Review: Heal holistically with massages and yoga at Sanjeevanam Ayurveda Hospital in Kochi
As I lie on a flat wooden table, far from the madding crowd, with warm medicated oil dripping onto my forehead, I feel a deep sense of relaxation. The room is rather silent, almost like the world is at a standstill. The only sound and movement are of two masseuses filling the vessel with hot oil and gently directing it onto my forehead and then scalp. This is my first experience of Shirodhara — an ayurvedic treatment designed to heal mental and physical conditions — at the recently opened Sanjeevanam Ayurveda Hospital (SAyH) in Kochi.
Dealing with your dosha
An hour-long drive from Cochin International Airport, SAyH (envisioned and developed by AVA Group) is located amidst lush green fields in Kakkanad Pallikara Road, away from the bustling city. While I’m rather sceptical of what a hospital would have on offer for a getaway, on reaching the reception, I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that my itinerary promises a rejuvenating weekend with yoga classes, meditation, skin care sessions and several massage treatments, of course.
Post my check-in, I attend an initial consultation with Dr Rahul Unnithan, who decides on the therapies to administer for me, depending on my body’s needs. “Every guest is given a personalised schedule after an in-depth consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor who looks at their health, digestion, personality and dosha (substances that are present in a person’s body according to Ayurveda). In Ayurvedic science, everyone is made up of three doshas — Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth). We use these to prescribe particular diets and treatments in packages ranging from seven to 28 nights,” informs the senior medical officer, busting my belief that Ayurveda is just tablets. “It’s a lifestyle change and demands a certain kind of an environment and study before it’s done,” he adds. During this chat, I also learn that the wellness retreat describes itself as an Ayurveda hospital. So guests looking for Western spa luxury will be disappointed.
Of pink water & picturesque views
Although it is a hospital, SAyH offers a rather luxurious stay. The carefully designed architecture incorporates open spaces and 17 treatment rooms. With more than 100 beds, the rooms are inviting, peaceful and decorated in warm shades of brown, with comfortable beds and nods to Ayurveda — a Buddha painting etched on the wall. The journey towards wellness begins right from a glass of water kept in the room — which is pink and infused with herbs like Pathimugham (sappanwood). Keeping with the rest of the hospital’s aesthetic, the interiors of my room are earthy and chic. My balcony opens to a beautiful view of green fields and coconut trees, with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing for natural light and an unhindered sight of the surroundings.
After a brief nap, I’m escorted to a treatment room for Abhyanga — a full-body massage. Soaked in layers of oil, two therapists massage their way through my body — from legs to my back and then my arms — in synchronised movements for an hour. The massage that begins gently soon picks up the pace and is then followed by a 20-minute sauna session — perfect for pain relief and fighting dry skin. By the time I reach my room, I’m ready to collapse.
Soup for the soul
The hospital’s wellness principles extend to their food as well. Instead of a buffet-style lunch, Sanjeevanam offers a set menu. Depending on your treatment, a strict diet is prescribed and your wellness consultant serves you what your body deserves. Considering my stay is rather brief, I’m served the regular menu at the vegetarian restaurant. Cooked with locally sourced veggies, the meals served here are delicious. The thick green soup, made of spinach, cashew nut paste and pepper, is surprisingly comforting and has me going for seconds too! “We want to serve healthy and nutritious food. But that doesn’t stop us from having local cuisine and desserts. From pulao to palak paneer and avial, the rotational menu has it all,” says Dr Ravi Pullanikattil, medical director of Sanjeevanam, as I finish off a cup of jaggery payasam. “Most of our patients are from Arab countries. So we do offer customisations for them, but that’s only with flavours and not the diet,” he clarifies.
Day two is marked by an early morning yoga with renowned practitioner Biju Dev. Along with other patients, I’m seated in the lotus position (padmasana) in a big balcony. Deep greens stretch ahead in lawns with swaying palm trees, as the sky gradually turns from dark blue to a lighter shade. As we shift to practising relaxation asanas in the quiet surroundings, there’s a sense of serenity — a far cry from the city life. Towards the end of the 45-minute class, we’re asked to meditate for a brief five minutes and I’m convinced that there is no better way to start your day!
At SAyH, yoga classes are prescribed twice a day, along with a session on how Ayurveda and yoga go hand-in-hand. Fitness goals can be met at the in-house gym or by just taking a walk around the property. You can also watch a film of your choice at the mini theatre.
In no time, my trip comes to an end. After two full days of yoga and therapies, I could notice small but positive changes. Thanks to the oil massages, my skin looks healthier. My sleep pattern is in place and the meditation practice brought a sense of calm. I must say that the right combination of healthy food, intense treatments and yoga — in a lush green landscape — have taken away years’ worth of stress in just a couple of days.
Starts at Rs.5,000 for a deluxe room exclusive of treatment and food plan.
(The writer was at Sanjeevanam Ayurveda Hospital by invitation.)