ESPA, The Leela Palace
From the moment I heard ESPA facials are to die for, I knew I had to try one. I had a choice of Advanced Skin Radiance facial (90 minutes), Anti-Ageing Lifting and Firming facial (90 minutes) or Essence of Leela (120 minutes). These were new offerings and, strictly speaking, Essence of Leela was not a facial, though there was a tiny bit of facial massage involved. In the end, Anti-ageing won. Filling a form which had queries on health, medications, allergies and skin issues, I walked through an arty maze to the locker. ESPA was more than a simple spa. It spelt luxury in the very way it was designed. There were paintings on the walls, candles lit in every corner and the lighting was dim and romantic. I was escorted to a lift which took me to my cosy treatment room. The ambience was calming. Technology is put to its best use in ESPA. The beds were temperature-controlled, and could be moved up and down.
The facial was unique in many ways—there were long strokes on the face which tightened the muscles, special oils, regenerating serums and two masks.
The promise was minimizing of wrinkles, improvement of hydration levels as well as help in reducing pigmentation, large pores and redness.
ESPA has a holistic approach. The belief is that your body guides what it needs and you should listen to it. The therapist brought out three oils and I smelt all of them. The fragrance I connected with was the one that my body was looking for—rejuvenation. The three-step cleansing was also of a different kind. Then came a mask and, after that, the special long-stroke massage. During this, the heart chakra was also aligned. I enjoyed the way certain points were pressed at the nape and the back of the head, easing off the stress immediately. Once the pain was out, the muscles came to their normal state.
The head massage was with a special product—pink hair and scalp mud. It felt fresh and I kept it on for a night. The wash resulted in silky and lustrous hair after that. The facial was more than a beauty treatment for sure, giving a visible lift. For my dark circles, the therapist recommended a special serum which can be bought at the spa.
Facials can also be combined with any other massage, but they are done after the body treatments. Down to the luxury room, where I curled up with a cup of jasmine tea.
₹ 7,000; +91-11-39331230/1, theleela.com
The Lodhi Spa & Salon
With a Turkish hammam, this spa was a break from the usual. The spa menu did talk about Swedish, deep-tissue and Thai massages, as well as reiki and much more, but the 90-minute Traditional Peel at the hammam was something different. The treatment was called Posha, my masseuse from Bhutan informed me. The surprise lay in the foam massage which helped scrub out the dead skin. But first there was a wash-down on the marble plinth with lukewarm water. The marble basin was filled up and the water poured all over for a good 15 minutes. All I had to do was lie down and enjoy the pampering. And then I was taken to another temperature-controlled treatment room where the surprise awaited. Face down on the marble plinth, some lather was poured over me. An olive soap from Turkey was the source. It was rubbed on a cloth until loads of lather came out. The masseuse wore a kese glove and my entire body was exfoliated until it felt like silk. Even the hair was cleaned with this soap. And no conditioner, as the olive soap had all the oil my hair needed. Posha is very popular with honeymooners, I was told. The dead skin out, I felt a new me emerging. The spa facilities were good, the staff discreet and the locker safe. There were all the amenities needed to look fresh such as a blow dryer, comb, deodorant, etc. I could have slept for a while in the relaxation room, but there was herbal tea and a platter of fruits. Fresh, light and silky, it was time to head home. There is a salon too, should one wish for beauty services besides the rejuvenation.
₹ 8,000, taxes extra; +91-11-43633477 (spa),+91-11-43633475 (salon), thelodhi.com
R—The Spa, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi Airport
Among my favourite haunts, this is one spa where nothing is left to chance. You are accompanied at every step, guided properly and the therapists are among the more friendly ones around. So, while I have tried facials and aromatherapy massage here, ayurveda is a new entrant to this hotel. The menu, of course, is extensive, with couple’s massages, foot and hand massages and more. But my aim was to see how ayurveda was different here from the other places. I like ayurvedic massages as the oils have medicinal value. So, the massage I was undergoing was the traditional Abhyanga. But, unlike other places where two therapists work simultaneously on both sides of the body, there was a single therapist. The table was also made of special wood. This massage helps to increase blood circulation, stimulates the lymph system which is the body’s natural defense against toxins, and releases endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers), besides other health benefits. Abhyanga was more than washing out the stress; it was like coming back to life. I lost all perception of time and space as the therapist’s fluid strokes worked their magic on all my pain points. She had taken inputs on all the places she needed to focus on, the kinds of strokes, and whether I was okay with a head massage. Of course, the head needed some TLC, since it was constantly overused. Long strokes and lots of oil, and before I knew it, the 60 minutes were over. All I needed was a bed now. But I opted for sauna and steam instead, and let the oil soak in completely. Uzichil and Marma ayurvedic therapies are also on offer here.
₹ 4,000/5,000 for Abhyanga (60/90min); +91-9999883952, +91-11-26779065, radissonblu.com
Jiva Grande Spa, Taj Palace
With some really replenishing treatments, the spa therapies here have been formulated on India’s wellness traditions. There are different massages and luxurious long treatments designed to change the way you feel. My treatment was the 120-minute Sushupti or dreamless sleep. I could have been the legendary Cleopatra—the two-hour treatment was an unfamiliar zone for a busy city dweller. But breaking out of the fast pace was much-needed.
With complete ignorance on what was coming, I entered the luxurious and sweet-smelling spa. Five minutes in the steam room and I was led to the treatment room. During the introductions, the 120 minutes had seemed like forever, but I had kept the day free, for it’s good to indulge once in a while. The therapy began with an aromatic footbath. The massage oils were made with plenty of herbs, around 22, and relaxed and replenished at the same time. They were specially made for Jiva, I was told. Green gram flour, honey and fresh cream were blended for the scrub. A gentle, yet thorough, scrubbing, and I was ready to wash it out. I was quite surprised to find a big brass pot of lukewarm milk mixed with fresh rose petals in the shower area. I washed out the scrub with this exotic mix. Smelling of milk and roses, I was ready for the next round. Now, the slow and gentle strokes began to work their magic. Light music and gentle massage, my body, mind and soul had already forgotten the world outside. I fell into a gentle sleep, letting the therapist lift my hands and feet for the massage. It ended with scalp massage and a light facial massage. All too soon, she was telling me the treatment was over. Slowly, I wore my slippers, visibly eased out and headed towards the steam room again to let the oil soak in. Ideally, the oil should be kept on for a few hours, my therapist said. I should have carried some clothing on which the oil wouldn’t matter, I thought too late. Maybe, another time, for everyone deserves a break from the city. And nothing like a spa to offer that. There are special beauty treatments on offer, along with some yoga and yogic therapies such as jal neti.
₹ 7,500; +91-11-66503538/39, 26110808, tajhotels.com
Club One Fitness & Spa, The Suryaa
Jacuzzi, sauna and steam, and massage, Club One Spa can be quite the place to wash out all that stress. I reached early which turned out to be a blessing, for I spent a full 10 minutes in the jacuzzi. The lukewarm swirling around of water was definitely needed to relax those tired muscles. I was going in for one of the signature therapies, Escape. This included stretching and Balinese massage. The oil used smelt like jasmine to me. The spa has themed rooms and my treatment was done in Carnation. Light stretches of the arms, legs and back, and the therapist got down to medium strokes. The light oil spread easily and with each stroke, I felt some tension melt away. This 90-minute treatment was designed for the busy ones always on the go, with the emphasis being around the neck and shoulder areas. With a scalp massage and foot reflexology at the end, it did work its magic. Some fresh lime juice and a bit of steam and sauna, and I wished I had the time to sleep it off. But busy schedules called and, after a cup of green tea, I was on my way. The spa also has a special Jet Lag treatment for travellers, which promises instant relaxation. There is a salon too, should you like to try the beauty treatments.
₹ 4,000; +91-11-26835070/47808080, thesuryaa.com