Tuesday, 5 March 2019

A Luxurious Haven for Wellness

This was a work trip that I was really looking forward to. Being a travel writer most of my trips end up being very indulgent with various hotels and tourism boards wanting to showcase the best that they have to offer. This also means that my travels for work are usually very hectic. But every once in a while comes along an assignment that allows me to commune with nature, relax and rejuvenate. This is exactly why my weekend at Dharana Wellness at Hilton Shillim became memorable when I was invited to experience their wellness program. 

Hilton Hotels and Resorts is an American multinational hospitality company. The chain is known primarily for contemporary, full-service hotels and resorts in more than 540 locations across the world. Given its pristine location in the Sahyadri mountain range in Maharashtra, Hilton Shillim opened to rave reviews and soon became a popular choice for a luxury offsite retreat, weekend getaway from Mumbai and Pune, and even a preferred wedding destination. That the resort had an award-winning spa only became an added plus. But over the last one year, there has been a clear shift towards establishing this property as a wellness retreat.  

Commitment to Wellness
The resort is divided roughly into two zones: primary wellness and secondary wellness. This means that those who come specifically for wellness have the entire gamut to look after their well-being and attain desired health goals, but those who choose to come here for a holiday will also benefit from the activities on offer and healthier alternatives to indulge in at the various restaurants on the property.

For guests checking in for a wellness program there is a range of personalized goal-oriented packages on offer. With the minimum stay of 3 nights, the packages go up to 5, 7, 14 or 28 nights depending on specific goals. The wellness team, under the expert guidance of Dr Arun Pillai, Director of Wellness, ensures that everything is taken care of right from consultation and guidance from experts in the field of Ayurveda and Naturopathy doctors to the execution of therapies from skilled and qualified therapists, yoga teachers and nutritionists.

My Transformative Journey
The beautiful winding road that leads up to the retreat offers a good glimpse of the natural beauty that one can expect at Hilton Shillim. After a quick registration I am whisked away for a ‘foot ritual’. I am taken in by the serenity of the place as I remove my shoes by the banks of Nature Pond and my feet are carefully dipped in a copper bowl filled with warm water that contains some herbs and aromatics. Simple as it may seem, this warm welcome instantaneously helps me to get into the slow, relaxed rhythm of the place.

After a lunch comprising of a delicious, local vegetarian thali I am taken for a consultation with the doctor. Since I had signed up for the 3-day Detox Program, the doctor discusses the format of my stay and asks about my specific likes and dislikes so that she can customise my program to suit my requirements optimally. It is concluded that I will experience the Panchkarma cleanse which involves expelling of toxins through the body’s own organs and channels of elimination (colon, sweat glands, lungs, bladder, stomach, intestines etc). The intensity of the cleanse depends on the individual as well as the duration of treatment. Since I am here only for 3 nights, I am introduced to a basic version of this ancient Ayurvedic treatment that is ideal for cleaning the body of toxic materials accumulated by poor nutrition and environmental toxins.

Panchkarma is a five-fold therapy and includes warm oil massage, herbal steam therapy, lymphatic massage, herbal enema and other special treatments. My treatment starts with a relaxing Vanaushadhi massage. The warm raw oil squeezed from locally grown seeds, flowers and roots is massaged by an expert therapist in the Ayurvedic style. This treatment is meant to promote health of the skin and make it supple and lustrous. This is followed by a light and early dinner at the Green Table, the resort’s wellness restaurant that specialises in healthy food that is prepared to suit various Dosha types and ideal for specific treatments.

The next morning I go for the Abhyanga, a traditional full body massage is said to liquefy toxins and induces relaxation while eliminating impurities. Soon after this luxurious massage the doctor visited me in my villa, gave me an Ayurvedic concoction that helps my body to start the elimination process. I am advised to take it easy on this day and my meals are sent in the villa to enable me to relax completely. The luxurious setting, with a private plunge pool and the very caring team to look after me ensure that I am completely taken care of during the entire process. The following day I wake up refreshed, rejuvenated and feeling overall lighter. The day starts with an invigorating hike up to the Shillim plateau. After a couple of hours, I find myself back at the Green Table indulging in a fresh bowl of fruits. This is followed by a few more therapeutic massages and relaxing activities.

The Retreat
For a city dweller like me the pristine setting and the sound of silence interspersed with the song of birds at any time of the day is a real treat. Accommodation options include a choice of villas with the hill or forest views. Pool villas, as the name suggests, come with a private plunge pool. And for a truly luxurious experience there are three presidential villas that have glass walled bedrooms to let in the verdant beauty of the hills, a fully functional kitchen, expansive living and dining spaces.

Recommended Activities
The retreat offers some wonderful activities to keep you in tune with the surroundings and a holistic lifestyle. There are wonderful tracks for walking and cycling, as well as a couple of hiking trails within the property to make the most of the outdoors, enjoy the great weather and take in lots of  fresh air. Then of course, there’s yoga and meditation that take you inwards. Pottery making and horse-riding is something that the kids will certainly enjoy. Finally, the one that I urge you not to miss is a cooking class at the Green Table. After a round of the organic kitchen garden, the table is set with farm fresh produce for a cooking demonstration. I am utterly impressed with all that one can do with raw food. Very healthy and very easy to execute recipes are shared joyously. This session educates me even more about how to make healthy choices without compromising on taste. From zucchini noodles to chocolate mousse, there’s plenty to choose from.

Before check out of The Retreat I am armed with a prescription, some daily morning rituals and a list of recipes to help me keep up with the healthy lifestyle that I have been introduced to. I am feeling great and leave with my skin glowing and a few pounds lighter.

Dharana Wellness at Hilton Shillim 
Village Shilimb, Pawana Nagar, Taluka Maval, Pune – 410406.
Phone: +91-2114-712468
Website: www.shillim.in

This article first came out in a leading UK-based travel publication in March'2019. 


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