The Andaman is set against a breathtaking backdrop.

A rejuvenating holiday can sometimes lead to extreme measures.

It’s only 8:30 in the morning when my idyllic holiday of channelling a beached whale breaks down into rivulets of sweat that trail uncomfortably down my spine. The air-conditioned yoga studio located at The Andaman Langkawi resort’s fitness centre is silent except for some heavy breathing. Mine. Outside, I can hear the whirr of treadmills and muted music. “I should’ve at least opted for the gym,” I tell myself mournfully while screwing my eyes shut and trying in vain to channel my inner-Yogi. Huffing over a treadmill seems a lot more do-able than folding my limbs into a human pretzel.

Outside of this room, and out of the confines of the resort’s well-equipped gym lies my idyllic holiday. Here’s what holiday dreams are made of ­— the Luxury Collection Resort is tucked away in one of the most pristine parts of Langkawi Island. With a glimmering coastline and a 10-million-old rainforest forming part of her breath-taking backdrop, it’s the sweet spot for a perfectly comatose holiday on a hammock with a beachy cocktail in hand.

Instead, I’m here with my posterior waving in the air while my elbows uncomfortably balance the rest of my body weight. Not easy, for someone the size of a mini whale.

“I’ve signed us up for this!” said my Editor gleefully waving our holiday itinerary just a few days before. Detox programme? My heart sank. Forget downing copious amounts of pretty cocktails by the beach; with one swift masterstroke, evil Editor has managed to turn our holiday escapade into a trip to rehab.

The V Integrated Wellness (VIW) at The Andaman offers signature packages designed to “evoke a state of health, vitality and wellbeing” including spa treatments, fitness programmes, meditation retreats and yoga. The recently-added range of ancient Indian Ayurvedic treatments caught my discerning Editor’s eye and the two stressed-out writers have now arrived for a session of rejuvenation and deep cleansing under the watchful eye of the resort’s resident yoga master.

Our serene yoga master Shree Ram.

Wellness in vogue

A wellness programme isn’t exactly my idea of a dream escape from the stressful urban lifestyle that I’ve been accustomed to. But anyone who goes on a girlie escapade with friends knows that you often return home a few pounds heavier and tired and bloated from all that bottomless margaritas on the beach.

The latest trend in travel however — and one that won’t disappear anytime soon — involves arriving home feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and in better shape than you were in before you left. Wellness travel has become a major industry; the wellness segment in Malaysia grew 10 per cent in 2014 and according to the Global Wellness Institute, it’s a fast-growing tourism market with international wellness tourists spending about US$1,639 (RM6,935) per trip, a whopping 59 per cent higher than the average tourist!

It simply proves that in these stressful times, more and more people are looking for an escape from the rigours of everyday life and the pressures of work for a holiday that’s not just about “getting away from it all” but also about restoring health and wellbeing.

The Andaman offers you just that. By upping their spa game, the resort aims to give the perfect amalgamation of a luxurious holiday and a rejuvenating retreat, designed to recharge, rebalance and combat the post-holiday hangover.

Stretching out after a strenuous day of detoxifying.

The acid test

The journey to wellness at the resort begins with a careful consultation and a series of tests to gauge our overall health and stress levels, first thing in the morning. Sans breakfast.

“But it’s a holiday!” I protest as we walk over to the Yoga Wellness Centre and my stomach rumbles in agreement. Our diminutive yoga master Shree Ram, resplendent in his crisp white uniform and emerald green overcoat is at hand to greet us with a beatific smile. “This programme is beneficial for you,” he reassures us, catching sight of my sleepy, less-than-enthusiastic visage.

“We acquire knowledge easily in this information age, but we’re finding it harder to relax,” he begins earnestly while clipping a monitor to my ear. He’s about to conduct my heart rate variability (HRV) analysis. “I’m not just measuring your heart rate, but the quality of every beat.” HRV, he adds, is the interval between each heartbeat.

A low HRV, continues Shree, is a sign of the sympathetic autonomic nervous system (also known as our stress system). A higher HRV is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system (or the relaxed state). “Most people neglect their parasympathetic system. There’s just so much stress involved in our daily lives and we don’t get enough rest,” he says.

Just relax, he then tells me, taking me through a series of breathing techniques as the screen on his laptop begins to project my heart rate. “Think happy thoughts,” he instructs. A steaming plate of nasi lemak comes to mind and I immediately start to relax. “Your stress levels are good,” he observes after a while.

He tests our pH levels and shakes his head at our results. The pH, which is a measure of acidity or alkalinity, he says, gives a clear indication of our overall health. “An ideal pH for our bodies should reflect slight alkalinity. If you’re overly acidic, you may encounter all sorts of health problems,” explains Shree, who upon noting our high levels of acidity gently reassures us that the detox programme would be able to remedy that.

The Jala Neti Kunjal procedure to clear our nasal passageways.

Inhale, exhale, expel

Leading us to the yoga studio, the 28-year-old Nepalese expert prepares us for the highlight of the programme — the detoxifying process using traditional methods. He certainly doesn’t waste any time. In his infinite Yogic wisdom, he probably senses that any brief slowdown in the pace might have us scrambling for the nearest exit.

Following the philosophy of Hatha Yoga, there are six cleansing principles and techniques targeted to specific areas of the body, including Neti (cleansing of the nasal passages), Dhauti (cleansing of the oesophagus and stomach) and Shankhaprakshalana (cleansing of the intestines).

“When we have faulty digestion from poor production of digestive juices, we accumulate huge amounts of toxins in the gut. These, along with toxins from our stressful environment and the effects of our own negative thinking, result in toxicity that’s a playground for disease-producing organisms. This leaves us susceptible to viruses, infections and so on,” Shree explains, adding that a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut is essential to good health and can be assisted by regular cleansing through yoga practices.

And soon the cleansing commences. The determined yoga proponent intends for us to practise all the three cleansing methods he talked about. “He wants us to snort, puke and run for the potty!” I whisper aghast to my equally green-looking Editor. Brushing our trepidations aside, he’s relentless in his pursuit to make true converts out of us.

“See? It’s very simple,” he tells us enthusiastically at every point, while we gasp, choke and gag through the motions. From pouring warm saline water into our nostrils, to drinking copious amounts of the same dreaded liquid to either regurgitate or make a run towards the direction of the toilet in order to expel all that imbibed salty water, I’m ready to throw in the towel and willingly give up state secrets to make it all stop.

Rice and ghee to line the stomach after an intensive morning of detox.

Road to wellness

“Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,” chants our tireless Yoga Master. “Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,” we chant back. We’ve performed complicated asanas (movements), coughed, gagged and spewed (from both ends) our way out of the programme, and it’s only the promise of lunch that keeps our flagging spirits high.

But the reward of a good lunch spread quickly evaporates as Shree insists on following us all the way to the restaurant, unperturbed at the sight of our shaky legs and pale faces. “I’ve asked the restaurant to prepare a special lunch,” he announces cheerfully.

To our horror, two plates of plain ghee rice along with two bowls of ghee are set before us. “You can’t simply eat anything after a cleansing,” he tells us seriously, before making us empty the bowl of ghee into our rice. “The ghee’s important to create the inner lining of the intestines, which would’ve been washed away due to the saline water. Try to eat light for the rest of the day. No meat, no cold water or alcohol,” he instructs. It’s almost enough to make me weep.

Long after the earnest Shree leaves us, we nevertheless find ourselves reluctantly admitting to some remarkable changes. “I feel lighter,” declares my Editor and I’m inclined to believe her. I feel lighter too, and for the first time in a long while, I sleep well that night.

Whether it was the placebo effect or the fact that an entire day’s worth of intensive cleansing has done my body some genuine good, I’ll never know. But what I do know is that as a yoga Philistine, I’m now inclined to read more on the subject and see if that would take my wellness journey beyond the confines of a holiday.

Undoubtedly Shree Ram would be so proud.

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