Located 1,000 meters above sea level in the Himalayas in the heart of the northern Indian territories overlooking the city of Rishikesh, Ananda, once a palace of Maharajas, is now a holistic wellness sanctuary that attracts the international wellness elite. Here is a glimpse into a confidential Eden with high spiritual vibrations.
An adventure in the Himalayas is more than a simple journey: it is a yatra, a pilgrimage. After a flight from Paris to Mumbai and from Mumbai to Rishikesh, here we are in the capital of yoga; a mythical city nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas also called the “gateway to the land of the Gods”. It is the territory of the god Shiva, destructive and creative at the same time, and a land charged with Shakti, which means “power” and “life force”. A car takes us on a winding mountainside road before dropping us off in front of a majestic palace. In the past, this princely estate was ruled by the Shah family and the palace was their official residence. Many kings and famous people stayed here, including none other than Mahatma Gandhi.
Let’s hear it: Ananda! It means “bliss”, “felicity”, supreme happiness and blessedness. To reach this state of joy, Ananda relies on the ancestral pillars of well-being that are yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta (philosophy of life). As a welcoming gift, we are offered a spiritual necklace made of Himalayan rudraksha seeds. Their energetic vibration is said to have healing power over body and mind.
Two yoga classes are offered every morning (beginner and advanced) in a pavilion also visited by magnificent peacocks, who do not hesitate to lie down beside us during shavasana. The week begins with a consultation with Dr. Raghubansh Singh, the centre’s Ayurvedic chief physician, to determine our type of dosha and diet during the retreat. Ayurveda is based on the theory of the five elements – from which all things are composed – in the form of entities called doshas (vata, pitta and kapha). For example, a dosha vata (linked to the element “air”) in imbalance will create an anxious temperament and insomnia. The prescription for that? Three private meditation sessions during the stay, as well as lessons in practicing the special breathing technique called pranayama.
AYURVEDIC MASSAGE AND NUTRITION
The visit continues with a succession of Ayurvedic treatments: a jasmine salt scrub that prepares the skin for detox, then a chooma swedana massage (kneading of the muscles with the help of a small bundle of Indian medicinal herbs). All aromatherapy oil massages are followed by a scalp massage with oils. The meals are very dietetic: beet carpaccio, soybean dumplings served with jasmine rice, raw vegan chocolate brownie…. Before each meal, you drink a concoction of hot water and herbs that are tied to your dosha type to promote digestion and to ensure that the body digests the food properly. For when your body is in perfect balance, it regenerates and heals itself.
HIMALAYA AND SACRED GANGES
Rishikesh is also the ideal place to visit authentic temples and authentic small streets. This sacred city has long been a spiritual centre with numerous ashrams. At the end of the day, Ananda offers the possibility to cross the Ganges by boat to attend “Ganga Aarti”, a spiritual ceremony carried out at sunset. The ritual begins with bhajans (devotional songs), followed by prayers and a sacred ritual around a fire, with offerings to Agni, the god of fire. Located a three hour walk away and at an altitude of 1,800 metres, the Kunjapuri temple is dedicated to the goddess Sati, wife of the god Shiva. The climb from Ananda to the Kunjapuri temple is one of the activities offered during the retreat and is intense and very demanding. When the weather is clear, you can see the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas. This hike, by the way, is named after Oprah Winfrey, since the celebrity has stayed at Ananda and loved this hike.
BALANCE AND PRANAYAMA
One of Ananda’s signature treatments is a nasal ayurvedic treatment called Nasyam. In India, it has been said that the nose is the door to the body, to prana, but also to disease. Warm compresses soaked in essential oils are put around the head; plant oil is applied in each nostril and to finish a decoction of smoked plants is inhaled.
With your nostrils cleared, you continue with a pranayama session. Prana is the life force in the air, and yama means “control”. Therefore Pranayama stimulates and increases the vital energy in the body through breathing exercises. According to Ayurvedic medicine, the key to our destiny lies in breathing, meditation and a healthy diet, forming the sacred passport to a long-lasting rejuvenation of the body and mind. Let’s meditate on that. Namaste.
By Judith Ritchie
©Voyages et Hôtels de Rêve
Ananda in the Himalaya is a member of the TemptingPlaces boutique hotel collection. For more information and reservations visit www.temptingplaces.com.
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