Our honest reviews on what to really expect from the buzziest wellness treatments around the world
Tried and tested
My stress manifests almost like a creature sitting on my shoulder with a vice-like grip on my neck. And the gentlest nudge (sleep deprivation, heady perfumes or my period) can tip it into a three-day migraine. Over the past seven years, prescription medicines have been the only relief. Herbal remedies, peppermint tea and aromatherapy didn’t help with what felt like a hatchet buried in my skull. Then I gave acupuncture a go. I wasn’t certain the pain from the needles would be manageable. It definitely helped to stay calm when the therapist inserted four into my brows and head, and one on each wrist and ankle (the pain management centres) to rebalance my energy flow and improve blood circulation. A few anxious seconds later, I couldn’t feel the needles anymore and quickly fell asleep. In the ensuing 30 minutes, I felt my shoulders drop and relax, and I had the most restful sleep later that night. While it’s recommended that you do multiple sessions for long-term results, I did end up going seven weeks without a migraine attack on this single session. Now that’s an achievement.
– MAMTA MODY
My frequent travels and a history of a slipped disc often leave me with a stiff back and frozen muscles. Sometimes, it’s so bad that I can barely move. Instead of just lying in pain, my doctor suggested cupping therapy. It involves inserting needles and placing bowl-shaped glass jars on the back to create suction and improve circulation. Even though the bruising is intense, I was instantly hooked. I noticed an immediate decrease in stiffness after a few hours. Now, I know all the post flight cupping spots to hit around New York, London and Toronto.
– MALINI BANERJI
I’ve always found it tough to concentrate in yoga class, but wandering through a meditation maze is supposed to be infinitely simpler. No wonder this calming wellness trend has been adopted by several educationa institutes and retreats. The single-track maze I tried was set up on a grassy meadow with 84 Shiva Lingams (to represent the infinite nature of Shiva). I walked barefoot, chanting Om every time I crossed a Lingam, and with each step, it got easier to focus on my breath, and calm my mind. By the end, I had taken in enough fresh oxygen to last me a year, and I instantly felt positive and calm.
– TRISHA CHAWLA
Everyone seems to have a healing crystal on their desk or around their neck. But adding a rose quartz to a Swedish body massage is perfect to invigorate the muscles and open up the heart chakra to invite more love. Initially, it felt like hot stone therapy with a heated egg-shaped rose quartz. But when the therapist placed the crystals on the soles of my feet and near my chest (that’s where the chakra is), I felt a strong, relaxing vibration through my body. My newly energised aura didn’t inspire any huge romantic gesture that week, but I did walk out willing to lug around a rose quartz in my bag.
– TRISHA CHAWLA
RAW FOOD DIET
For more than a year, I restricted my diet to only raw vegetables and juices to make my body alkaline. It wasn’t because I was under any pressure; I genuinely liked the taste of salads and sushi. Over the next few weeks on this new diet, I began to feel puffy. I thought my digestion had slowed down because I wasn’t chewing properly, but my skin was getting duller and changing texture too. Then I developed a scratchy cough that I couldn’t get rid of for the next six months. My Ayurvedic doctor advocated a diet of cooked food to fix these problems, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. It was only when my face broke out into a purple rash that I panicked and took her advice. I soon discovered that I was dealing with pesticide poisoning from all the juicing and salads. After medication and a detox diet consisting only of green moong khichdi and papaya (they are easy to digest), it finally faded away. But I still have to stick to a strict diet of cooked food, and I’m not even going back to orange juice.
– MALINI BANERJI
THE AYURVEDIC RETREAT
I have always been wary of soulful images from wellness retreats. The ladies are always slim, smiling beatifically, like they’ve never met a worry in their life. Reality is nothing like that, and I’ve never believed a week of yoga and meditation can turn a perpetual frown into a sunny smile—until I was first persuaded by a friend to visit ITC Grand Bharat for a wellness weekend. I went only because it wasn’t a wellness concentration camp. I don’t want to pay good money to check into a shack, sleep on the floor, and get beaten up by ‘therapists’. At this five-star resort, at least I’d get a luxurious room. And I got a lot more in the end. I would wake up at 6.30am, have a glass of lime water, go for my yoga session, and eat a breakfast of fruit, and dosa made out of local grains. During the day, I would get a massage—I went for the Deep Tissue—and after lunch, an hour of meditation. In the evenings, I went on nature walks, taking in the sound of the water bodies all across the retreat, the birds and just the silence. The yoga and a diet of vegetables and protein really made me feel light. I slept a lot, through the hour of meditation and through all the massages. By the time I was in the car on my way back home, my frown had actually vanished. Since then, I have visited it twice and I am almost addicted. Sometimes, I even have a drink or two—the way I see it, with my life, any benefit I get out of the retreat is good. It doesn’t have to be 100 per cent health; even 80 per cent will do for someone who otherwise lives such a harried, unhealthy life.
– KALYANI PRASHER
I got together with eight women on a full moon night out at a quiet spot in the woods, away from the noise of Berlin. First came the sage cleansing, followed by a grounding meditation led by our guide. There were crystals and dry flowers, and we all sipped tea as we sat around in the circle, sharing our stories and listening to the others. We wrote our intentions on a piece of paper with great fervour and read a few out to the group. Simply put, it was uninterrupted female bonding to celebrate and nurture each other. I walked away feeling inspired, strangely liberated and more connected to mama earth.
– JIA SINGH
CHI NEI TSANG MASSAGE
As much as I love a massage, I was apprehensive about this traditional Taoist practice that’s known to be pretty painful. Practiced in north Thailand, the treatment concentrates on the abdomen to harmonise the energies of our organs and uncover repressed emotions that could be the root cause of diseases like insomnia and infertility. My session started with meditation, and then the therapist proceeded with an oil massage, pressing various trigger points (I was glad I hadn’t eaten anything before). While most of the session was comfortable, I was screaming for a few minutes when she hit a tender spot. It finally ended with a counselling session to help me work through the emotions that the process had unearthed. Safe to say, I’m making this a yearly emotional detox.
– JIA SINGH
If you are someone who religiously makes time to meditate (or at least tries to), then crystal meditation will help you get closer to your personal goal and release pent-up energy. I tried it during a group session led by a spiritual healer, who started by assessing each person’s auras and then placing crystals on my body to match each of my seven chakras. I got two more on my sacral and solar plexus chakras, because she felt there were energy blockages. We started the guided meditation with the intent to let go of everything that was holding us back, allowing the healing energies to enter our bodies. Within the first five minutes of the hour-long session, I had drifted off to another dimension, where my mind was asleep, but my higher consciousness was awake. I couldn’t hear the healer’s voice, but I could feel the vibrations. Before I knew it, she was coaxing us back into the present moment. I definitely felt lighter and at peace after the session. My mind and its inane chatter were quieter than usual. However, I soon realised I would need to include this practice into my daily routine to prolong that sense of calm.
– SHWETA GANDHI
GUA SHA FACIAL MASSAGE
Scraping my face with a smooth, flat jade stone isn’t my idea of selfcare. But this ancient Chinese healing technique is known to improve microcirculation by 400 per cent, while boosting collagen and even reducing pigmentation—kind of like a superhero anti-ageing cream. It took a few attempts, lots of video tutorials, and a very ugly bruise on my cheek before I got the movements and pressure right. If you have the patience, you’ll soon learn that a weekly Gua Sha facial massage will deflate the puffiest eyes and decongest the toughest sinuses.
– MAMTA MODY
Photographs: Juan Pablo Espinosa