Ananda means bliss in Sanskrit and this sums up my experience in this luxury resort. It combines traditional Ayurvedic treatments in an immaculate spa with exquisite service in a breathtaking setting at the foothills of the Himalayas. It is both rejuvenating and incredibly relaxing. Guests float about in white robes while staff attend to your every need. The world’s well-heeled come for second-to-none treatments with an atmospheric hint of A Passage to India.
Ananda is set in 100 acres of a maharajah’s palace, with historic photographs and art works everywhere you look. On arrival, you are given tea in a reception room below the bedroom where Lord Mountbatten slept when he was viceroy of India.
There’s no two ways about it, your Spa Inspector is obese. I’m nearly 70 and have-battled with my weight for years. Even when I do lose a bit, I can’t keep it off. I had a knee replacement four years ago and although there’s no pain, my leg is stiff and I am not at all agile. To cap it all off, I now have macular degeneration, which also impedes my mobility. But I’m determined to get on top of my health problems and this trip was aimed at improving my mobility, confidence, exercise tolerance and to kick-start weight loss.
Daily yoga was a steep learning curve for someone with no experience. I was taught how to exercise every joint and breath correctly. An added frisson for a British woman young in the Sixties was that just down the mountain was Rishikesh, yoga centre of the world and the place where the Beatles sought spiritual renewal in 1968. There was at least one massage daily, with oil or powder followed by a shower or gentle steam. These were usually administered by two girls and their synchronisation added to a soporific effect. I went to the gym for exercises adjusted to my age, ability and fitness. I was mildly out of breath but never uncomfortable.
My programme, based on a medical form I had completed in advance, was tweaked following a physical examination and in-depth interview with a reassuring doctor. I was told my body type was ‘Kapha’ and my diet for the stay was based on this. The doctor explained that the programme could be modified at any stage, and this indeed proved to be the case. One morning in the second week I woke with the familiar ache of sciatica. At home it takes a few days of rest and painkillers for this to ease. On the way to breakfast I mentioned it to my butler (yes, you have a personal-butler) and before I’d finished breakfast my activities had been adjusted. By the end of the day, with no painkillers, all pain had gone. I had a gentle massage targeting my lower back and thigh, plus gentle, guided exercise. The yoga was adapted to my reduced mobility that day and I went to sleep pain-free and awoke the same way. There were constant inquiries about how I was feeling, too, and some concern about my knee. I had regular-massages and hot compresses to the replacement joint, and gradually it became less stiff and more flexible. I was delighted and impressed.
I lost 5kg in total. Tight trousers fitted and my ankles and wrists were discernible. But the big difference was that my joints are more supple and less achey. I’m more confident on my pins and have joined a keep-fit class.
The medical view
Dr Max Pemberton says: ‘Ayuvedic medicine is more than 3,000 years old and based on the belief that health and wellness depend on the balance between mind, body and spirit. The packages here are an interesting fusion of well established, evidence-based western-therapies with traditional ayuvedic practice.’
The FeelGood Factor
The quality of the treatments is unrivalled, with exquisite attention to detail, and the service provided by the attentive and polite staff is immaculate. It makes you feel like royalty, and all in an extraordinary setting.
14 nights’ single occupancy in a palace/garden-view room from £6,972 (excluding local taxes) www.anandaspa.com. London-Delhi flights from £550 and transfers to Ananda from £80. Bookings via www.jetairways.com