Niraamaya, from the Sanskrit, means ‘free from illness and disease, in sound health’. At Niraamaya’s retreats this is the goal, achieved with gentleness, sensitivity and a strong sense of place.
You do not have to hole up in one retreat to experience the full benefit. Two of them - Cardamom Club up in the forested hills and Kumarakom down among the backwaters – are a short, spectacular drive apart, through rolling hills of precisely plucked tea bushes and leggy rubber trees with creamy latex dripping silently from their spliced barks. Create and start your wellness exploration at one, complete it at the other.
The carefully considered Niraamaya philosophy is ever-present. Their Ayurveda doctors make time to chat about it - essentials for wellness include food, meditation, music, birdsong, walking in nature, massage, and more. An example: light a candle, stay beside it, gaze at the flame. This is ‘trataka’ meditation.
The doctors also know why we need this, especially after we hit 40! We don’t relax, work too much, make no time for ourselves, don’t talk with friends about our ups and downs, are often lonely without realizing it. This causes mental and physical problems, often manifested in our skin. Their solutions start with focusing on what we eat, and Niraamaya’s food is delicious even by Kerala’s high standards (best to eat what chef suggests, I find). Then, consider experiencing the power of chanting, yoga’s helpfulness, the meditative value of walking barefoot, and knowing that a kindly smile makes both giver and receiver happier (similar to Buddhist ‘compassion’). Simply relaxing in nature heightens awareness, helps you find peace - something you can explore on forest hikes and backwater boat rides.
There is no schedule, unless you want one. As the doctors say, ‘It’s about nourishing the soul. Let your choice of wellness moments become habits’.
Must-do wellness experience: hiking the spice-filled forest at Cardamom Club, sunrise boat ride at Kumarakom
Ahilya buzzwords: freefall wellness exploration
Ideas for unpacking your kind of slow-down wellness at Ahilya Fort
'Nourishing the soul' can include planting your own coconut palm at Kumaraom - a way of making sure you return. The area's network of backwater canals start right outside the hotel gate, where the boatman takes you on a cruise to see toddy men, fishermen, duck-herders, and how life is lived in this watery landscape.
Forest walking from Cardamom Club into the surrounding forests - one of the world's 36 biodiversity hotspots - you can spot fruiting coffee bushes as well as cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, mace and pepper, see exotic hill birds, and visit tiny hillside villages.
At each retreat, Ayurveda treatments focus on detoxification, stress, bone and joint care, strain, and more, while curative treatments can work with immunity, diabetes and metabolism problems.
If you ever wondered where your cup of tea came from, visit a tea garden to fully appreciate the precision science that is required for every tiny leaf. Go early to see women plucking the new leaves, then see the many processes in the factory.
At Kumarakom, rooms have full views over Vembanad Lake, and the private pool villas have huge indoor spaces. At Cardamom Club, plantation-style cottages overlook the gardens, but mountain view ones offer mesmerising panoramas.
Episode 7 visits The Trident Hotel, New Delhi, a spacious and calm haven