Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic practices in the world, dating back as far as 6,000BC – and it still thrives throughout India today. It’s based on the principle that the body harbours five prime elements: fire, space, water, air and earth. Each person, it says, has a unique combination within them, and by understanding that combination you can boost everything from your energy levels to your immune system – and live a more stress-free, harmonious lifestyle.
Amid Kerala’s tranquil backwaters and tropical woodlands, Kumarakom is the ideal spot to explore this philosophy through massage, yoga and bespoke clean-eating plans. The Coconut Lagoon retreat, for example, offers herbal ayurvedic massage and daily yoga workshops – complete with swaying palm trees and Vembanad Lake views to get you into the mood. At Kumarakom Lake Resort, the Panchakarma programme promises further restorative results, yet requires a rather more dedicated spirit: its treatments include purging and enemas, administered by expert ayurveda practitioners.
Happily, the surrounding area promises a suitably gentle reprieve – with a 14-hectare bird sanctuary where herons, kingfishers and white ibis nest; and the village of Kallara, where you’ll find the Sree Sarada Temple (dedicated to the goddess of knowledge). And of course, the area is home to one of India’s most iconic experiences: cruising Kerala’s backwaters on a traditional kettuvallam houseboat.