It’s worth getting away from it all to recharge your mind and body. We reap the beneﬁts of an Ayurvedic retreat at a luxury resort in India. Here are the best bits. BY ZARELDA MARIE GOH
I have a love-hate relationship with cortisol. In small doses, the stress hormone helps me get tasks done when I’m feeling lazy. But elevated levels of it makes me feel easily agitated, not to mention that too much stress also increases the risk of developing various health problems.
There are various ways I manage stress, from exercising to indulging in retail therapy. But my favourite way to unwind is to travel.
Research shows that this lowers stress levels signiﬁcantly. Head to a place where you can relax amid nature, and you’ll double the health beneﬁts.
A recent ﬁve-day, four-night Ayurvedic Immersion at luxury resort Amanbagh in Rajasthan, India helped to rejuvenate my mind and body. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that can be translated as “the science of life”. It refers to a model of health used in India for over 5,000 years. It is used for daily maintenance as well as intervention in chronic health issues.
The ﬁrst thing that struck me when I arrived was that the resort was stunning beyond words. Amanbagh was built to ﬁt seamlessly within India’s rugged Aravalli Hills, and a soothing rose- pink hue envelopes its buildings. I felt instantly at peace. Amanbagh is a property under the Aman hotel group, and it is renowned for creating luxurious havens with laid-back charm.
It has especially been lauded for its service standards. No request is ever too big, and it has mastered the art of being attentive without being intrusive. It is also ﬂexible: You can change your itinerary at any time, which I did during the retreat. That put me as ease, as I didn’t feel compelled to rush from one activity to the next.
Spending time in my room itself was de-stressing. The Pool Pavillion, a 2,185sq-ft pavillion with a spacious garden courtyard and swimming pool, was a slice of heaven.
Introduction to Ayurveda
Aside from the resort itself, the Ayurvedic retreat nourished my mind and body. The programme started with a consultation with the director of Ayurveda, Dr Sunil Kumar.
According to the philosophy, universal life force manifests as three different energies, or doshas, known as vata, pitta and kapha. We’re all made up of a unique combination of these three. Through a series of questions, Dr Kumar diagnosed my dosha, which was a combination of vata and pitta. He then tailored the nutritional plan and spa therapies to match my dosha requirements.
I went for two one-hour Ayurvedic spa treatments daily. They were geared towards ultimate relaxation. I’d go for a treatment after breakfast, and do the second one in the afternoon. My favourite was called abhyanga, a four-hand massage with four litres of warm herbal oil, which is slowly massaged onto your body over the course of this stress-relieving treatment. I felt as though I was wrapped up in a blanket.
Another I enjoyed was shirodhara, where a stream of warm herbal oil was drizzled continuously onto my forehead. This treatment is said to increase blood circulation to the brain. It lulled me to sleep within minutes, and I slept well at night too.
Food is an important part of the programme – and also a point of consideration for a foodie like me. Dr Kumar recommended that I eat 40 per cent vegetables, 30 per cent protein and 30 per cent carbohyrdate. Thankfully, I like eating vegetables.
The meals included both Western and Indian food, and were all tasty. Meat was excluded, as I was told it would increase the chances of constipation. I also refrained from caffeinated drinks and alcohol during the programme. This was to enhance the detoxing effects. Breakfast comprised fruit salad, yogurt and pancakes, while lunches and dinners included brown rice, dahl and at least two vegetable dishes. I must say that my digestion was better than usual during this trip, probably due to the nutrient-rich meals.
The programme included light exercise like yoga classes and hiking outside the resort. Hiking is an activity worth doing, as the scenery is breathtaking. There are several routes available that take you through areas like farmland, villages and ancient ruins. The hikes are led by a guide, and I was impressed by how knowledgeable mine was.
As for cultural activities, a morning trip to the medieval town of Bhangarh, about a 20-minute jeep ride from Amanbagh, was memorable. Riding in an open jeep is an experience itself. The legend behind Bhangarh is intriguing. It is said that many years ago, people ﬂed from the town because of black magic, and that till today the deserted city is still haunted. I went there in the morning and it wasn’t scary. The beauty of the ruins amazed me. It was a great place to take Instaworthy photos too.
After ﬁve days, I returned to Singapore feeling great. Dr Kumar gave me lifestyle advice on how to continue eating in line with my dosha if I wanted to. But the tricky part was in learning to control stress rather than let it control me. My biggest takeaway was this: Instead of rushing around all the time, learn to slow down and savour each moment. Doing that for just a few minutes a day makes a world of difference to your well-being.
The writer’s stay was sponsored by Aman. The Wellness Immersions at Amanbagh run till May 31, 2017. For more information on Aman’s wellness experiences at Amanbagh and the other Aman properties, visit www.aman.com. The best way to get from Singapore to Amanbagh is to ﬂy directly to Jaipur. The journey from Jaipur to the resort takes around two hours by car.
BEAT THE POSTVACATION BLUES
Once you return to the daily grind after a holiday, It’s inevitable that those calm and happy feelings will eventually dissipate. Here are tips to prolong the positive vibes.
1/ UNPLUG FROM TECHNOLOGY
Your brain can’t function well if you don’t give it rest, so check out mentally when you’re away. Do an all-round digital detox. If that’s too difficult, set a ﬁxed time daily to check your e-mail and stick to it. I also restrict the time spent and only reply to urgent messages.
2/ TAKE A DAY OFF TO READJUST
It may seem like a waste of time, but an extra day off after your trip can help mentally prepare you to go back to work. Use the time to unpack and run errands. Sleep early too, so that you’ll feel refreshed on your ﬁrst day back at the office.
3/ ORGANISE YOUR WORKSPACE
Studies show that a clean desk promotes productivity, so tidying up your office space and computer desktop will help you focus. I personally like spring cleaning before a trip, rather than after one, so that I have fewer things on my to-do list.
4/ SHOW GRATITUDE
The link between thankfulness and well-being is clear. Researchers have found that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. Say thank you to your travel companions, and keep a journal to record your trip’s best moments.
5/ KEEP VISUAL MEMORIES
Findings suggest that recalling happy memories improves your well-being. Take lots of photos during your trip. When the going gets tough, scroll through them and that’ll put a smile back on your face. Or buy souvenirs and display them prominently on your desk.