Gina Baksa experiences profound mind, body and spirit healing at the Ayurvedic Resort Sonnhof in the Austrian Tyrol
The mind is an insidious beast, with the ability to sabotage us without warning.
A missing passport at check in is never a happy occasion. I’d dropped mine on the Gatwick Express, which was now hurtling back to London’s Victoria Station. Cue major panic, palpitations and despair. My flight was leaving in an hour.
To calm my nerves I focused on my desired end result: finding my passport. Only 40 minutes later, I’d raced back to Gatwick, reported it missing and, incredibly, found a member of staff who was actually holding my passport in her hand. A miracle. And a powerful reminder of how we can sabotage ourselves. My unconscious and ego-led mind didn’t want me to get the healing I so badly needed.
So a day late – I flew to Innsbruck the following morning – I finally arrived in the bright, Austrian Tirol. Only a 50-minute drive from the airport, Ayurvedic Resort Sonnhof lies at 900m in the charming village of Hinterthiersee.
A warm welcome from Lisa and Christina, the daughters of owner Johann Mauracher, makes me feel immediately at home. The atmosphere feels safe and grounding. ‘Tirol meets India’ with a comforting mix of Austrian organisation and Indian spirituality, the beautiful Sri Yantra mandala at reception is a powerful reminder of our own unique spiritual journeys.
Celebrating its 15th anniversary as an Ayurvedic centre, the 30-room/suite Sonnhof is the vision of Johann’s pioneering late wife Brigitte. No more schlepping to India and beyond – here is a haven that combines Euro sensibilities with the wisdom of the east. Her family continue to expand and live her vision: Christina is a qualified Ayurveda practitioner and Lisa teaches yoga and meditation. There are 16 therapists in total.
The original hotel (formerly an inn) and a newer adjoining building are sympathetically laid out according to Ayurvedic principles. Soft pine flooring, bright colours, statues of Indian gods, and the aroma of delicate incense are a relaxing combination. My comfortable Spirit Junior suite is in the newer building. A wide balcony that looks over the snow-covered Shiva Shakti energy garden below and across to the majestic Kaiser mountains. The rose beds, herb area, pond and stone Buddha is now buried beneath a metre of blindingly white snow. I make a mental note to return here in spring and summer.
Although not a luxury room, it is comfortable, very warm and clean. The luxury at Sonnhof is in giving your mind, body and spirit a restorative and rejuvenating experience. There is a TV here – hidden under a Flower of Life cover. Wi-Fi is only available in the lounge area for good reason. You are here to switch off.
Ayurveda is an ancient healing system of complete healthcare that originated in India and was even mentioned in the Vedas, the ancient Hindu scripts. Comprising the words: ‘ayus’ meaning life and ‘veda’ meaning knowledge or science, Ayurveda holistically treats the mind, body and spirit.
With the premise that the world is made up of five elements: air, fire, water and earth, Ayurvedic principles say that these elements are represented in humans by three ‘doshas’ or energies: Vatta, Pitta and Kapha. Once any of these accumulate and become out of balance in the body, disease and illness occur. To recover and maintain balance means following a lifestyle that supports a healthy diet, exercise, relaxation time and skin-care routine.
Guests can come to Sonnhof just for the day, or enjoy the renowned Panchakarma treatment, available as a 7, 10, 14 or 21-day programme. Including diagnosis from resident Ayurveda specialist Gaurav Sharma, this treatment is designed to rid the system of toxins and restore metabolic balance, resulting in regeneration and an overall sense of wellbeing. And for many, significant weight loss occurs too.
My own consultation with Dr Sharma is an hour long. And shocking. Just from checking my pulses, and looking at my face, eyes, tongue and touch – he diagnoses burnout. “Your digestive fire is completely extinguished,” he tells me. “And there is too much air and water in your stomach. Do you drink much water?” I admit to drinking more than two litres a day on occasion. Clearly, this is OTT. I can see how I am literally putting out my fire – every day.
He also tells me that my nervous system, lymph and circulatory systems are shot. “Too much multi-tasking,” he tells me. “When you eat, do not play with your mobile, watch TV or talk. “Switch off and concentrate on your food. Eat slowly. Chew well. And no drinking water for an hour before or an hour after eating.”
Dr Sharma prescribes me herbs and special Trikatu spices for my food. All designed to increase my digestive fire. My dosha is Pitta (50%)/Vatta (40%) with a 10% Kapha. And apparently, they are all out of whack.
Feeling gutted, but also optimistic that a change of lifestyle, diet and less water is the start to better health, I make my way to Ayurveda Centre for a pre-massage sauna. Very well equipped, you’ll find three themed saunas comprise a detoxifying steam bath, a herbal clay sauna and gemstone therapy sauna. There are also five infrared cabins – perfect for warming the body – a small gym and a relaxing pool with loungers that overlooks the garden and mountains.
My Himalayan salt scrub with therapist Damith is out of this world. Oil and salt mix are applied over my whole body. I feel zingy, so clean and so relaxed afterwards. Saunas are recommended after all treatments so I indulge – nudity is de rigeur here but you can cover up if you wish. A horizontal rest in the adjacent Swasthya peace room is the perfect antidote to my stress. My once-racing mind is finally starting to slow down
heaven! Then it’s time for lunch
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