Story by Barbara Penny Angelakis
Photography by B. P. Angelakis and courtesy of Soukya Wellness Spa
A SPA LIKE NO OTHER
Soukya Wellness Spa And Holistic Health Centre
Whitefield, Bengaluru, India
Just an hour’s drive east of cosmopolitan Bengaluru (previously known at Bangalore) the IT hub of India, is a peaceful retreat called Soukya. Soukya is a world-class Holistic Healing Center treating the likes of Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall; the Dalai Lama; Deepak Chopra; and many other celebrities, all seeking nirvana (a state free of suffering)… and at Soukya they just might find it!
Welcoming you are tranquil gardens, flowing waterways and lotus ponds, luxurious quarters, and soothing Ayurvedic massages and therapies. Soukya is not a spa in the usual sense of the word. It is a holistic wellness and medical center that works on the body, mind, and spirit principle of integrated well being.
Soukya is the dream child of Dr. Issac Mathai, a world renowned holistic practitioner whose education and training extends from Harvard Medical School in the U.S. to the W.H.O. Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Nanjing, China, with a stop in London for Homeopathic training. A native of the State of Kerala, India, Dr. Mathai was inspired early in life by his Mother who ran a Homeopathic clinic. Suja, Dr. Mathai’s wife, the other inspirational female force in his life, helped realize his dream of a luxurious healing retreat bringing together the ancient and traditional healing modalities of both east and west. Suja’s contribution to Soukya as a trained Nutritionist, garden expert and life coach was instrumental in creating the sea of tranquility that exists today.
Suja Mathai designed the center and laid out the vegetable and flower gardens in the 30 acre compound. Soukya – from a Sanskrit word “soukhyam” meaning wellness - is distinguished from other holistic centers by its organic farm where all the medicinal herbs are grown, processed, and blended, under the watchful eye of Dr. Mathai and his colleague, Dr. Shaji.
Soukya offers the ultimate in pampering and service whether you are there for revitalization and general well being; Panchakarma - an amazing anti-ageing technique that includes a thorough detoxification followed by an intense rejuvenation therapy; or healing procedures based on integrative medicine combining Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Allopathy and therapies including Yoga, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Hydro-therapy, Nutrition and Counseling.
Upon arrival you are warmly greeted in the traditional hands together Namaste manner, offered a cool towel and a fruit drink, and chaperoned to your suite. I had a simple but elegantly decorated suite with an oversized sitting room/bedroom, a kitchen area, and a large well appointed bathroom with an enclosed outdoor shower. The suite had a private garden in front and another in back, complete with a table and chairs for dining. Considered a deluxe room, it was air conditioned but I choose to use instead the ceiling fans and leave the screened in windows open to the fresh fragrant country air.
Soukya has a rhythm all its own. Mornings begin with an optional group 6 a.m. walk around the property, passing the gardens and farm animals and following the path through the woods. At 7:30 a yoga session is led by one of the staff doctors in the open-air thatched-roof yoga hall, and at 8:30 breakfast is served in or out of doors, your preference. Due to Soukya’s location, the morning and evening air is dry, cool, and pleasant with afternoons warm but comfortable. The sun however can be searing, and a doctor’s approval is required to sunbath by the pool or in your private garden. Consultations with doctors and treatments with therapists begin at 9:30 till lunch and a rest period, and then commence again at 3 p.m. There is an optional breathing, meditation and relaxation session at 4:30 and physical activity is encouraged before dinner at 7:30. All meals are vegetarian using products grown on the property. Suja has created a delicious variety of dishes based on Sathwic, an Indian philosophy for food that creates positive vibrations in the body, and is central to a healthy lifestyle. All food is prepared in concert with the individual treatment program outlined during consultation with a staff doctor on arrival.
Soukya’s treatments are like no other. I have previously experienced all of the treatments I had at Soukya but they were very different in both execution and results. First and foremost, the massage oils used on me were not based on aromatherapy or expensive Parisian imports, but on my own internal constitution. So, the healing process begins as soon as the therapist dons her water-proof apron and starts to slather on oil with firm but gentle strokes. The first Ayurvedic treatment I had was the legendary shirodhara; a constant flow of warmed oil slowly ebbs across the forehead and is allowed to ooze back into your head soaking and enriching your hair in an oil bath. A half hour is allowed for this therapy initially, until you build up to an hour for the full benefit of this time-honored treatment. Once the infusion is complete, 2 therapists performed a synchronized deep massage, again unlike any I have heretofore encountered. When it ended I practically slid off the table in a state of utter ecstasy. The senior therapist Ambika led me to the steam cabinet to bake in the healing oil, all the while smiling at me to reassure me that I would not melt, and then to the showers where she stood guard least I needed assistance. I believe my feet did not touch the ground when I walked to lunch but the delicious smells of the food brought me back to earth and I realized I was famished.
Next I was treated to reflexology, but again the therapy was original and while it concentrated on the feet and lower legs, it left my entire body glowing. I felt as if years of stress were wiped off my face and released from my neck and that my silly grin would last forever. But for me, the ultimate treatment was the hot rock therapy. Having encountered this massage before I expected to feel good afterwards but nothing could have prepared me for the massage Soukya style. Again Ambika was my therapist and again on came the water-proof apron, and this time an aid was there to assist with the rocks. Once again I was slathered with my special warmed oil and she began a vigorous massage with the stones. But it did not end there. Rocks were placed on the table strategically aligned with my spine to specifically deal with my lower back problem and Ambika gently laid me on the stones and placed others on my chest to correspond to those on my back. The treatment was amazingly beneficial and although I begged for it not to end, Ambika laughingly said “that’s enough, time to go to the showers”.
There are other procedures available such as poultices that treat a variety of concerns; stress reduction, addiction, weight management, rejuvenation, anti-aging, and of course medical conditions. There was a demonstration of how poultices are made. A pre-determined selection of herbs, barks, roots, leaves and flowers are chopped and cooked on high heat with garlic and oil, placed in a cloth, wound tightly, and applied directly to the proper areas on the body. Honestly I was disappointed they were not making dinner it looked and smelled so great. Unfortunately I was not a candidate for the poultices – either internally (sic) or externally – because of the nature of Ayurveda, time is required to acclimate to the ever increasing intensity of the process… more time then I had on this trip!
There is no dispute that Soukya is pricey but the results from this world-class facility go a long way and provide a service found no where else… for those that can afford it. But for those of more modest means, Dr. Mathai maintains Sahaya, www.sahaya.in, a wellness centre in Jayanagar that is more affordable. In addition, he and his wife support a Charitable Trust that includes clinics and schools and provides homeopathic medicines to those unable to afford them www.soukyafoundation.org.
HEALING MODALITIES USED AT SOUKYA
Ayurveda. Everyone used to being pampered in a spa is familiar with the term and some of the treatments, but how many know what it really means? Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning “the complete knowledge for long life”. Its roots dig deep into the soul of India and for over 5000 years its practice, based on natures own healing properties, were the only medical procedures available to millions of people on the India subcontinent. The “knowledge” of healing body and spirit came out of the ancient Vedic religion as a compleat healing system. Simply put, it is an age-old method of combining medicinal herbs that release toxins built up in the body. A biochemical change occurs with therapy that encourages the immune system to rid the body of offending conditions… and that includes ageing! The known medicinal properties of certain herbs, seeds, barks, and roots and their proper application - either ingested or applied directly into the system through the skin - based on the constitution of the individual, leads to the elimination of certain conditions, and the easement of symptoms of incurable ailments. The constitution is determined by taking a detailed history, doing a physical examination, and most importantly, taking pulses. According to Ayurveda, it is necessary to determine your Tridosha; the unique concept that governs the physicochemical and physiological condition of the body. There are three doshas, Vata (ether and air) Pitta (fire and an aspect of water) and Kapha (water and earth). Our constitution is acquired at birth and remains constant through life so to build a healthy system it is necessary to determine the dosha and treat accordingly.
Homeopathy is another healing modality based on the “hair of the dog” principle. A dilution of natural preparations uses the body’s own immune system to build up a defense against illness and to treat disease by stimulating the self healing power of the body.
Yoga, another time honored body, mind, spirit, practice, improves focus and balance and along with meditation provides an internal environment for health.
HOW TO GO:
Our Personal Guest is the ultimate in individualized luxury travel and can provide hands-on handling every step of the way. OPG takes the concerns and guesswork out of even the most exotic trips. www.ourpersonalguest.com
Jet Airways has direct service from both Newark and JFK to Mumbai with one stop in Belgium for refueling. Then a short domestic flight to Bangalore. The seats even in economy are comfortable and the personnel both on the ground and in the air are friendly and helpful. www.jetairways.com
© April 2011 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.