ISABELLA OLIVER spends two hours in the hands of Ayurvedic therapist Kathy Moores and discovers that some spa treatments are for life not just for Christmas
Today, I’m ordering my aloe vera juice and coconut oil to prepare my body for the onset of winter. The reason I have suddenly become a fan of these rather obscure delicacies is because yesterday I experienced
my first Ayurveda treatment and, you could say, it’s changed my life…
Unlike other massages which allow you to unwind and relax before you re-enter the real world, an Ayurveda treatment doesn’t finish the moment you leave your therapist – in fact it’s just the beginning as fans such a Madonna and Demi Moore know only too well.
As I walked into Chapel Spa, situated in the heart of the Regency town of Cheltenham in the UK, I was warmly welcomed by Ayurveda therapist Kathy Moores who immediately put me at ease as I filled in an extensive health questionnaire.
The setting of this 1816 Portland Chapel couldn’t have been more perfect for my two-hour Pure Nirvana session which involved a full body massage and forehead oil-flow treatment (known as Shirodhara).
To be honest I didn’t know what to expect from Ayurveda (which originates from the Sanskrit ayur for life and veda for knowledge) even though I have read, and even written, about this ancient Indian science which has existed for more than 5,000 years and aims to create harmony and balance within the body.
Prior to starting my treatment in the cosy, Moroccan-inspired room, Kathy already had an indication of my health from her questionnaire and as she gently started to massage the warm sesame oil into my skin she began her assessment.
The heat and aroma of the oil was the best tonic for anyone on a wet and windy October afternoon so I was already starting to relax. With a light pressure Kathy worked on my back, arms and legs and from the warmth radiating in my body she could feel that my dominant dosha was the warm Pitta (fire and water).
Apparently this means I am orderly, assertive, focused, competitive and entrepreneurial and someone who enjoys a challenge.
Yup, sounds like me but as the session progressed Kathy started to feel my Vatta (air and space) was rising. The characteristics of this include cold hands and feet (tick), irregular daily routine (tick) and variable appetite (tick).
The remaining dosha (which was my least dominant force) was Kapha (water and earth) which is deemed as relaxed, good long-term memory, self sufficient and slow to become angry.
As I lay back and prepared for the oil flow onto my forehead I started to think about my doshas and how, armed with this new knowledge, I could start to achieve a new balance in my life.
But then a stream of hot sesame oil started to seep from a small hole in a copper bowl placed on a stand above my head and all thoughts vanished for the next 20 minutes as the oil trickled into my hair line.
The rhythmic nature of the oil aims to re-awaken the third eye centre on the forehead which is responsible for intuition and activates spiritual awareness along with dissolving stress, relieving insomnia and heightening the senses.
Sadly, after 120 minutes of sheer bliss my treatment was up – but this was not the end of it as Kathy started to explain to me how I can prepare my Pitta/Vatta-dominant body for winter (which apparently it really won’t like as the forces of warmth and light within me will clash with the dark, cold season).
Instinctively I have never liked winter and have always been a summer person but to understand why is quite illuminating.
And as they say knowledge is power so Kathy printed out a diet sheet with warm, heavy and oily foods which should bring my body into balance with the world around me.
She also advised me to introduce a daily routine and have regular massages with warm (sesame) oil and think about starting yoga.
One day later, here I am refreshed, both mentally and physically, and waiting for my hearty vegetable broth to boil as I set about harmonising my body with nature and feeling like I have been armed with a knowledge for life.
If you would like to find out more about Ayurveda turn to our feature on
how to find a qualified therapist
SPA Travellers top tips
• Chapel Spa is located in the centre of town and there is ample parking adjacent to the building at North Place car park.
• The spa is like a tardis - don’t be deceived by the size of the reception when you walk into the day spa you are literally entering the grand old chapel with its abundance of space and light.
• Wear loose-fitting clothing and take a brush as you may want to leave the oils soaking into your skin and hair after an Ayurvedic massage. But showers are available.
• Chill out before leaving the spa and dine within the lounge area or in private booths upstairs on the gallery – an ideal place for a party with the girls.
• The day spa also features a hydrotherapy pool with candle-lit relaxation area, steam room, gym, yoga gallery, Arabian rasul and seven treatment rooms.
What is Ayurveda?