There’s nothing like travelling the world to enrich yourself with the enchanting realm of wellness available and, probably no better place to start than India, the birthplace of yoga which has been a part of the country’s spiritual and cultural traditions for thousands of years.
The Imperial, New Delhi
My journey to India started in New Delhi which probably wasn’t the healthiest place to visit at the time with an extraordinary high pollution level. However, indoors at The Imperial, I was safely cocooned. The Imperial, New Delhi is well known for its heritage and legacy plus its beautiful mix of Art Deco, Victorian and colonial style but maybe less so for its wellness. However, like everything The Imperial does, the wellness it offers is equally grand.
After an 8-hour flight from London I drifted into their Yoga Sanctum spa, a harmonious blend of luxury and serenity, where it was easy to unwind and recover. The huge living green wall also provided some refreshing oxygen in the city. The majestic but approachable yoga master led our small group of 3 through a hatha sequence which would be suitable for most levels of practise.
Like most Indian spas, the heat experiences are separate for men and women and, on the day I visited, I had the women’s sanctuary all to myself. The solitude added an extra layer of indulgence, enhanced by the intricate Moroccan architecture seamlessly blending with Moghul and Indian motifs. I really felt like I had stepped back in time.
Following a steam, sauna and relax in the spa pool, I was taken to the treatment room to have The Imperial’s Signature Massage. This 60 minute treatment integrated a warm moisturising candle massage and ancient healing techniques including the use of a Kansa wand. I wasn’t familiar with the Kansa wand but it’s a popular massage tool used in India. It’s a wooden-handled tool with a tip made of kansa metal (copper and tin) and actually predates the jade roller. As a massage tool it provided a level of intensity to the treatment and felt amazing – perfect to remedy jet lag. The treatment also included a wonderful head massage which seems to be an important part of the Indian massage treatments I tried.
The ITC Mughal, Agra
Next on my itinerary was the ITC Mughal in Agra. Unfortunately time constraints prevented me from indulging in their award-winning spa but I did get the chance to have a tour around. Their Royal Spa is the most extensive I saw on my travels and it’s firmly rooted in traditional Ayurvedic treatments with stunning designs. It reminded me how a beautiful environment is very much part of the wellness experience and I saw so much beauty on my visit to India.
Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra
Ranked among the world’s top 50 hotels, the Oberoi Amarvilas captivated me with its beauty, excellence, and romantic view of the Taj Mahal from every vista. This is the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever stayed in and the service was beyond first class. I would return in a heart beat!
Every guest can take advantage of the daily yoga practice and I was fortunate to have this to myself. The yoga master took me through a series of yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation, accommodating the session to the time I had available. Afterwards I felt so much lighter and very calm.
Like all rooms in the hotel, the spa suites, which can accommodate two people have idyllic views out to the Taj Mahal and have a roll top bath, so they must rank amongst the most romantic treatment rooms in the world!
My 75-minute journey into wellness commenced with a private steam in the spa suite followed by a cleansing foot ritual. The Oberoi Signature Massage I had chosen is a deeply sensory experience rooted in ancient Indian healing to give you ‘a sense of place’. The therapist started using rhythmic strokes using warm Kasa bowls which felt both comforting and extremely soothing. Whilst the treatments at Oberoi are personalised to your needs, it’s said that the treatment is very good for enhancing circulation and improving stiffness and I felt that it was very thorough in achieving this.
Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore
I’ve realised you can never have enough Oberoi in your life!
Good health and good luck rituals are very much part of the Indian culture and at Oberoi Vanyavilas in the Ranthambhore National Park (home to wild tigers), we were greeted with showering rose petals and a sensory welcome ritual.
Being out of the city, at Ranthambore we could hear the birds and see the beautiful wildlife in their natural habitat including our first tiger. Forest bathing doesn’t get much better than this!
I had one of my most memorable and magical yoga experiences I’ve ever had with the hotel’s yoga teacher, Madhulika Muttalgiri. Out in the fresh air under a beautiful canopy, Madhulika incorporated many sensory elements including incense and sound bathing. She explained to me that the bowls make the same sound as the bell in the Hindu temple which is rung on entry and to get the full wellness benefit of the sound, it’s important to stay for as long as the bowl sounds. During my travels I learnt a lot about the different religions from our guides. One of the practices of Hinduism I liked most was that Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, noninjury, in thought, word and deed. Something that could benefit us all!
Royal Heritage Haveli Hotel, Jaipur
My wellness sojourn continued at the Royal Heritage Haveli Hotel in Jaipur, the pink city. This lovely family run hotel built by royalty, gave us a warm welcome and the most regal of rooms. The Frangipangi spa here is led by an ayurvedic physician and his team from Kerala so the therapies are incredible. I had forgotten how much oil is used in ayurvedic treatments which makes it feel both indulgent but also very therapeutic.
I chose the Abhyanga massage which began with a seated head massage followed by a full-body treatment. The therapist used long flowing strokes from the tip of my fingers down to my toes. This included little twists of my arms and legs. Afterwards she did a little facial massage before I went into the steam cabin to let all the oils soak in and improve my circulation. The Sanskrit music combined with colonial piano notes was very special. It was one of the best massages I have had and I think that comes from it being rooted in Indian medicine and designed much more for health.
Taj Jai Mahal Palace Hotel, Jaipur
At the majestic Taj Jai Mahal Palace Hotel where three prime ministers have lived, I opted for a departure from body treatments, embracing the hotel’s signature facial.
The tented rooms away from the hotel provided a picturesque and peaceful setting, and the facial journey, including pressure point massage, skin examination, steam, brush and exotic-scented products, left me with a super-clean and radiant complexion. It was certainly different from any facial I have ever had before and one I would love to have again. It’s the first facial I’ve ever had that has given equal attention to my ears and it made me think that more facials should include this.
I felt like I was being polished to perfection and it made me understand what it must be like when a woman is being prepared for an Indian wedding. What’s more, the experience, set against the backdrop of Diwali celebrations, certainly made me shine for the festival of lights!
This was my first visit to India and it exceeded my expectations in every way. Each destination unveiled a tapestry of rejuvenating experiences, blending traditional practices with the allure of India’s magical landscapes, topped with the warmest of welcomes from every person I met.