Not just any Ayurveda village.
Ayurveda, the knowledge of life. Holy grail for some years now in the Wellness Industry.
I have seen a lot of Ayurveda inspired treatments. And Ayurveda inspired cosmetics, skin care products, and even accessories or clothing on the market. And of course, worldwide hotels and spas that specialise in Ayurveda.
I don’t want to talk about the authenticity of some of those offers in this article.
Instead I would like to tell you more about one truly authentic Ayurveda village I have been fortunate to visit in Kerala/India. Where Ayurveda is said to originate from.
The place, where Ayurveda all started, some 5000 years ago. Where the ‘ultimate’ knowledge was transferred from the ancient Vedic texts, including the ‘knowledge of life’.
Kerala – Ayurveda needs the right environment
The Indian State Kerala, the most Southern Tip of the Indian subcontinent, lies closer to the equator than any other Indian State. However has a rather pleasant climate throughout the year with temperatures around 28 to 32 C. Except the very month I visit, where it is almost 10 C hotter than usual during the month of April…
Kerala is rather hilly. Temperatures in the hills and highlands can even be cooler and more pleasant all year round.
The more tropical climate in the coastal areas is the ideal environment for Ayurveda. The warmth and humidity promotes sweating, which supports one of the main pillars: purification and detoxification of the body.
Additionally many of the herbs – a variety of 350 different actually – that are used in medicine and ointments, grow locally. And by this I mean not only in Kerala as such. But actually in the very tropical gardens of two Ayurveda villages called Somatheram and Manaltheram.
I had heard about Somatheeram Group a lot. Anyone who is seriously interested in Ayurveda hears of ‘the Ayurveda people’ at some point, hence I was very intrigued. I am staying in Kerala for my yoga teacher training anyway, and have a full weekend before returning to Europe. What a better place to choose for unwinding, than an Ayurveda village with a beach ambience?
So I get in touch with lovely Manageress Chithra, who invites me over. Of course a weekend is insufficient for a proper Ayurveda cure, however I want to get to know the place. And feel the vibes. See and hear for myself.
My little Bungalow in the Ayurveda village
It is only a short ride of about 20 minutes, and I arrive in my TukTuk (you should have seen me with all my luggage cramped in the little vehicle!) at the Ayurveda village in the late afternoon. The staff welcomes me very warmly with flowers, chocolates, and coconut water.
I am staying in one of the garden cottages in the Ayurveda village. It lies on the path that goes straight uphill from the pool, turn left at the big jackfruit tree.
When I turn the corner, I hold my breath: what an idyllic little paradise place!
I have a small private garden with hammock, a little porch, and a beautiful little cottage with bed- and bathroom.
And air conditioning! What a luxury to be able to cool down the room for the night in the evening whilst being out for dinner!
I love this little private hideaway so much. I am having a hard time getting myself to leave and explore the village.
But then, the pool looked so inviting, that I pull myself together. I explore the amazing tropical garden, the pool with the natural silky spring water, the busy yet calm Ayurveda clinic. I browse the shops, and enjoy the different views from different angles.
On the beach one early morning, I witness local fisherman bringing in their catch. A group of about 40 men – young, old, fit, physically challenged – stand on the shore and all work together. They are one great team pulling in a huge fishing net by hand. Women with large empty bowls sit in the shade of a small roof made of dried palm leaves. They patiently wait to buy the catch off the men, to again sell it on the market.
The Restaurant at Somatheram
The restaurant in the Ayurveda village with the very generous opening timings lies directly on the edge of the cliff. It has breathtaking views over the sea.
Food is offered buffet style, with very detailed Dosha labelling:
- waters and juices
- breads like naan and pappadum
- life cooking station at night
- sweets and deserts
- tea and coffee
- egg station at breakfast
- really everything healthy you can possibly imagine
Besides the buffet, there is an a-la-carte menu too, with chicken and fish dishes as well. Many patients receive an individual diet plan from their doctor. Their food is individually prepared for them.
A dietician is always present during mealtimes at the restaurant to aid guests with their food choices.
I am so spoiled! Like said above, I do not get a chance to experience the full Ayurveda cure, however do get a glimpse of what is possible. After seeing the Doctor and having a brief consultation on short notice, he suggests a relaxing 4-hand-full body massage, including head and face. And a Shirodara. Bliss!
A senior technician (I usually call them therapists) escorts me to one of the treatment rooms in the corridor that leads to the yoga hall.
As common with Ayurveda treatment rooms, there is the massive wooden massage table, a bathtub (for a flower bath), and a private bathroom.
And also common, the treatment starts with me sitting on a stool, for a head and scalp massage, followed by neck and shoulders.
Most Ayurveda therapists will perform rituals before treatment, such as lighting incense sticks and oil lamps on a small altar, singing a mantra, or saying a short prayer. And you cannot help but feeling totally charmed from this very moment throughout the entire treatment.
While I am still enjoying my neck massage on the little stool, a second therapist prepares warm oil and the treatment table, on which I am asked to lie down soon.
The two therapist stand right and left from the table and perform their artful four-handed massage with long and choreographed strokes. They work highly synchronised and I fall into utter relaxation.
I am totally loosing sense of time, however at one point they ask me to move up towards the head end of the table for my head and face massage, followed by the Shirodara, the oil poring onto the forehead, which is the last part of my treatment.
I am given a headband to protect the eyes from any spilling, and a constant flow of warm oil is flowing over my forehead. One of the therapists moves the oil container gently from side to side, whilst the second therapist keeps warming more oil for me. Again, I drift between wake and sleep, sometimes I can hear the therapists whispering to each other. And only afterwards realise that this went on for 45 minutes. I had totally lost any sense of time. Utter bliss, what an incredibly powerful relaxation technique.
I am glad my treatments are performed with a more neutral and clear oil (I can smell some sesame, but the scent is very subtle), versus the dark, sticky, and strongly scented Ayurveda oil, that is mostly used. Not that I dislike it, it is just a little harder to get off skin and hair, and with a long distance flight coming up for me in less than 12 hours time, this is easier for me.
My lovely therapist asks me to keep the oil on my body for another hour or so. She hands me a green gown and head scarf to wear in the meantime.
I am escorted to a chair in the waiting lounge of the hospital and handed a fresh coconut. Trust me, I have had my fair share of coconut water during the last couple of weeks in India. But this one – sitting in this lush tropical garden of the Ayurveda village, surrounded by relaxed guests and calm staff, listening to jungle sounds, feeling blissful after my fantastic treatment… This was surely one of the best coconuts I have ever tasted.
Oils, Powders, Medicines
All oils powders and medicines are manufactured by the Somatheram group themselves. The plant is under constant supervision of an Ayurvedic doctor and is certified.
Somatheram is acredited with NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Health Care providers), meeting 450 critieria.
Somatheram Research Institute and Ayurveda Hospital have won the prestigious National Tourism Award ‘best Ayurveda Wellness Center in all India’ for 4 times consecutively. Including hall of fame honor, which no other Center has ever achieved.
Manaltheram, the little sister
I am taking a morning trip to the sister property Manaltheram, which is only a short ride or walk away. Actually Somatheram Ayurveda village and Manaltheram Ayurveda village share the same beach.
Manaltheram is an exact copy of Somatheram, maybe a little smaller, and the landscape slightly differs. Somatheram is located on the cliff, whereas Manaltheram is closer to the beach. But otherwise all offers and accommodation are the same. I surely fell in love with Manaltheram’s open air treatment rooms overlooking the sea.
I am met by Aneesh, the GM of Manaltheram, who tells me some very interesting facts:
The Somatheram group only operates Ayurveda resorts in Kerala, no other place. They only want to promote Ayurveda in its place of origin.
Baby Matthew, chairman and managing director of the group, started the concept in 1985. Somatheram is known as the first Ayurveda concept in the world.
The visionary concept of combining an Ayurveda treatment center, hospital, Yoga and Meditation, and a beach ambience is unique.
Before that time, there were Ayurveda treatment centers, or Yoga centers etc. But no one had this kind of holistic concept.
The resorts offer Ayurveda cooking demonstration, Ayurveda lectures, and excursions to the manufacturing plant once a week. Shame I did not get to experience that due to lack of time.
On my question what the ideal duration for an Ayurvedic cure would be, Aneesh tells me that 14 days of treatments is ideal. Yet up to one month can be beneficial, for example for a slimming program.
60% of their international guests are repeats; Aneesh tells me a little story about a European lady who has visited a total of 35 times so far…
Yoga and Meditation at the Ayurveda village
Yoga and Meditation at Somatheram and Manaltheram are a daily fix. Different classes for different levels at different times of the day. Offered by five yoga masters, all qualified with the Sivananda Ashram.
I enjoy several classes during my stay in the yoga hall. They are all of excellent quality, suitable extent, and personal attention to different level students.
There is an outdoor yoga platform too, which was not in use during my stay. How I would have loved looking over the ocean in a standing pose, and listening to the sea waves in Savasana…
Ayursoma – the next generation
The group is not resting. A large construction area just underneath Somatheram village and connected by a lift in a clock tower, nestled against the cliff, caught my attention. I am taken around the site, where I can clearly identify an incredible Temple and Palace architecture. Made entirely of wood and stone, the building will hold invaluable and handpicked restored artefacts 300 to 400 years old.
This new and more luxurious resort in the making will offer high end 64 accommodations. All with ceramic covered steel bathtubs each in 5 categories, private villas, pools, restaurants, in room treatment facilities. There will be an Ayurveda hospital with 20 treatment rooms, and 3 yoga platforms overlooking the sea, to name just a few of the highlights.
Ayursoma will also be offering specialised Yoga vacations, suitable Dosha specific diet, and treatment by expert physicians and therapists.
I was not crazy about…
…having to say good bye.
On my last night, I sit at the restaurant forever.
I consciously want to take everything in one more time.
Smell the beautiful scents of the night.
The guilt-free food.
Feel the gentle stroke of the warm breeze on my skin.
Taking the longest route to get back to my little cottage, I vow to myself: I will be coming back.
I loved every little detail.
If I have to find fault, I would say that the website does not do the place justice. I find the logo and photo gallery a little outdated. Of course this does not have any impact on service levels.
Nope, nothing wrong at all.
My Ayurveda Oscar goes to…
My Ayurveda Oscar definitely goes to the Ayurveda people of Somatheram Ayurveda village!
I can’t wait to go back and see the new resort, set to open in early 2020!