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Go Ayurvedic at Sukhavati

Stephanie Mee kicks back at a seriously soothing ayurvedic spa spot near Ubud.

Who says that the only time for new beginnings is the start of a new year? I’m a firm believer that you can take the first steps towards a healthier lifestyle any time you want. Ok, so admittedly I’ve been a bit slack about keeping up with my resolutions this year, but I still stand by my statement. In light of my healthy lifestyle transgressions, I decided that it was time for a detox, and Sukhavati Ayurvedic Retreat & Spa had been at the top of my list for ages.

Located in the lovely rural village of Bebengan, just 20 minutes from Canggu and about an hour from Ubud, Sukhavati Ayurvedic Retreat & Spa sits on a sprawling property that spills down to the Penet River. Surrounding the estate are rice paddies, running rivers and quaint cobblestone streets. Step inside the gates and you find lush lawns, tropical trees and stepping stone paths that lead to various Balinese-style buildings.

Sukhavati means ‘abode of peace’ in Sanskrit, and that’s a pretty apt name for this serene spot that is dedicated to helping guests find permanent inner peace. The focus here is on the healing arts of Ayurveda, also known as ‘the science of life’. Originating in India thousands of years ago, Ayurveda employs natural methods to cure an array of health issues and promote optimal well-being. These methods include massage, meditation, yoga, herbal medicines and a healthy diet.

Because I’m an absolute beginner to Ayurveda, I opt for the One Day Taste of Ayurveda programme, which allows me to experience a range of treatments and a taster of what a wellness journey at Sukhavati Ayurvedic Retreat & Spa is like. This is the shortest of Sukhavati’s retreat programmes, which range from one day all the way up to 21 days or even longer on request.

I arrive at Sukhavati in the morning and am greeted by two staff members who hand me a cold towel, a welcome drink of coconut water, lime and mint, and necklace of wooden meditation beads. Once seated in the open-sided lobby, I fill out a personal health questionnaire so the resident Ayurvedic doctor can prepare for our consultation. The staff then lead me down a huge set of stone stairs to one of the estate’s eight gorgeous, tropical-chic villas where I can relax in between treatments.

My first treatment takes place in the comfort of my villa, and includes a divine facial and foot massage administered by two highly trained and experienced therapists. Feeling utterly refreshed and pampered, I enjoy a quiet cup of tea on my veranda overlooking the cobalt pool with its bubbling water feature before making my way to Dr. Mithun Raju’s office for my Ayurvedic consultation.
Hailing from Hyderabad, Dr. Mithun Raju comes from a long lineage of Ayurvedic practitioners. His consultations start with general questions about physical, mental and emotional health, followed by a pulse diagnosis. I am shocked when the doctor accurately diagnoses that I have a problem with my right knee, which I injured in a motorbike accident over a year ago. He also determines that I have too much vata and recommends treatments, diet tips and lifestyle tweaks for my particular constitution.

With Dr. Mithun Raju’s advice in mind, I make my way down to the Lower River Pavilion for lunch. Set on the edge of a ravine overlooking the Penet River, this breezy space is the perfect spot to indulge in Sukhavati’s excellent organic vegetarian cuisine. My lunch includes a spread of Ayurvedic dishes including daal, baked spinach and tofu spanakopita, sautéed vegetables, red bean salad and rice with sides of coconut chutney and ghee.

My final treatments take place in the stunning River Spa that juts out over the rushing river. The experience starts with a soothing head massage and foot scrub, then moves into the Abhyanga massage, a synchronised four-hand, warm-oil treatment to help purify the body. This is followed by the Shirodhara treatment, which involves warm herbal oil poured in a continuous stream across the forehead. To say that this was deeply calming would be a huge understatement.

As the day comes to an end, I enjoy a fresh papaya juice while watching dragonflies flit through the hanging vines tumbling down from the trellis on my patio. Even though I have only spent the day here, my mind and body are at ease, and all the stress I was previously feeling seems to have slipped away. I will definitely be back to Sukhavati Retreat & Spa, only the next time I will be sure to book in for a minimum of three days. And that’s a resolution I will keep.