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Indigenous Healing From the Himalayas

By: Carina Chatlani
Posted: January 28, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
shirodhara at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai

Spa therapies such as ayurveda and shirodhara, performed here at the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, have their origins rooted in the mountainous Himalayan region.

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The Indian Himalayan region alone supports approximately 18,440 species of plants, many of which are associated with medicinal properties. Known as “high mountain medicine,” these healing plants offer a duality of abundance and diversity, and many of the herbs and shrubs of the forests are much-pursued for their medicinal properties.

Delicate balance

A long-held tradition in the Himalayas, the ancient Indian therapy of ayurveda is demonstrating an increasing demand for a comeback in the 21st century. Using the local flora and fauna for its restorative properties, Indians have long understood the bounty of nature, and the enchanting, time-honored Vedic practice known as ayurveda, a well-documented medical science from the area. Symbolizing the “knowledge of longevity,” it addresses each person’s unique health and beauty needs in a meaningful and effective approach to modern living.

Ayurveda considers the body to be composed of the same elements as the universe. These five elements are embedded into three biological forces that govern all life processes. According to ayurveda, the three doshas, or body types—vata, pitta and kapha—are present within every cell and atom of the body and correspond to different characteristics, organs and metabolic types.

Old world charm

At just above 8,250 feet in the Western Himalayas in India, Wildflower Hall, Shimla in the Himalayas, an Oberoi Resort, floats among a blanket of alpines, maples, wild flowers and Himalayan flora. Just a short, 45-minute drive north of Shimla, the Oberoi Spa at Wildflower Hall is laid with Burmese teak paneling, fireplaces, artwork and polished parquet floors, offering an aura of old world charm. Private spa pavilions and spa suites offer panoramic views of the imposing surrounding mountains.

Christine Hays, director of spa operations at The Oberoi Group, is currently working on opening two spas in Mumbai, and she emphasized the traditional significance of the popular Tibetan singing bowl massage offered at Oberoi Spa. “I was inspired to incorporate this treatment in our spa after I had taken a trip to Lhasa and experienced a Tibetan placing a singing bowl on my solar plexus and playing the bowl while chanting ‘om mane padme hum’.” The chant is one of the most widely used Tibetan Buddhist prayers or mantras, and it is used to invoke the attention and blessings of the Buddha Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.