Wellness travel in Delhi: a journey to empowerment

By: Virgin Atlantic

February 12, 2016

Panja Aarati at Ganga with Swami Ram Ganga Puri

Delhi is home to several expert wellness retreats. From yoga to Ayurveda, find out more and book your trip today with Virgin Atlantic.

Lighting oil lamps is a traditional Indian ritual; image by Wari Om from the Yoga in India film

Wellness breaks are booming, as farsighted travelers around the globe change the way they approach their vacation. Getting away from the daily routine for some time in the sun with a book in hand isn’t enough anymore. People are searching for places where they can rejuvenate body and mind: a total therapeutic overhaul from head to toe. Yoga at sunrise, wholesome organic food on tap, and game-changing treatments that hail from ancient wellness traditions. These places exist in India, and they’re thriving.

Rest assured, wellness is not just a buzzword. In fact, the Global Wellness Institute estimated wellness tourism to be worth $494 billion in 2015. India ranked first for growth in wellness trips, and once you get out there, it’s easy to see why. Wellness breaks have taken tourism in India to the next level. It’s a truly immersive experience, for body, mind and spirit. Who said a vacation should just leave you feeling rested? We’ll take empowerment over relaxation any day.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Yoga 1 - Christine Hewitt.jpgWoman practices a Yoga handstand with ease; Image by Christine Hewitt

Ayurveda – believe the hype

According to the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH), “The healthcare industry has been focusing on a curative approach to medicine, rather than preventive” – but this is now set to change. When accrediting wellness centers, they define wellness as “A state of optimal health covering the physical, mental and social aspects of an individual.”

Enter Ayurveda – the latest type of therapy on everyone’s lips (although it has allegedly been practiced in India since prehistoric times). There’s a big focus on the idea that the mind is our most powerful tool when it comes to healing the body.

Ayurveda centers can be found in the US, but without doubt, the best place to experience the treatments in their purest form (without other cultural influences) is in their homeland. The Kairali Ayurvedic Group boast award-winning service – some of the best in India. Their first center was established in Delhi in 1989, and others can now be found across India. Expect nothing less than dedicated, personalized service. They even provide coaching to help you embark on your new healthy lifestyle, keeping you one step ahead of the guys at home.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Yoga 2 - Christine Hewitt.jpgPadmansa is the Sanskrit name for the Lotus position; Image by Christine Hewitt

The birthplace of yoga

Yoga is huge in the western world, true enough, but there’s nothing quite like experiencing it in India, where yogis have been sharing their wisdom for centuries. Flavia Mameli, manager of online directory disclosed, “Almost every serious practitioner sooner or later seeks to travel to the mother country of yoga, [so] the foundation of was a natural step for us.”

“Like the tastes and number of spices in India, the local yoga scenes are numerous, colorful and surprising!” Mameli says. “There seem to be millions of schools and lineages, and some of these traditions have been well-preserved since very ancient times.”

It’s not all about the physical benefits either, “The aspect of physical exercise is just a small part of yoga; in India a much more holistic philosophy is still kept alive.”

And there’s still time to get in on the fun in India before the masses catch on. As Flavia continues, “The interest in yoga, alternative healing systems like Ayurveda and eastern philosophy has highly increased over the last ten years and still doesn’t seem to have reached its peak – yet.” Stay ahead of the game by taking a look at – it does a great job of breaking down all the different centers and ashrams based on your preferences.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Yoga 4 - Christine Hewitt.jpgWoman practices the extend side angle Yoga pose; Image by Christine Hewitt

Real Indian food

Delicious as it might be, we’re not talking about the chicken korma served up in your local Indian takeout. We’re talking organic, balanced, wholesome meals that are completely tailored to your needs. If you want to achieve wellness like the best of them, you should eat to live, rather than live to eat.

Wellness retreat kitchens embrace the Indian diet, which actually encompasses a range of regional cuisines, each with their own distinct features. Fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices are sourced locally to make up nutrient-rich dishes, and recipes are often influenced by tradition, culture and religion.

In India, every spice used is selected for a reason – be it nutritional or medicinal. The result is food that tastes fantastic and is incredibly good for you. You may be surprised to discover the sheer range of flavors. It really doesn’t come close to anything you get in the west.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Yoga in India 3 - Coni Hörler.jpgEsteemed Yogi Swami Sundaranand in his Gangtori home; Image by Coni Hörler for Zu den Quellen des Yoga, the book

Meditation – healthy mind, healthy body

If you’ve never tried meditation, India is the ideal place to start. There are different types of meditation, but they all usually focus on breathing, position, and centering the mind. It’s great for reducing stress and anxiety, and you may come away with a lot of tips for a calmer way of life.

Even if you don’t stay at an ashram or wellness center, you’ll find plenty of centers that offer drop-in sessions in Delhi. Tu**bleep**a offers authentic Tibetan/Buddhist meditation sessions, as well as talks and various events throughout the year. The center welcomes people of all abilities, including complete beginners.

Meditation leads into wellbeing – and popular to contrary belief, wellness breaks aren’t all about relaxation. At the wellness centers themselves, you’re likely to find gyms and swimming pools, plus beautiful backdrops that are just crying out to be appreciated on a jog or hike.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Yoga 3 - Christine Hewitt.jpgThe Lotus pose originates in meditative practises of ancient India; Image by Christine Hewitt

De-stress in India: Delhi and beyond

When it comes to wellness breaks, Delhi is the perfect base. Once you experience this colorful metropolis, you’ll find it easy to understand why wellness breaks became so popular here. The bustling streets can feel a little chaotic, to say the least, with the smattering of nearby ashrams and wellness centers offering a welcome retreat.

Wellness doesn’t stop in Delhi though. Retreats across India work hard to help you restore your health from the inside out and reach an inner calm. That means yoga, fitness, meditation, and sometimes a complete nutritional overhaul. There’s the social element too: many ashrams have communal areas where people can chat, share an interest, enjoy some quiet time together, or even bury their heads in their work (hey, each to their own).

Here’s our pick of some of the finest wellness retreats in India:

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Yoga in India 4 - Coni Hörler.jpgThe Anjali mudra hand posture; Image by Coni Hörler for Zu den Quellen des Yoga, the book

The Imperial New Delhi

Best for: Colonial elegance

This place oozes Old World charm. Located on one of New Delhi’s main roads, the first thing you’ll notice about The Imperial is its elaborate décor.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - The Imperial Spa and Salon - Staircase.jpgStairs leading to The Imperial Spa and Salon; Image courtesy of The Imperial

The Spa – exclusive to hotel guests – has a range of treatments on the menu, all of which are tailored to specific needs, and forever improving. Director of The Imperial Spa and Salon Hayley L. Dack says, “Guests are becoming much more spa-savvy and aware of wellness therapies and contemporary spa offerings. This is the reason for us constantly evolving and upgrading our services.”

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - The Imperial Spa - Kerla Suite.jpgThe Kerala Suite at The Imperial Spa; Image courtesy of The Imperial

Beguiling and romantic with a truly premium feel, you can indulge in expert treatments in a tranquil environment. This is “you time” on a whole other level.

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The Moghul Suite for couples; Image courtesy of The Imperial

They offer Ayurvedic consultations and treatments, too. Hayley revealed, “Quite often, our guests have a physical ailment or mental trauma, and even have blockages in their body. Our Ayurvedic doctor recommends traditional healing medicines and therapies to help clear their system and correct any imbalances.”


Best for: Food connoisseurs

Based in Dehradun, Uttarakhand (around a six-hour train ride from Delhi), this state-of-the-art retreat is surrounded by the spectacular Mussoorie Hills. Set within its own beautiful mango and lychee orchards, it’s an idyllic place to escape to.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Vana Retreats - Outdoor Living Area 2.jpgAn outdoor living space at Vana; Image courtesy of Vana Malsi Estate

Vana delves into all aspects of wellbeing: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Their aim is to make a profound impact, so you’ll take something really meaningful away from your visit.

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A tranquil treatment room; Image courtesy of Vana Malsi Estate

To achieve this, they combine Ayurveda, Sowa Rigpa (Tibetan healing), yoga, natural therapies, spa treatments and aqua therapies. Then, there’s the food.

Vana’s Executive Chef states that the menu is designed to reflect “Everything that is natural, everything that is local, everything that is inspired by the season, and that can integrate with the wellness concept.” (You can watch a one-to-one with the man himself here).

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All dishes are organic and wholesome; Image courtesy of Vana Malsi Estate

Food is sourced from local farmers, and the dishes reflect the seasons: winter, summer and monsoon.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Vana Retreats - Cuisine 3.jpgMeals are also tailored to a guest’s body type; Image courtesy of Vana Malsi Estate

There are two restaurants: Salana, which embraces contemporary cuisine from around the world, and AÅ„ayu, which combines Indian recipes with Ayurvedic foundations.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Vana Retreats - Cuisine 1.jpgVana’s chefs are encouraged to be creative; Image courtesy of Vana Malsi Estate

Ananda in the Himalayas

Best for: Lovers of romantic, upmarket luxury This breath-taking retreat is pretty far from Delhi, but can easily be reached by car, train, plane, or – for the adventurous – helicopter! It’s known as one of the finest destination spas in Asia, and really packs a punch when it comes to luxury.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Yoga in India 2 - Coni Hörler.jpgKirit Thacker, head of Yoga at Ananda in the Himalayas; Image by Coni Hörler for Zu den Quellen des Yoga, the book

The spa stretches over 24,000 square feet, and there are more than 80 body and beauty treatments to choose from. These treatments blend contemporary western styles with Ayurvedic approaches. Traditional remedies are also used alongside cutting-edge modern technology, and all therapies are personalized.

It’s easy to become immersed in things here, and you’ll learn a lot – perfect if you want to kick-start a healthy new way of life. There are Satyananda yoga sessions, which incorporate traditional teaching with modern science, plus healing experiences to tackle energy imbalances. The best thing about this place? You’re surrounded by professionals who’ll stop at nothing to inspire you. You’ll leave feeling totally empowered and ready to take on the world.

Tree of Life (Jaipur) Best for: Indulgence on a budget

This is around a four-hour drive from Delhi, and with 13 luxury villas scattered across seven acres of land, it’s a tranquil paradise. Their sustainable ethos means they contribute to the local community in as many ways as they can. You can even visit a nearby school during your stay and spend an hour teaching a topic of your choice!

They’re also dedicated to great service – for example, they encourage you to take a walk with the chef through the “Eternal Garden” to choose the ingredients that go into your meal; does it get any more personal than that? Chefs can also suggest meals that both suit your tastes and embrace local and international cuisine (and you can eat in the privacy of your own villa, if you like).

In terms of wellness, Tree of Life offers yoga and meditation sessions, as well as plenty of pampering treatments that are more cosmetic than medicinal: think turmeric body polishes, wild honey body wraps and deep muscular massages. There are treatments for couples too – everything from candlelit baths to facials.

Virgin Atlantic - Delhi - Yoga in India 1 - Wari Om.jpgKrista Shirley practices a tricky backbend yoga pose; image by Wari Om from the Yoga in India film

Yoga images: showcasing our photographers

We’d like to give special thanks to the following photographers for the use of their images in this article.

Wari Om

Aside from being a talented yoga photographer and filmmaker, Wari Om teaches both yoga and acroyoga, and also runs a yoga studio with his siblings. At the moment, he’s producing a movie about yoga in India – you can find out more about this inspiring project (and support the film) here.

Christine Hewitt

Canadian-born Christine Hewitt spends a lot of time in India taking captivating yoga portraits against stirring backdrops, ranging from vibrant streets and marketplaces to breathtaking natural spaces (“environmental portraits”). Her images breathe with energy and character.

Coni Hörler

Swiss photographer Coni H̦rler has dedicated his life to photography since 1994. India became his creative muse and the center of his life when he first discovered the beauty of the subcontinent in 1996. He is now based in Bangalore, India. Coni was the sole photographer for the books Yoga In India РA Journey to the Top 24 Yoga Places and Zu den Quellen des Yoga.

Start your journey to wellness

Feeling inspired? Virgin Atlantic offers regular flights to Delhi. Book your flight and take the first step to wellness today.

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Virgin Atlantic

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