Mend­ing my heart in the Hi­malayas

Can mas­sage and mind­ful­ness fix a bro­ken heart? Fong Chau went to Vana Malsi Es­tate in In­dia to es­cape the now, but ended up re­turn­ing to her­self

Red - - CONTENTS -

How Vana Malsi Es­tate helped Fong Chau be­gin to heal her heart­break

Ididn’t know it when I touched down in Delhi, but I’d come to In­dia to find my­self. It wasn’t long ago that I’d known who I was – some­one about to spend the rest of her life with the right man. On New Year’s Eve we’d drunk cham­pagne and watched fire­works pop over Lon­don. “Let’s get mar­ried,” I said.

Three days later, he left me. Over the pre­vi­ous months we’d lost our way, caught in a fog of sad­ness and ap­a­thy through which we no longer had the strength to seek each other out. My pro­posal was born out of love, but also out of des­per­a­tion to save an eight-year re­la­tion­ship. So, when given the chance to fly out to Vana Malsi, a well­ness re­treat in the foothills of the Hi­malayas, I was un­sure. Could a week of spir­i­tual heal­ing help me win back the love of my life? It was worth a try.

Vana at­tracts a global and well-heeled clien­tele. From prop­erty de­vel­op­ers to a smat­ter­ing of celebri­ties, they come to find peace, clar­ity, and yes, them­selves. The ap­proach is holis­tic, with a treat­ment menu more than 10 pages long, in­cor­po­rat­ing Ayurvedic and Ti­betan heal­ing, fit­ness pro­grammes, yoga, med­i­ta­tion and acupunc­ture.

The clean ar­chi­tec­ture and lash­ings of pale oak cre­ate an airy Scan­di­na­vian feel. It’s a thought­ful par­adise through which care­fully cul­ti­vated path­ways en­cour­age mind­ful walk­ing. Guests worry about noth­ing. My state-of-the-art bed moulded it­self to my body shape, the air con­di­tion­ing in my room was set to the re­quire­ments of my dosha (Ayurvedic mind-body type), even my clothes were picked out (all guests wear py­ja­mas of or­ganic cotton). I ate richly hued and de­li­ciously spiced thalis, also pre­pared to suit my Ayurvedic com­po­si­tion. Such de­tail made stay­ing here a com­plete rest for my weary mind, though I still saw the world through his eyes. Would he like it here, too?

A friendly but no-non­sense doc­tor helped de­ter­mine my re­treat ob­jec­tives. I want to fix us, I told her. “All well and good,” she said, look­ing me square in the eye, “but right now you’re not to­gether. You have to heal your­self.” Her words hit me like a sucker punch. I en­rolled on a be­spoke de-stress plan to ad­dress my emo­tional block­ages. Af­ter tak­ing my pulse, my doc­tor rightly de­ter­mined that I was suf­fer­ing from joint pains, and ex­plained that my Vata (the Ayurvedic en­ergy of move­ment) was im­bal­anced, as was my Ti­betan wind en­ergy,

sug­gest­ing over-think­ing. For the rest of the week I was to prac­tise be­ing in the mo­ment by con­nect­ing with my body, free­ing me from my whirling thoughts. It would be a start.

I joined yoga classes and trekked to a nearby na­ture re­serve, try­ing to fo­cus on phys­i­cal sen­sa­tions rather than let­ting my mind wan­der. In Shi­rod­hara treat­ments I imag­ined new path­ways map­ping them­selves out in my mind as warm oil trick­led over my scalp. In the mas­sage that fol­lowed, I went for 90 min­utes with­out think­ing of him, and left feel­ing calm and re­vi­talised. Later in the week a Taoist ab­dom­i­nal mas­sage in­tended to re­lease emo­tional bag­gage yielded pow­er­ful re­sults. Push­ing down, my ther­a­pist com­mented on how firm I was. When I said I’d been do­ing crunches, she coun­tered that it was be­cause I was hold­ing on to the past. Go­ing to the bath­room af­ter felt like a life-chang­ing mo­ment – years of emo­tional bag­gage lit­er­ally flushed away. When I re­turned home, I found he had a new girl­friend.

It’ll im­plode and he’ll come back, I thought. Then I re­called that ini­tial meet­ing with my doc­tor: “You have to deal with the sit­u­a­tion as it is now.” And lit­tle by lit­tle, that’s what I’m try­ing to do. When my thoughts turn in the wrong direction, fo­cus­ing on my body, even if it’s just drink­ing my tea in a mind­ful way, gives me the strength to re­turn to my­self. Sad times come and go, but liv­ing life means ac­cept­ing them and mov­ing on. Vana helped me take the first steps, more will surely fol­low.

“Sad times come and go, but LIV­ING life means ac­cept­ing them and MOV­ING on”

The re­treat is nes­tled in the foothills of the Hi­malayas Chain, £95; pen­dant, £39, both Daisy Lon­don Slip­pers, £75, Holis­tic Silk Uma Pure Bliss Well­ness Oil, £39 What to pack

Vana’s paths en­cour­age mind­ful walk­ing

One of the bright, spiced lunch dishes at Vana

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