What price would you put on bettering your general wellbeing? If you can stretch it to £500, and don’t grimace at the idea of yoga and meditation in India (it’s not just for hippies, honest), then get thee to Goa.
Worn out from London life – too much eating and boozing, too little exercise and relaxation – I headed for the Sanda Wellness detox retreat in western India with open arms. Rather than being just a weight-loss boot camp before returning to the post-work pints and stodge, the programme, based on the ancient Indian holistic science of Ayurveda, made inroads into my psyche as well as my gut with its emphasis on holistic diet, self-awareness and knowledge via “the three chakras” (energies).
I flew to Goa via Mumbai from London Heathrow, and over 4,700 miles and 20 hours after setting off, reached the Dudhsagar Resort, where Sanda Wellness has stationed its new detox programme. Located on the edge of the jungle, close to Mollem-Goa, the expansive 42-room complex is secluded and tranquil.
Immediately I was ushered to the wooded spa area where masseur Sajith performed a jet-lag massage which ensured I slept soundly. Early the following morning I met with Arjita Kumari, the urbane doctor who devised the programme, and after a “360 degree screening” she informed me that my body age was a depressing 39 – a decade more than my actual years, due to my “loose fat”.
By simply touching my wrist, she revealed that my body constitution is “Kapha” (as opposed to Vata and Pitta), according to Ayurveda, meaning that I have a propensity to be sluggish, selfish and sensitive, should there be an imbalance.
Suitably shocked, I was then thrust in to my first yoga session with inspirational instructor Vinay Sharma and made to feel useless thanks to my tight hamstrings. However, over the course of the week – and two sessions of yoga and (pranayama) breathing exercises a day – Vinay worked wonders. I was touching my toes by day three and before leaving I managed some extreme postures.
The yoga, combined with the diet – a series of supplements, smoothies, superfood shots and delicious but modest-sized vegetarian dishes proferred at set times – and endless spa treatments, made the full-on programme toiling and spoiling in equal measure. My favourite treatments were Udwarthanam, where a herbal, milky paste is spread over you and scrubbed off by two people, and Marma, in which the masseur uses his feet.
In only a week I took off four “body years” and the wisdom of the ancient Indian science helped me return to London feeling more balanced and self-confident, armed with physical and mental tools which are already improving my experience and appreciation of life.
Were there any downsides? A couple. Rooms are fairly basic, and the poor English of the massage therapists was problematic when it came to directing them away from sensitive areas. The food was at times a little drab. Malaria tablets (a six-week course) are recommended, which is a faff. And once I had to shoo a large toad from the bathroom.
All in all, a small price to pay for a new sense of wellbeing.
£470 for eight days, excluding flights. www.sandawellness.com/ Kingfisher flies to Goa via Mumbai from £550.