Taking time out at the Taj
IT’S difficult to associate Cape Town’s inner city in the middle of the World Cup with relaxation. But inside the Jiva spa at the Taj hotel, all of the bustle falls away and the focus is on pure calm.
The Taj is one of the city’s new players on the hotel block, and its Jiva spa is the first of its kind in Africa.
Spa manager Dr Hermanth Kumar is an Ayurveda specialist. Ayurveda is a traditional holistic approach to health-defining “health as happiness and disease as sorrow”.
Because I chose an Ayurveda treatment called Dinacharya, Kumar met with me to discuss my health, lifestyle, eating habits and some of my concerns. From this information he is able to determine exactly how to adjust the treatments for your personal needs.
When I saw the long, hard wooden table I’d be lying on for the treatment, it evoked a slight sense of terror in me, as it strongly resembled some sort of medieval torture device. But once my therapist explained that the wood is used for its healing properties, chanted a mantra to cleanse the room and washed my feet declar- ing that “the guest is like a god” all the fear evaporated.
The first part of the treatment consists of several exercises aimed at cleansing the senses. First, a medicated liniment is applied to the inside of the eyelid. It does create some irritation and my eyes started watering immediately. Apparently this helps cleanse the eyes, and if done regularly it enhances their beauty.
Next, medicated oil is put into the nostrils to clear the sinuses, and a similar oil is put in the ears. Then, a warm, specially blended oil is held in the mouth for a few minutes – aimed at improving oral hygiene. Kumar also told me it would help ease the muscular jaw pain I suffer from if done regularly.
And, finally, the therapist lights something which looks and smells like incense, which I was told to breathe in very slowly. The smoke is fairly acrid, and caught at the back of my throat, but it did help with the slight cold which was just beginning to creep past my natural defences.
And once that’s all done – the good stuff starts. Ayurveda massage is conducted with long slow movements, and using lots of warm oil. It’s relaxing and comforting, but can get rather slippery on the wooden table. The mas- sage seemed endlessly long, and I managed to slip off into a bit of a trance for a while, despite the persistent vuvuzela that could be heard from time to time outside in St George’s Mall.
Then it’s into the steam box. The box looks a little like a cupboard, in which you sit with your head poking out. It was warm and cosy in the box, and the steam, combined with all that oil made my skin feel soft for days afterwards. In addition to the Ayurveda treatments, the spa also offers traditional spa treatments such as facials, massages, manicures and pedicures. All of the treatments use only natural ingredients.
Before my treatment, Kumar explained to me that at Jiva, no chemicals touch the body. The robes are made of sun-bleached cotton, oils are specially made for the spa and are decanted into pottery or brass pots before being used on the body and even the shampoo in the showers is paraben free.