The best vacations recharge the body and mind. Idyllic destinations that refresh and renew the pounded-out-of-shape body are, therefore, in demand.
A holiday that restores, revives and rejuvenates, is perfect for city folks in search of catharsis from corporate warfare.
We are stating the obvious. Resorts and spas from California and Scottsdale to Goa and Kerala offer specialised mind-body packages to put the zing back into the weary. Not surprisingly, with New-Age therapies gaining ground, innovation has become the name of the game.
Yoga and massage now combine best to offer a therapeutic experience where the therapist and client work as a team to re-energise your body and mind. The contemporary spa principles of thalassotherapy, aromatherapy, and energy healing, merge in this massage to help align body and mind.
The therapist works on the muscular tension of the client's body as s/he helps him/her achieve a particular asana [pose]. The emotional and the physical merge to mind-body unity - or, the state of complete wellbeing.
Based on the concept of invisible energy lines running through the body, yoga massage selects 10 main lines along which run acupressure points. Blocked energy flow is released by gentle stretching and pressure, and asanas used in the massage relieve stress, pain and tension accumulated in different parts of the body.
The therapist uses his/her hands, feet and elbow to apply pressure, "unclog" and restore the energy flow. As this massage is administered taking into account age, fitness and flexibility levels of the client, one can also specifically tailor it to meet a variety of needs. This form of massage is considered beneficial for all.
When the client is made to experience a deeper level of consciousness, s/he achieves a sense of meditative calm as s/he stretches, holds the posture, breathes and allows prana [vital energy] to flow through - gently.
Ayurveda: Ancient science; modern wisdom
That we have a wealth of healing practices in ayurveda is evident from the demand for this ancient massage, what with a number of therapy centres available, wherever you look or turn.
From foot, neck and head massages, to the treatment for sore backs and toxic-ridden bodies, these centres have it all on offer.
Spas too undertake a variety of detoxifying treatments such as jivaniya [revitalising herbs] and shudhikara [detox] that use exfoliating herbal scrubs, lymphatic drainage and exotic spice wraps with pure natural ingredients like plantain leaf, herbs from the hills, and essential oils.
Herbal powders and medicated oils are carefully selected and applied to address the client's specific problem. An ayurvedic massage is about soft, gentle strokes where the body is allowed to soak the oil for best results, not the least of which is a glowing skin.
The dinacharya [daily] treatment is meant as a cleansing treatment for the five senses - smell, taste, sound, touch and sight.
- A medicated liniment is applied to the inner part of the lower eyelids to remove impurities and improve vision
- A few drops of medicated oil are inhaled into each nostril. Such inhalation clears phlegm and cleans the nasal passages
- Fluids like milk, honey or oil, as prescribed the physician, are held in the mouth for a few minutes to cleanse and refresh the palate, strengthen the gums and improve the sensitivity of the taste buds
- Medicated fumes are inhaled through each nostril to help clear the sinuses
- Medicated oil is instilled into the ears to unclog accumulated ear wax and improve hearing.
Aromatherapy treatments are also extremely popular as people discover that some oils are more in tune with their personalities than others. Sandalwood, sesame, rose, ylang ylang, camphor, eucalyptus and patchouli [Pogostemon cablin] are used in dispensers during massage treatments to induce a sense of calm, or vitality, as the case may be. The ache relief massage uses tulsi [holy basil] and ashwagandha [Withania somnifera], as essential oils.
Thanks to the modern-day mantra of getting back to one's roots, the use of fresh fruits, herbs, vegetables and milk are all part of a variety of treatments - to ease the mind, relieve muscle soreness, moisturise, nourish and refresh or firm up skin, and detoxify the body.
A soothing setting
Even more interesting is the aesthetically set spas that promote the experience of complete relaxation. Bamboo curtains, natural lighting, greenery and outdoor showers provide the feeling of a natural setting, where you listen to birdsongs and feel the zephyr softly brush your body as the masseur lulls you into a calm slumber with expert fingers.
Alternately, there are views of the sea, or the ocean, for those who enjoy watching foamy waves lick the shoreline as their limbs are made to relax. Picture Kerala - right?!
Indoor treatment rooms provide air-conditioned comfort, soft strains of piped music and dimmers to adjust lighting as required, what with the glow of scented candles wafting around. Glass walls bring greenery indoors as leafy branches bend and sway and provide a soothing sight and beautifully constructed skylights offer a view of drifting clouds against azure skies.
A complete mind-body experience is what spas claim and go all the way to provide.
Some spas offer tri-weekly yoga classes for resident guests - those who aren't just happy working their biceps with a set of barbells or running on a treadmill to sweat away the extra kilos.
A selection of chosen asanas, pranayama and a short relaxation or meditation practice session are also part of the package.
A tranquil experience that fosters a meditative calm, improves circulation and mental agility, and keeps your joints flexible, yoga is now a much sought-after form of exercise by vacationers.
This is not all. Tequila and tai-ch'i too aren't strange bedfellows anymore. Today's holiday-goer wants fun mixed in equal proportion with wellbeing and plans his/her destination with a view to maximise both.
Small wonder why more and more people opt for trekking and camping tours just as well where they rough it out in the world outdoors, and return home recharged after scaling the peaks, communing with nature and living the healthy life.
- A daily, or at least a tri-weekly, yoga class at your holiday destination is a great way to loosen stiff joints and get going
- Consult an in-house ayurvedic physician for a prescribed massage that will benefit you the most
- Ensure you book yourself in for a massage with enough time to spare; never ever rush through the experience
- Spend some time thinking about what you want out of a massage; it will help you zero-in on one that is best suited to your needs
- Go for an ayurvedic massage that unknots, or leads to a cooling and detoxifying experience, with essential oils.
- Pick a destination that offers a complete mind-body experience
- Ensure that a physical workout is part of the vacation experience
- Check if the destination has an in-house spa
- Plan guided treks and/or long-distance walks to exercise and refresh mind and body
- Combining fun with fitness is a great way to recuperate from the stresses of daily life.
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