Check yourself into a luxury wellness retreat or experience simple living amidst nature, indulge in holistic healing treatments or harness the power of ancient practices, do a lot or do nothing at all. Whichever path you choose, our curated list of 15 carefully-designed, unique offerings from around the country will help you turn the gaze inwards towards creating a more wholesome you, while rejuvenating your body, relaxing your mind, and re-energising your soul along the way. By Sushmita Srivastav & Rashima Nagpal
Live The Yogic Life
Since the conception of its core sutras some thousands of years ago, the wellness practice of yoga has evolved into various spin-offs that have become hugely popular worldwide. But here in its birthplace in India, one can still indulge in a deeply authentic experience, albeit in luxe settings. From regular classes of traditional schools of yoga to simple ashram experiences, from swanky retreats to plush yogic oasis, the options are quite endless. Learn the ancient art of bettering your body, mind, and soul from some of the world’s best gurus, enjoy carefully curated meals put together by renowned chefs, spend your free time lazing by the pool or detox with a glowing facial—luxury is certainly at the core of these retreats. However, an intensive roster of soulful treatments, trained professionals, fixed schedules and healthy food ensure that wellness remains the focus of these yoga escapes.
Try It Here: Anahata Yoga Retreat, Goa.
Take A Spiritual Journey
Buddhism may have branched into several schools of practices, since its origin in the 5th century BCE. But one simple rule still defines its core: practice compassion. In India, visiting the monasteries that dot the Himalayan region offers an insight into how this is accomplished. If you wish to delve deeper, enroll yourself in a Buddhist programme to best absorb the formula for Zen. The ‘Monk for a Month’ programme at Spiti Ecosphere, for instance, is a ‘spiritual adventure’ in which a 21-day itinerary offers a hands-on experience of Tibetan Vajrayãna Buddhism. Six of those days involve staying in a monastery with basic provisions, meditating, and engaging in daily chores, just like the monks and nuns do. Your spiritual journey is further enriched with lessons on mandala making, the art of nyungne, silence, and more. As part of a sustainable tourism initiative of Spiti Ecosphere, you also get to contribute to eco-friendly activities such as greenhouse farming. A two-day pilgrimage to the city of Dharamshala, the seat of the Dalai Lama, concludes the programme.
Try It Here: Spiti Ecosphere, Himachal Pradesh.
Put Your Trust In Nature
Nature is truly the best healer. So, when it comes to holistic wellness treatments, Naturopathy scores big. The alternative practice of using various natural, noninvasive techniques, and remedies to aid one from ailments can be traced to the beginning of recorded history. But you can get a sampling of it now by indulging in wellness treatments that use natural elements like earth and water to heal you, with practices like herbalism and acupuncture adding to your well-being. Colon hydrotherapy, cold packs and wet sheets, turmeric and mud baths, leaf wraps—the range of Naturopathy therapies available is wide.
Try It Here: Shreyas Retreat, Karnataka.
Try The Art Of Doing Anything
Sometimes, all you need to do to calm your inner self is to do nothing at all. But believe us when we say, it’s easier said than done. Simple yet a little tricky, transcendental meditation helps you attain utmost calm—for your body, mind and soul—and is much revered among wellness enthusiasts. The process is quite effortless—sit in a comfortable position at a peaceful spot and close your eyes. Once your body is at rest, all you need to do is find your mental balance. A routine practice with experts can help you meditate the right way, bringing extraordinary relief from stress, boosting concentration and combating anxiety.
Try It Here: Neeleshwar Hermitage, Kerala.
Wellness At Its Best
Still unknown to many, the traditional Tibetan medicine practice of Sowa Rigpa is deeply rooted in Ayurveda, Buddhism, and Chinese medicine. This unique amalgamation helps emphasis the treatment on the mind and emotions, and aims at well-being in its entirety. It starts with inviting the healing powers of the Blue Medicine Buddha to take over: hot towels are placed on the feet, and herbs, therapeutic oils, and warm poultices are paired with soft, relaxing, and easing touches. The sound of Tibetan chanting melt in the background, offering an atmosphere of immediate serenity. Over 75 minutes, this process of medicinal curing relaxes your body, calms your mind, and warms your heart. Later, you are offered a steaming cup of turmeric and ginger latte to soothe your soul for the road.
Try It Here: Vana Wellness Retreat, Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
Cook Food For The Soul
The trend of turning vegan might be picking up only now all over the world, but sattvik food—light, simple food based on gunas or quality—has been a fad in India for ever. Built on the belief of ‘you become what you eat’, Ayurvedic or yogic food is said to bring you calmness, stability, and relief from different health issues. Various wellness institutes and retreats are now offering regular cookery classes, where you can learn to cook yourself a scrumptious meal from fresh organic produce, based on the Ayurvedic guidelines of spiritual and righteous living. The idea is to not only serve you with wholesome food during your stay, but also help you inculcate the habit of healthy eating into your daily living. These diets comprise lacto-vegetarian or vegan produce fresh off the farm that deliver mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. The meals are cooked as per your choice and taste.
Try It Here: Rishikul Yogshala, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand.
Go Back To Basics
Away from the din of the tourist infested beaches of Goa, the verdurous Bhakti Kutir in the Colomb Bay area of South Goa offers the perfect setting to relax, rejuvenate, and repeat. Rustic, sylvan, eco-friendly, and minimalistic, it exudes a humbling, feel-good vibe that has guests revisiting for more. Those who cannot do without five-star luxuries might want to drop in for a session of yoga and meditation here, but the ones who can stay content with simple things must book a stay in one of the 22 aesthetically done-up cabanas. Other than all-time access to Sunita Singh—the popular in-house yoga instructor, Kailas—the Ayurveda clinic, and timely workshops, guests are well taken care of with wholesome organic meals at the resort’s restaurant. Keep a check on their website’s ‘Events’ tab to align your visit with a visiting professional’s course.
Try It Here: Bhakti Kutir, Goa.
Bathe In Serenity
There’s nothing quite like a hot shower at the end of a long, eventful day. Except perhaps a bath therapy inspired by traditional Coorgi households, where warm water is slowly poured over your body from a gudda or a wood-fired copper vessel, as you breathe in the serenity of lush rainforests around you and feast on verdant views of treetops from an all-glass wall. As the water flows down, you can feel your muscles relaxing, your breath easing, and stress leaving your body and mind. But before all of this, comes a relaxing massage with essential oils, followed by an exfoliating scrub of nutmeg, turmeric, and herbs. The hot water bath from the copper vessel is said to be a good disinfectant, and is followed by another wash with soap. Once done, a glass of warm almond milk or herbal tea is offered to relax you even more.
Try It Here: Jiva Spa at Taj Madikeri Resort & Spa, Coorg, Karnataka.
Disconnect To Reconnect
It doesn’t really benefit to enroll in a wellness initiative and simultaneously post it on Instagram about it. For a complete detox of mind and soul, unplugging oneself from technology is paramount. The ‘Calming the Mind’ programme at the Dharmalaya Institute in Himachal Pradesh’s Bir village is one of the few wellness escapes in India that strictly caters to this aspect of well-being. A six-day meditation retreat designed by the world-renowned meditation master Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, it helps you explore the landscape of your experience with mindfulness and presence, while teaching how to use the body, sensory experiences, thoughts, emotions, and awareness to attain a state of complete meditation. Most of the retreat is held in silence at an eco-friendly campus, with an organic diet, an integrated yoga programme, and a complete disconnect from the outside world. Applications for its upcoming edition from October 7-12 are currently open.
Try It Here: Dharmalaya Institute, Bir, Himachal Pradesh.
Of the many extravagant spas in India, Kaya Kalp-The Royal Spa from the house of ITC Hotels enjoys a status of its own. And its signature Exotic Pomegranate Spa Journey is a winner. In a conscious effort to preserve the country’s heritage, it uses a recipe inspired by the Mughals. First up, a unique combination of pomegranate, which is a deep-cleansing antioxidant, lime, and organic brown sugar exfoliates your skin. Then, an invigorating massage with an effective blend of traditional oils works its magic to relax every muscle in the body. Lastly, a heavenly foot massage puts your body and mind to complete ease. Two hours go by, and you may not even realise. What you are sure to realise is the glow on your skin, the lightness in your head, and a refreshed spirit in your eyes.
Try It Here: Kaya Kalp – The Royal Spa at any of the flagship ITC Hotels.
Detox In Style
If your idea of a wellness vacation in India goes no further than a typical Ayurveda retreat, then you might be surprised to find several hidden gems in the country’s abundance of culture, traditions and heritage. Offering Ayurveda’s best-kept secrets in an exuberant Mughal-inspired setting against the ruggedness of the Aravallis, Amanbagh in Rajasthan’s Alwar is a resort that offers immersive wellness experiences for the discerning luxury traveller. Its personalised Detox & Cleansing programme has been designed to eliminate the toxins accumulated in your body as a result of stress, improper diet, and unavoidable environmental factors. By working on hidden health stressors, providing the antidotes, and improving the digestive, lymphatic, and elimination systems of the body, this wellness sojourn leaves you with an improved immunity, cellular regeneration and a reinvigorated sense of well-being.
Try It Here: Amanbagh, Alwar, Rajasthan.
Bask In The Goodness Of Sea
It’s no secret that the sea, with its mineral-rich saline water, has many healing powers. But several other components found in the sea are also being used for wellness treatments, nowadays. The comparatively new seashell massage is gaining quite a following lately, where instead of hot stones, smooth and striped clam shells are placed on the body. The carefully handpicked shells are only used for therapy after a sachet full of rich minerals, dried sea kelp, algae and sea water is inserted in each and then sealed to keep all the goodness intact. The chemical reaction between the ingredients naturally heats up the shells, helping soothe muscle pain without much pressure being applied to the body. Sometimes, coconut oil is poured over the seashells to add to the relaxation.
Try It Here: Sheraton Grand Pune Bund Garden Hotel, Pune.
Go On A Wellness Exile
It is the 21st century, and the path to spiritual enlightenment doesn’t necessarily involve living a hermit’s life in a cave. Plenty of retreats offer the choice of a ‘wellness holiday’, and most of these tend to the guests’ health individually. Combining the effectiveness of a natural environment and the sophistication that a world traveller seeks, venues like the Osho Meditation Resort in Pune provide wellness offerings galore. From weekly sessions to programmes that last months, daytime treatments to activities that run through the night, it caters to health and well-being in a unique way. This can be best experienced through one of its Living Retreat programmes, such as Creative Living, which lasts two months. Ideal for a beginner, the basics involve two hours of ‘doing nothing’ everyday, a range of innovative courses that combine therapies such as tantra, sufism and martial arts, while gradually progressing towards dynamic and kundalini forms of meditation.
Try It Here: Osha Meditation Resort, Pune, Maharashtra.
Learn An Ancient Martial Art
Kalaripayattu (pronounced kalaripayatt) is an ancient martial art form that originated in Kerala, sometime during the Sangam Period. Today, it’s popular as one of the oldest living forms of self-defense in the world. Whether in its traditional form in an old-school kalari or gymnasium, or in its modern day iteration as a dance or theatre performance, this unique discipline is witnessing a swift revival. Rigorous and strict in essence, it’s ideally learnt in four stages—meipayattu, kolthari, angathari and verum kar prayogam. Even today, in some parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, children are involved in a routine 6 am-practice from an early age. By virtue of its holistic nature, not only does Kalaripayattu bring stability to the mind and fitness to the body, it has proven to enhance one’s spiritual health too. To truly experience the martial art form, sign up for a rustic experience in its home state.
Try It Here: Carnoustie Resorts, Alappuzha, Kerala.
Indulge In A Hammam
A trip to Marrakech is no longer a requisite to partake in the rejuvenating offerings of a hammam. Now, many countries on the tourist map are adopting the age-old traditional Moroccan bath-house and offering their own interpretations. In India, hammams may still be few and far between, but the ones that are there come complete with a variety of luxurious treatments. Choose from refreshing body cleanses, Moroccan masks and relaxing steams, to body wraps, scrubs and massages with perfect stretching to free you from the stress of daily life. You may also enjoy a romantic wellness experience by opting for a private couple hammam session, where you and your beloved get to unwind together with this traditional treatment.
Try It Here: Royal Coffee Hammam Treatment at Six Senses Noida, Uttar Pradesh.