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April 2010
Ananda Spa at Ista Hotel
Shruthi Pendyala R
Welcomed with a warm smile, I am led through the huge hotel lobby at Ista, through an entrance across a pool area and a yoga spot. I reach a place hidden in the lush greens, with a spray of brightly coloured pink flowers – the Ananda Spa.

The spa’s interior is tastefully decorated with crystals and stones skilfully laid out, almost giving the spa a spiritual feel, as if I am in a resort far away from the busy Hyderabad city life. But what one just can’t miss is the aroma the spa emits: sensually spicy. On complimenting the aroma, I am told that the aim of the spa is to relax and relieve the body and the mind using the five elements which were inculcated into the decoration and the pampering treatments.

Afraid that I may disturb this calming peace, I slowly tiptoe my way up to a double stairway; the stairs down leading to a separate men’s spa and stairs up, to the women’s. Right next to the staircase is a high cieling salon with long mirrors and cosy salon chairs. I continue my way up the staircase to the spa area, like in a fairy tale.

The Stones Beneath My Feet
Apart from the usual sauna and steam rooms, I discover that the spa has a kniepp pool: a shallow circular pool divided into four equal parts with pebbles scattered at the bottom. Each part is filled with warm and cool water in an alternate pattern. The idea is to walk through the pool stepping into the varying temperature of water, feeling the smooth pebbles below your feet - seven times. At first I think it is a gimmick women are known to fall for, but once I am convinced – it is just awesome!

I then walk through the spacious shower and changing area, slip on a robe and am assisted to my room. A dim lit room with beautiful music welcomes me as I am given the traditional Indian aarti welcome with the five elements concept in place: earth (pebbles laid out on the aarti thali), water (placed in a small bowl), fire (a traditional diya) and the other two elements, ether and air, in the surroundings of the room.

Earth Stone Treatment
I slip out of the robe and lie face-down on the massage table not knowing what to expect, waiting for my session to start. The masseuse wastes no time. While explaining to me in a gentle voice that the earth stone treatment helps in circulation and alleviates sore muscles, she covers me up in a warm Turkish towel and lays basalt rock, some heated and some chilled, on my body’s seven chakras: the root, the spleen, the solar, the heart, the throat, the third eye and the crown chakra. She also places two warm rocks in my palm. As I feel the massage oil drip onto me, my eyes close, giving in into a blissful rest, only once woken up to turn over, taking very little time to regain my state of lazy, relaxing slumber.

75 minutes later, I am woken up and told that my massage has come to an end. I need five minutes to regain my presence and remind myself – Shruthi, you’re here on work! To my delight, that isn’t the end of my experience though. I am taken to the relaxation room where the summer sun filters in through the white blinds, and lie on one of the reclining sun chairs.

Next to me is a table with a coffee cup and a tiny Chinese tea cup. The masseuses pour me a hot cup of hibiscus tea and advises me to drink plenty of water. 20 minutes there, and my session was over. Sigh!

More Massages
Apart for the beautiful ambience, the trained staff and the well thought of comfort, a guest receives at every stage, what makes Ananda Spa a unique experience – the treatments are done with their own products! Reluctantly walking away from the spa, I peep into the brochure to see what else Ananda has to offer. The list speaks of Swedish massages, aromatherapy, reflexology, Thai massage, crystal healing, Ista Indian head massage and one very interesting massage called the Jet lag massage, designed specifically for those that travel the distance and are looking for the perfect reviver. I tell myself that I am coming back.

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