The journey to wellness at Parrot Cay’s COMO Shambhala Ayurvedic pavilion begins with a chant.
Surrounded by windows that look out to lush vegetation and the ocean beyond, the patient and therapist touch hands, close their eyes and exhale a vibrating “om.”
“This vibration brings a harmony between the guest and therapist,” says Dr. Pradeep Narayanan, Ayurvedic lifestyle consultant at Parrot Cay Spa.
Ayurveda (pronounced ah-yer-vey-duh) is a traditional Indian system of medicine dating back thousands of years. The ancient health care system promotes the use of herbal compounds, special diets and practices such as yoga to maintain wellness. The treatment plan that follows the initiating chant is dependent on the individual. Each recommendation is based on the guest’s constitution – the Ayurvedic term for a person’s physical and psychological makeup.
Most Ayurvedic treatments involve warm oil – but the temperature and type of oil used also depend on the guest’s constitution. One treatment, Shirodhara, involves a steady stream of herbal oil poured over the forehead. This particular treatment, Dr. Pradeep says, is unique to Ayurveda. Shirodhara clears the senses and is especially helpful for those with insomnia.
The key to achieving physical and psychological wellbeing is inner balance, according to Ayurveda. And each individual has his or her own unique constitution. So each Ayurvedic treatment is preceded by a consultation with Dr. Pradeep, who determines each patient’s dosha, or mind-body type.
There are three doshas, each of which is comprised of a combination of five elements recognized in Ayurveda: space, air, fire, water and earth. The three doshas are: vata (space and air), pitta (fire and water) and kapha (water and earth). Each element is believed to have a certain influence on the body and mind. So too much of any element, or an imbalance of doshas, can have negative consequences, causing physical and psychological problems.
“The balance of all these planes,” says Dr. Pradeep, “is actually called health.”
Ayurveda means “knowledge of life” in Sanskrit. The ancient method of medicine remains a common health care system in India and parts of Southeast Asia. Most of India’s population uses Ayurvedic medicine exclusively or combined with traditional Western medicine, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. However, Ayurveda is considered an alternative form of medicine in the Western world.
Parrot Cay’s COMO Shambhala is one of just a few spas in the Caribbean that offers an Ayurvedic program. But the treatments are only one aspect of Ayurveda. The medicine system also goes hand in hand with yoga.
The spa’s yoga studio is airy and spacious, with wooden floors and a vast view of the ocean. Erny Thamrin, a yoga instructor from Indonesia, leads daily classes.
“Just being in this place is very relaxing already,” Erny says.
Yoga is therapeutic, Erny says, because it allows people to slow down.
“The first day of class, you see so much tension in their face and body,” Erny says.
But the key to maintaining a happy, healthy lifestyle through yoga goes beyond Erny’s classes at Parrot Cay. It requires self-discipline when guests return home.
“The state of mind you have while you’re here, while you’re practicing yoga – you can have that back home,” Erny says.
Diet also is a crucial component to Ayurveda and to Parrot Cay’s Ayurvedic program. Ayurveda recognizes six major tastes required in our daily diets: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste also is associated with a dosha, so each individual’s dietary requirements differ depending on his or her constitution. The Shambhala restaurant at Parrot Cay caters to Ayurveda’s idea of food as medicine with a dairy-free, sugar-free menu.
But eating healthy doesn’t have to mean losing out on flavor.
“Sometimes you go to spa retreats and the food is kind of boring,” says Martin Davies, executive chef at Parrot Cay. “Ours is colorful.”
The restaurant offers a range of vegetable-based and fruit-based juices, including the popular “lean and clean greens” juice, concocted with the likes of apple, fennel, cucumber, spinach and more. The menu includes plenty of raw food options, as well as gluten-free and vegan meals – like the “BIG” salad with shredded cabbage, squash, avocado, mushrooms and sprouts, with apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard dressing.
The interrelation of one’s mind and body is the foundational concept of Ayurveda. Without proper care of one’s body, health and happiness are difficult to maintain, according to the medicine system’s principles. And it’s these principles that guide Parrot Cay’s Ayurvedic program, offering a holistic approach to attaining wellness – physically, mentally and spiritually.
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To learn more about Parrot Cay’s COMO Shambhala, please visit our Parrot Cay Resort page