Categories
Wellbeing

A Temple of Peace

Originally published in SIX magazine issue 4 – SPRUNG!

A Temple of Peace


Written by Jessica Latapie

Ushvani is quite unassuming from its exterior, a contrast to the ornate interior of the Grade II listed Edwardian townhouse situated in the heart of Chelsea, West London. Once inside, a team of fresh smiling faces, a majestic tank of golden parrot fish and a warming facial towel infused with the spa’s own-brand signature aromas, helped brush off the bustle of the city for the hours that followed.

Usha Arumugam, former high-flying lawyer and founder of Ushvani (“usha’’ meaning “dawn” in Malay and “avani’’ being “earth” in Sanskrit), has created a Malaysian sanctuary adorned with dark wood and beautifully warm orange coloured fabrics, which make for a truly authentic Asian spa experience. This, coupled with a range of beauty products rooted in botanical ingredients are the fruits of four years of meticulous research and dedication to creating a unique and high quality experience – and it shows!

Launched in 2009, Ushvani boasts a bright and spacious Yoga studio offering one-on-one Yoga tuition, a wonderful addition to aid the holistic well-being of its visitors. Facilities include a tranquil spa pool, complete with hydrotherapy jets, a steam room and a treatment shower, separate from other shower facilities, offering different experiences at the touch of a button (including a tropical storm). 

After making the most of all that Ushvani has to offer I took myself off into “Damai’’, an aptly named room which translates from Malay as “peace”, for some complimentary fruit juices, dried fruit and water to rehydrate before I was greeted by my therapist. Once in the treatment room I was taken through my options for the type of treatment and experience I was looking for. From knotted shoulders to a consistent poor posture due to sitting at a desk every day, it was clear I needed some help to relieve the tension in my back. The Balinese massage was the outcome of the discussion; a deep-pressured treatment to uplift, ease tension and restore vitality. I was assured this was a popular and powerful treatment that also aided circulation.

Although massages are not the only choice of treatments at Ushvani, they offer a delicious and different menu of Eastern inspired massages from pregnancy specific to scalp focused. You can also book yourself in for body scrubs and wraps, facials or a full two hours of treatments of your choice as part of a package in the Asmara (“Love”) suite, a self-contained area that caters for two people. Back in the treatment room, as my therapist worked through the tension in my back, the scent of Ushvani’s coconut and hibiscus oil created harmony with the dulcet tones of Asian inspired relaxation music and spa sounds of the ocean. Ushvani balm was applied to the shoulders and neck where eucalyptus and other oils worked to reduce inflammation and revive the senses.

After the initial focus on the back region, the massage was then extended to the rest of the body to ease tension from head to toe. If comfortable with the idea, the stomach can also be massaged. According to Eastern philosophy, massaging the abdomen promotes better physical and emotional health from our centre and I would strongly recommend giving this a try. After the massage I was given some advice on the workings of my body, before being invited upstairs for some hibiscus tea – hibiscus being a prevalent ingredient within the Ushvani products as the national flower of Malaysia. 

Discovering I was quite dehydrated, knotted up in my stomach and that I had a sensitive spot in the ball of my foot, which directly linked to the tension in my neck, was a revelation and it was extremely useful to get some advice on how to make the symptoms a little better myself at home. The efficacy of the staff is to be commended as is the attention to detail, evident in small things such as the Eastern inspired beads on locker keys, and products available for use while changing, such as Ushvani’s own facial cleanser and toner which was a welcome addition to the pampering session.

All products produced by Ushvani are totally free from parabens, SLS, SLES and also mineral oils that are known to sit on the skin’s surface and block the pores. The range includes face-masks and scrubs using such ingredients as hibiscus and rose, a body butter made from coconut and kemiri (a nut native to Indonesia), papaya and cane sugar body scrub as well as body balms and oils infused with active ingredients such as eucalyptus. Each product prides itself on ingredients native to the East and is available to purchase at the spa or online so you can take your experience home with you. Once I was changed and bid a very pleasant farewell I floated back into the city night feeling revived, relaxed and ready to greet the Western world again.

Treatments are priced from £60: the Balinese massage starts from £180 for a 90 minute session. Further prices and information can be found at www.ushvani.com

Categories
Wellbeing

No Superheroes

Originally published in SIX magazine issue 5– ADVENTURE

There Are No
Superheroes


Written by Cassia Geller

They don’t exist. No Batman, no Wonder Woman, and almost certainly no Powerpuff Girls. There are, equally, no superfoods. No cure for cancer, no solution for brittle bones and no IQ-boosting free-pass-to-MENSA at the heart of a single berry. Not even at the base of an entire punnet. Yet, there are still foods that perform nutritional wonders. 

Neither legally nor medically regulated, officially, the term “superfood” doesn’t mean a thing. As such, adroit advertisers have few hoops through which to jump before they plaster the tempting title onto products and have us tearing them off supermarket shelves faster than we can say ‘goji berry’. 

To Catherine Collins, ICU dietician for the NHS, the term “superfoods” is ‘at best meaningless, and at worst harmful’, prompting people to forgo a healthy lifestyle and assuage their guilt by gorging on the superfood du jour. However, we have reached something of an impasse with the anti-superfoods brigade; the halo may have slipped of late, but the proffered substitute for piling your plate with antioxidants is to avoid oxidants. 

Moreover, while the institutional dictionary has scorned superfoods, the OED definition doesn’t seem so scary: ‘a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being’. So…like fruit? Or vegetables? It doesn’t sound like an evil marketing ploy, but it’s hardly groundbreaking. The point, though, is that some are substantially higher in phytonutrients, lower in calories and lower in fat than others. They are, by all accounts, ‘super’. 

While these include kale, blueberries, and a host of homegrown goodies, there is a plethora of foods that have been quietly fortifying civilisations for centuries. Foods that may not have had as much hype, but still perform nutritional wonders. Unprocessed and unpretentious, they’re the super foods without the super egos. 

Peru – Maca

Like the over-sexed parents of a pack of prodigies, the fertile lands of Central and South America have spawned foodie favourites acai, chia, spirulina and cacao – and now, maca. Bursting with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, legend has it that the Incan soldiers who consumed maca for strength before battle avoided it afterwards to protect lucky ladies from their alarming virility (cough). Nowadays, it’s simply seen as a highly nutritious, energy-imbuing mood elevator.

Africa – Baobab

One of the earth’s oldest trees, the revered baobab is widely used in traditional African medicine. Incredibly high in fibre, powder made from its fruit has around six times more vitamin C than oranges, more antioxidants than blueberries, more potassium than bananas, double the antioxidants of goji berries, more calcium than milk, and more iron than red meat.

India – Turmeric

A key player in Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric’s superpowers stem from photonutrient curcumin. With powerful anti-oxidising, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin is thought to tackle everything from IBS to arthritis. It doesn’t break down in cooking so you can consume it in your curry or through the skin; turmeric paste works wonders on skin conditions and slows the signs of ageing. 

The Amazon – Cupuaçu 

Back to arable South America for what is fondly known as ‘the food of the Gods’. Believed better than acai berries, capauçu also has less impact on the rainforest, giving you sustainable points whilst stuffing you with vitamins and minerals and stimulating the immune system. It also contains theacrine, which provides the energy-increasing properties of caffeine, naturally. 

Southeast Asia – Coconut water 

On the purity scale, coconut water is bettered only by spring water. Why not, then, stick with water? Because it’s unsullied depths are chock full of electrolytes, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Touted as nature’s sports drink, it’s super hydrating, fat and cholesterol-free, and so much more interesting than water. 

Scotland – Aronia berry 

Finally, we couldn’t journey through the mystical world of superfoods without stopping for some local goodness. The super-berry market might be bursting, but these little beauties are said to contain more antioxidants than heavyweights goji, acai and blueberries. All this, and they’re now cultivated in Scotland.