What do overworked and tired city-dwellers do to detox or rejuvenate? There is a list of things to try from yoga retreats to meditation and diet plans. How about forest bathing and Ayurveda? The Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a simple technique of walking among trees, and just breathing and taking in the forest. It has been practised in Japan since the 1980s and is known to lower blood pressure, reduce production of stress hormones, and boost the immune system. In other words, it is an ideal solution for the aching bones and brains of those keeping up with the demands of modern life. While you could recharge your batteries with a trip to the nearest hill station, we might have found a spot that provides all of these experiences and some more: Oberoi Group’s spa resort Sukhvilas in the foothills of the Himalayas In Punjab.
Surrounded by 8,000 acres of protected natural forests in the Siswan range, it's an ideal place to rejuvenate. I arrive at the resort on an early afternoon during the monsoon. A 40-minute drive out of the city of Chandigarh and I am in the midst of rain-washed fields which are particularly green during the season. It is surprising how calm it can be right outside one of the biggest cities in northern India. I am out of the car and ready to explore; it’s interesting what a green and quiet place can do to you, no matter how tired you are. Within moments of checking in, I am strolling around the gardens and grass-lined roads inside the property designed to let you take in all the elements.
The luxury tents and rooms are a combination of the traditional and the modern.Each comes with a personal butler and private courtyard view from the bathtub.The architecture is inspired by Rajput and Mughal palaces with carved furniture,thikri mirror work, and hand painted frescoes. I begin my retreat with a yoga session, followed by an Ayurvedic consultation and dinacharya or a daily cleansing routine for the five senses.
I must confess that the whole process can be quite intense if you haven’t experienced it before, especially the nasya, which involves putting drops of medicated oil in each nostril and inhaling it to clear your respiratory channel. Or the dhump-ana, which involves inhaling medication fumes through your nostrils. These are followed by a herb-infused oil massage, or the abhyanga.
You can also pick treatments such as aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, Chinese Meridian acupressure, a volcanic hot stone massage, or the Himalayan singing bowl.
The detox, rejuvenation, or weight loss programmes here are designed to be immersive. They are meant for people to detach themselves from modern ways of communication like mobiles, laptops, television, and all other gadgets, the resident physician tells me.
You also have the option of picking programmes that are a combination of various kinds of experiences depending on the objective of the stay: rejuvenation, digital detox, or mindfulness, a programme designed to help reconnect the mind and body using spa treatments and simple, mindful activities.
The mindful activity of my choice is block painting. I have to admit that even for a non-craftsy person like me, an afternoon spent in a quiet, comfortable room, soaking in the late afternoon sun, doing beginner-level block painting was quite comforting.Let’s just say, I didn’t miss my phone.
Let’s talk about the forest walking. I leave for the Acacia trail early the next morning accompanied by the in-house naturist, Jacob. It is a bit humid but the good thing about venturing into the forest at this time of the season is that it is lushand you can spot a lot of birds. We walk the trail quietly and slowly, punctuating the quiet every once in a while when Jacob spots a rare bird. I can tell my usually huddled-in-front-of-the-computer-screen body was thanking me.
The resort provides a blend of both Eastern and Western techniques for rejuvenation. I try the Alqvimia aromatherapy.Founded by a Spanish perfumer Idili Lizcano, Alqvimia is a maker of natural cosmetics, which are used for certain therapies at Sukhvilas. The interesting thing is that we don’t choose the oils for aromatherapy, the aroma oils are chosen using a polarity meter, which measures our yin and yang(negative and positive energies) for the day.The oils are prescribed accordingly.
The food is designed to fit into the programme you choose, and most ingredients are fresh from the farm. At the end of two days, a couple of massages, soaks in the tub, and many watermelon juices later, it is time to face the world again, just a lot fresher and re-energised.
(The writer was at Sukhvilas at the invitation of Oberoi Group)
(This story was originally published in the January 2019 issue of the magazine)