The other day, I came across a quote that reminded me of something. We spend so much time, so much money, so much focus, on improving our health. Yet why do most of us tend to apply this predominately on our physical health, and tend to neglect our mental health? Both are equally as important – what’s the point in having one without another?
Introducing Ayurveda Pura Health Spa & Beauty Centre, London’s leading luxury spa situated in Greenwich. Comprising of four treatment rooms, two shower rooms, a yoga studio and a health café, the purpose built spa offers a range of beauty and holistic treatments. Secialising in Ayurveda – ‘the science of life’ – I was delighted to go down last weekend to try their signature Abhyanda full body massage.
As I walked into the tranquil spa, the friendly receptionist greeted me with a smile, a glass of cold water and a clip board of forms to fill out. “These are so Dr Apte can assess the correct treatment for you”. Going through the form, having to select what options were ‘most like me’, it felt a bit like a quiz from Mizz magazine (anyone remember that?!), but was an interesting insight into my own tendencies and thought patterns. I was later to find out that, in Ayurveda, this is referred to as my ‘dosha’ – the unique blend of physical, emotional and mental characteristics that make me who I am.
After completing the forms, I was taken to my treatment room where I met Dr Apte. A fully qualified Indian medical doctor, an experienced yoga instructor and certified Ayurvedic practitioner, lecturer and writer, if there one person who’s qualified in the world of zen, it’s Dr Apte. Going through the questionnaire I had just filled out, Dr Apte explained the science behind the Doshas and how, when these are out of balance, the natural capability of the body to heal itself often gets blocked. To resolve this, Ayurveda offers the art of Panchakarma – basically, detoxification and rejuvenation.
“We all have two types of Doshas,” Dr Apte explained. There’s the surface type, the type we inherit as we grow up as a result of our surroundings and experiences, and there’s the true type – the type we were born with, the type that represents our most balanced self.
Now, I’ve got to admit, when it comes this kind of thing I can be sceptical, and even with all of Dr Apte’s qualifications, when she announced she was going to feel my pulse, temperature and assess my tongue to determine my ‘true’ type – I basically wrote it off in my mind. Sorry, but you can tell my pulse from my Polar watch, that has nothing to do with my ‘deeper personality’ right?! Nonetheless, what Dr Apte came back with could not of been more spot on.
According to her assessment, my ‘true’ type is a blend between Kapha (chilled, relaxed, goes with the flow) and Vita (focused, goal orientated, ambitious). Very much me as a child. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve developed a Pitta surface – fiery, energetic, always on the go, can be stubborn. Very much me now!
“What we need to do is return you to a state of internal equilibrium, by cleaning the Pitta surface and restoring the blend of Kapha/Vata that is your true self,” she explained.
Now, at this, I’ve got to admit, I felt a little worried! Yes, I have definitely become more active, more energetic, more fiery as I have got older, but these are qualities that have emerged for a reason, as a form of protection….
“But…. what if I don’t want my Pitta to be cleansed?” I asked her a tad nervously.
“Don’t worry,” she laughed. “The thing about Ayurveda is that it’s holistic – it gives the body control to heal itself in its own intuitive way. Cleansing Pitta won’t suddenly make you sluggish and slow, it will just clear away the somewhat chaotic-ness of your daily life. We need to bring you more to your Vita characteristics, meaning you’ll be going about your day with more focus, more of a purpose”.
As Dr Apte left the room, the massage therapist came in to introduce herself and provide me with my paper underwear to change into for the treatment. “You don’t have to wear them,” she explained, “but there’s a lot of oil involved. Much more so than any other massages you may have had.”
Fine by me!
After assessing my energy and body type, alongside checking of any particular areas of pain or allergies, my therapist put together a unique blend of organic oils selected especially for my needs. Because, as she explained, Ayurveda treats the individual, and we are all unique. From the moment the oils were poured onto my back, I instantly felt a sense of warmth and security, and I was gone….
So, how was it? Being truthful, I’m not really the massage type. Sport massage – yes – as firm as possible, as much gritting my teeth as possible, as much ‘really getting into the muscle’ as they can possibly do. But a relaxing massage…. I’m much more likely to go for a pedicure, a manicure, a wax – something that actually has a purpose, an outcome, right?!
Which is exactly why the Ayurveda full body massage was EXACTLY what I needed, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. Assessing the whole body – back, arms, hands, neck, head, legs, hips and even feet, rather than easing out tension by pressing deep into the muscles, it eased out the tension by relaxing me from the head down. Warm oils melting into my skin, gentle strokes across my entire body, you could literally feel it nourish not only your cells and tissues, but also your mind.
Finishing the treatment by stepping into the shower and washing away the residue oils, I was given a glass of cold water and asked how I felt. Balanced. Tranquil. Nourished. Strong. Refreshed. Detoxified. My skin was soft, my mind was at peace, my whole body felt in harmony.
And that, I was told, is the purpose of Ayurveda.
Price: The Abhyanga full body massage (1 hour long) costs £67
Location: Greenwich, London
More info and booking: www.ayurvedapura.com
Would I go back: Most definitely. With a whole host of Ayurveda treatments on offer – everything from Vishesh (deep tissue) to Hridaya Basti (focusing on the heart), there’s something for any need. They also offer a four hand massage, which I experienced for the first time a coupe of years ago whilst in Bali (here), and it was honestly one of the most incredible treatments I ever had. So go, book in, now! (Sorry, my Pitta coming back out!)