As the birthplace of Ayurveda, an ancient Indian spa tradition, India’s Kerala region is known to spa-goers across the globe as a haven for tranquility and relaxation. So when I arrived at the Divya Ayurveda Wellness Spa at the Leela Kempinski Kovalam Beach, Kerala, I knew I was in for a treat.
The ancient practice of Ayurveda is intended to prevent disease and help the body maintain a balanced state of well-being. Regular courses of treatments — usually lasting about 40 days — are believed to ward off infections and illness, and to create physical and mental balance that ensure a long life.
Since I did not have 40 days, I made the most of my time by experiencing two unique treatments during my stay at the resort.
I had my first treatment the night I arrived in Kovalam. Between jet lag and the constant travel and full schedule of the previous few days, I was exhausted and eager to kick back and relax. So I made an early evening appointment for a 90-minute Shirodhara therapy session.
A smiling attendant greeted me, led me to a comfortable chair and offered me a drink of fresh coconut water directly from the shell. (Coconuts are an important agricultural product in Kerala.) While I sipped, my shoes were exchanged for spa sandals, and when I finished my drink I had a brief consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor to assess my health and to note if I had any allergies or medical conditions.
Inside the treatment rooms, the wooden furnishings were sparse and simple. The ambience was dark, yet warm. The centerpiece of the room was a large wooden massage table. (I must admit, upon first glance, it looked very uncomfortable.) Every room is equipped with a shower with two massaging showerheads. Before my treatment, the therapist asked me to choose a type of music from a menu of about 10 selections, each aimed toward a specific type of relaxation.
The Shirodhara massage begins with a head, neck and shoulder massage using the medicinal herbal oils unique to Ayurveda. After the massage, I was laid on my back and a large wooden structure was wheeled over me. Attached to the structure was an urn of the herbal oils, which were warmed, and then slowly dripped over my forehead for about 40 minutes, all followed by a gentle scalp massage.
This massage is designed to fight insomnia, stress, anger and headaches. It certainly was different from any spa treatment I had ever experienced, but it was truly relaxing. As the warm oil dripped over my head, I quickly drifted off into a blissful state, somewhere between sleep and reality. And I experienced a deep sense of disappointment when I realized the massage was over.
When I returned to my room after the treatment I had the best night of rest that I experienced during my entire trip — even though it took a number of shampoos and some scrubbing to remove all the oil from my hair!
On my third and final day in Kovalam, I returned to the spa for the pathra podala swedam treatment. It began with a full body massage, once again using the medicinal oils. After the massage, the therapist applied warm bags of medicinal herbs, leaves and powders (cooked together) all over my body, patting them up and down. While not as relaxing as Shirodhara, this treatment was therapeutic in its own manner. The heat from the herbs felt wonderful as the pouches went up and down my body, although the medicinal oils and herbs used during the treatment are not known for their pleasant fragrance.
The spa offers a wide variety of treatments and therapies. Among the selections are eye therapies that include washing the eye; the kalari massage, performed by two therapists using only their feet (this particular massage is only offered to male patrons); and other massages tailored specifically to treat certain body ailments such as muscle pain, asthma complications, jet lag and cataracts, among others. The typical treatment lasts 60 minutes and all treatments are performed by a therapist of the same gender as the client.
I must issue a warning to the more modest readers (I consider myself a part of this group): The Ayurveda massages are characterized by long strokes, up and down the body. Some patrons may be uncomfortable with this spa’s no-limits approach to all areas of the anatomy. Most of the treatments are performed entirely in the buff. I was quite taken aback at first, but I eased into the treatments as December as I realized that I needed to embrace cultural differences in order to truly enjoy and benefit from the therapeutic qualities of an Ayurvedic spa experience.
Not only does Divya relax and calm patrons, but the beautiful and tranquil location of the Leela Kempinski Kovalam Beach enhances the experience. Without a doubt, one of the most relaxing moments of my life was the Shirodhara massage, followed by falling asleep to the sounds of the Arabian Sea’s waves crashing onto the cliffs outside my room. Divya and the Leela resort, much like Ayurveda, are designed to relax, rejuvenate and purify the mind, body and soul.
LEELA KEMPINSKI KOVALAM BEACH, KERALA
Kerala 695 627, India
tel 91 471 248 0101
The Oberoi, Marrakech introduces its new holistic wellness program, SAHA. Meaning health in Arabic, SAHA aims to help guests reach their full wellbeing potential. The program operates on four key cornerstones: soul & spirit, active body, holistic treatments and a better plate.
Sweet tea. Soul food. Y'all. Sound familiar? Though these words and phrases are commonly associated with the South, it's understood in any language. If you're seeking a city abroad that will enchant you, capture your attention from start to finish and welcome everyone as family, we cordially invite you to visit Savannah.
Filled with sunshine and beauty, Valencia, Spain, is also a great destination for diving into culture and art. Named World Design Capital for 2022, Spain’s third-largest city boasts a wealth of museums providing glimpses into history and fine art.
Nassau Paradise Island resorts pull out all the stops for foodies this season with new culinary offerings to elevate guests' experiences. The Bahamas is home to chef-driven, award-winning restaurants, authentic meals and delicious drink options. In the next couple of months, the offerings and festivals provide an unforgettable culinary experience for everyone.
Whether you prefer a villa on the beach or an ultra-luxe suite downtown, you’ll find everything you’re looking for in Los Cabos.
Rosewood Vienna opened Aug. 1, marking Rosewood’s first hotel in the German-speaking market and its fifth European property. The 19th-century hotel, situated at Petersplatz, sits just steps away from many of Vienna’s historical and cultural sites, including St. Stephen Cathedral and Kunsthistorisches Museum. Guests won’t even have to leave the hotel to immerse themselves in the rich history of Vienna, as the hotel encompasses the apartment where Mozart lived and wrote The Abduction from the Seraglio.
Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa’s new summer offers provides guests with unique and memorable ways to explore the region and relax on the property. The Lowcountry Adventure offer, in partnership with Outside Hilton Head, features a custom-designed, five-hour program for up to six people. The offer includes a variety of all-day adventures and activities around Hilton Head, such as boating local waterways, visiting private islands and exploring small towns. Guests wanting to book this experience can book a three-night stay through Oct. 31, with a 21-day advance booking required.
For the first time in American Queen Voyages’ history, the cruise line offers free round-trip air from select gateways for guests booking their entire voyage from either San Diego to Puerto Vallarta or Puerto Vallarta to San Jose, Costa Rica. These new itineraries offer 15-, eight- and nine-day voyages to these destinations beginning Oct. 3.