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Finding The Elements Embraced At This Ayurvedic Spa

After a scrumptious breakfast on the sun drenched dining porch of the Lake Ontario from every window) we headed to our next spa - Elemental Embrace. Stacey gave me some background about the property explaining to me that they are very much into ayurveda and that we would be meeting with Muqit who owns the establishment with his mom.

To my surprise we pull up to a very attractive property, enter the front door and are greeted by the handsome son who made us feel very welcome. After a tour of the property and some introductory conversation Muqit had arranged for each of us to experience one of their special treatments. I was down for the Ayurvedic treatment where two therapists do a synchronized oil massage. But Muqit had taken the time to explain to us the history of the treatment, the value of it, and in particular about the oil they use. It was the first time I understood that it isn't just about the oil, it is about the herbs in the oil and the heating of the herbs which release the medicine in them which can penetrate your body. This was not your resort-style Ayurvedic treatment. The smell was different, the table used was an authentic wooden table from India, the steam cabinet in which I sat post treatment was from India, etc. This Ayurvedic treatment felt more authentic than anything ayruvedic I have experienced anywhere in the world. (And no, I haven't been to India.)

It really made me realize how important it is to visit a spa to really understand its heartbeat. You can read about it in brochures or on the website, but there is nothing like experiencing a treatment, eating a meal and hearing about the vision of the property from the owner.

Lunch was unusual and unusually good. First, ginger and lime to get the digestive fluids flowing. Next dessert. Yes, dessert is served before the rest of the meal on the theory that it is better to get these food into the digestive process at the beginning of a meal. Next was a wonderful large shrimp cocktail, that was followed by a beautifully presented soup and finally a stuffed trout. The finale was one sweet date and some fennel and sesame seeds - all eaten together.

Adding to this rather surprising and extraordinary experience was the fact that Muqit was so interesting. A young guy, working with his mom in the family business, having been born in Kenya, he relates strongly with his Indian heritage and is a true believer in Ayurveda.

He's quite impressive - as is the property. Such a specific niche...but for people who are really into Ayurveda I can't think of a better place.

Over our five years, we have had over 10,000 guests to Elemental Embrace
and made a similar number of friends!! 
Many of these guests have written about their experiences and its effect on their lives, few of which have been published and uploaded below.   For this I would like to thank you on behalf of our new guests, who have found in your words the courage to embark upon an experience which has had a great wellness impact on their lives.
For those of you who have sent in letters and cards following your stay talking about your personal achievements and feelings of lightness, I THANK YOU, on my own behalf and that of the entire team here at EE, as these words are our inspiration and reward.  Some of these you can read on the following page.
Owner & Managing Director
We are very pleased to report that Elemental Embrace received 2 of the 11 Awards of Excellence presented by MPP Carol Mitchell and the Honorable Peter Fonseca, Minister of Tourism, at the annual Ontario's Finest Spas "WOW Awards" ceremony this April 2008. Of the 11 awards available to the 35 member spas in Ontario, Elemental Embrace received the awards for excellence of 'treatment' and 'treatment rooms'. Furthermore, Elemental Embrace scored within the top 3 spas of Ontario's Overall Finest Spas.

"Embracing visitors"
Ontario, Saturday, March 6, 2004
"Embracing Ayurveda"
A new 20,000-square-foot spa in Brighton offers relaxation
 therapies based on ancient East Indian medicine.
"Ready for the Royal Flush
Colon Hydrotherapy releases toxins."

Ayurvedic Bliss in Brighton, Ontario
by Wade Roland
"The Draw of the Spa"
Broadcaster ERIN DAVIS reports on escaping her whirlwind lifestyle
 to wind down at a tranquil, restorative retreat.
"Special Report: Spa RX:  DETOX"
Luxury Spa Finder Magazine
The Renewal Issue
"Pregnancy seen as 'women's time' for Pampering"
by Miriam Schachter 
Ontario, Saturday, August 19th, 2006
Toronto Star
ONTARIO, Saturday, March 6, 2004, p. J12
Embracing visitors
Anne Dimon

New Ayurvedic spa offers ancient healing treatments from India Cozy woodland setting provides time for quiet reflection, by Anne Dimon

BRIGHTON, Ont. - Booking an authentic Ayurvedic treatment "is something like taking your car in for an oil change," explains Dr. Neelesh Taware of Elemental Embrace. Just like a car, he says, the body needs a regular tune-up and periodic maintenance if it's expected to run at peak capacity.

Okay, I say, give this lassie's chassis a lube job.

Increasingly, the focus of North American spas is changing. Pampering is still huge, but spas are becoming more wellness-driven and spa-goers, taking a cue from their European counterparts, are becoming more pro-active in seeking treatments believed to help prevent certain medical conditions.

The 14-room Elemental Embrace, located in Brighton, Ont., is one of the province's newest wellness spas. In this homey setting, situated on a 12-hectare woodland estate, silk-covered furnishings, gas fireplaces, an intimate European-style dining room, hand-embroidered bed coverings, imported Italian glass sinks and a cave-like space for hot-stone, Hawaiian and other Western massages combine to create a decor that can only be described as eclectic.

It works.

The warm, welcoming environment makes the spa ideally suited to those seeking a special place for quiet, quality "me time.

"My "me time" retreat begins with a 90-minute Ayurvedic consultation designed to determine my "dosha" or Ayurvedic personality. Clearly, says Dr. Taware, I'm predominantly Vata (wind), a constitution prone to high-energy and juggling five things at once. I need to learn to relax, he says.

Tell me about it.

The other two doshas are Pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth). The study of Ayurvedics, a philosophy and medical practice dating back at least 5,000 years, promotes the belief that to attain wellness one must balance all three. Enter customized Ayurvedic treatments.

Customized spa treatments along with the residency of two accredited Ayurvedic doctors are two things that give this wellness retreat an edge.

"We didn't want this to be 'just another spa,' says the charming and dashing Jazir Teja, who owns and operates the Elemental Embrace with his mother and brother. "We wanted to take it one step further."

So, he traveled to India and interviewed 65 Ayurvedic doctors before hiring the husband and wife team of Neelesh and Ameeta Taware. Other spas offer Ayurvedics, but to the best of Teja's knowledge this is the only place in Canada where accredited Ayurvedic doctors consult and perform treatments.

Fluent in five languages, plus Sanskrit (the language of the seven-year Ayurvedic university degree program), the doctors have been practicing in India and Switzerland for over six years.

As I lay on an authentic Ayurvedic carved wood table, they drenched me in a customized mixture of oils and herbs using long broad strokes in a four-hand massage called Abhyanga. In another treatment (Shiradhara) they slowly poured a thin stream of warmed oil on my forehead.

The goal? To calm the wind and increase the earth factor so I would feel more grounded.

I found the doctors, in fact, the entire staff, warm, caring and attentive. So did other quests.

Arleen Moshe of Toronto, here with her husband for an overnight retreat says "therapists don't go into automatic pilot but tailor a treatment to individual needs."

Elemental Embrace is the long-time dream of Begum Teja, Jazir's mother, a therapist and the spa's general manager. Both are very hands-on in the day-to-day operation. As she slathers a lime green seaweed mash over my face, she tells me that although owner and general manager duties keep her busy, she still makes time for her first calling- administering treatments and making people feel better- a reflection of her nurturing Kapha personality.

From the owners right on down the line there's constant interaction and attentiveness to guests. No place is this more evident than in the dining room where meals and serving times are just this side of "made-to-order," and the food is, unequivocally, some of the best I've tasted in any destination spa.

While chef Brian Henry works from a basic plan for the three meals a day that accompany spa packages, there is no set menu. But expect to dine on things such as lamb, duck, beef, fish and seafood. Each artistically presented dish is also slightly tweaked for the individual. "Everyone is accommodated according to their Ayurvedic consultation, likes, dislikes, allergies or dietary restrictions," he says.

In between a full menu of treatments both Ayurvedic and Western, there are woodland trails, a meditative labyrinth, an indoor swimming pool, saunas, aromatherapy steam rooms, a reflexology walk and a movie room (there are no television sets in guest rooms). Following a lecture or demonstration, it's off to bed on a surprisingly comfy corn husk and foam mattress. Yes, book this body for regular tune-ups.

Two other new wellness-focused spas being adding to Ontario's impressive spa inventory are the 10-room Claramount Inn & Spa which opens this weekend in Picton, and slated for a mid-April opening is the Millcroft Spa Centre for Well Being at the historic Millcroft Inn in Alton.

Packages start at $240 per person including overnight accommodation, all meals and a $50 spa credit.. For more information on Elemental Embrace, go to www.elementalembrace.com or call 1-866-212-9355.

Anne Dimon is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

Category: News
Uniform subject(s): Real estate industry
Edition: Ontario
Length: Long, 779 words

Copyright © 2004 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved. Doc. : news·20040306·TS·004030649151
This material is copyrighted. All rights reserved. © 2004 CEDROM-SNi

Embracing Ayurveda
A new 20,000-square-foot spa
in Brighton offers relaxation therapies based on ancient East Indian medicine.

The Independent

Drs. Neelash and Ameeta Taware, who are trained in both western and Ayurvedic medicine, administer the head massage called Shirodhara. 
Kai Hulshof photo  Brighton residents have one more reason to celebrate the attractiveness of their community now that the owners of a world-class spa have opened their doors here.

Elemental Embrace, a 20,000 square foot facility filled with the sounds and aromas of relaxation, opened for business November 10 on Georgina Street, ready to cater to the needs of clients who need to get away for a couple of hours … or a couple of weeks.

Short-term therapeutic services are offered during visits of an hour or two. For those who are seeking longer refuge from life’s daily struggles, the spa provides retreats for up to two weeks. Retreat guests reside in one of 13 luxurious, custom-designed rooms that are isolated from the treatment centres.

“ Local people are extremely welcome,” said co-owner Jazir Teja. “The problem is that people are mistaking us for being only a retreat. That’s not the case. We offer anything from one-hour sessions up to two-week retreats, and there are conference facilities as well.”

The facility is based upon the principles of Ayurvedic medicine, which can be translated to the “science of life”, said Jazir. East Indian methods are combined with traditional spa elements to create an overwhelming sense of well-being.

“ The Ayurvedic principles are all about wellness, while the spa treatments are all about pampering. We have managed to implement the two together in a successful combination,” said Jazir.

Trained in both conventional and ayurvedic medicine, Doctors Neelash and Ameeta Taware will be the primary caregivers at the facility. Jazir travelled to India to interview 65 doctors, and chose Neelash and Ameeta as being best suited for his Brighton facility. The couple are professional, friendly, approachable and have the best interests of the patient in mind, he says.

Under the auspices of the spa owners, the Doctors Taware are prepared to perform 30 different Ayurvedic treatments. Two of the more popular therapies include “Shirodhara”, a mental massage with a stream of hot oil cascading over the client’s forehead as he/she lies on a treatment bed; and “Abhyanga”, a full body massage by both doctors.

Shirodhara takes place in a 10’ x 10’ room with a large ornate wooden massage table in the middle. The patient is asked to lie on the table face up and is covered with towels for warmth. The doctors then fill a large copper cauldron with hot oil, that runs via a long wick through a hole out the bottom of the vessel in a steady stream.

A doctor moves the cauldron in circular motions around the forehead of the client, refilling the vessel with oil as needed. When this treatment was administered last week to a reporter from The Independent, he was lulled into a state of extreme relaxation within minutes; a state similar to sleep, but without conscious thought, making a forty-minute session seem like it lasted less only a few moments.

“ Most patients believe the therapy has taken about ten minutes and are always shocked to find 75 minutes have elapsed,” said Dr. Neelash Taware.

The doctors bring the client back to a conscious state with gentle massaging along the forehead, scalp and the base of the neck. Following the therapy, patients relax in a steam box that slowly brings their body out of its inactive state.

Abhyanga also takes place on a wooden massage table. The process involves both doctors, using all four hands to massage the body in a symmetrical fashion. The couple start the process by massaging from the top of the legs to the feet. They continue by massaging the body from the upper buttocks to the nape of the neck. Massaging continues in this fashion along the whole length of the body for a long period of time, during which clients should feel tension leave the body at the end of each stroke.

Other therapeutic experiences at Elemental Embrace include massaging with the feet (not of the feet), Hawaiian massage, steam rooms, aromatherapy, a floating chamber, esthetics, colonic hydrotherapy, hot stone therapy, yoga and meditation. For guests with time on their hands, there is an indoor pool, an exercise gym, a dining room, 30 acres of walking trails, dry and wet saunas, and two lounges for … lounging!

The facility is owned and operated by three members of the Teja Family. Mother Begum and her two sons Muqit and Jazir each offer different services to the facility. Begum has a background in massage therapy and Ayurvedic medicine. Muqit has an accounting degree. Jazir, spokesman for Elemental Embrace, has a degree in marketing. They make a strong business team.

Jazir and his family chose to build the cavernous estate in Brighton because of the beautiful surroundings, he said. They had looked in other locations but found them to be flat unforested fields when they were looking for forested rolling hills.

Brighton is also a fantastic choice because of its central location to Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston and New York. The town is easy to get to along Highway 401, but doesn’t involve driving in endless traffic jams, he said.

An overnight stay at the spa costs $250.00, said Jazir. He recognizes the high price tag, but feels it is justified. The cost includes yoga sessions, a treatment in the morning, lectures by the doctors in the evening, a full doctors consultation and three meals. Individual treatments vary in cost from $45 to $200, depending on which treatment is selected.

“ We wanted to move away from the commercial aspect of this business and really tailor treatments to a specific individual,” said Jazir. “That’s why we have the doctors do a full consultation and monitor a client’s progress. We want to cater the program in a way that promotes wellness within the individual.”


Health & Wellness 2004
Ready for the Royal Flush
Colon Hydrotherapy releases toxins.

Cobourg Daily Star

While home-based fasting and herbal supplement programs accomplish much the same thing over a period of time, the "Royal Flush" at Elemental Embrace, the new wellness spa retreat in Brighton, flushes the system out in a quick hour.

Yes, it may not be something many people feel comfortable talking about, but the benefits of cleansing the colon outweigh the mild discomfort of the treatment, therapists say.

"This is not a luxury treatment, its not bad but it's not fun," explains Neelesh Taware, the on-site doctor of Ayurvedic medicine practiced in India for several thousand years. The yogis perform a self colon cleansing by swallowing lengths of string, and drawing it back up, he says.

"It's highly beneficial-we're ridding the body of toxins, gasses and parasites, he says of the treatment that uses a sophisticated hydrotherapy machine.

After fasting for about eight hours, draped in a gown, the client lies comfortably on a treatment table where a small tube is inserted into the rectum. The therapist monitors the temperature of the water that is slowly infused into and out of the large intestine, as well as the pressure within. The therapy cleanses the entire colon of built up and aged waste, eliminated through the machine to a drain line.

There is no odour, no mess, no fuss - just the sensation of pressure building up inside helping with the bowel release. Afterward you are able to get up and continue on with your day, feeling lighter, calmer and cleansed, says Neelesh.

Concerns over flushing out good bacteria with the bad are unfounded, he says. The helpful bacteria can live in an acid environment, whereas the harmful ones thrive in an alkaline environment. Most people, because of years of unhealthy eating, lack of exercise and poor elimination have an alkaline colon, but colon hydrotherapy will correct that.

The treatment is especially helpful for people who suffer from stress, constipation, skin disorders, and menstrual problems - all possible symptoms of toxic build-up.

Hilary Magazine
'North America's Most Popular Online Women's Magazine since 1995'

Elemental Embrace Spa Review

Ayurvedic Bliss in Brighton, Ontario

By Wade Rowland

Elemental Embrace Spa Review - Ontario       Some experiences change your outlook forever. Once you've dined at a Michelin three-star restaurant, you'll never again look at food the same way. I've had the good fortune to indulge myself at quite a number of them over the years, and while it doesn't exactly turn you off ordinary restaurant fare, it certainly makes you more discerning. Once you've seen what's possible in the culinary arts, eating at your average, pretentious North American 'fine dining' establishment and putting up with bush-league servers is like listening to Wayne Newton have a go at "Nessun Dorma."

These thoughts are prompted by a recent visit to a wellness spa that specializes in authentic Ayurvedic therapies, one of just a handful in North America. I know, I know—'Ayurvedic' massage is featured at most spas nowadays, along with tutti-frutti aromatherpy and Hawaiian hot rocks. As it happens, I've had such an "Ayurvedic" massage at a boutique spa in downtown Toronto: it amounted to a standard Swedish rubdown with scented oil and taped sitar music. No, I am speaking here of the real thing, the authentic therapeutic techniques developed over the five thousand years or so that Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced in India, and dispensed by trained Ayurvedic physicians from Bombay.

Elemental Embrace Spa Review - Ontario The true Ayurvedic experience became available for the first time to southern Ontario and upstate New York late in 2003 when Elemental Embrace opened the doors to a twenty-thousand-square-foot wellness retreat and destination spa set in thirty acres of wooded hills near the resort town of Brighton, Ontario, about an hour and a half east of Toronto via Highway 401. It is the project of an Indo-Canadian family of hoteliers and entrepreneurs. Mother Begum Teja has a long background in Ayurvedic massage and medicine; sons Jazir and Muqit have degrees in marketing and accounting, respectively.

As a system of medicine—probably the world's oldest—Ayurveda offers a full range of treatments for what ails you, and as clinical procedure enjoys much the same status in India as acupuncture in China or shiatsu in Japan: in each country these ancient therapies are taught in universities and practiced in hospitals alongside Western medicine. But Ayurveda, the "science of life" in Sanskrit, is more than medicine. It is a roadmap to a "good" life in every sense of the word. Ayurvedic physicians, called vaidyas, go through four years of post-secondary schooling and follow that with a year's internship, usually in a rural clinic.

Elemental Embrace Spa Review - Ontario If you book in to Elemental Embrace for Ayurvedic treatments and a consultation, you can expect to be quizzed by one of the doctors about your medical history, living habits, tastes, dreams, food preferences, propensity to perspire, bowel movements, and a hundred other things... information the practitioners need to identify your general dasha, or physiological and mental makeup. The idea is that everyone has a blend of vata (air and space, representing, roughly, the nervous system), pitta (fire and water—the enzyme system in modern Western terms), and kapha (water and earth, approximating the nutritive/digestive system).

The goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to achieve a three-way balance, which is the key to good health, serene spirits, and long life. On the basis of their consultation, the doctors can identify which of the elements is out of whack and recommend dietary and lifestyle changes, herbal remedies and massage. And they can tailor your therapy sessions specifically to you, right down to the herbs used in the warmed sesame oil (both imported from India).

Elemental Embrace Spa Review - Ontario Detoxification is a key concept at Elemental Embrace, and it can involve anything from a day visit to a week-long stay in one of the spa's twelve guest rooms or two suites, each decorated differently in a serene palate and natural fibres. (The remarkably comfortable mattresses on the California king and twin beds—your choice—are specially made in India of a coconut fibre and foam sandwich.)

The detox process aims to rid the body of chemical toxins and cleanse the mind of stress, while re-balancing the dasha. It centers on alternating daily Abhyanga Mardana and Shirodhara massage treatments supplemented by other specialized treatments as recommended by the Ayurvedic physicians. These extras can include everything from colonic hydrotherapy to a dozen specialized massages using herbed ghee (clarified butter) or sesame oil, to herbal steam baths. Guests undergoing a detoxification program are fully monitored by the Ayurvedic doctors, at least one of whom is on call at all times. Resident guests typically opt for a two-or three-day destressor package.

If this is beginning to sound too much like a visit to clinic and not enough like a spa experience, don't be misled. A few days at Elemental Embrace would make a great start to a honeymoon Ayurvedic massage is as hedonistic as it is therapeutic. The Abhyanga Mardana is done by two therapists working in unison on either side of your body using long, sweeping strokes and precise pressure, and what seems like about a litre of warmed, herbed, sesame oil. The table on which you lie naked or nearly so, comfortably bolstered with rolled towels, is a massive teak plank, channeled along its edges like a carving board to catch the excess oil. The light is very dim and the music is Indian and hypnotic.

Elemental Embrace Spa Review - Ontario An hour and a half of this leaves you feeling totally relaxed, energized and clear-headed all at the same time. Shirodhara involves an initial massage in similar style, followed by forty-five minutes of something that has to be experienced to be appreciated—as you lie on the teak table under warm towels, your eyes covered with a cotton cloth, warmed, herbed oil is trickled from a large copper urn back and forth across your forehead, back and forth, back and forth…until you lose track of time and everything else. The treatment ends with a few minutes in a steam cabinet with more herbs and finally a shower. "Blissful" is an overused adjective, but nothing else quite fits here.

Because I suffer from occasional migraines, I was prescribed a Nasya treatment, in which face, shoulders and chest are massaged with medicated oils before a few drops of an herbal infusion are placed into the nostrils, followed by a more massage around the nose, forehead and chest. I'm normally a little squeamish about things like this, but the atmosphere was so relaxing and the therapist so practiced and gentle that I found it entirely pleasurable. An Ayurvedic facial (called Ananabhyanga) was also recommended. It lasts three-quarters of an hour, and involves, once again, very specialized massage techniques and oils and creams infused with herbs selected for your particular dosha.

I can speak for the toning and rejuvenating effects of the facial, which are remarkable (I was pleasantly shocked when I looked at myself in the mirror), but whether the fact that I wasn't bothered by headaches for some time afterward can be attributed to the treatments or not, I can't say for certain based on my one experience. My strong suspicion is that the treatments do help, just as the detox therapies are said to help even cancer patients recovering from chemotherapy. This is real medicine (recognized by the World Health Organization), despite its gentle pleasures and the absence of side-effects.

 Ayurveda can be a lifetime study, and frequently is in India, and a review like this one can do no more than provide the merest glimpse into what, for most Westerners, is another world of physical and spiritual experience. You can learn a bit more at the spa: the physicians provide evening lectures for interested guests.

And speaking of Westerners, if you prefer more conventional treatments in combination with Ayurveda, or on their own, Elemental Embrace offers a full spa menu from body wraps to Renaud facials and collagen veils, to aromatherapy and, yes, even Hawaiian hot stone massage. As it was explained to us, the intent is to provide "wellness in a spa atmosphere."

Treatment rooms are large, quiet and tastefully decorated. Facilities are rounded out with an indoor pool and hot tub, steam rooms and sauna, and a gym for those with the work-out habit. There's also a large, fully-equipped conference room for group meetings. Days are begun in a sunny yoga room overlooking the woods, with easy stretching poses demonstrated by one of the therapists. A long walk in the private woods is a fine way to work off lunch.

 And you may need to do just that, because the food is irresistible. Jocular chef Scott Bond juggles special diets with general fare, one eye on calories and nutrition and the other on flavour and satisfaction, and manages to come up with fare that guests rave about. A representative dinner menu: foccaccia, apple-mushroom soup, seared salmon with a creole sauce, broccoli and wild rice with a layered saffron rice pudding and chocolate mousse dessert.

Lunch on our second day there was a lavish affair with seven individual curries served in little stainless-steel bowls along with sides of Indian flatbread, yoghurt and chutney. All meals (including late afternoon tea) are served in a wood-paneled dining room with fireplace and a deck, overlooking the grounds.

Elemental Embrace is a relatively new facility, but we think it's got its act together. The concept of authentic Ayurvedic wellness in a spa atmosphere with Indian-trained and qualified therapists is one that seems sure to catch on. The engaging and entrepreneurial Teja brothers have plans to expand into the U.S., but Brighton, they say, will always be special because it's where their mom intends to continue working and living, following the Ayurvedic path.  

The Fitness, Health and Lifestyle magazine for Canadian Women.
September/October 2004
The Draw of the Spa
Broadcaster ERIN DAVIS reports on escaping her whirlwind lifestyle to wind down at a tranquil, restorative retreat.
There comes a time when, no matter how cleverly we juggle every new plate (or grenade) life tosses our way, we realize that we’re actually just ducks.  That’s right, ducks.  On the surface we appear to have it totally together, gliding gracefully along.  But below the surface we’re paddling madly.  That’s how I felt – stressed and anxious – when I went searching for a different kind of spa.

It seems that every place with a nail file, loofah pad and scented candles calls itself a spa these days.  Call me high maintenance (you wouldn’t be the first), but I need more than a few hours to relax – I need a few days.  And this time, it wasn’t about “polish and buff”, but inner stuff.  I was searching for something long-lasting that I could practice in the high-speed food processor that is my life.

The Spa Ontario website led me to a place called Elemental Embrace and its invitation to “discover the essence of life.”  Although I knew little about Ayurveda (except that it means “science of life” and has been around for 5000 years), I was intrigued.  Four years ago I’d had a soul quenching experience at a yoga retreat in New England .  I was looking to rediscover the inner serenity id found there without having to venture too far from home or convert my loonies.  I was hoping that Elemental Embrace would be the answer.

Upon arriving at the spa, set on 30 wooded acres about 90 minutes east of Toronto , I had a one-hour consultation with one of the two resident Ayurvedic doctors.  I learned that in their native India , these two medical doctors also trained in Ayurvedic medicine, which is about curing existing ailments and raising your level of wellness.  It’s far more proactive than the typical Western reactive approach.

The doctor asked me about everything from dreams to bodily functions.  He then addressed my answers, told me lots about myself (that was obviously true) and made suggestions for tailoring my diet.  The long list of treatments in my package was also adjusted. 

Moments after the consultation, I had my first real taste of soul-soothing medicine. 

I met the doctor and his wife, the spas other doctor, in one of the 20,000 square foot resort’s eight treatment rooms.  Since I didn’t quite feel comfortable going au natural, I was given a paper bra and panties to wear.  Dead sexy, let me tell you. 

A treatment called the Shirodhara is considered a must for the Ayurvedic newbie.  As Indian music played softly, both doctors massaged me from head to toe in perfect synchronization, with oil custom blended with 35 different herbs to address my body’s individual needs.  I then reclined under towels under a long Indian teak table.  Warm herbal oil drizzled form a suspended copper pot on my forehead.  Back and forth it went from temple to temple for about 45 minutes.  With each pass I imagined my mental hard drive being erased, the oils censing me of stress and anxiety.

Each morning began at 7.30 with yoga and meditation in a light-filled studio, followed by breakfast and then – whee – treatments!  The western favourites included a Swedish massage, ear candling, algae wrap, facials, the flotation tank and Lomi Lomi, a deep Hawaiian massage done in a cave-like room lit by candles.  Ahhhhh-loha!

The treatments, especially the four handed Ayurvedic massage, were beyond exceptional.  I even went for a gentle colon cleanse – that’s how relaxed I was, right down to my, um, toes.  But what really made this different from the myriad of other spas I’d visited wasn’t the serene country setting of the peaceful indoor pool.  It was the people, the treatments and the underlying current of well-being with which the whole operation gently pulsates.

“People say we don’t make them feel like a number,” says co-director and manager Begum Teja in a gently voice bearing the lovely lilts of India , East Africa and England .  “As long as everybody feels great when they leave, that’s the mark I want to make – to have made a difference.”

The difference for me was that I returned to my Cuisineart life with a renewed sense of mental and physical well-being, gently armed with relaxation techniques that guarantee that, if I'm ever feeling like a duck again, ill have the resources to go with the flow.



Special Report
Luxury Spa Finder
The Renewal Issue
January-February 2006
This family-fun wellness center in apple-orchard and summer-cottage country, 90 miles east of Toronto , pursues detox along Ayurvedic lines. That means the quarry is “undigested matter”  which is physical (food) but also emotional (stress and unprocessed experience). In pursuit of the former, days here include two or three Ayurvedic treatments that involve one orifice or another, with colonics as the cornerstone. For the latter, the spa seeks to guide its guests to catharsis, an emotional letting-go, during the five-day detox stay. And if it doesn’t happen of its own accord, they try to help it along – gently. 
“Detox works in cooperation with diet, exercise, and sleep, how you handle stress, and more” says Sudeep Chitnis, one of the Ayurvedic physicians who run your life at Elemental Embrace, starting with a thorough intake consultation. (He studied Ayurvedic medicine in Bombay for six years to become credentialed, and western medical training was part of his Ayurvedic study). The spa structures your days accordingly, beginning with yoga (restorative or vinyasa-lite) each morning at 7.30.  For the rest of the day, most guests walk around in their robes as they go through customized Ayurvedic treatment regimens that usually include abhyanga (four-hand massage with herbalized oil) and nasya (sinus cleansing). As Elemental Embrace takes only 18 people at a time (the staff-to-guest ratio is approximately 1:1), you receive considerable individual attention, including a mini consultation (to tweak your program) and a treatment with Chitnis each day. There’s a small gym, but I never see anyone in it. (Ayurveda isn’t big on aerobic activity anyways.) Rooms have no TV, long-distance phone service, or e-mail.  Most guests are in bed by 9p.m.
Guests nap in the middle of the day, too. The guest wing, in a building much like a suburban tract house, is as quiet as a library.  It’s an add-on to the main building, a repurposed country house that contains the treatment rooms and simple public spaces, done up only with a few Indian touches. Owner Begum Teja doesn’t go in for luxury, saying that guests can get that in the spa hotels of London and New York .  Minimal design notwithstanding, my room is comfortable, my Indian-style foam-and coconut-husk mattress firm, and my balcony sun-shot, with wonderful views of the grounds and the woods beyond.
If the setting is bucolic, I am apparently carrying city life with me. “You look like you have a lot of stress in New York ,” Chitnis tells me during our initial consultation, which, as always in Ayurveda, involves determining your dosha, or constitutional type. I’m a Pitta (fire) but have an increasing amount of Vata (air). This means I’m born leader, work very hard at life, and try very hard to be liked, all of which is true – I’m Annie Hall. Chitnis tells me that one of or goals will be to “let the air out,” To this end, I’m to give up eating yogurt for breakfast, meditate 15 minutes a day, and do less cardio, all to calm me down, and skip dinner once every two weeks.
My first treatment is abhyanga – and it’s a shocker because I’m supposed to be nude even though Chitnis is present. “In India there is no mincing words”, he says. “You take your clothes off”.  Nonetheless, I successfully negotiate for a pair of disposable panties. (Later in my stay, I meet an Indian woman who confesses that she disrobed even though it caused her great consternation.) The massage – its actually more like a gentle slathering on of sesame oil everywhere – takes place on an enormous Indian devdhar-wood table with a rope hanging above it (for use in back-walking treatments.) The table is supposed to look spiritual, but it reminds me of a butcher’s block and is uncomfortable to boot.
Afterward, I’m seated in a steam box with only my head exposed. Periodically, Chitnis asks for reports on my perspiration level, and only when I’m drenched, oil indistinguishable from sweat, does he let me out.  “Next time, you’ll sweat like this in half the time”, he says.  For him, propensity to sweat is an indication of detoxification at work.
But it’s colonics that’s the spa’s idée fixe, and it starts at booking. Muqit Teja, the owner’s son, makes a colonic pitch by likening the digestive tract to a garbage disposal that’s designed to process foods but can’t break down anything else. (A lot of gastroenterologists would disagree.) Catherine Allen, who gives the colonics – she’s also a reiki master and massage therapist – tells me the spa is here because of the colonic machine and that it’s by far the most popular treatment. One or two guests even ask me if I’ve had one before we swap names.
Most Elemental Embrace guests are of the colonic-a-day  school, but Chitnis says that my diet, exercise regimen, and age suggest I’m doing a pretty good job of “processing my environment” on my own. “But then, that’s your dosha.” He says. “You like to do for yourself.” So I have only two colonics, which are much more unpleasant in thought (even now) than they were in fact.
By the second day of the program, Chitnis has customized the Ayurvedic treatment oils for each of us. Around this time, the low-calorie meals – some of the best spa cuisine I’ve had – start to look different for each guest, too. Jeremy Taft, one of the chefs, tells me that a wall of the kitchen is pasted over with each guest’s food allergies, preferences, and doctor’s orders. One guest, for example, is not allowed dessert, which here is served first. The reasoning: Sugars are the hardest food for the stomach to digest. Chitnis gets me to admit that I would have skipped dessert were it served last, thereby eluding part of his diet plan for me – stimulating rather than curtailing my appetite.
By day three, it doesn’t look like I’m going to have an emotional release. (I don’t even fall asleep during shirodhara.)  So in the spa’s version of an intervention, Chitnis books a Zen Shiatsu treatment for me with Gregory Axelson. He feels around my stomach and then goes for the heart: “you’re holding yourself back. Your communication with the world is blocked. But you can let it out here” Axelson is well intentioned, and I learn that a few guests have taken him up on the invitation, but my heart belongs to my shrink back in New York.
It’s hard to pin down Chitnis on how Elemental Embrace’s brand of detoxification actually works.  Better functioning of the GI tract is one marker, but mine was working fine when I came in. and I’m not sure the colonics got rid of anything that my body wouldn’t have ejected on its own. When I ask Chitnis about why he sent me to Axelson, he says the goal of detox isn’t bodily cleanliness per se” it’s to create a feeling of overall lightness. I certainly have that by the end of my stay, and I’m sleeping through the night, too. “Symptoms disappear” says Chitnis. “Allergies get better, and insomnia is eased, though noting has changed on an X-Ray.” Which I guess is his way of saying the proof lies in how you feel. Given the competence and care quality of this spa, that’s good enough for me.
"Pregnancy seen as 'women's time' for Pampering"
by Miriam Schachter 
Ontario, Saturday, August 19th, 2006
Brighton, Ont.—Lying on an oily slab of Indian wood in a dimly lit room, naked except fo a tiny pair of black disposable panties, I wondered what I had got myself into.

Then hot oil was skillfully drizzled down my legs and between my freshly pedicured toes by two expert masseuses, and 20 fingers leisurely and expertly massaged my aching body from head to toe.

I was in good hands — a pair of them, in fact.
I was having an Ayurvedic synchronized massage called an Abhyanga at the Elemental Embrace Wellness Spa Retreat. An Abhyanga is an ancient Indian treatment practised for more than 5,000 years, using warm herbalized oils selected according to your body type and designed to improve circulation, remove toxins, calm the nervous system and enhance immunity.
My body type — seven months pregnant at the time — eagerly soaked up the oil, allowing the herbs to work their magic on my stressed and ever-expanding skin. I needed serious relief from backache, lower leg cramps, feet pain, and baby limbs moving uncomfortably under my belly causing my skin to contort into shapes of small elbows or knees — ouch!

Other benefits of massage during pregnancy include relieving stress on weight-bearing joints, reducing swelling in hands and feet, and easing headache and sinus congestion.

Several studies also show that pregnancy massage helps reduce stress hormones in the body and that touch is vital to the new mother's physical and emotional well-being. Reducing stress levels nurtures the new life within her while helping to improve mood, and decrease depression and anxiety.

Ayurveda, which means "science of life," encourages individuals to live in harmony with their environment and themselves.
Besides catering to pregnant women like myself, Elemental Embrace offers post-natal care, a seven-night weight-loss plan, a relax and de-stress program, and a cleansing detoxification package that is quite popular, according to spa director Muqit Teja. (This family business is owned and managed by Teja's mother, Begum.)
"In India , health is restored by addressing the root cause rather than the symptoms of the disease," Teja explained. "Ayurveda is for a lifestyle of healthy living and is famous for the detoxification it offers.
"If men are thinking of having children, they come here to detox and cleanse their body before trying for a child, in order to create their best seed. Women come for pre-conception detoxification, prenatal nourishment and post-natal rejuvenation. 
"Some men are dragged in by their wives."
Upon arrival at the spa, Lisa greets you at the front desk. You are asked to remove your shoes before being led past a warmly decorated lounge, then down a hallway with a fireplace, bookshelves packed with board games and a basket of colourful yarn with knitting needles.
There are Indian-style throw pillows on the coconut-husk mattress next to our robes and flip-flops. There are no televisions in the bedrooms, but there is a shared set downstairs. Elemental Embrace provides a meditation/yoga room, an indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and various nature trails.  The quaint dining room is cozy with four tables. Carved into the wood panelling on the ceiling are the names of the original owners.
I sipped Chai tea after dinner and noticed a young woman staring at my pregnant stomach. Her belly was protruding as well, and we grinned at each other like children.

Debi and I bonded instantly as members of the "sisterhood."

Debi enjoyed her treatments but said she was uncomfortable lying on her back for that length of time. I agreed; luckily the spa provides pillows to slip under your back to ease discomfort. I also found it helpful to shift positions often and kept my legs bent.

Another member of the "sisterhood" was Ayurvedic vaidya (Indian doctor) Anuradha Mathad, who was expecting her first child. Before Abhyanga treatments, guests consult with a vaidya to determine body constitution, current state and the herbal oils to be used.

The Ayurvedic approach to pregnancy "promotes and protects the health of the mother and removes anxiety and complications," Mathad explained.

"Although it is changing now, traditionally in India the women's priorities come after her husband's. But when a woman is pregnant, it's her time; she is given a body massage with herbal oils once a month, eats fruits, sweets and nuts with special nutrients, and her needs are really taken care of."
After questioning me about my diet, exercise, medical history and routines, Mathad announced my body type: fire. (The three body types are fire, air and water.) She prepared a special blend of Indian massage oils particular to my pregnancy and concocted a powder containing herbs that was delivered in a glass of warm milk after dinner.
Later that night, I looked over at my partner and emotion welled up as I thought about the child we were creating together. Two sharp kicks to my ribs brought me back to reality.