It’s quite typical in India to start anything with saying “Namaste”. It’s our greeting in India and if you come to Vana, you will hear it at least 100 times a day but always with a lot of sincerity and quite simply it means I salute the divinity in you. Vana was conceptualized, designed and built with an ambition of making it the most iconic wellness retreat in the world. We opened last year. And now I live at Vana, that’s my home. When one says wellness, at-least in my language, it is what you do to get to a better state of wellbeing.
I define wellness as the tools and I look at wellbeing as a kind of the goal or the state that you are trying to work towards. We look at wellbeing in 7 different aspects which are, physical, mental, spiritual, ecological, social, occupational and emotional. This allows us to study what we are doing and to work on each of these either parallel or linearly but eventually coming to a sense of whole again because that’s really is the most important aspect to keep in mind that wellbeing is a sense of wholeness. It is not something that one should breakup or look at only one aspect.
When I say that they are very interdependent it also includes how your mind works, how your spirit works, and this then brings us to the crucial point of difference between how the systems of health and medicine and wellness of where I come from, differ from what I have known as more modern systems.
I fundamentally see the difference between the two systems of medicine as ways of thinking. In traditional medicine usually sees the person as a whole so it tries to first understand their constitution, it tries to understand their background, the environment, it really almost puts the issue to the side for a while and aims to get a better insight into the human being. Whereas from my little knowledge, modern medicine has the tendency to focus on the diseases or the symptom and treat that rather than look at the human being as a whole. This for me is a very important difference between the systems.
When I say the traditional systems of medicine, the once that I am primarily referring to are Ayurveda, Sowa Rigpa (which is Tibetan medicine), Traditional Chinese Medicine and to an extent Yoga, which again is a whole science. Just like Ayurveda is to India, Sowa Rigpa was/is to Tibet and it is also a very interesting form of medicine. What makes it unique is that it has brought into the system, an understanding of the mind and compassion as well. So, when you have a consultation with a Sowa Rigpa doctor, they will also speak of your mind, they will also speak of compassion.
In Ayurveda for example we have three body types, Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which broadly relate to wind, fire an water. You can be one or more than one of these and typically you are born with a particular constitution which is what we call the “Prakriti” in Ayurveda. Due to your lifestyles, habits and choices, your constitution at a particular moment of time can actually end up changing, and this is what we call “Vikriti”. So, we try to arrive at what your Prakriti and Vikriti is and then try and create again a sense of balance and it can be quite profound what this is able to achieve.
Similarly in Sowa Rigpa, we have Loong, Baekun and Tripa, these associate similarly to Vata, Pita and Kapha and in TCM we have Yin and Yang. When you scratch deeper below the surface, you actually find a very strong common thread focusing between all of these systems. I do feel that our traditions of health and wellness and our traditions of spiritual wisdom and learning are perhaps the two best gifts and offerings that we can make to the world. We have identified 10 different objectives that people usually come with, Destress, Relaxation, Natural Healing, Fitness,Ayurveda, Panchkarma, Yoga, Beauty, Weight Management and the tenth one is called don’t know yet.
Even though we have been open for only a year and a half, we already had our 3rd and 2nd time repeat guests. They had come for something in the first time, they realized they want to achieve something deeper the 2nd time and the 3rd time they might just come to relax again and kind of get that Vana experience.
Vana is in a small town called Dehradun, about a 30 minute flight from New Delhi and the Retreat is about one hour from Dehradun airport. The Retreat is spread over 21 acres, on the foothills of Himalayas. We have about 55 treatment and consultation rooms, 82 rooms and suites, 3 yoga studios, 2 pools, a state of the art gymnasium, private Watsu treatment room, 2 restaurants staffed by 325 people in the team.
Every single itinerary is bespoke and it gets made after your consultation at the Retreat. We do not have a pre made detox or a pre-made weight management or a pre made stress management package at Vana. Every guest who comes to Vana is treated as a unique individual and we allow you to keep changing your itinerary.
Vana is for transformation, it is very much about, getting into a journey and a path ahead.
By Veer Singh
© This article was first published in Nov/Dec 2015 edition of World Travel Magazine.