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We’ve done destination spas, we’ve sampled luxury hospitality and most of us have tried yoga. We even have a basic knowledge of Ayurveda and Eastern mysticism. Why? Because these are today’s fundamental cornerstones that form the identity of the ‘wellbeing consumer’ of which the luxury resort traveller is an increasingly popular category. The questions to ponder are ‘How’ and ‘Why? A trip to Ananda answers these queries with such resounding superlatives that the only response is ‘Yes please. Count me in.’ Lisa Durante reviews.

Even before embarking on my spa experience I began with a consultation with one of the
spa experts. This allowed the team to create a personalised therapy and activity programme designed to meet my needs and expectations. What did I want to achieve over the next one week? Good sleep, regular exercise, loads of spa pampering, yoga and meditation and losing a couple of kilos would also not go amiss.

What I ended up with was precisely that, with a few more welcome add-ons along the way including precise guidance in terms of nutrition, exercise, stress management, detoxification, deep relaxation and anti-ageing strategies applicable to my post-Ananda lifestyle.


“Established in 2000, Ananda is nestled amongst 100 acres of virgin forest and built around a Maharaja’s palace estate. The resort features a restored Viceroy’s Palace, Spa, 75 deluxe rooms and suites as well as three villas with awesome vistas of the Ganges River and the foothills of the Himalayas.”

The 24,000-square-foot onsite spa is the fulcrum of activity at Ananda. It’s where you go to get pampered and where you go to work out. An extensive spa menu embraces restorative traditional Indian and international treatments alike. Take what I tried for instance:

The signature Ananda Fusion Massage, combining reflexology, aromatherapy, deep-tissue, Thai, Tibetan, and Swedish massage techniques. My Tibetan therapist was superb in her dexterity and also in her knowledge of the healing elements of the massage itself. Coming from the Middle East where plush interiors often house staff who are less than proficient in their service, at Ananda you get a sense that working there for the staff is an honour – like working for a blue chip company would be for an employee in the corporate sphere.

Another plus point relates to the Ayurvedic massage of which I have had many over the years. At Ananda, the oils used are not so pungent so as to make you smelly and sticky afterwards.

The Abhyanga Massage, an Ayurveda- inspired four-handed massage – courtesy
of two demure South Indian therapists – was a ritual in synchronised fluidity. Their combined touch was so rhythmic that it became meditative and the oils used, redolent and aromatic.

After a full day of activities and the sometimes brisk climate, the separate ladies and gentlemen’s hydrotherapy area boasting a sauna and the hottest steam room I’ve enjoyed in ages, was a relief. The reflexology footbath and cold plunge pool, all designed within a spacious environment reflects the grandeur of the restored Viceroy’s Palace built around the Maharaja’s estate that Ananda is located on, 260 kilometres north of New Delhi.


During any wellness getaway, the objective should be to have guests relax, rejuvenate and transform but also to keep them sufficiently busy so that they don’t bored without the typical holiday distractions to fall back on like partying or shopping.

This is where the genuine depth and quality behind the yoga, Ayurveda and philosophy talks given by scholars from the Vedanta Institute gives a rhythm and structure to the daily schedule. After all how many massages and swims in the pool can you have before wanting something more?

Irrespective of whether it’s because of the countless prayers that have been recited here since time immemorial, or merely because of the pure mountain air, there’s a rarified serene energy in this area and one that can never be found in beach resorts, no matter how enticing the services and locale.

Whether it’s affluent NRI’s (non-resident Indians) from the US and Middle East, or stars like Oprah and others, Ananda beckons as a ‘luxury ashram’, where guests wearing the white-cotton Kurta pajamas for onsite comfort are blessed with a holistic approach to calming the mind, energizing the body and invigorating the spirit. The range of top tier spa treats, gourmet Ayurvedic cuisine, yoga, meditation and philosophical upliftment as well as one-to-one holistic counselling that includes guided meditation and a rotating roster of specialty workshops from visiting masters from worldwide is what guests seek and what they seek to give them.


Whilst the grounds are a sanctuary for roaming peacocks and guests pass the time at the terraced restaurant, heated outdoor lap pool, fitness centre and jogging track, the kitchen is a hive of organic activity. Highlighting traditional Indian, Western, Asian, and Ayurvedic fare, I enjoyed the ‘Wellness Package’ where my menu choices were dictated around my Vata-Pitta dosha type intrinsic to Ayurveda. Every morning began with a wake-up call accompanied by the resort’s signature ginger, honey and lemon tea and ended in the evening with a meditation session, massage or hot steam bath depending on my mood.

To follow Ayurvedic dietary principles you must consider individual body types; personality; response to factors like stress, weather as well as the age and season of the year. Each individual is categorised into body types – Vatta, Pitta and Kapha depending on activity level, medical condition and lifestyle.

At Ananda, the Ayurvedic menu can be divided into six fundamental categories according to taste: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent, with each taste containing nutritional factors that the body needs for optimal wellbeing.

The diet should include all six tastes, macronutrients like protein, fat and carbohydrates in each meal. Since each type of food has a unique effect on digestion, metabolism and the formation of tissues, diets whereby only certain food groups, nutrients and tastes are included that can lead to imbalance, cravings, hunger or fatigue.

A balanced diet should have all three macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats and all the six tastes. A healthy individual who is moderately to highly active should enjoy a diet that is based on 55 to 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 to 25 percent protein and the remaining 15-20 percent derived from fats.


Cooking Method



Light, dry, hot (e.g. roasting)

Bitter, pungent, astringent


Cold, heavy, oily (e.g. steaming)

Sweet, bitter, astringent


Hot, heavy, oily (e.g. sauté)

Sweet, sour, salty



  • Consume food after every three hours
  • Eat at moderate pace to about three quarters of one’s capacity. One should be satisfied; not hungry yet not full
  • Allow the meal to digest completely before eating again
    • Include proteins like whole grain or other light proteins in each meal
    • There should be enough consumption of fibrous foods containing good oils and essential fatty acids in order to reduce fat in the body

• Increase the consumption of leafy green vegetables and cook them in an appropriate manner-these should be eaten 2 or 3 times a day as they are highly mineralised and improves metabolism

• Stop eating mixed fruit including mixed fruit juices. It is important to eat fruit either 1⁄2 an hour before your meal or 2-3 hours after your meal.



Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word derived from two roots, “Ayus” and “Ved,” meaning
life and knowledge respectively. Ayus represents all aspects of life from birth until death. It’s an ancient healing system of India and has been practiced for more than 5000 years.


The aim of Ayurveda is not only the healing of illness, but also the prevention of illness and preservation of life. Ayurveda is a “holistic” system of medicine aimed at treating the body, mind, and soul.


Ayurvedic theory of creation discusses factors that are interlinked, including:

  • The body
  • The mind
  • The soul or the consciousness
  • The panchamahabhutas (the five elements)
    These factors are complimentary to each other, and are equally important to every person. Ayurvedic belief is that everything in the universe, including us, is composed of five elements called panchabhutas and tridosha or bio energetic forces that govern our health and determine our prakrati, or physical constitution.

The three principle bio-energies – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha known as Tridosha, exist in all matter and are composed of different combination of five elements.
• Ether and Air elements in Vata
• Fire and water element in Pitta
• Water and Earth elements in Kapha




Light, dry, cold, minute, mobile, rough, penetrating


Hot, penetrating, oily, liquid, sour, sharp, pungent


Heavy, cold, soft, oily, sweet, static, slimy



Most individual have a predominant dosha, which determines body type. According
to dosha, there are seven types of body constitution (Prakrti). These are:




Vata – Pitta




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