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Urban retreat

The search to find a one-stop-shop to address all our wellness needs just might have ended, writes Vidya Balachander.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2009 15:48 IST
Vidya Balachander

Most spas try but only few succeed in being a wellness sanctuary — a one-stop-shop for all your wellness needs. In space-starved Mumbai, that is an ambitious plan. So it was with some scepticism and not a little curiosity that I made my way to Sohum Spa and Wellness Sanctuary in Juhu. What would this new spa — incidentally, the third to open up in two months — offer to justify its somewhat grandiose name?

Located in a tiny neighbourhood, with Amitabh Bachchan’s bungalow ‘Jalsa’ for company, Sohum leaves little to chance in the looks department. A wide outer courtyard paved with pretty pebbles leads to the well-appointed lobby. We’re told that this courtyard will soon double up as a reflexology lounge. As you walk down the pathway leading to the spa, the fragrance of aroma oils grows steadily stronger until you can find your way blindfolded. Inside, a giant Buddha sitting atop a flight of stairs welcomes visitors. The atmosphere is ripe for relaxation.

Quality treatment
But while we’ve come to expect high aesthetic standards from spas in Mumbai, it is the quality of service that ultimately differentiates a standout spa from a good one. It was in this department that Sohum surpassed all my expectations.

As soon as I had made myself comfortable in the lobby, the spa manager handed me an exhaustive questionnaire, which included not just routine questions about skin and bodily ailments, but also surprising ones about the kind of sunblock I use, my capacity to handle sunlight and even about any metallic implants I may have. After reading my responses, the spa manager helped me choose a treatment.

My only pre-condition was that I didn’t want to dry out my sensitive skin by bathing more than once; so, we chose the oatmeal and rice exfoliating scrub followed by an oil-free Thai massage.

Before beginning the treatment, perhaps to mark an auspicious beginning, my masseuse clapped two cymbals together. She then “dusted” my body with a body brush, which she later explained, helped to kick start my lymphatic system. She then dabbed a coarse oatmeal-and-rice mixture on my body. Meticulous to a fault, she concentrated on one body part at a time, rubbing it down so thoroughly that I was confident the dead cells were falling away in sheer relief. An hour later it was time to wash off the scrub. In the shower, I realised that my skin hadn’t felt this smooth and refreshed in a long while.

Lazy man’s yoga
I was sated and ready to snooze but the main course was yet to come. After changing into a super-comfy pyjama set, I braced for the Thai massage. Unlike conventional massages which allow you to be a passive recipient, a Thai massage demands your active participation. I discovered why the Thai massage is called “lazy man’s yoga” as my masseuse kneaded my skin and stretched my limbs. I was revisiting all the asanas from my power yoga session that morning, but this time with assistance. Relief coursed through my system in waves.

Afterwards, unwinding with a stellar cup of chamomile tea (easily the best I’ve drunk at a spa in recent times), I realised that Sohum tries hard to be a wellness sanctuary. The eight therapy rooms are kitted out with the best of modern amenities (including piped oxygen via custom-built pipes under massage tables), but they aren’t clinical. The therapists are well-trained and professional. Soon, the spa will offer yoga, Pilates, t’ai chi and other fitness classes. Nutritional and psychological counselling facilities are already available. If this isn’t a one-stop-shop, what is?

Rice and oatmeal scrub: Rs 1,299 plus taxes for 45 minutes; Thai massage: Rs 2,499 plus taxes Sohum Spa and Wellness Sanctuary,Vile Parle Contact no: 26139603/05