Pause and Reset in the Himalayas

Combining the philosophies of Ayurveda, Yoga, and Vedanta, the personalised programmes at Ananda In The Himalayas offer a holistic approach towards wellness.

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Hatha Yoga at the resort’s tranquil environs. Photo courtesy: Ananda in the Himalayas

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As the car climbs up the winding road from Rishikesh, the clouds descend low, obliterating the verdant mountain views. A set of imposing gates comes into focus, opening onto the palace estate of the former Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal set amidst the Himalayan foothills in Uttarakhand. More than 20 years ago, Ananda In The Himalayas opened on this sprawling 100-acre estate, surrounded by graceful Sal forests and overlooking the Ganga River valley. With 70 elegant rooms, five spacious suites, and three private villas (with attached pools), Ananda is a much-awarded luxury wellness retreat—and my home for the next five days.

 

Deep dive

Even before I arrive, I receive an extensive wellness questionnaire by email about my lifestyle, medical history, etc., as well as diet guidelines to be (ideally) followed for a week before arrival. Immediately after check-in, I meet an Ayurveda consultant who has worked out a therapy programme based on my responses to the questionnaire. I am informed about my dosha (Ayurveda-based assessment of my constitutional type), the areas that need attention, and the prescribed therapies and activities for my stay (the foundation programmes start from five nights going up to 21 nights for the comprehensive ones). 

 

Pause And Reset In The Himalayas

At Ananda in the Himalayas, guests receive customised Ayurvedic programmes. The palatial resort offers 70 elegant rooms, five spacious suites, and three private villas with attached pools. Photos courtesy: Ananda in the Himalayas

 

I also go for a physiotherapy consultation to assess my musculo-skeletal health, a process I find illuminating and helpful. Physiotherapy is one of the areas where Ananda has recently expanded its capacities and I am impressed with the state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic tools like posture analysis, joint alignment adjusting tools, and more, not to mention the knowledgeable doctors in attendance. While Ayurveda has always been a foundational pillar at Ananda, it is complemented by international therapies, the newly introduced Oriental therapies such as acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, etc., and energy work like reiki. Emotional healing is another recent focus area with techniques such as hypnosis, regression, and inner child healing used to heal stress and release emotional blockages.

 

A day at Ananda

My day begins with a warm wake-up herbal tea in my suite, a massive two-bay space with a well-appointed (if understated) bedroom, large living room, and two bathrooms, all overlooking tranquil garden views. Later, armed with my prescribed programme sheet, I jump headlong into the Ananda experience. Every day involves at least two visits to the 24,000-sq.ft. spa for a variety of treatments ranging from Abhyanga (traditional four-handed massage) and Choornaswedana (bundle massage with warmed herbal poultices) to Swedish and aromatherapy massages. My favourite is the signature Ananda Fusion treatment that combines ayurvedic and international massage techniques, using hot poultices with ginger, cardamom, and black pepper oil. Apart from the therapy rooms, the spa has a Finnish sauna with forest views, a Turkish steam bath, a chilled plunge pool, a gym, and more. 

Interspersed with the spa treatments is a host of activities that are optional for the guests, from morning mantra chanting and group hatha yoga to evening gym and meditation sessions. I am particularly keen to try meditation techniques since the practice has always eluded me. The many-pillared Hawa Mahal pavilion with its breezy setting amidst the trees is an instantly calming space, the silence broken only by the chirping of birds. Even that fades away as the instructor guides me through Chidakasha Dharana, an advanced meditation technique of inner visualisation. Another activity that I enjoy is the Vedanta talk conducted twice a day by a senior disciple of Swami Parthasarthy, an internationally acclaimed Vedanta exponent. I saunter into the first one out of curiosity and keep going back—it helps that they are less religious and more intellectual discussions, focussed on logic rather than the esoteric. 

 

Pause And Reset In The Himalayas

The resort is housed in the sprawling palace of the former maharaja of Tehri Garhwal. Photo courtesy: Ananda in the Himalayas

 

Food for thought

No wellness journey is complete without a focus on food, and Ananda’s spa cuisine provides just the right balance between health and taste through a mix of gourmet and dosha-specific fare. While all dishes are portion-controlled and calorie-counted, they are certainly not bland or boring. For instance, my pitta-centric breakfast options range from brown rice and multigrain porridge to poha with omega seeds. Lunch and dinner are three-course affairs that leave you sated but not stuffed. One of my favourite meals included Vietnamese rice rolls, a flavourful vegetable laksa, and sugar-free vegan lemon cheesecake—the last has prune compote in place of a biscuit base, which I thought was a clever touch. 

If you’re not on a wellness diet, the à la carte menu offers Indian and international fare as well as some Garhwali specialties. Surprisingly, the menu is not “pure veg”; there’s fish and chicken—even on the wellness menus where it is often served as a starter rather than a main course. Evidently, while Ayurveda tends towards plant-based cuisine, it does allow small quantities of meat depending on individual constitution. Most of the produce at Ananda is sourced from the region, either from organic greenhouses in Dehradun or from local farmers, while many herbs come from their own kitchen garden. 

 

Pause And Reset In The Himalayas

A cosy romantic dinner spot at the Viceregal Suite terrace. Photo courtesy: Ananda in the Himalayas

 

Beyond Ananda

Not all activities and experiences are confined to the resort premises. You can choose from a range of outdoor options such as trekking, nature walks, white water rafting, and safari drives in the Rajaji National Park. For the spiritually inclined, there’s a tour of the ancient temples and monasteries surrounding Rishikesh and the daily Ganga Aarti ceremony at Parmarth Niketan ashram on the riverbank.

After five blissful days of yoga, meditation, massages, and healthy food—all in clean, green environs—I feel relaxed and rejuvenated. On the day of my departure, I meet both the Ayurvedic and physio consultants for a debrief and they give me more lifestyle suggestions and exercises to continue with the benefits of the programme. What sets Ananda apart is that the consultants reconnect with guests three months later to gauge progress and course-correct, if necessary. As for me, the retreat serves as a much-needed pause and reset, guiding me along a sustainable path towards wellness. Now, if only I could transpose those Himalayan views to Mumbai.

 

Also Read | Deep Breathing: A Weekend Retreat at Tamil Nadu’s Isha Yoga Center

 

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Essentials

Ananda In The Himalayas is a 25 km/50-minute drive from Jolly Grant International Airport, Dehradun; doubles per night from Rs. 50,000 for a foundation programme, which includes consultations, wellness meals, one wellness therapy per person per day, and more (taxes extra).

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  • Prachi Joshi is a Mumbai-based travel and food writer who is obsessed with coffee and all things Italian. She tweets and instagrams as @delishdirection.

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