Sep 08' Mysore

Spa Review: Mysore's Windflower Emerge Spa
By Laura Olson

Should I take massage or no, and if so, how often? This is an oft-asked question of yogis to their teachers. So when this yogi heard that Guruji takes a daily massage with a therapist trained by Vinitta Rashinkar, director of the Emerge Spa at the Windflower, she felt she had her answer. The Ayurvedic spa and resort, located on the outskirts of Mysore, seems the perfect place to follow this easy-to-swallow prescription.

“Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences,” said Ms. Rashinkar. “You can’t have one without the other.” And she would know. Her commitment to yoga is very strong. If she didn’t love her practice so much, she wouldn’t be able to understand where the students are coming from. “Ayurveda helps you find focus and move further down the path you are pursuing.”

To test this theory, five devoted yogis decided to try some of the Windflower’s signature services (all for the sake our readers and all in the name of science of course). One Monday morning just after a demanding practice, we assembled at the coconut stand and were greeted by a friendly and courteous driver who whisked us away in the comfort of one of the Windflower’s cars. Yes, this service is provided to all, just ask. On arriving at the quiet, natural setting, seemingly far from the blaring horns and swirling dust of the city, it was as if an internal switch was flipped off. Our inner chatter began to quiet, our breathing deepened and tensions immediately began to melt away.

As we sipped herbal tea and reviewed the list of services, everything seemed right with the world. Perhaps this was due to the Windflower’s entirely Vastu design, the Indian antecedent of Feng Sui, keeping everything positioned in accordance with nature. Or perhaps it was simply the luxurious atmosphere. “We wanted to keep the pristine values of Ayurveda, while creating an atmosphere that is 100% spa,” said Ms. Rashinkar. And she certainly succeeded. From the soaring ceilings to the Buddha statue to the clean, beautiful rooms with potpourri, fluffy towels and paper-lined massage tables, every detail contributed to the pampering experience.

In selecting our services, we took the Windflower’s focus to heart. Although there are many choices, their forte is Ayurveda. And all of these signature therapies are tridoshic, or geared to bring any of the three doshas back to balance. So we chose five services ranging from relaxing, to stimulating, detoxifying to sheer bliss-inducing, body care to skincare. And, with that we were led away to hopefully restore our natural prakriti or “perfect balance.”

All services begin the same way. The client is led to a candlelit changing room complete with paper panties and a fluffy towel. Disrobing complete, the client sits in a chair while the therapist(s) chant the opening prayer—from the first chapter of the Ashtanga Arudaya. “It has no religious connotations,” says Vinitta. “It’s just an invocation of health and well-being. The guests come in from all kinds of external influences and it’s important to drop them. The prana has to flow!”

Then it’s on to the actual work. The staff applies their skills, obtained over 6 to 8 months of intense training with Vinita. And not only does the spa use local products, but local residents as well. Vinita admitted to being a little nervous about this at first, but now she beams proudly when she thinks of her “beautiful girls” as she calls them. “Some things come out of love,” she says.

During the treatments, therapists use delicious smelling oils and products exclusive to the Windflower, with local herbs harvested on Chamundi Hill. But don’t expect to be pressured into purchasing them. At the Windflower, the focus is the experience, not the commercial aspect. Though of course, if a client is truly interested the products are available.

Most treatments are performed by a pair of therapists, so the client feels pampered from top to toe, continuously. And though silence is maintained (except for soft, soothing music) most of the time, there is the occasional question about the pressure of the massage, and whether we are comfortable. After the rubbing, buffing, oil application and skin treatments, clients get squeaky clean with an actual shower (and more intoxicating shampoo and a body scrub) and then luxuriate in steam or a hot tub. Most treatments end with a special powder in the part of the scalp and cotton in the ears to prevent cold and buffer the client from the world a little while longer.

As our group of five meets back at the reception area for incredible fresh juices, it’s easy to see the difference in our demeanor. Worry lines have softened. We speak a little more slowly, sit a little lower in our chairs. “How was it?” I ask Lisa, one of my fellow guinea pigs. She just looks at me languidly and smiles, searching for words, but apparently not too hard, as she doesn’t find any. I hope I look as glowing and relaxed as she does!

The rest of my compatriots seem similarly mellow, yet refreshed as well. We have different favorite elements of the trip, but part that makes us all sad, going home!

Into the car we go, and back to noise of Gokulam, but with a little more internal quiet. And how did it affect our yoga practices the next day? Well, I know it’s not wise to get too attached to worldly experiences, but let’s just say I’m already planning my next visit.


Name: Olivia
Service: Coffee Invigorating Massage
Why did you choose this treatment: I wanted to take this treatment because I have heard that it works against cellulite...
What was your favorite part? My favorite aspect of the service is that 2 people give you the massage. It is just great! The first time I had it I didn't even know how the massage would be, and to be honest it was a wonderful surprise. And also every time I go, Vinita is always very nice and always makes sure that I get a good service, Would me feel welcome every time. Love that!
Would you get this service/go to the Windflower again? I go to windflower every time I come to Mysore.
How did you feel after the treatment? The next day? The service was lovely and not only the next day, I felt great the rest of the week.
Have you tried any other spas here in Mysore? No, just the Windflower treatments.
How does the value compare to at home? At home this is so expensive i can't afford it...maybe 3 times a I can do 10 massages with that money...

Name: Laura
Service: Navarakizhi—A liberal application of medicinal herbs dipped in a warm medicated milk decoction or medicinal oil and massaged gently over the body.
Benefits: Said to be anti-aging, rejuvenating and to improve tissue strength and circulation as well as beautifying the skin and promoting sound sleep.
Why you chose this treatment: See above! Also, it sounded like an intense treatment with real health benefits, as well an indulgence for the skin.
Favorite part of the treatment/visit: I loved the oils. They smell so fantastic and just leave you feeling completely pampered. And the hot shower followed by cotton in the ears made me feel soooo relaxed.
Least favorite part of the treatment/visit: The massage was very gentle, almost superficial. It felt more like a skin treatment/product application, though a very good one.
Would you do it again: Maybe not this one, but I have had Abhyanga with Shirodara there, and would definitely go back for that, or Udvartana or the Coffee...
How did you feel after the service? Clean and warm, relaxed and sleepy.
The next day? About the same as usual, maybe a little more relaxed, but my skin was very, very soft. And I actually got some sleep that night, unusual for me!
Have you tried any other treatments while in Mysore? How does this compare? Yes. The other massages I’ve had were deeper, but the products, treatment, settings just can’t compare. The overall experience at Emerge is so luxurious and pampering that I left feeling much better than when I got there.
How does it compare to service/value etc at "home"? Wow, home just can’t compare at all! The value for the services here is wonderful. I could have been at a luxury New York Spa, but at a fraction of the cost.

Name: Lisa
Service: Anti-aging facial
Benefits: Said to be anti-aging, rejuvenating and to improve tissue strength and circulation as well as beautifying the skin and promoting sound sleep.
Why you chose this treatment: I chose a facial because my face was breaking out from the heat and sweat in the yoga shala.
Favorite part of the treatment/visit: My favorite part of my treatment was when I fell asleep! I was so relaxed from the facial combined with the soothing shoulder and back massage.
Least favorite part of the treatment/visit:My least favorite part of the experience was hearing the noise from the kids in the pool. The treatment room was too close to all of the action!
Would you do it again: Maybe not this one, but I would definitely go back for Abhyanga with Shirodara or Udvartana or the Coffee...
How did you feel after the service? The next day?I felt that my face glowed after the treatment. I felt very relaxed and slept great that night. The next day I woke up to clearer skin.
Have you tried any other treatments while in Mysore? How does this compare? I have experienced other treatments here in Mysore, but I enjoyed this one the most. When you enter the grounds you feel like you have entered another world, a very calm and tranquil place.
How does it compare to service/value etc at "home"? I had a wonderful experience at this spa. The staff was very professional, organized, and ready to please. The grounds are beautiful. I would have no problems returning for another treatment and a dip in the pool.

Name: Elise
Service: Urdvatana
Why you chose this treatment: I like the idea of some serious exfoliation and it sounded interesting.
Favorite part of the treatment/visit:
The atmosphere at the Windflower is very peaceful and the staff is wonderful. The treatment itself was amazing!
Would you do it again: Yes!
How did you feel after the service? The next day?
My skin was very soft, practice the next day was great, I felt wonderful.
Have you tried any other treatments while in Mysore? How does this compare?
I also tried the coffee invigoration massage. This massage is more intense in terms of the exfoliation but doesn't have the wonderful smell of coffee.
How does it compare to service/value etc at "home"?
The same if not better. can you find this massage in New York?

Name: Marissa
Service: Abyanga with Shirodara
Benefits: Abhyanga is said to remove toxins from the body and relax not only the mind but the body tissues. Shirodhara is said to nourish the hair and remove mental strain and toxins. It is an excellent remedy for insomnia, hair-loss, dandruff and migraine.
Why did you choose this treatment? I hadn’t experienced the warm oil (Shirodara) part before, and I really wanted to try it.
Favorite Part: The oil, definitely. As they pour it back and forth it makes you relax so deeply—one more minute and I would have been gone.
How did you feel the next day? I felt good. But mostly my hair and skin were really soft.
What was your least favorite part? It was pretty noisy outside. Also, maybe I’m used to a deeper massage.
Would you go back again? Definitely! I’d have a whole hour shirodara!

Emerge Spa/Windflower

Laura lives and breathes ashtanga, but she also wears many hats, including freelance copywriter and journalist. She also loves to bake, cook and sing--sometimes all at once. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, Bradford and fat cat, J.P. Morgan.


mentor said...

the Spa at Windlower is sublime! Treatments and massages are incomparable. The quality of service that I enjoyed was worldclass. Highly recommended!

Anonymous said...

I loved your article Laura!!! You are such a great writer. I am glad all of you enjoyed your treatments at the Windflower. Love-Mindy