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A roundup of indulgent, offbeat wellness therapies you must try

  • From dry salt inhalation to a treatment involving crystals and Watsu, here's a list of unique therapies to try out on your next wellness retreat in India

Wellness retreats and spas in India today offer a range of inventive treatments that are designed to heal their weary clientele from the stresses of an unusually fast life
Wellness retreats and spas in India today offer a range of inventive treatments that are designed to heal their weary clientele from the stresses of an unusually fast life (Ale Romo)

Wellness in India has evolved from the simple healthy habits of good food, nutrition, and exercise to exotic treatments claiming to rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul. There is no dearth of healing remedies from ancient wellness practices in India. Spas and wellness retreats these days include newer modern treatments-an inimitable approach is required to treat ailments that originate from today’s modern, fast-paced life. Here's a comprehensive list of unique therapies being served at wellness resorts and centres across India, today:

Combat toxins with dry salt inhalation
With 2023 already in its waning phase, the need to stop time, if even transiently, was inevitable. I set out to Naad Wellness in Sonepat, Haryana to reset my mind, body, and soul. I spent three days cocooned in the lush, green property indulging my senses and participating in innovative therapies amidst no television, room service, and no rush to go from one pursuit to another.

One of the highlights of the three-day sojourn was the meditation experience in the man-made salt cave. Dry salt inhalation or halotherapy reproduces the microclimate of salt caves. It is a holistic, drug-free, natural therapy that uses micro particles of salt to promote better breathing, healthy skin, and, sound sleep. “When salt is heated, it becomes super dry and kinetically more active. Micro-sized particles are dispersed into the air. When micro-particles of dry salt are inhaled into the respiratory system, it does its job by absorbing and removing allergens, toxins, and foreign substances in the lungs and throughout the respiratory tract. It is also absorbed by the body to combat skin conditions”, explains Dr. Hrishikesh Ashok, chief Ayurveda consultant at Naad.

Also read: Men are easing into self-care and pampering

Unlock emotions with Chi Nei Tsang therapy
Physical health needs to be supplemented with good mental health. Chi Nei Tsang is an old Taoist abdominal massage where the practitioner concentrates on exactly that. In Chinese medicine, it is believed that unprocessed emotions are rooted in the belly, and Chi Nei Tsang uses deep massage movements over the abdomen which can aid in the release of suppressed or negative emotions, resulting in emotional healing.

Dr Manoj Kutteri, medical director and CEO at Atmantan Wellness, Pune, one of the very few places in the country that have this treatment says, “One of the distinctive features of Chi Nei Tsang is its emphasis on emotional healing. This therapy seeks to break down emotional barriers and enhance emotional well-being. Unlike other massage therapies, it focuses on the internal organs rather than the muscles and external tissues. Gentle pressure is applied to the organs to alleviate tension, promote the energy flow, speed up the detox process, and improve organ functions”. Chi Nei Tsang also helps in alleviating physical discomfort and creating self-awareness. 

Watsu  therapy involves massages, stretches and accupressure in warm water that activate the parasympathetic nervous system in one's body
Watsu therapy involves massages, stretches and accupressure in warm water that activate the parasympathetic nervous system in one's body (Jernej Graj)

Relieve stress and anxiety with Watsu
Another deep relaxation therapy is Watsu. It is a passive aquatic therapy performed in warm water whose goal is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Once activated, it brings down one’s cortisol levels and releases dopamine and estrogen. Pooja Gautam, 36, a WABA-certified watsu practitioner and aqua yoga teacher has been conducting sessions across the country for the past seven years. 

“On land, we are always fighting gravity but in water, we are fighting just 1/10th of it. This makes water a very unique environment to be in and when you are floated in warm water for an hour that itself can be a powerful experience. We use specifically designed stretches, moves, and massage techniques that can make this experience deeper and richer for the receiver often imitating the movement of rocking a child”, says Gautam. 40-year-old Roopa Iyer, a teacher and mindset coach, from Mumbai vouches for Watsu, which helps her in dealing with anxiety. “Watsu has helped me sleep better and has brought a sense of peace and contentment in my life. My gut health has improved and I no longer feel the need for emotional eating”, she shares. “Think of this as a very deep meditation. When you are in a calm, meditative state, your body starts to heal itself”, reiterates Gautam.

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Restore inner peace with Tiger's Eye therapy
Tiger’s Eye is a locally inspired therapy available exclusively at the spa at Six Senses Fort Barwara, Rajasthan. Tiger's Eye is a crystal with beautiful bands of gold and it helps to release fear and anxiety. Therapists use this powerful crystal in a full body massage that includes stretches to tone the nervous system, breathwork, visualization, and healing sound to restore a sense of inner peace and well-being.

“This is a psycho-somatic therapy recommended for anyone who is dealing with emotional trauma of any kind. It has been designed with the belief that our emotions take a back seat in our body and chronic stress is a cause of many health conditions – both physical and mental. We have therefore incorporated purposeful stretches, sound, and massage techniques to tone the vagus nerve, thereby calming the nervous system and bringing guests back into a state of balance. We have also included specific breathing techniques to bring about heart coherence. When we are generating a coherent heart rhythm, the body’s systems operate with increased efficiency and harmony”, says Dr. Neeru Jain, the spa and wellness director at the property. So why do this particular therapy?

“To be able to shoot two birds with the same stone – release negative emotions not just from the mind but from the body too with the healing energies of the crystal. This treatment is a great mix of a massage, mediation, emotional release, visualization, and breathwork – which makes this a unique therapy for holistic healing,” explains Jain.

Heal lifestyle-related ailments with cannabis-based treatments
Since the pandemic, there's been a rise in lifestyle-related ailments  including poor quality of sleep, chronic or mild stress, and acute or chronic pain. BOHECO (Bombay Hemp Company) along with Poonthottam Ayurvedasram has created a collaborative medical venture called AyurCann that aims to heal a number of lifestyle issues. 

Located in Kulakkad, Kerala, Poonthottam Ayurvedasram's surroundings are idyllic: the centre is surrounded by a medicinal herb garden with more than 200 species of plants, in addition to paddy fields and coconut and banana plantations. Sharing details of the cannabis-based treatments at the resort, Jishnu Raveendranath, CEO, Poonthottam Ayurvedasram says, “The retreat in partnership with the Bombay Hemp Company, offers treatments such as Avyatha for pain management, Mukta for stress management, and Nidra for sleep wellness. These treatments can be booked for 14 or 21 nights. An Ayurvedic physician assesses your issue before suggesting remedies that include diet modifications, yoga most suited to your needs, and guided meditation. The cannabis leaf extract medicines are used for treatments and internal medication.” 

The program began in 2022, but will soon be relaunched in a new form. Guests can expect a menu that includes salads dressed in hemp seeds, vegetables stir-fried in hemp oil, and idlis and dosas powdered with hemp. Hemp-based toiletries are in the pipeline, too.

Live in the now by flying kites
Shatam Jeeva retreat is set in the midst of a sprawling 100-acre forest in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh. Shatam Jeeva sets itself apart by being a retreat that combines ancient ayurveda with the latest world-class amenities. Doctor Sreeragh Nair, general manager at Shatam Jeeva says, “We have activities that are nature and spiritual oriented. Our nature-oriented activities include tree hugging, kite flying, cycling, forest walks, and more. In our list of spiritually-oriented activities, we have conch shell blowing, diya lighting and mantra chanting among others. We also have a garden called Nakshatra Vatika, where the trees are named after the 27 stars in Indian astrology. These elements make Shatam Jeeva a one-of-a-kind space.” 

Further zeroing in on the benefits of kite flying, Dr Nair says, “Flying kites helps you be mindful of your current surroundings. The activity fosters acute awareness of the present moment. That awareness, in turn, has several proven health benefits, including improved pain management and decreased anxiety and depression. We live in our heads when suffering from anxiety disorders, and therefore, kite flying helps people focus on the present moment. Kite-flying is also beneficial for eye health. Gazing at the blue sky can help regulate eye muscles and nerves, which helps alleviate eye fatigue and can prevent myopia.”

Aditi Sarawagi visited Naad Wellness Sonipat on the invitation of the wellness retreat.

Aditi Sarawagi is an independent writer who writes on wellness, travel, and, food.

Tanisha Saxena a Delhi-based independent journalist. She writes stories on the intersection of art, culture and lifestyle.




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