Ayurveda: Six of the Best Places on the Planet to Reap the Benefits of One of the World’s Oldest Holistic Healing SystemsVEEN Scene 004
Integrated into primary healthcare in India for decades, in recent years Ayurveda has been more celebrated in the West as an alternative medicinal system to be taken seriously, and so discerning travellers – keen to escape their hectic everyday existences – are now increasingly seeking healing resorts to recalibrate and recharge their inner and outer selves.
Often referred to as a sister science to yoga and originating from India’s Vedic culture more than 3,000 years ago – many millennia before modern medicine provided scientific evidence of the mind-body connection – Ayurveda is much more than a mere system of remedying illnesses. It’s a way of life, a way of being, even a way of day-to-day living. First developed by the nation’s great sages, Ayurveda is an unequivocally holistic Indian tradition that reaches far beyond the realms of physical health, healing and the prevention of disease, and offers a body of wisdom designed to help us stay vibrant and healthy while better realising our full potential.
The philosophy of Ayurveda is rooted in the idea that each of us is born with an individualised blueprint for optimum health. Think of it as your core constitution or your personal medical flip-chart! Ayurveda is a remarkably personal healing system and places the focus firmly on you as an individual – a unique person. There are no routines, menus or “one size fits all” remedies in Ayurveda. In fact, it’s entirely the opposite. Ayurveda considers all the levels and influencing factors of an individual – including the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, behavioural, familial, social and environmental, as well as the physical (of course) – and heals from the root-cause of an illness rather than merely treating the symptoms.
While many believe that Ayurveda is five thousand years-old, today its principles remain as relevant as ever, and in the 21st century are increasingly being brought to the forefront of popular culture, as individuals around the world incorporate its timeless wisdom into their day-to-day lives. Integrated into primary healthcare in India for decades, in recent years Ayurveda has been more celebrated in the West as an alternative medicinal system to be taken seriously. Hence, more discerning and cultured travellers – keen to escape their hectic everyday existences and experience an altogether healthier vacation – seek healing resorts and Ayurvedic-focused retreats to recalibrate and recharge their inner and outer selves. But where are the best places on the planet to reap the benefits of one of the world’s oldest and most personal healing systems?
SOMATHEERAM AYURVEDA RESORTKerala, India
Nine kilometres south of famous Kovalam beach, nestled on palm-tree filled hillock, is the world’s first dedicated Ayurvedic resort. Spread across an expanse of lush greenery, Somatheeram is very much a getaway destination for those in search of an Ayurvedic haven away from the cacophony of metropolitan life. Founded in 1985 and welcoming guests for more than three decades, simple and colourful Somatheeram was one of the first to offer Ayurvedic vacations and meditation breaks, not to mention foster and grow a culture of healing and restorative holidays amongst international travellers. A combination of the resort’s peaceful location by the sea, positivity provided by authentic Ayurvedic therapies and a healthy and wholesome diet provide guests with everything they need to unwind and rejuvenate. The spectacular vistas more than make-up for the resort’s rustic feel.
AYURVEDA RESORT SONNHOFTirol, Austria
Few places outside of Asia can deliver Ayurvedic therapies with the same degree of authenticity and effect as a resort in India. However, located on the high plateau of the picturesque Thiersee Valley in Austria, Ayurveda Resort Sonnhof most certainly can. Although what makes Sonnhof special, is that the resort has pioneered a distinctly European approach to healing, combining the ancient system of Ayurveda with the latest western medical research. At Sonnhof, an individual’s treatment plan is complemented by organic, locally-sourced produce to leave a guest feeling better connected to their core being as well as the surrounding world. And whether relaxing on the sun terrace or taking in the crisp Alpine air on a guided walking tour, Sonnhof’s stunning location and the intense beauty of its natural surroundings gently encourages guests on their personal journeys back to wellness, at the same time improving energy levels and inner strength.
THE RAJIowa, U.S.A.
America’s heartland is about as far as one can physically and mentally get from the south of India, and yet The Raj offers a completely authentic Ayurvedic experience. Set in 100 acres of rolling meadows and woodlands in Fairfield, Iowa, this contemporary, purpose-built French country-styled Ayurvedic health spa opened in 1993 and has been winning awards ever since. Even the building was designed in accordance with ancient Vedic architecture called Sthapatya Veda. But it’s the profound treatment programs, that help restore balance and reawaken the body’s natural healing mechanisms, which keep devotees returning year after year. Counselled by a number of Maharishi Ayurveda experts, The Raj takes a comprehensive approach to creating health. Rather than just passively receiving treatments, here you’ll learn how simple shifts in diet, exercise, and daily and seasonal routines can drastically improve your day-to-day life.
COMO SHAMBHALA ESTATEBali, Indonesia
For many discerning travellers, upscale COMO Shambhala Estate is the best property in Bali and it’s not hard to see why. Designed with an exquisite eye for detail in a breezy but smart East-meets-West style, this spa-resort veritably celebrates nature and is all about the incredible setting. Employing some of the world’s top practitioners of Chinese medicine, Western medicine and Ayurveda, guests can book a three or four-day Ayurvedic wellness retreat, during which onsite Ayurvedic doctor Deepak Deginal (who graduated from Mangalore University in India), will devise a personal holistic and all-natural treatment plan based on your prakruti (personal constitution). Expect detox treatments, bodywork, a tailored diet, plus lots of yoga and meditation, surrounded by overflowing infinity pools, gushing waterfalls and trickling rivers seemingly everywhere. Indonesian-styled bedrooms adorned with incredible beds and the finest linens are further encouragement to embrace the hip barefoot vibe.
VANA MALSI ESTATEDehradun, India
Set in the cool, verdant and hilly north of India and straight out of the pages of Wallpaper*, when Vana Malsi Estate began welcoming guests in 2014, it raised the bar for the spa junky travellers of the world looking for an authentic experience in a natural setting without compromising luxury and pampering. There is something about choosing India for a retreat, which always feels like returning to the spiritual mothership. Vana has made this experience even more special by redefining the benchmark for luxury wellness. At its core, Vana is a place of physical and spiritual healing. But whilst Ayurvedic treatments and cuisine are at the heart of the Vana experience, Tibetan medicine (also known as Sowa-Rigpa) is promoted alongside. In fact, the Tibetan Healing Center at Vana is one of only a handful that exists outside Tibet, and at Vana it is common for guests to subscribe to a combination of both Ayurvedic and Tibetan therapies. Either way, if you’re looking for a luxury wellness retreat in India, Vana should be your first choice.
PETER ISLAND RESORTBritish Virgin Islands
This private island resort has repeatedly been namechecked as one of the “Best Places to Stay in the World”, and it’s fair to say that with only 52 rooms set amongst 1,800 acres of lush, mountainous terrain and five white sand beaches the setting very much lives up to the hype. And some. But whilst Peter Island is often teeming with sailors it’s also a place for serious wellness. The half, full and multi-day Ayurvedic programs begin with a consultation and dosha diagnosis by an Ayurvedic doctor who trained in the discipline’s birthplace, Kerala. On the flip-side, if you just want to dip your toe in, a number of à la carte spa treatments are available, including a four-handed abhyanga massage (complete with copious quantities of herbal oil) and shirodhara, when a stream of warm oil is drizzled on your third eye.