The world has gone holistic. Ayurveda is in demand, inspiring unique treatments tailor-made for every individual and restoring perfect harmony to mind, body and soul
It’s no longer enough for hotel spas to offer five types of massage and two-hour facials. As the Western world’s obsession with Eastern philosophies continues to soar, hotels are having to keep up with A-list demands for the holistic and offer alternative disciplines such as aromatherapy and Ayurveda.
Ayurveda-inspired body creams, oils and herbal teas are flooding the market. Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna and Christy Turlington are all fans. More and more beauty companies are using Ayurvedic elements in products, and even the most stalwart Western doctors are starting to accept the ancient wisdom. So it’s no wonder the world’s top spas are incorporating it in therapies.
'It has become apparent that guests are focused on experiencing overall healing and wellness as opposed to just sheer pampering within a spa,’ says Andrea Lomas, Group Spa Manager-Operations at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. ‘And as a result, we are now developing in-depth holistic treatments within our spas. We also incorporate a basic teaching of holistic practices into our spa trainings. In Hong Kong we have a Chinese doctor and in Bangkok an Ayurvedic Coordinator, who consult with our guests on health and wellness needs from a holistic perspective using these ancient practices.’
The first step in this programme is a consultation to determine your dosha – your energy or body type. After you’ve answered an in-depth questionnaire about how you’re feeling, the doctor looks at your ‘tattwa’ – eyes, tongue, skin, nails – to assess your type. This is followed by tailored holistic treatments to help restore a healthy balance, plus advice on maintaining your wellbeing.
More than a luxurious pampering experience – a massage with delicious natural oils, maybe, or a bespoke facial – Ayurveda is an ancient medical science from the Himalayas. ‘It has two main principles,’ says Dr Nitesh Limbachiya of the Shymala Ayurveda Practice in London. ‘To maintain good health and to cure you from illness.’
The theory is that body, mind and soul combine to create ‘Ayur’ or ‘life’ (translated, Ayurveda means ‘science of life’). While modern science focuses on the physical anatomy, Ayurveda thinks beyond it, maintaining that everything in the universe (our bodies included) is made up of five elements: space, fire, air, water and earth. These elements combine to make three different doshas – Vata (space and air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water and earth) – all of which flow within us. If there is an imbalance in your dosha it can cause illness, whether it be mental or physical. Ayurveda works on realigning your doshas to help all manner of illness.
After assessing your type to find where your imbalances lie (speech, body shape, skin condition and body language are all telltale signs) Ayurvedic doctors may prescribe treatments such as diet, yoga, exercise, the use of herbs and oils, or perhaps more extreme measures like purging. ‘The world has realised that Western medicines don’t maintain wellness,’ says Andrea Lomas. ‘Ayurveda is a way of life. It could prevent you from getting sick in the first place.’ So instead of popping pills next time you feel off colour, opt for an Ayurvedic treatment instead. Ancient folklore this is not; it’s a medicine for past, present and future.