Back to India where Ayurveda was born, back to yourself at the “Swaswara” hotel and wellness resort – World Meanderings (n°35)
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Built as a small village hidden in a wood next to the beautiful sandy Om beach the Swaswara hotel is a haven of peace where people from all over the world go to enjoy very special holidays.
In Sanskrit Swa means “the self” and Swara, “sound”. And indeed in this unique hotel everything is done to make you listen to your inner voice. Yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, naturopathy, holistic cuisine and artistic manual work will make your everyday routine a path to this inner melody that modern life makes inaudible.
The hotel was built close to Gokarna village in Karnataka state on the Western Indian coast. The closest airport is in Goa 170 km away and the hotel can arrange to and fro exclusive transfers in an air-conditioned car for you (this service is included in all the one, two or three weeks packages) but a stay at the hotel can also be a part of a tour in Southern India while visiting Kerala, Karnataka and Goa states.
All clients are meant to follow an Ayurvedic cure and this is the reason why a 7-day stay is a minimum required package.
Swaswara is far from a hippy-dippy experience or from an ashram way of life. We were at once seduced by the hotel’s architecture. All the buildings, including the 24 luxury villas are built with dark red and black volcanic stones and surround the big swimming pool and the Blue Dome where the yoga sessions take place. Each villa is designed for one or two persons with a spacious bedroom, a study, a lounge and a semi open-air bathroom facing a private herb garden surrounded by walls that protect your privacy.
Local materials are always favoured, from the Ayurvedic toiletries, the cotton yoga clothes, the textiles used for the cushions of the outside sofa, to the soft tiles on the floor. On the second floor you can practice yoga or meditation or watch sunset from a private terrace. There is no TV to distract your mind but air-conditioning, floor to ceiling windows and low energy lighting give you a sense of comfort and ease.
On your first day here you will go through a detailed consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor (there are several Ayurvedic and naturopathy doctors working at the hotel medical centre as well as skilled therapists giving the Ayurvedic cares to the hotel clients). After a general check-up the doctor will decide what therapy suits you best depending on your dosha and prakuti, your personal basic constitution.
Don’t miss the full body abhyanga massage, it’s a pure delight! All the cares are included in the hotel packages but you are free to take them or not.
Food at Swaswara follows Ayurvedic principles but is nonetheless delicious. Mixing a lightly Indian cuisine with Asian and Mediterranean influences all meals are made with naturally grown and ripened fruits and vegetables picked in the hotel’s garden or in the local farms and with fresh seafood. Meat, eggs, coffee and liquors are forbidden but you will enjoy tasty meals on the beach or in the Cocum open-air restaurant. Cocum is a fruit that can only be found in the Gokarna area and is used dried to spice and add flavour curries and its rind makes delicious energy drinks. Breakfast is a total feast for the eyes and the palate with typical southern India food: chai (tea) or lassi (Indian yogurt) for drink and dosa (an Indian style rolled pancake), idli (lentil cake), chutneys, fresh fruits and vegetable that create the right balance between raw and cooked food.
There are of course vegan and gluten free diets, as well as personalized menus for those who choose to follow the Ayurvedic doctor’s orders if necessary. You can also take Indian cooking lessons with the chef every morning and join him for his weekly shopping at the Thursday farmer’s market at the local village.
During daily yoga and meditation courses for all levels you will practice asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), mantra (sounds and vibrations) and dharma (concentration), under the Blue Dome, on the beach or on an outside terrace. There are both private one-on-one yoga sessions and collective classes.
All these courses are included in your one to three weeks package as well as guided art classes with the artist in residence who will help you find your hidden potential. Focusing on your hands painting watercolours, making pottery, plaiting coconut leaves or modelling clay your mind will drift away from stressful thinking.
You can choose to laze on the beach or at the swimming pool for the rest of the day but there is also plenty to do in the surroundings of the hotel. Guided nature walks, village visits and birds watching, boat cruises, guided visit to the ancient Gokarna temple and town, farming and gardening, traditional dance or music… All are included in your program.
You can make your choice from several different programs at Swaswara depending on your expectations. The “Swa Holiday” program will make you discover the world of Ayurveda, yoga and meditation and is a one-week good start. But there are also longer and more demanding programs if you wish to have a full healing Ayurveda program in order to solve a specific health problem or an authentic “detox and cleanse” program.
Paying 280£ per villa and per day (two people included) might seem to be a lot but for this price you get an all-inclusive holiday on beautiful Om beach, Ayurvedic cares, yoga, and meditation courses and plenty activities to do, while doing a lot of good to your body and mind.
For more information about the Swaswara: www.swaswara.com
and about India: www.incredibleindia.org
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny