Wellness travel. The perception of it being a fringe trend for New Agers and those keen to lose weight is being shattered by the stats. Global wellness tourism revenues grew from $494.1 billion in 2013 to $563.2 billion in 2015 – or 14%. This growth rate more than twice as fast as overall tourism expenditures (6.9%) demonstrates just how appealing exploring holistic health whilst on holiday is becoming. With world travellers making 691 million wellness trips in 2015, 104.4 million more than in 2013, there is one region that has the credentials to capitalise on this trend.
Convenience, quality healthcare, stunning natural beauty, added to outstanding food and hospitality make this picturesque state in Southwestern India the perfect venue for holistic healing.
– Alykhan Alidina, founder of Ayurooms, a health tourism operator
Other regions in India step aside, Kerala is the undisputed hub of Ayurveda, the ancient medical science of India, amongst the world’s oldest scientific medical systems. With a tradition of clinical experience, it is more than a doctrine of medical treatment, but a path to vibrant longevity. Ayurveda teaches how to maintain and protect health, how to cure diseases and promote longevity. By treating the individual as a whole, the alignment – of body, mind and soul – is perfected. Alykhan adds that in Kerala “You will find traditional Ayurveda hospitals but with superior accommodation and resort facilities as you would expect at top beach resorts in Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic or the Algarve.”
So, as Ayurveda focuses on balancing the inner life energies, rather than focussing on individual symptoms; the lush environment of Kerala itself, offers an ideal ambience for gentle yet measurable holistic healing. In addition, as one of India’s most advanced states, Alykhan highlights that Kerala boasts “Two international airports, namely Trivandrum (TRV) and Cochin (COK). The top resorts in Kerala can be reached by car in under one hour from Trivandrum or under two hours from Cochin.”
How did your love affair with God’s own country start?
My passion for Kerala was preceded by a love for Ayurveda, which I discovered in 2014. My mother and brother had visited an Ayurveda resort in Mysore in 2013 and recommended that I go. And so I did, and something remarkable happened. After doing a 12-day detox there, I returned to Canada (where I lived) and found that my strenuous hockey playing routine had never been easier. I felt a level of vitality that I had not experienced since my 20s. Most importantly, my back pain had diminished. The change was so dramatic that I returned to India soon after to undergo additional Ayurvedic treatment, as Ayurveda does require longer timeframes, particularly if you are serious about addressing a chronic health issue.
In my case, I suffered from back pain for over two decades. By age 12, I had developed severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine), which required multiple back surgeries when I was only 14 years old. Surgery did not reduce the pain. It only stopped the curve in my spine from worsening, constraining my flexibility. Between age 26 and 36, I was addicted to chiropractic and massage therapy, having multiple treatments weekly, spending hundreds of dollars every month. At times, I felt helpless and full of self-pity. But Ayurveda and Yoga changed that.
As I practiced yoga on the beach in Kerala, I had several moving spiritual experiences. In one such experience, I was transported to my childhood where I my grandfather was teaching me Yoga. All that was buried in the sceptic that I had become was re-awakened in me. It was then that I fell in love with Kerala and knew that I would keep returning to that same beach to renew a sacred bond with it.
I was soon convinced that I wanted to give the gift of Ayurveda to others like me, who suffered from neck and back pain and were doomed to surgery. I wanted to show them an alternative. My Yoga practice deepened thanks to meeting an extraordinary yoga teacher in Kerala. What he gave me was priceless because it empowered me to alleviate pain on my own, without the aid of a chiropractor or a massage therapist.
What are the key elements that transform a retreat from being ‘good’ to becoming ‘great’?
You’re asking a perfectionist! Staging a great retreat is a science and curating a wellness experience is an art. From my perspective, they require an understanding of human nature as well as a respect for everyone’s unique needs, fears, pet peeves, and peculiar requirements.
- High-Quality Accommodation
I have been to wellness centres where the beds were either too hard or too soft, which is not ideal if you are there to treat back pain for instance. Therefore, we are particular about selecting places offering guests’ optimal room quality, and whose staff is committed to redressing any discomfort promptly and thoroughly.
If you are not a vegetarian, then being forced to assume a vegetarian diet can be challenging. Even if the food is initially quite good, soon it can get monotonous. Many Ayurvedic resorts have a limited menu, which is great if you are on a weight-loss programme, but it’s not ideal if losing weight is not your objective. We pay attention to people’s dietary habits and recommend places that are aligned with their needs and objectives.
Duration impacts results and duration impacts overall satisfaction with the experience. If there is too much downtime at a retreat, boredom can kick in. If the body treatments offered at the retreat are too short (say less than two hours), the experience of Ayurveda might not be satisfying or distinctive enough and guests might feel that they did not get value for money. Yoga is also an integral part of any Ayurveda programme. It furthers the efficacy of the body treatments. If the retreat offers only one hour of yoga a day, it will be much harder to develop the habit of doing yoga daily and reaping its benefits, including greater mind-body control. Finally, the duration of the overall retreat is critical. Many people have health problems that they have suffered for decades, yet expect Ayurveda to solve their problems in a week or less. This is neither practical nor fair. A one-week detox or yoga retreat is great — for leisure and relaxation purposes. But to overcome a serious physical ailment, time is needed for Ayurveda to work its magic. A proper Ayurvedic detox is a minimum of three weeks.
So, with its tradition of holistic healing through Ayurveda with the focus of chakra rebalancing as its core objective, it’s no surprise that Alykhan has joined forces with Lightness of Being Retreats to unveil an offering that merges what Alykhan loves most and what he has seen, works best; namely daily Yoga, Ayurvedic treatments, guided visualisation, movement therapy and healthy cuisine in order to refresh, renew and revitalise like never before.