Mind, body and spirit benefit from the serenity of a holiday in the Maldives especially when this is enhanced with relaxing and rejuvenating sessions at a resort’s spa. There are an estimated 110 top quality spas at island resorts plus some spas in Male’ and even one in the public terminal at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, as well as informal ones catering to guests staying on inhabited islands.
In the Maldives, a spa has become much more than its conventional meaning of a commercial establishment offering health and beauty treatments. Resort spas not only match the luxurious standard of the resort’s accommodation, they go beyond it in design and location. There are spas built on stilts over a lagoon enjoying panoramas of infinity; spas surrounded by lush tropical vegetation; spas on their own islands; spas on the beach and in temple-like sanctums; spas serenaded by babbling water, and spas of classic or contemporary décor. Every spa seeks to convey a breath-taking ambience of secure serenity where exotic therapies defy the imagination. To enter a spa is to pass through a portal transporting a guest from the holiday routine to a place of deeper bliss. Immediately overwhelming is relief - at being able to relax in the hands of trained professional therapists who listen, understand and pamper, inspiring a glow of well being that completes your holiday contentment. The spa of a resort reflects the peacefulness, tranquillity, and unique quality of its host establishment. Since the therapies are designed specifically for resort guests, they incorporate many elements of the Maldives, influenced by the rhythm of the tide lapping the lagoon’s shore, the natural oils of tropical plants and the purity of lush island ambience. The spas of the Maldives deliver a unique experience unmatched by spas elsewhere, because of the inspiration of the island location and the skill of expert therapists. All kinds of treatments are available from the spa menus, many incorporating Reiki, a healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body with an effect on Chi, the circulating life force.
What’s different about a spa treatment in the Maldives? Treatments are designed specifically to meet guests’ concerns, often using island-sourced ingredients. Most spa therapists at the resorts have long experience observing the effectiveness of the treatments and products available so they can offer the best. For instance, Anti-Ageing facial therapies usually have the same techniques and ways for a basic facial. What’s different in the Maldives is that the ingredients used during the course of the treatment are chosen to treat a sun-stressed or mature skin according to the patient’s age, to achieve a joyful sense of rejuvenation. Properly advised and applied therapy can visibly reduce lines and wrinkle depth, helping guests to return home looking younger. A treatment can define radiance and facial contouring by increasing the skin’s elasticity and firmness. Anti-ageing facials can be especially effective in the benign, tranquil ambience of a resort’s spa. Some resorts feature complete spa packages such as a Detox programme of special therapies complemented with a diet by the resort’s chef to encourage regeneration of the body’s well being. Every resort spa has its own signature treatment provided by therapists from around the world as well as from the Maldives. Spa therapists are experienced in infusing universal remedies with natural, botanical, sea and herb based products to inspire a unique experience to balance mind, body and spirit. Popular therapies are body wraps involving a sand scrub and being immersed in a mixture of papaya and pineapple or enveloped in a tropical cocoon of energising seaweed. Conventional anti-cellulite treatments with a Maldivian accent, pedicures and manicures are also popular. And the Maldives is one of the best places in the world to enjoy and benefit from therapy to help dispel jet lag. There are independent spas in Male’ and several on inhabited islands frequented by tourists. Such spas are more informal, sometimes involving treatment on a sun lounger under a thatched parasol. They specialise in conventional therapies and less intensive treatments.
The first underwater spa in the world was created in the Maldives, in a resort in North Male’ Atoll only a 25-minute speedboat ride from Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. This features two glass-walled underwater treatment rooms with panoramic views of a coral reef and curious fish, and a soothing design inspired by the colours and textures of the sea. The signature underwater spa experience lasts a heavenly three hours of treatment with indigenous island coconut, lime and mineral oils followed by a melting application of ice, and relaxation while marvelling at the views of clownfish, stingrays and other exotic marine life. Set 100m from the resort’s shore at the end of a wooden promenade, the spa’s treatment rooms are eight metres below the surface. The benefits of such a spa go much deeper.
Ayurveda is Sanskrit meaning “the science of life.” It is an old philosophy based on deep understanding of eternal truths about the human body, mind and spirit. It has been practised in neighbouring Sri Lanka as the natural medicine of that country and as an alternative to Western lore. It has an efficacy proven by 3,000 years of care and cure. It’s nature’s way of good health because of its reliance on natural plants, herbs and oils. As suggested by its name, a combination of ayur meaning life and veda meaning knowledge, Ayurveda is also known as “life knowledge” implying “the art of healthy living.” It’s the oldest complete medical system with medications developed by ancient sages through keen observation of life and its functions. Ayurveda has been known in the Maldives for generations and has been adapted to make use of local herbs augmented by ingredients imported by ancient traders. The practice of Ayurveda at resort spas adds a new dimension to this therapy due to the salubrious surroundings of the islands’ especially designed spas. It is a rural village therapy transformed to the sanctity of well-managed, professional treatment centres on idyllic, modern Maldives resorts. Being in the Maldives is an opportunity to discover the benefits of Ayurveda without compromise.
Ayurvedic philosophy is based on the idea that the development of everyone from birth is governed by a combination of the five basic forces of nature: water, fire, air, earth and ether. In the privacy of the spa, you have a consultation with the ayurveda doctor who determines your body constitution and selects relevant oils and therapies in accordance with dosha, the energy circulating in your body. Treatment comprises potions made from fresh, natural ingredients, but also oil massages, steam baths and bathing in herbal waters. Treatments are particularly beneficial for patients suffering from migraine, insomnia, arthritis and gastritis, but can also help in cases of paralysis and practically any affliction. Treatments available at some spas include Abhyanga, a warming full body massage incorporating long and vigorous massage movements stretched over the entire body, utilising ayurveda massage oils to relax and rejuvenate the muscles and joints. A Shirodhara treatment entails having heated ayurveda oils drizzled over the forehead and scalp to alleviate tension and slow down the brainwaves for total relaxation. This deeply relaxing treatment focuses on stimulating “the third eye” and can aid sleep and reduce stress. Ayurveda treatment not only cures, it provides immunity too. It cannot be hurried so a relaxing holiday at an island resort is the ideal way to experience and benefit from this purely Asian natural therapy.
Yoga is widely practised around the world and originated as a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, so where better than on an island in the Indian Ocean to begin your yoga journey to greater well being? Yoga is scientific system of physical and mental practices that originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. Its purpose is to help participants achieve their highest potential and to experience enduring health and happiness. With yoga, you can extend your healthy, productive years far beyond the accepted age and at the same time improve your quality of life. Many of the resort spas in the Maldives have a resident Yogi, a person who is proficient in yoga, to lead group or conduct one-to-one sessions in air-conditioned yoga pavilions and even on sundecks or a resort’s jetty. In group yoga equal emphasis is given to postures (asanas), breath (pranayama), gestures of energy flow (mudras) and awareness of mind (meditation). The basic intention is to bring about a harmony in the physical, mental psychic and spiritual aspects of participants. Group yoga encourages camaraderie. In a private session, the selection of postures is more personalised and adapted to suit an individual’s personality. The gentle yoga journey is devoted to loosening, strengthening and stretching the major parts of the body. The Yogi conducts private yoga exercises specifically for an individual’s body type, and explains the benefits and the contra-indications. The Yogi brings each session to a conclusion with a short relaxing breathing exercise, or silent meditation. For experienced practitioners, a more dynamic form of yoga can be prescribed. This involves energetic movements of the body intended to increase flexibility and endurance. They stimulate blood circulation and release energy blocks. The participant feels a renewed energy flowing through the whole being, by practising Pranayama (controlled breathing). Couples can practise yoga together. The main emphasis is to connect couples with the help of mutual understanding based on yoga teaching, breathing and postures. Not only does this inspire connection of soul to soul, it also stimulates strength and flexibility of the body. In the resorts a refreshing approach to yoga is available under the direction of a trained Yogi. This enables guests to start or finish the day practising asanas and with meditation on an isolated sandbank set in the middle of a lagoon. With the sun’s rays breaking through dawn to greet the day, or slipping below the horizon at dusk, it creates the ultimate in a peaceful yoga journey. Some super yoga experiences are available for the more adventurous. At Maafushi, an inhabited island in South Male’ Atoll, keen practitioners can try the practice of yoga on a stand-up paddle board in the ocean. The peacefulness and tranquillity of floating on the waves combines perfectly with the discipline and meditative nature of yoga. Instruction is also given in aqua-meditation, a mental relaxation process that is indulged in while floating on water.
Yogic meditation is possible without the trappings of a resort’s spa and is ideal as a mood enhancer while on a deserted island or enjoying the quiet beach of an inhabited island. This refers to the state of mind achieved as the body is soothed and relaxed, making the mind calm and composed. Since ancient times, it is believed that meditation restores harmony, and rejuvenates and heals the mind, allowing it to release stress and fatigue. Meditation helps to remove the subtle mental barriers within a person and presents a better self-understanding of your personality, thought processes and surroundings. It surely adds to the spiritual benefits of a holiday in the Maldives.