and earth

When balanced:   affectionate, compassionate, forgiving

When out of balance:   complacent, lethargic, overweight

Blog post thanks to Sunita Passi, Tri Dosha

About Sunita Passi: Journalist, speaker/educator and classically trained Ayurvedic therapist and meditation teacher, her company Tri-Dosha offers a full service for spas wanting to integrate Ayurveda into their offering incl. a complete range of professional training in Ayurvedic massage and therapies for total body rejuvenation and holistic facials. The products in the Tri-Dosha skin and body care rituals reflect the company’s values of working with all things natural. Certain ingredients have been avoided in order to let the skin breathe and enable energy to flow freely, reducing risk of irritation and encouraging the client to come back to full health.

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