Sincere Wellness: Why Vana is the Best Wellness Retreat in India
At Ampersand we believe that if you are true to yourself, you will excel. This is very much proven by Vana, which was set up by Veer Singh, who is as sincere as they come. Veer is a 36-year old physicist who comes from one of the most successful business families in India. In person, he exudes a quiet dignity and an academic, science-based fascination with wellbeing. Vana is not just a labour of love, but an endeavour in truth and authenticity.
Ampersand has sent many clients to Vana since its low-key launch in 2014 and, remarkably, we have had a 100% repeat booking for every one of them. In all our time working in this industry and dealing with many exceptional properties, we have not experienced anything like this before. The feedback from guests has been enormously positive and quite touching (see some of the feedback below). Vana is a rare gem and it is a retreat we recommend wholeheartedly for clients who are looking for a meaningful wellness experience. The food is outstanding and the design is stylish and minimalist, but more importantly it has the best wellness facilities we’ve come across with an extensive menu of holistic treatments, highly qualified specialists and caring staff.
James Jayasundera recently returned from 10 whole days at Vana – which is a rather extraordinary event! James has been on the move for over 20 years and rarely spends more than one night in a property on his research trips. However, he decided that Vana was worthy of a longer stint to fully experience what it has to offer and to gain from it personally, not just professionally. This is what he made of his Vana experience:
"In all my travels, I haven't found anywhere else where the staff so truly believe in what they are doing. There is a palpable sense of excitement about what they do and a sincere dedication to their work, which was very touching. I think this is due to the fact that they clearly practice what they preach – for example, they eat the organic food and they have their own staff gym and meditation room; the end result is that they give off a very comforting sense of calm wellbeing. As an adult, it is very rare that you feel really safe and protected in this world. I can only compare how I felt at Vana to a feeling that I used to have as a child when I was hugged by my parents. As a result, it makes you relax intensely and hence I slept more solidly than I have in an awfully long time!”
But don't just take James' word for it. Here is some more glowing feedback we have received from clients who have stayed at Vana:
“Firstly, I must tell you how wonderful it is here… there seems to be nothing that has not been thought of. The architecture and interior decoration is perfect, harmonious with the surroundings and at the same time totally contemporary and up to the moment in technology. The people working here could not be more delightful, helpful and 101% attentive to your needs! They think about everything, even before you have. I can tell you first-hand how helpful, kind attentive and caring EVERYBODY has been. The quality of care, and treatments are first class by any standards. Today is sunny, the air is clear and the mountains from my balcony are shimmering with light on the snow. Perfection.”
“We have had the most amazing time, Vana is just the most wonderful place, the staff, the ambience and decor, the food (we both lost 3 kilos), the treatments were just pure bliss and I'm glad to say that a niggling injury I've had for months has improved so much from all the massaging and heat treatments I received. We loved the yoga and learnt so much about breathing and correct postures, so much so we got up early every morning to practise. We also went out on two trips, one on a mountain trek and the other to a town on the Ganges for a religious festival. We both feel it's been a life changing experience and would like go back next year.”
“Vana is an inspiration and everything I hoped it would be. The treatments, the staff, the attention to detail and the genuine care of me – including amazing food and nutritional support – was the best I have found to date. Vana is also aesthetically pleasing – environmentally gentle and intelligent, and the facilities are both practical and beautiful. As someone said who was staying there, “it is the future”. Most of all the people at Vana are genuinely concerned with your health and care, and this gives opportunities for significant change. So thank you again – I will be recommending to others... both Vana and Ampersand Travel.”
QUICK Q&A ABOUT VANA
What is Vana?
Opened in January 2014, Vana is an innovative wellness retreat combining international wellness standards, personalised treatments and Indian warmth and service. It has 82 guest rooms and suites, 55 treatment and consultation rooms, an Ayurveda centre, a Tibetan healing centre, private and group yoga studios, a temperature-controlled indoor and outdoor pool, a private Watsu pool, an extensive gym, 2 tennis courts and paths for walking within the Retreat. Each of these spaces reflects Vana’s unique design philosophy and holistic wellness approach. Vana’s team comprises a diverse range of specialists who deliver consultations and treatments, which provide tangible and measurable results. These include senior therapists and practitioners, Ayurvedic doctors, a Tibetan healing doctor, fitness expert and a nutrition consultant.
What is Vana’s wellness philosophy?
Exploring physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, Vana’s approach to wellness encompasses cuisine, relaxation, music, art, outdoor activities, discourses and discussion. Vana understands that there are many different paths leading towards greater wellbeing and they work closely with each guest to restore balance, using what works best for them. Treatments range from Ayurveda, Sowa Rigpa (Tibetan Healing), Yoga, Natural Therapies, Spa, Fitness and Aqua. For its Sowa Rigpa offering, Vana is the only place in the world to have an official tie-up with the Men-Tsee-Khang institute of medicine and astrology set up by His Holiness The Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. Its head of Sowa Rigpa, therapists, and treatments are from the Men-Tsee-Khang.
How are the retreats arranged at Vana?
After booking and before arriving, guests are requested to fill out a wellness questionnaire. This is sent to the wellness team, who sketch out a tentative itinerary. However, the guest’s final retreat is crafted on arrival and is always open to change. Guests may choose from a variety of retreat objectives including Panchakarma, beauty, de-stress, detox, fitness, natural healing, relaxation, weight management and yoga – or they may choose ‘don’t know yet’, if unsure of their retreat objective prior to arrival. The arrival consultant then delves deeper into guest needs, preferences, body-type and previous wellness experiences and an individual wellness itinerary is crafted. A consultation on departure assesses whether retreat objectives were met. Guests are also given advice to take back home and goals to achieve.
Where is Vana?
Vana is located in the Uttarakhand Province in northern India, one of the most spiritually rich regions in the world. The 21 acre estate is set amidst fruit orchards and perched on a small plateau with sal forest to the west, the hills of Mussoorie to the north and the bustling small town of Dehradun a short drive to the east. Dehradun is 150 miles north of Delhi; the flight from Delhi to Dehradun takes 50 minutes and the drive from the airport to Vana takes 1 hour 15 minutes.
What sort of food is served at Vana?
Despite serving health conscious cuisine, flavour is not sacrificed at Vana and their produce is all fresh, local, seasonal and organic. Dishes can range from cumin-encrusted sole and teriyaki chicken to pumpkin tart, and everything is beautifully presented. Cuisine is a definite highlight of the retreat – the head chef trained with Michelin starred chef in the UK and his food delights, heals and nourishes. There are two restaurants: Salana, which offers a variety of cuisines based on wellness principles, and Anayu, serving Indian cuisine based on Ayurvedic principles overlayed with western gastronomic techniques. Vana also has specialist nutritionists offering consultations, dietary advice and a tailored menu to ensure that every guest’s cuisine reflects their retreat objective. Wine and champagne are available in Salana in the evenings only on a chargeable basis.
What is included in a stay at Vana?
A stay at Vana includes an arrival and departure wellness consultation, two private wellness sessions per night based on a guest’s retreat type, non-alcoholic drinks and all meals including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also included are use of all heat and wet areas (steam, sauna, indoor and outdoor pool) and all group wellness and retreat activities, such as guided meditation, which are open to all guests. Airport transfers, taxes and retreat attire are included.
When is the best time of year to visit Vana?
Located in a temperate region at foothills of the Himalayas, Vana can be visited year-round. It has a continental climate and is known for its four distinct seasons. The warm summer climate (March to June) can reach a high of 37°C and a low of 17°C, followed by a beautiful monsoon season (mid-July to late-September). The mélange of rain, sunshine and warm temperatures during Dehradun’s monsoon are perfect for Ayurveda therapies, which work best under these climate conditions. Winter weather (December to February) is stable and pleasant, reaching a high of 22°C and a low of 3°C with brilliant blue skies and distant snow-capped mountain views. Indoor and outdoor pools are temperature controlled and there are options for both indoor and outdoor yoga year-round.
Do guests need to prepare for a retreat at Vana?
In order to make your experience as fruitful as possible, Vana recommends following these guidelines at least two weeks prior to arrival:
• Eat moderately portioned meals at regular timings.
• Increase fruits and vegetables in your diet, as well as the intake of legumes, whole grains and nuts.
• Reduce sweet or spicy food, caffeine, alcohol and smoking.
• Substitute processed, pre-packaged, frozen and canned products with fresh ones.
• Drink a minimum of 4-5 glasses of warm water a day.
• Spend 5-10 minutes daily in a peaceful and quiet environment.
• Maintain regular physical activity, as per your preference and ability.
• Get adequate rest and sleep.
How environmentally friendly is Vana?
Vana takes its environment very seriously; all bed and bath linen is organic, the Estate’s bottling plant saves over 100,000 plastic bottles a year, food served is local, seasonal and organic whenever possible. The Estate is aiming to achieve the ambitious LEED rating in the near future. The Estate uses 100% post consumer recycled waste paper for all its stationary and biodegradable material wherever possible. It harvests rainwater, grows organic herbs and salads that are seasonal and sources locally.
Are there any restrictions when staying at Vana?
There is a minimum 5-night stay (some objectives have a longer minimum stay requirement) and guests must be at least 16 years of age. To safeguard the privacy of its guests, Vana prohibits photography. Alcohol is limited to wine and champagne and served only in the evenings at Salana. Smoking is restricted to a designated outdoor area. Mobile phones, iPads, PDAs and personal computers may be used in guest rooms but not in shared spaces.
Vana’s Wellness Glossary (click here to download):
* Abhyanga: A traditional Ayurvedic massage with oils potentiated with herbs
* Acupuncture: A traditional Chinese/Tibetan healing practice of applying fine filiform needles at specific points on the body to balance energy flow
* Amla drava swedana: A stream of warm herbal decoction poured over the body to induce mild sweating
* Anuvasana vasti: Enema of medicated oil/ghee to reduce the effects of vata imbalance
* Aroma massage: A therapeutic massage using a chosen blend of essential oils
* Avagaha swedana: An Ayurveda therapy of soaking in a bath of warm herbal decoction
* Ayurveda consultation: A one on one interaction with an Ayurveda specialist to understand one’s unique constitution according to Ayurvedic principles
* Body brushing: Brushing the body with dry natural bristle brush to stimulate lymphatic drainage
* Choorna swedana: An Ayurveda fomentation therapy with herbal powder tied up in bundles
* Chu lum: A Tibetan medicinal bath of warm herbal decoction
* Classical swedish massage: A classic form of massage using five distinct types of strokes
* Cupping: A traditional Tibetan/Chinese healing practice of applying suction to the skin using copper or glass cups to mobilise blood flow
* Deep tissue massage: Slow and methodical therapeutic massage to focus on deep seated muscle tension
* Dhugs: A Tibetan therapy using compression with bundles of medicinal herbs
* Dinacharya: An Ayurvedic term for personal health practices in one’s daily routine
* Dinacharya treatment: A series of Ayurveda therapies to cleanse and revitalise the five senses describe
* Dosha: There are three dosha or the three bio-energies representing the five natural elements in an individual, namely vata (combination of ether and air elements), pitta (combination of air and fire or fire and water elements) and kapha (combination of water and earth elements). One’s unique characteristic or personality is governed by a specific proportion of these three doshas, whose imbalance may create health concerns.
* Enema: Introducing liquids to cleanse the colon through the anus
* Gom: Tibetan meditative practice to develop mindfulness, insight and wellbeing
* Head & feet massage: A relaxing massage targeting specific pressure points
* Ku nye: Traditional Tibetan therapeutic massage
* Lekhana vasti: Enema of medicinal decoction for weight reduction
* Manual lymphatic drainage: Therapeutic massage to support natural lymph drainage in the body
* Matra vasti: Herbal oil enema of a small quantity to strengthen the body and balance Vata dosha
* Moxibustion: A traditional Chinese/Tibetan healing practice of applying direct/indirect heat to specific points on the body using ‘moxa’ made of dried herbs to balance energy flow
* Nadi swedana: A herb infused steam focused on a specific part of the body
* Niruha vasti: Herbal decoction enema to cleanse the colon and reduce the effects of vata imbalances
* Panchakarma: An Ayurveda detoxification process
* Patra pinda swedana: Fomentation therapy using fresh herbal leaves tied up in bundles
* Private fitness: A one on one fitness session with a fitness trainer
* Pichu: Application of a warm medicated oil over a specific area with the help of a cotton cloth pad
* Pizhichil: Streams of warm medicated oil poured over the body with a simultaneous soft massage
* Raag therapy: A private flute session with a specific raag relevant to one’s wellness needs
* Sadhyo virechana: Mild purgation
* Sansarjana karma: A specific diet for the restoration of digestive fire
* Sarvanga lepa: An exfoliating fomentation therapy using herbal paste
* Shamana nasya: An Ayurveda treatment that introduces a small amount of medicine to the nostrils to clear and detoxify nasal passages and sinuses
* Shiroabhyanga: Head, neck and shoulder massage
* Shirodhara: An Ayurveda treatment where a steady stream of herbal oil is poured over the forehead
* Shiropichu: Application and retaining of a warm medicated oil over the center of the head using thick cloth pads
* Shodhana nasya: Introducing herbal oil, herbal extract or powder into each nostril at increasing dosage for purification, along with a head massage and steam
* Snana: Shower with a herbal powder to cleanse the skin of the impurities
* Snehana: Oil application therapy
* Snehapana: An Ayurvedic detox regimen where medicated ghee is consumed for a specified number of days
* Sthana vasti: An Ayurveda treatment where medicated oil is retained over a particular area to nourish underlying tissues
* Swedana: Fomentation therapy to induce sweating
* Tratak: Practice of steady and undisturbed gazing of a particular object to improve concentration
* Udwartana: A specific Ayurvedic treatment where dry herbal powder is rubbed on the body
* Urdhwanga: Rejuvenating massage of the upper half of the body
* Vamana: Inducing controlled emesis through medicated milk for elimination of kapha dosha
* Vana synchronised: A Vana signature massage skilfully performed by two therapists
* Vashpa swedana: Steam therapy using fresh herbs in a cabinet
* Virechana: Inducing controlled purgation through the internal administration of medicated powder/oil/ghee for elimination of the pitta dosha
* Yoga: Means union of mind body. It is a practice that combines meditation (dhyan), breathing (pranayam) and physical postures (aasan)
* Yog vasti: A combination of oil and decoction enemas administered in sequence to eliminate the toxins from the body
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