Even if you have never been to Bali, you’re likely to feel some kinship with the tiny island in the Indonesian archipelago. It’s hard not to, given that not only is Bali the only Hindu state in the cluster of Indonesian islands, but it has also enjoyed trade ties with our country since ancient times. Over the years, this exchange took Ayurveda to Bali, where it was incorporated into the traditional Balinese massage technique.
Balinese massage has elements of several massage styles, including the acrobatic stretches of Thai massage, Chinese acupressure, the emphasis on essential oils and deep tissue massage derived from Ayurveda; and reflexology. Much like the state it comes from, the massage is a complex yet pleasing hybrid of customs. Thanks to the osmotic ties between the two countries, Balinese massage is now available in India as well.
A pleasant mix
The Balinese massage is the signature treatment at iLA, the spa at the Hotel Sahara Star in Vile Parle. iLA, which means rejuvenation, became operational just over six months ago. But according to Alzira Mascarenhas, the guest relations manager of the hotel, the three-room spa is set to be renovated soon.
iLA is best described as a mishmash of several design sensibilities, but the overall effect is not jarring or unpleasant. There are dashes of colour — like the vibrant panels in every room, and multi-coloured towels placed in slats on the wall of the lobby — but they add up to a pleasant whole, which isn’t always the case with the hotel which houses the spa.
The sounds and smells
The treatment room chosen for my Balinese massage was suitably mood lit. Lying face down, I found myself gazing at the by now standard-issue bowl of rose petals. A track of tinkling instrumental music (which would later feature strange sounds of bird calls, much to my bemusement) played in the background. It would have all been so ho-hum had it not been for my cheery therapist, who brought some spirit to the treatment.
She liberally doused me with an essential oil meant for relaxation, and made putty of my tense muscles with long, sweeping strokes. She paid attention to every part of my body, using her knuckles and fingers to knead and roll the underlying muscles. I appreciated the gentle pressure of the massage, which seemed to leach stress out of my shoulders, and the enervating effect of the aroma oils.
One hour later, I chose to use the steam room rather than the shower. It was here, surrounded by wisps of steam, that I realised how relaxed and supple I felt. As I stepped out of the hotel and climbed into an auto, it seemed perfectly ironic yet perfectly fitting that I smelled like a botanical garden in an urban jungle.