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


My Panchakarma Experience in Mexico


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 spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.


  1. Connie Schmidt

    I love that photo of you!

  2. Maxine Ford

    It’s time to detoxify and get some energy back. Booking this immediately 🙂

  3. After reading your article, I can think of a new definition for Villa Ananda, 3Rs: retreat, refresh and restore!

  4. Esther Devine

    Mmmmm… I guess Panchakarma removes impurities from the body… is it better than a juice cleanse?

  5. Joan Morales

    Long article, but it was definitely worth reading. And great Ayurveda tips…

  6. Brittany West

    Just booked! On my way to removing toxins!!!

  7. Beverly Snyder

    What precautions should people take when they want to try Pancha Karma?

  8. Dollie Callahan

    Thanks for the Ayurvedic tips! Bookmarked! Will be sending this to my girlfriends!

  9. Susan Albright

    If I remember it right, I’ve read that Ayurveda puts extreme importance on the digestive system?

  10. Chrystal Simmon

    I wonder, what made you decide to look or research for Villa Ananda?! Friend recommendations?!

  11. Rosalie Sultan

    Now I understand the need to purify the body. Thanks for teaching me about Ayurvedic Panchakarma

  12. Lisa Bryson

    Thanks for this article! I needed to find a way to cleanse and detox my body.

  13. Deanna Woods

    Wow! I could really use a rejuvenating experience like that.

  14. Eloise Ferris

    I NEED a relaxing week-long detox!

  15. Genie Mackenzie

    Villa Ananda seems to have such an enchanting ambiance! 😍 😘 😚

  16. April Henry

    Looks so luxurious!

  17. Lusi Martin

    What brand is that navy and white top you’re wearing in the first photo in this article? I love it!

  18. Honey Smith

    “Plz suggest an ayurvedic remedy for my constipation, gases and acidity. Because I have these three problems all a time.
    plz plz plz plz plz tell me somthing. Because I’m very fed up.”

    • Jessi Agusta

      “This is what I do: *Drinking a cup of cold water first thing in the morning, helps.
      *Also, everyone can react different for different food we eat since we are all different, so pls experiment and see which of these food can work the best for you; all of these work for me really good–guaranteed: Carrot, Asparagus, Shitaki mushroom, Beets, Brown Rice, Basmati rice, Sweet Potato, Gobo and Swiss Chard. If really bad, have some penuts and drink cold cup of milk; hopefully, it won’t become the other extreme.
      *whenever I drink green smoothies–vitamix, in a few hours, my body forces me to go to bathroom: these are the ingredients (you may add omit however you want, but these work for me really good as well):
      Water–purified: 1 1/2 C
      Kale: about 1 C
      Broccoli: 1/2 C
      Brussel Sprout: 1 big one or 2 small ones
      Carrot: 1 small organic carrot
      Romaine Lettuce: 2-3 leaves
      Celery: 1/2 C
      Spinach: 1 C
      Swiss Chard: 1/2 C
      Aloe: 1/3 C (1 stem)
      Grape leaves: about 3 leaves
      3 ripe bananas
      Fresh rosemary, Mint and sage: 1 ts of each
      Raw garlic: 1/2 ts
      fresh Ginger: 1 ts
      Green onion: 1/2 root
      Blackberry(any fruit you like): 1/2 C
      peaches, apples: 1/2 C of each
      Sunflower seed: 1TS
      Raisins: 1TS
      Corriander seed, fennel, Chia seed : 1 ts of each
      Flax seed: 1TS
      Cinammon, Tumeric: 1 ts of each
      (if you have any of inside of Honey dew, Cantaloupe, pumpkin, Papaya seeds, you may add as well)
      I hope this help!
      Lord bless you!
      kk 🙂”

    • Wendy

      I’m no doctor so I wouldn’t be in a place to suggest any Ayurvedic remedies, but I’ve found that yoga therapy and good whole foods vegetarian diet have worked really well for me for digestive issues.

  19. Cristina Joseff

    Ayurveda is very clear about how much time it takes to do this practice. Panchakarma simply can’t be done that fast — that practice simply becomes commercialization of Panchakarma. After each therapy there is a recovery period of double the days of thereapy itself or at least 7 days.

    • Anila William

      I agree that Ayurveda is very clear about what panchakarma is, and I’d add that present-day literature and marketing materials that are selling it as something other than what it is. It’s unfortunate that it has become this fad. I see the same thing happening with Yoga. People, particularly in the West, are selling asana as Yoga, when in reality they are just selling asana, which is just one of the eight limbs of the whole practice. I cringe when I hear the term “Yoga class” when all they’re doing is getting together for an hour of asana. I wish people just called it what it is: “asana class.” Ultimately, this incorrect terminology has the effect of diluting the true meaning of Yoga and confuses people. The upside is that more people get into the practice in the first place and a percentage of those people will discover the true meaning. The others will gain something as well, just not nearly what they could be getting if they had the real thing.

  20. Nancy Smith

    Something else you may want to include in your article: Panchakarma contains two Sanskrit words ‘Pancha’, which means five, and ‘Karma’ which means action. Together it means ‘five actions’ which shows clearly what Panchakarma actually is: an Ayurvedic treatment consisting of five different actions which clean the body from any kind of toxic material.

  21. Maria Bruce

    Panchakarma removes impurities from the body, but is it better than a juice cleanse?

  22. Quin Meri

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’d like to experience it too!

  23. Ana Brose

    I’ve heard about Pancha Karma but I don’t really understand how it works. Thanks for the great article!

  24. Jenifer Jeni

    Timely! I’m so stressed out at work. I think I need this badly!

  25. Are there “negative” side effects?

    • Well, sometimes when you detox you feel a bit sick as the toxins are leaving you. It’s like a J-curve, then you feel way better. I didn’t experience this though.

  26. Courtney Floxen

    Your travels and adventures were amazing!! I love your website and everything that you stand for. 🙂

  27. Rosina McMillian

    What a wonderful experience you have. Hi Hilary! I just found your website and I can’t wait to explore and hopefully get some awesome tips. I want to travel on my own because I love learning about the culture of different countries, meeting other people and having new experiences. I think if we’re looking for a quiet place, beautiful view, peaceful, then this is the place to stay. Loved reading your article today!

  28. Jenny Garett

    Villa Ananda looks like it’s truly a secret piece of paradise. Looks like everything about your stay there was fabulous. Full sensation experiences with beautiful views, waking up with the beautiful sound of waves, and excellent massages for relaxing from top to toe. The whole experience is very serene and relaxing. You’re living the dream and I’m looking forward to reading more from your travels and future plans.

  29. Christina Brown

    Beautiful! I would love to experience the tranquility of the space that will surround me in this lavish vacation sanctuary.

  30. Gabby Williams

    Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂 Years ago, I was able to experience Ayurvedic and Pancha Karma practices. The practices were so unique because the training is “real.” Our trainers encouraged us to get our hands dirty. I, together with friends, put our whole heart into what we’re doing, we bonded as group and learned to work as a therapeutic team. I think it’s time we did another trip — this time at Villa Ananda!!

  31. Great article! Villa Ananda is many things: peaceful and relaxing; place for fitness, wellness and comfort; and a place to sweat, meditate and heal 😉

  32. A good friend of mine invited me to Villa Ananda to refresh, retreat and try “healing” services, after reading this article (she forwarded this to me). I don’t have any serious conditions but I am definitely going to join because A) it looks super amazing from the description and photos, and B) I am def over-stressed, from working at my computer and the volunteer projects I’ve been working on.

    I’ve been detoxing regularly, using herbs and following strict vegetarian diet. But I know I needed to cleanse and more importantly, regenerate. I hope the “Pancha Karma” Ayurvedic treatments will help me. I’m going to load up our trip with Ayurvedic treatments as much as I can.

  33. Love this article! Very detailed and wonderful photos! But I wonder if Nasya treatment was helpful? I mean, did the treatment lessen your migraine attacks?

    • Yes! It was super helpful. Ayurveda works like magic — I felt the healthiest I have ever felt (in my whole life!) while staying there. No joke.

  34. I just messaged this article to a supermodel friend and she said that Donna Karan goes here every year after fashion week. I’m definitely booking this!

  35. Francis Woods

    I don’t think words could ever do this place justice! It would take an extended stay for me to even realize all of the amenities offered at Ayurveda. Their innovative form of healing with an emphasis on the inner self makes me want to board a plane today and stay for at least a week!

  36. Jen Spillane

    Wow, this place sounds like a dream! I love that they focus on healing from the inside and on building a foundation for a healthy lifestyle that guests can carry forth into their day-to-day lives.

  37. I could really use this. I want to see what I'm like after a relaxing week-long detox. I wonder if I'll have a lot more energy and mental clarity. It will certainly be an interesting experiment! I'm going to get some girlfriends together and we can all go together. Will be fun – thanks for the tips!

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