Fancy jetting off to the Himalayas?

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Booking a trip to the Himalayas isn’t exactly a decision to be taken lightly. Whether you’re attempting to climb Everest or find yourself through Ayurveda, this special part of the world speaks to those in need of a spiritual awakening.

Situated in the Himalayan foothills in Northern India, located on a 100 acre Maharaja’s Palace Estate, lies Ananda. One of the world’s leading Ayurvedic retreats with transformational programmes designed to rebalance body and mind.

We caught up with Ananda’s head chef, Sandeep Biswas and head of Yoga, Sandeep Agarwalla, to give us an insight into Ananda’s philosophy and packages on offer…

Ananda Himalayas
Photo: Ananda Himalayas

What is the Ayurvedic Tridosha Theory?

Our bodies are made of the five elements – air, water, ether, fire and air. The tridosha theory – pitta, vata and kapha – says that these five elements are present in our body and excess of any causes an imbalance resulting in disease.

Pitta is made of fire and water- referring to the bile, vata is made of air and water and kapha is made of earth and water. These doshas are present in all humans and one dosha dominates while the other one or both are dormant and do not have much effect.

Through food, these doshas can be balanced and thus create a healthy body, mind and spirit that is free of disease.

What are the characteristics of Vata? 

People with vata dosha have a light frame and extreme agility. This dosha is cold, light, irregular, dry and always changing. Excessive stress leads to vata imbalance, whereas a balanced vata is energetic, creative and flexible.

As vata dosha is made of air and ether, they are recommended sweet, heavy and warm foods. They should avoid sour, pungent and astringent tastes. Three teaspoons of ghee, coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil is beneficial for vata. Heavy and sweet foods are better than dry fruits. All kinds of cooked foods are beneficial and they should avoid raw.

Vata are usually energetic. More often than not, vata types are involved in high intensity activities such as running, cycling or triathlons. Vata people love extreme sports and are good athletes. Movements that require focus, increase core heat, challenge balance and are multi-functional make best use of vata’s energy. The plank hold is a classic example of an exercise perfect for the vata type.

Yoga poses that are particularly beneficial for vata are asanas that stimulate energy flow while taking a load off the lower back, floor poses and spinal flexion, such as Urdhva Danurasana (floor bow pose), Bhujangasana (cobra pose) and Urdhva Mukha Savasana (upward facing dog pose).

In yoga the practices of Shatkarmas i.e the six detoxification techniques of Neti (Nasal Cleaning with luke warm salt water), Kunjal (Drinking and vomiting salt water), Laghoo Shankprakchalan (Intestine cleansing), Kapal Bhati (Bellows Breath), Tratak (concentration on the candle flame) are very helpful in harmonizing the imbalances of all three doshas.

The Hatha Yoga system believes in the purification of the three humours, after which, the harmonisation of the physical and the mental energies can happen. Along with the Shatkarmas practices, the practices of Asanas, Pranayamas (Breathing Techniques) and meditation practices are very helpful in managing the imbalances of the body and the mind. A healthy lifestyle plays a major role along with the above practices of Yoga.

Ananda Himalayas
Photo: Ananda Himalayas

What are the characteristics of Pitta? 

People with pitta dosha are usually of medium size and weight. They have excellent digestion and sometimes, this may lead to over-eating. They have a powerful intellect and a strong ability to concentrate. They should not skip meals as this leads to hyper acidity. They should favor more of sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. Cooling foods like cucumber, melon and sweet fruits are better for them.

Pitta types like a sport that requires a certain skill level and allows them to achieve and compete. However, swimming and walking is a an ideal form of exercise for them. Forward bends and twists in particular are beneficial for Pitta as they are cooling and have a refreshing and rejuvenating effect on the blood and lymphatic system, thus allowing for optimal oxygen-blood exchange that is perfect for releasing built-up heat and tension from the midsection, while also fueling the mind.

What are the characteristics of Kapha? 

People with kapha dosha are well built with an excellent stamina. This dosha is cold, heavy and dense. Their metabolism is slow and fasting a day in a week is recommended to give the digestive system a rest.

For kaphas, lots of green vegetables along with beans and legumes are recommended, while the consumption of refined salt and sugar should be avoided. Kaphas should also avoid excessive intake of carbohydrates like rice, wheat or potatoes.

Most important for the kapha dosha is to get moving, no matter what the activity. Try High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), cardiovascular training, fast-paced resistance training with more repetitions and any sport that gets the blood pumping and induces sweat.

Poses that are particularly beneficial for Kapha are standing postures and those that stimulate the adrenal system; in particular, asanas such as Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose) or Ustrasana (Camel Pose). Kapalabhati Pranayama, the skull shining breath, or the Kundalini Breath Of Fire are also beneficial for stimulating blood circulation and the respiratory system.

Ananda Himalayas
Photo: Ananda Himalayas

Can you explain more about the role of chakras in Ayurveda?

Chakra cleansing is related to Yoga and not Ayurveda. And the only way to cleanse the chakras is by the Shatkriyas or Shatkarmas.

In Yoga the practices of Shatkarmas i.e the six detoxification techniques of Neti (Nasal Cleaning with luke warm salt water), Kunjal (Drinking and vomiting salt water), Laghoo Shankprakchalan (Intestine cleansing), Kapal Bhati (Bellows Breath), Tratak (concentration on the candle flame) are very helpful in harmonising the imbalances of Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

The Hatha Yoga system believes in the purification of the three humors and then the harmonisation of the physical and the mental energies can happen. Along with the Shatkarmas practices the practices of Asanas, Pranayamas (Breathing Techniques) and meditation practices are very helpful in managing the imbalances of the body and the mind.

According to the Yoga philosophy the journey is from Tamas to Sattwa i.e from a conditioned state of mind to a higher state of consciousness. A healthy lifestyle plays a major role along with the above practices of Yoga.

How do crystals help with blockages?

Himalayan Crystals cleansed at the source of the Ganges, bring their healing powers to balance the chakras and cleanse the being of negative thoughts and energy. Crystals can increase vibrations to assist in the release of blockages.

You can feel your senses come alive when the crystal energy washes over your chakras, filling your whole being with renewed vibrancy and energy, stimulating your mind, yet relaxing your body.

Ananda Himalayas
Photo: Ananda Himalayas

What are the benefits of Reiki Healing?

Since its origins in Japan, Reiki has been adapted across various cultural traditions. It uses a technique commonly called palm healing or hands-on-healing. Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring “universal energy” through the palms of the practitioner, which they believe encourages healing.

Reiki is a gentle hands-on healing technique that promotes a deep level of relaxation and healing on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. Reiki uses the universal life force energy to break up energy blockages within the body, allowing healing energy to flow again freely and stimulating the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

It reduces stress and anxiety and brings the body, mind, emotions and spirit into balance. For many, Reiki opens the door to positive change and can offer support for many types of illnesses.

Describe the Reiki Healing with Crystals treatment…

This is a  powerful and cleansing experience. Crystals help to awaken the mind, body and spirit. It is a wonderful experience where two great energies work in harmony together.

As your reflex points relax to the external stimulation of pressure point work, allow the pure energy of the crystals to float into your chakras, releasing negative energy thus allowing your being to begin the healing process. Embrace yellow Citrine to bring enlightenment, or take into your being the pink energy of loving Rose quartz to bring about total equilibrium.

What is Chakradhara?

This balancing and calming experience uses the flow of lukewarm herbal oils over the chakras whilst incorporating a specific Marma point massage to restore vital energy flow and balance the fluctuation of each chakra.

Ananda Himalayas
Photo: Ananda Himalayas

Do you offer any fitness programmes beyond yoga?

The Ananda Active program is designed to combine personal fitness, guided outdoor treks, yoga, aqua fitness and therapeutic spa experiences to create a complete rejuvenating and strengthening experience.

With Ananda’s partnership with Sumaya, a leading fitness and wellness professional in India and pioneer in the fitness industry, the fitness experiences within the Active Program are now individualised, consultative and follow a goal orientated fitness approach.

Increase your cardiovascular and muscular endurance with this program where fitness and fun come together. Getting out and getting some fresh air is essential to a progressive workout. The Ananda Active program evaluates your current fitness level and identifies treks best suited to both your physical condition and the type of landscape and experience you seek.

Outdoor fitness activities also help you understand how your body responds to outdoor terrain and uncontrolled exercise environments. This makes it easier for you to identify your problem areas and weaknesses so that you can begin strengthening them all once you are back in the gym.

London based personal trainer Matt Roberts has recently launched a fitness retreat taking place 31 October – 7 November 2017.

Ananda Himalayas
Photo: Ananda Himalayas

Why should more people practice meditation?

This era of materialism and unnatural obsession with assets creates a lot of imbalance in the body, mind and energies. This leads to lot of mental anxiety, depression, insecurities, mental and physical problems. To overcome these problems we need a system which can help us to relax and understand the nature of the mind.

Unless and until we try to understand the complex nature of the mind, we cannot solve our daily worries and anxieties. Meditation is a tool to relax the disturbed nature of the mind, to develop awareness and to become an observer to the events that are creating disturbances. Through the tools of Meditation we can transform the dissipated mental energies and be more positive and calm.

For those feeling overworked and burnt out, what programme would you advise?

All of Ananda’s programs should leave guests feeling refreshed and revived, but for the truly burnt out, we would recommend either the Stress Management or the Ayurvedic Rejuvenation package.

It is recommended that in spite of our stressful daily lives, we should take a little time for ourselves. Meals should be had at stipulated (and at the same time) everyday so that the body’s metabolic clock is maintained. Mindful and satisfactory eating habits are essential.

No distractions should be present while eating. Chewing the food 20-30 times is essential to breakdown the food well before swallowing. Eating local and according to the seasons is very also essential.

Ananda Himalayas
Photo: Ananda Himalayas

For those contemplating a major life change, in need of some soul searching, what programme would you advise?

The Dhyana Self Realisation program offers a deeper experience of body, mind and spirit. The three are all interconnected and any imbalance leads to an imbalance in the other dimensions. Yoga helps in the harmonisation in all three areas of our personality.

Ananda’s Dhyana program is a process of self realisation aimed to allow guests to gain more control over their physical and mental faculties, balancing them emotionally as well as spiritually. With this new program, guests are guided through daily meditation sessions including Yoga Nidra (sleep), Ajapa Japa (spontaneous mantra chanting), Antar Mouna (inner silence) and Trataka (gazing on a candle flame).

One-on-one hatha yoga sessions are personalised for each guest to help release physical stiffness and tensions and attain stillness, while Pranayama breathing techniques balances the energy and internalises the mind to assist meditative practices.

Topics related to Yogic philosophy and its incorporation into daily practices are discussed with the Yoga Guru. The Dhyana program also includes Swadhaya or self-study which is a deeper reflection on each day’s experiences.

Book a transformational retreat at Ananda Himalayas

A destination for healthy hedonists that fuses the worlds of fitness, healthy food and drink.