Sunday, July 09, 2006

Unwinding at India's super spa

By CNN's Mallika Kapur

Tuesday, October 18, 2005; Posted: 10:49 a.m. EDT (14:49 GMT)

NARENDRA NAGAR, India (CNN) -- The journey to the Ananda spa begins on the Shatabdi Express, a train that rumbles through the Ganges Valley in northern India.
Then a scenic drive up the winding, wooded roads of the Himalayan foothills leads to the grounds of palace that was once home to the Maharaja of Tehri-Gawal.
This is Ananda -- the world's best spa, according to Conde Nast Traveller UK magazine.
What makes it so special?
Those who come here say it's because of the spa's emphasis on Ayurveda, an ancient Indian science of healing.
Ayurveda is an ancient holistic science developed and perfected by Indian sages for the prevention and cure of diseases, and it is a lifestyle in itself.
The Ananda experience begins with a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor who determines your body type -- Kapha, Pitta or Vatta.
What follows is a tailor-made individual program for guests, including a daily routine of yoga classes, spa therapies, special meals and lessons with a chef.
The doctor told me that I'm a Pitta body type, which means I need to cut down on certain foods, particularly spicy, pungent tastes.
Ananda's chefs create a special menu for me, starting with a breakfast of bean sprout salad with toast and apple.
The idea is to bring your body back into its natural balance, which also explains Ananda's emphasis on yoga.
It has a special meaning at this spa since it's set in the Himalayas, considered the birthplace of yoga.
"Yoga is a great stress buster -- and that's one of our unique selling points, and a combination of these will help the modern stressed out businessman," says Ananda's general manager Andrew Saldanha.
Easing the stresses of modern life seems to be the main aim of my fellow guests at the spa.
"Yes, definitely, I think I fit into that category, I have had unfortunately a little bit of work since I've been here, but not much, and I'm feeling so much better than when I arrived," property developer Steven Milesgrade told me.
"I think these sorts of things are an essential part of life sort of to bring you down, and so that when I get back to London, life will be much more in tune than when it perhaps was when I arrived, so it's great."
It's for all these reasons that Conde Nast readers voted Ananda, which takes its name from the Hindi for "joy", the best spa in an increasingly competitive landscape.
"Five years ago, 10 years ago rather, every hotel felt they had to have a celebrity chef," Sarah Miller, editor of Conde Nast Traveller UK magazine, said.
"Now I think every hotel feels like they have to have a spa. The beauty about Ananda is that ... the experience is the spa, it's not a hotel with a spa tacked on."

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