Whistler Spas: Ashram Spa at Nita Lake Lodge
By Judi Lees
Flashback to India: Think chickpeas and sesame oil. Think exhilarating mountain air and high adventure. Whistler’s newest – Ashram Spa by Therapy Ayurveda in Nita Lake Lodge – melds the best of Indian and mountain cultures.
About Ashram Spa
Definition of a dosha.
About Ashram Spa
Tucked into one of Whistler's original neighbourhoods, a visit to Nita Lake Lodge and Ashram Spa is flashback time to early Whistler days when you rode its one gondola for $7.
Ashram Spa may also be a recall of India, but the Ayurvedic treatments here boast more glam than those I’ve experienced in Kerala.
A gorgeous 19th century lustrous wooden door is at the spa's entrance, all the rooms boast wall-size paintings of ‘the tree of life’ and the brass-edged treatment table - called a droni - is made of gleaming Neem wood with deep grooves to catch oil, the mainstay of most every treatment.
At Ashram Spa you lie on a comfy pad unlike India where you have your treatment directly on the wooden table. I like the analogy that the Neem is a healing tree and for sure, Ayurvedic treatments go far beyond a beauty bar.
Definition of a Dosha
In the comfy lounge, simplistic but elegant with touches of rich fabrics in cushions and wall hangings, you complete a form which determines your dosha.
Ayurveda, a method of healing that began 5,000 years ago in India, believes that every person is typical of one of three doshas, Vata, Pitta or Kapha and a treatment is about bringing your dosha into harmony. (Yoga, now widely embraced as part of well being in North America is one aspect of Ayurveda medicine; Ashram Spa offers a large yoga space.)
The wonderful aspect of this is that you simply answer questions that help determine a soothing solution to improving how you feel. (This can be carried to a whole new degree at Ashram Spa as an Ayurvedic doctor is in attendance a few days each week.
Guests can opt for a full package including Ayurvedic meals. Another option is to book ‘A Taste of Ayurveda’ package as an introduction to the unique treatments.
Ushered into the relaxing treatment room, it is a surprise to find that I have two therapists.
Emily and Kathleen began my Udvartana full body exfoliation with a relaxing head massage before plastering an herbal paste all over my body.
The mixture is a traditional combo of sesame oil infused with herbs – mustard seed and Tumeric – as well as milk and chickpea flour. This blend is call a "tri-doshic mixture" as it is suitable to all doshas. After I am covered with this rather grainy mixture, I am dusted with chickpea flour.
Every movement in this treatment as well as in the massage that follows, is achieved in perfect timing. Emily and Kathleen, remind me of well choreographed dancers and my body is the happy recipient of their talents.
With vigorous motions, working on opposite sides of my body, I am exfoliated and if there is a buzz word in spas today, this is it. Get rid of that yucky dead skin and I have to say that I love the concept. However, this treatment is also a lymphatic drainage massage – parts of your body are gently kneaded – which aids in eliminating toxins and increasing circulation. You feel the epitome of cleanliness, inside and out.
Once I am sparkling clean and the territory around my body is quickly tidied up, my Abyhangam Massage begins. Another surprise, it starts with me in a sitting position while oodles of a warm oil mixture is slathered over me.
While this is a rhythmic and relaxing experience, you do have the sense that some serious action is taking place. For example, this massage works on your joints as well as your muscles – this is one of the few times I can recall having my elbow and toe joints massaged.
As well as the gentle kneading of joints, there is emphasis on tension points throughout the body that gives a wonderful release. The massage ends with one therapist working on pressure points between each vertebra in my back and down my legs.
Beyond the Spa
Later, I walk the lakeside trail and take in the crisp mountain air and wilderness views. The 77-suite Nita Lake Lodge is west coast woodsy elegance at its best – spacious suites with details like heated floors and private balconies boasting incredible views – and Ashram Spa is the perfect complement. No surprise. The lodge, that opened in 2008, came under the management of Ram Tumuluri in the spring of 2010; fortunately for spa goers, as well as being a business guru, his family roots are in Ayurvedic medicine. His family’s companies have established Therapy Ayurveda spas in more than a dozen global locations including India, Africa and in Europe a recently opened one in Tofino. In Whistler, for sure, the meld of mountains and mystique is a winner.
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Judi Lees is a B.C. - based writer and frequent contributor to Travel to Wellness.