Review of Villa Ananda: Ayurveda Health Retreat & Spa in Mexico


My Panchakarma Experience in Mexico

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.


Detoxification & Health Spa Treatments

If you book a stay at Villa Ananda for the “Panchakarma” Ayurvedic treatments and a consultation, you can expect to be quizzed 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. Specific therapies, foods, herbs and oils are then selected based on the individual body type constitution. 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).

Detoxification is a key concept at Villa Ananda, and in Panchakarma in general. 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 daily Abhyanga Mardana and Shirodhara massage treatments (I got a four-handed massage treatment on nearly every day I was there) supplemented by other specialized treatments as recommended by the Ayurvedic experts. These extras can include everything from oil-based enemas that you can do in your room, or tea-infused colonic hydrotherapy cleanses, to a dozen specialized massages using dried flowers, herbed ghee (clarified butter), or sesame oil, to herbal steam baths.

My Panchakarma Experience in Mexico

The spa rooms overlook the ocean in a private, gated community.

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 Villa Ananda 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. Unlike other particularly intense Ayurvedic spas, Villa Ananda does not force you to lie naked on a hard wood table. Instead, you get a luxuriously padded massage bed with sheets. The light is very dim and the music is Indian and hypnotic.

My Panchakarma Experience in Mexico

Essential and herbal oils used during treatments

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 massage table, your eyes covered with a cotton cloth, warmed, herbed oil is trickled from a large copper urn onto the middle of your forehead (where your “third eye” is located) 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. The one downside: you can expect to have your hair remain saturated with oil for at least a few days after each treatment.

My Panchakarma Experience in Mexico

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.

My Panchakarma Experience in Mexico

Another memorable treatment was the Udwartan Herbal Body Glow treatment. This luxurious treatment stimulates, detoxifies and exfoliates the skin. The treatment began with skin brushing (more about the benefits of skin brushing, and how to do it at home), followed by an herbal and essential oil blend of freshly ground lavender, rose petals, cardamom and oatmeal made especially for my Vata skin type. The dried powder was rubbed into my skin, over my entire body, using rhythmic massage strokes. Finally, the herbs were brushed off and I got to enjoy an Aromatherapy body massage, which ended this glowing experience.

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A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she spends most of her time traveling around Europe, with pied-a-terre's in Zurich, London, Milan and Lyon, France. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 52 Comments

  1. Rachel Adams

    wow! what a great destination. thanks for the heads up 😀 will try and visit here soon.

  2. I fell in love with papaya the first time I came to Mexico. In England, it always seemed bland and boring. There, it is fresh, juicy and delicious. 🙂

  3. Katherine Swift

    When I was a little girl, the women in my family taught me the importance of “me-time.” I remember when they would all go off to the spa together, and how much more relaxed and accessible my mom was when she returned. That was only the beginning of my interest in the spa industry. Reading this article was a blast for me. I just book my flight to Mexico and I will definitely try the spa there 🙂

    • ysabelle raven

      I remember when I was little. whenever my mom and dad fight, my dad would immediately hold my mom’s hand and go somewhere. when I grew up I learned that whenever they argue on something they talk about it in a spa. and somehow when they get home it feels as though they save the world or something with the look of pleasure on their faces. and that’s how my siblings are born hahaha

  4. Isabella Jones

    I would love to do my yoga there. I can’t tell you how many times I have almost lost my cool and psychically eviscerated someone who made me mad, but instead, I took a deep breath and remained calm. The ability to react to aggression with peace has drastically improved my relations with others and decreased my stress. The more I connect to my breath, the clearer I think, and that not only makes me a better person, but also a more patient parent. Fine yoga and a very nice place like this is perfect! I will go there soon.

  5. Carla Peters

    Mexico is one of the most affordable international vacations you can take. A number of airlines that fly to Mexico have travel packages that can make the overall trip more affordable — I just booked one. A good tip is this: Trips are especially affordable when not around any major holidays, as there is less of a demand to fly there. I am really looking forward to have my vacation in Mexico 🙂

  6. Francis Lockwood

    I love Villa Ananda. Its an ideal place for a vacation within the greens of exotic Himalayas. Very nice hospitality with a personal touch. Accommodation, food, spa, surroundings, ambiance, yoga sessions, mini golf course, gym and the friendly dancing peacocks in the lawns are all superb. A ‘must visit’ place.

  7. Kimberly Shaw

    I also love mexican food aside from the beautiful attraction it has. It’s not a surprise that there are Mexican restaurants all around the world, especially in the big metropolitan cities. Most of the dishes have their own history of how they were created, like the Mole sauce, which was made at the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla when the convent nuns heard that the archbishop was going to visit them. My favorite dish is called tostadas, which is a hard tortilla with beans spread over it and lettuce, tomato, cheese and cream on top; so it’s basically a salad in a tortilla. Some of the most well known Mexican dishes around the world include mole poblano, tamales, tortas and, of course, tacos.

  8. May Baker

    I spent half a year in Mexico and felt far safer than I did during my three months vacation in the US beforehand. There’s a visible police presence anywhere – the authorities don’t want bad things to happen to visitors any more than the visitors do. I will definitely go back and try Villa Ananda.

  9. I have been to Mexico two more times with family and once backpacking as a solo traveler. With every trip, I have fallen more and more in love with this beautiful country!

  10. Connie Schmidt

    I love that photo of you!

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