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September 16, 2013

Simple Kneads

Verve’s massage fiends take a beating, checking out the best spas for your every mood

  • Spa
  • Spa

SEEK SPIRITUALITY, AT ESPA, THE LEELA PALACE, UDAIPUR
Situated on the banks of the lovely Lake Pichola, The Leela Palace Udaipur is a modern day royal abode. The peaceful setting is a perfect home to the newly-introduced Spa and Spiritual Journeys. All three of the journeys begin with an orientation of the ESPA tents – air-conditioned spaces with private plunge pools and relaxation rooms. This is followed by a visit to the 150 year-old Shiva temple and a 60-minute ESPA Abhyanga treatment with a 30-minute Regenerating and Firming Eye treatment. End your first day with an astrology consultation, to see what the stars hold. No matter what fates are foretold, you know that the next day is certain to be an experience to remember.

All your mornings will begin with an hour-long private yoga or meditation session, either in the yoga studio or the fragrant guava orchard. Luxurious signature treatments and massages are interspersed with temple rituals, with visits to Udaipur’s palaces and forts and guided excursions to nearby temples thrown in depending on the length of your stay. Customize your spiritual sojourn with daily consultations with the Spa Journey Advisor and Chef of Spa Cuisine. End the day with a sunset cruise on the lake, complete with spa mocktails, or a relaxing bath set up in your room. For a truly decadent experience, make sure you book the 4-hour long Royal Knights or Royal Princesses of Rajasthan ceremonies.
– Viseshika Sharma

REST QUIETLY, AT HEAVENLY SPA BY WESTIN, MUMBAI
One doesn’t expect to find a restful experience just a stone’s throw from what could be Mumbai’s busiest highway, but as I found out when I ran into friends taking advantage of the pool at The Westin Garden City, I’d been missing out on something quite fantastic. I sip green tea laced with honey as I chat with the Wellness Director, who is also, strangely enough, Director of Security. After running through topics ranging from solar plexus balancing to massage preferences, he recommends the signature Heavenly Massage.

What follows is 90 minutes of sheer bliss. I plant myself face down on a gently heated massage table, and surrender myself to a Swedish massage with a heated herb compress thrown in. As the compress is drawn across my back with firm strokes, the gentle aromas envelop me, lulling me into a deep trance.

Gentle murmurs entreat me to turn over or extend my limbs – I barely respond, my body weighed down by the restful state, yet my mind lightened by the peace.

I awaken after a while and head to the ensuite shower, dreading the process of trying to get all the oil out. I’m in for a surprise again as it proves remarkably easy to wash off. Cheered by this discovery, I ease back into my clothing and am bid adieu with a square of dark chocolate. Trite as it sounds, this was truly heavenly.
– Viseshika Sharma

SOOTHE THE SOUL, AT IMPERIAL SPA AND SALON, THE IMPERIAL, NEW DELHI
A bastion of genteel colonial ways, The Imperial hotel is an institution that evokes the best memories and experiences of the Raj. The inhouse spa is one of the largest in the country and is contained in a warren of rooms that get ample illumination from skylights. I am introduced to the spa’s specially created Sufi range, designed by the spa director Jacqualine Tara Herron – lush scented oils, moisturisers and rose water. I choose the Mahadeva oil, bursting with Damascus rose and Mysore sandalwood, for my indulgent spa ritual, available only to resident guests, that combines a facial and massage.

My facialist is gentle but thorough and my warzone of blackheads is no match for her practiced assault. The massage therapist works out the kinks in a manner so soothing that I have to fight to stay awake. I return to the non-celestials while partaking of nuts, raisins and tea in the elegant alcove that houses Rumi’s Reading Room. I proceed to the changing rooms, catching a glimpse of the hydrotherapy pool as I enter a shower enclosure. I emerge in my day clothes and soaking wet hair and a therapist springs to my aid, quickly administering a salon-grade blowout. I leave the spa, strolling into the balmy gardens, shocked to find that dusk has fallen as I have been cossetted in this marbled lap in central Delhi.
– Viseshika Sharma

ACHIEVE BALANCE, AT CHI, THE SPA, SHANGRI-LA, MUMBAI
Shangri-La, according to legend, is any place of complete bliss and delight and peace…. The essence of this fictional place has been made real at CHI, The Spa at the Shangri-la Hotel, Mumbai. Making a recent debut in India, CHI massages and treatments are based on authentic healing methods found in traditional well-being practices characteristic of Asian cultures.

I choose to be pampered in one of the nine private rooms. The room itself is a thing of total luxury, large with muted lighting, soft music and an inviting looking tub in the background – one that I discover later is equipped with underwater strobe-like lighting with changing colours that have therapeutic benefits.

A gentle but penetrative CHI Balance palm massage, focusing on vitality, clarity and peace of mind include acupressure and coordinated movements that originate in Tai Chi. Pure synergy oils applied gently to the body harmonise chi flow. I can slowly feel every tissue relaxing.

The therapist applies a paste of sandalwood on my body, covers me up and lets the goodness seep into my skin. This done, I take a quick shower and am then immersed into the waiting tub but only after she has sprinkled the water with rose petals and some soothing salts and handed me a cup of nutritious tea.
– Shirin Mehta

NOURISH YOUR SKIN, AT MUDRAA SPA, MUMBAI
Just off Mumbai’s Marine Drive, in an unlikely South Mumbai lane is Mudraa Spa. The hurly burly of city life is left behind as you go up to the spa, which suddenly presents an oasis of calm and tranquility. The name ‘Mudraa’ gets its relevance from the word ‘mudra’, a science of finger postures. Mudra is the balancing of the body, mind and spirit through these postures. Here, the ancient principles have been blended together by offering therapies for the unision of mind, body and spirit.

A range of spa treatments is offered from Aroma Therapy, Balinese and Hot Stone Therapy to Foot Reflexology, Herbal Indian Spice Scrub and Himalayan Clay Wrap, among others. Various healing services like Reiki treatment, Chakra Balancing as well as yoga asanas are offered for complete wellbeing. In a separate couple’s room couples can rejuvenate together.

I have chosen the Whitening Cellular facial for women.This promises even-coloured skin. The therapist’s fingers are gentle but sure and she assures me after the first mask has come off that my skin requires some serious damage control which she proceeds to take care of. The power-packed ingredients being applied to my face, I am told, attack the formation of melanin to quickly and effectively brighten the skin and reduce the effects of tanning and pigmentation.

The treatment lasts for an hour and strangely enough, I discover myself relaxing all over, not just the facial muscles. I come out feeling invigorated and revived and of course at this moment, my skin looks polished to a new shine and cleanliness. A relaxing facial with no poking or prodding – definitely worth a try….
– Shirin Mehta

CALM THE MIND, AT THE SPA BY SANSHA, RAMADA UDAIPUR RESORT AND SPA
Ensconced in beautiful Udaipur, one’s eyes are overwhelmed by the bounty of views. Every high point opens up a vista that is a pleasure to behold. Get the right room and you could have a view of two of the city’s famous lakes, apart from the lovely swimming pool at the centre of the multi-level property. But it is the spa complex that is the hidden jewel. The first heated outdoor pool in the city is flanked on one side by two hot tubs, all the better to enjoy the Udaipur winter, and a view of the Monsoon Palace. Poolside foot massage stations are your first hint that a spa exists here. The excellent menu is full of ayurvedic treatments and the extra-long Shirodhara therapy tempts me into lunging for the nearest robe.

My feet are cleansed in a flower-strewn corridor with walls inlaid with coconut shell. I press my back surreptitiously against this surface, feeling the delicious pressure across my shoulders. I am soon escorted into the massage suite, accented with lavender and sage soft furnishings, with the roof panel opened up to the skies. My massage commences with a rousing kneading of limbs and back, and I am flipped over for the rest of the massage, with the pleasant sunlight gently touching my face. I then experience the Shirodhara – a constant stream of fragrant oil impressing calmness into my third-eye. As the oil washes over my forehead, I can feel the stress melting away. I hate having to rouse myself from the massage table, but the therapist has unobstrusively indicated that my moment of bliss is at an end. I shower in the ensuite facility, shampooing my hair thrice to get all the oil out, but my skin still holds the lingering scent for a few hours, branding those glimpses of the sky into my mind.
– Viseshika Sharma

RELIEVE STRESS, AT JIVA SPA, VIVANTA BY TAJ GURGAON
The massages at Vivanta by Taj’s inhouse chain of Jiva Spas are established favourites with guests at their properties in South India and now they throw open the doors to guests in Gurgaon with the first Jiva Spa in North India. I walk through the recently opened hotel’s spacious lobby and neo-Mughal corridors to the serene spa and am greeted with the service menu and a cup of their signature tea. I go through the descriptions of the various massage therapies, each one sounding more tempting than the last. After a night spent being entertained by friends in Gurgaon, the Pehlwan Malish sounds like it could hoist me out of my party-weariness. I’m led past an elegantly appointed salon area to the changing rooms, from where I emerge clad in an organic cotton robe and jute slippers. My feet are cleansed with a herbal scrub, in a foot bath sprinkled with florals, as I take in the chirping ambient noises that floods the therapy suite.

Contrary to the image it calls forth, the Pehlwan Malish isn’t administered by generously-proportioned wrestlers from dusty provinces, but by a petite therapist of North-Eastern extraction. The massage gets its name from the powerful invigorating massage that traditional body builders are partial to, and in the interests of authenticity, I choose mustard oil instead of the custom blended oil from the spa. The lovely therapist massages my limbs with strong, deep strokes that relieve my muscles of a soreness I hadn’t consciously given any thought to. My back is given special treatment as she attacks it with a thoroughness I appreciate even weeks later as niggling knots in my shoulder blades are worked out. My massage is followed by a quick shower in the ensuite and I exit into the warm sunshine, completely energised.
– Viseshika Sharma

BREATHE EASY, AT COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT’S O2 SPA IN CHENNAI
The shy Tibetan girl whispers in my ear as her hands flutter nervously to straighten the sheet, adjust the pillow, check the oils, to finally rest gently on my back as she commences to lightly stretch my muscles. From a spa menu gushing about rejuvenating ginseng wraps, cocoa butter moisturising scrubs, deep cleansing facials and much more, I have opted for the simple, relaxing aromatherapy treatment at O2 Spa at Chennai’s Courtyard by Marriott. It is a small space manned by quiet solicitude. The dim lights, the recorded chanting, the gentle pummelling, are all making me quite sleepy, especially after that tongue-tickling lunch of fluffy appams, chicken broth, marinated slivers of fish and bowls of payasam. There is a bit of churning in the stomach and I feel like it is scolding me for that last helping of curd rice.

But the massage sort of settles the steam. There are five oils to choose from: an energising one to banish jet-lag blues; a citrus blend with natural diuretic properties that detoxifies body and perhaps mind; a concoction of rosemary, juniper berry and lemon that punches excessive cellulite out of sight; pain-relieving blends of eucalyptus, yarrow and basil to soothe stressed out souls. My state comes as no surprise as the lavender-ylang ylang combo that is being massaged into my bones induces a feeling of well-being and blissful inertia. And since I want to retain the glow and remain faintly sophoric for the next few hours, the little masseuse rubs me down with warm towels in place of that ‘invigorating’ shower. In any case I have only a few steps to go before reaching out for a freshly tossed neer dosa!
– Mala Vaishnav

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