The Land of Limitations

Panchakarma in the Maldives: can't swim, can't tan, and can't have sex; who would want that?

Text by: Egor Appolonov, Elite Life editor
© Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

Journey to Landaa Giraavaru Island in the Indian Ocean. Ayurveda, strict regime and only a few liberties.


  1. Panchakarma is a two-week Ayurvedic program aimed at the cellular rejuvenation of the body.

  2. The Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru Island offers purification treatment in luxurious conditions.

  3. Personalization is the central aspect of Panchakarma at Four Seasons. There is no set program – doctors design the course individually for each guest.

  4. The minimum duration of the course is 14 days. The maximum is 21 days.

  5. The first week is devoted to ‘oiling’ – you drink ghee to ‘grease’ internal organs and prepare them for the elimination of toxins.

  6. Ghee is a butter churned from cream from which water and protein were removed by boiling and skimming.

  7. General cleansing is the goal of the first week. There are five ways to bring toxins out of the body. The doctors choose the one that suits you best.

  8. During the detox, it is not advised to swim and engage in physical activity, including intimacy.

  9. Course curators will ask you to give up all gadgets and devote your time to meditation and relaxation.

  10. Every day, there are at least two Ayurvedic procedures at the Spa Center. The types of procedures are determined individually.

  11. It also matters how you finish the program. The central rule: you should stick to the regimen for another duration of the course after its completion.

A cake appeared on the table on the sixth day of ‘detox’. If you happen not to eat chocolate for a week and drink hot butter every morning, seeing a desert in front of you brings contradicting feelings. The mesmerizing scent of cocoa beans sends a signal to the brain to start producing serotonin, which is responsible for the feeling of happiness. But the effect is certainly lagging in time. Probably because you've been happy since the beginning of the week. And maybe because of the realization that a strict Indian doctor will not let you commit a crime. A waiter begins cutting the dessert. The defense is weak against this move.

“Aren't we on detox though?” I resist, following the knife cutting through the flakes of whipped cream. The chocolate aroma takes me back in time when I visited a candy factory as a child.

“It's a vegan dessert, so no crime here,” says the waiter and puts the slice on the plate with a calm demeanor.

“Is it sure vegan?”, I'm double-checking with mistrust.

“Of course,” joins the conversation Dr. Shailesh, “there's not a gram of cream, chocolate, or sugar in the cake.”

He is the Head of the Ayurvedic practice at Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru. He grins, and I can understand now: he himself ordered to prepare this surprise. “And what about Panchakarma? Didn't we come here for purification?” The doctor shrugs: the psycho-emotional balance during the cleansing of the body is no less important than the physiology and the elimination of toxins. I agree. Given that I have not sun-bathed or even come into the ocean since arriving on the island (the course forbids such liberties), the unexpected dessert was a pleasant reward in the middle of the holidays on a strict regimen.

The emotional balance during the cleansing of the body is no less important than the physiology and the elimination of toxins

  • 1/8 Масло ги — центральное «лекарство» двухнедельной программы © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 2/8 Живые цветы — неотъемлемая составляющая ритуалов © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 3/8 Доктор Шайлеш диагностирует состояние здоровья по пульсу © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 4/8 Аюрведические процедуры — неотъемлемая часть курса © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 5/8 Массаж горячими травяными мешочками © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 6/8 Ритуалы в спа усиливают связь с природой © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 7/8 Во время курса кормят только веганской едой © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 8/8 Доктор Шайлеш рекомендует медитировать каждый дент © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

The same evening, Dr. Shailesh and Dr. Suraj, dressed in white linen robes, came to our villa. Personalization is the central aspect of Panchakarma at Four Seasons.

Shailesh and his team work based on the individual needs of each guest. There is no set program – doctors create the course individually for each guest, considering any health conditions (or lack thereof). How does this happen? First, the dosha is determined and then Shailesh decides which treatment options would be most appropriate. Noting the silent question in my eyes, the Hindu explains,“The common detox programs are conducted in the same way for everyone: you would be ‘cleansed’ according to standard methods developed by a ‘spiritual guru’. This is not the right way because every human is unique.” In Ayurveda, your dosha determines the type of treatments. What is dosha? It is the sum of everything we learn during the diagnosis process: habits, predispositions, metabolic rate, psychology, character, and physiology of the body. There exist only three doshas. Almost every person is a combination of any two doshas. Based on the parameters identified, doctors assign appropriate medicine and procedures to help speed up the detoxification.

The Ayurveda curator asked me how the day went. Except for the dinner ‘incident’ (the cake turned out to be fantastic), the past 12 hours were not different from previous ones. You wake up at 6:30 a.m. for a bathing ritual with the doctors who will become your family halfway through the course. Communal reading of the mantra. After that, you drink ghee – a type of skimmed liquid butter. That's the main reason I and my wife traveled to Maldives, where the Ayurvedic purification program was launched recently. Ghee is a butter churned from cream from which water and protein were removed by boiling and skimming. After the process of distillation alchemy, you get a dreary fluid that you take every morning. This is called the oiling procedure. Ghee is meant to lubricate the internal organs and pull the toxins out of them. “The first thing we do is oiling the organism and preparing it for purification,” clarifies Shailesh. Then the toxins will be forcefully removed. There are five ways to do that (keep reading to find out).


Shylesh Subramaja
the head of Spa Center at the Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru
Not so long ago a woman came to the resort and said she needed a three-week Panchakarma course. We talked, and I proposed to shorten it to ten days. The program implies some restrictions (one cannot sunbathe or swim during the first days), and some people are not ready for it. The woman came alone, and although we visit our guests five or six times a day, we still feel they're lonely. I said, “There's no need to go to the extremes. Let's make it a ten-day program, you don't need more than that.” And that really was enough. So, it all depends.
Shirodara expels the unneeded thoughts of © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
Dr. Sooraj collects medicinal herbs for procedures © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
Ingredients for the preparation of herbal massage © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
Ayurveda purifies the body and mind © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

After taking ghee, you should meditate and introspect. You can't swim in the first week. During this time, it is better not to even approach the ocean: too great a temptation to jump into the azure water, too great a risk of getting sick because the organism is weakened and hypothermia can cause complications. You shouldn't worry about having a slight fever during the program. That's how the body is summoning all its resources to digest the high-calorie butter. Ghee, also known as , slows down metabolism, and that's why Dr. Shailesh forbids any physical activity, including intimacy, during those is following you around. But we are complying patients.

Still, the doctor's team is watching you, yet their attention is discreet.Shailesh and Suraj appear exactly when you call them in your mind. In fact, doctors come to the villa 5−6 times a day. They always ask how you feel. They ask questions and cheer you up with the fact that you could swim in just two days. No, Panchakarma is not a voluntary torture. The program is quite enjoyable. The thoughtful attention you receive from the Ayurveda masters helps you to survive the hardships that arise during the confinement on the sunny island. One of these hardships is the absence of sugar.

However, by the end of the course, lack of sugar is no longer a problem.

So, what can you do if you can't swim and love each other on a fabulous island? Shailesh suggests dedicating time to yourself. You're probably dependent on your work or gadgets. Start a digital detox. Read books, write your memoirs, or just walk. Meditate. Listen to your body. What's your body telling you? Do whatever that helps you disconnect from the world outside the island. Draw the borders and look within,You won't necessarily enjoy what you'll see, but it's only good to restart and defragment your brain during the course. The unpleasant thoughts will be formatted by themselves. The valuable thoughts will get sorted in the correct order. Clarity of mind is not a mere clichal consequence of the program. Heavy consciousness, unnecessary thoughts, news, and fears prevent one from seeing adequate solutions. Do you want to clear your brain? Come to Shailesh. At the end of the course, you're turning into Grandmaster, who thinks four steps ahead.

At the beginning of the course, it's better to avoid the alluring water. The temptation to dive into the azure ocean is irresistible.

  • 1/6 Такой пейзаж на Мальдивах 360 дней в году © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 2/6 Да, это действительно рай на земле © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 3/6 Ресторан средиземноморской кухни Blue © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 4/6 Прогулки по острову © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 5/6 После завершения курса панчакармы запланируйте пикник © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 6/6 ...Или свадьбу © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

The rituals at the spa center help to live through the challenging days. The program includes two or three procedures each day. Abhyanga (four hand massage with oil), Shirodhara (oil applications onto forehead), steaming, scrub, and wrapping sessions complement the Ayurvedic course and awaken the creation potential. Evening yoga lessons that incorporates only light stretching and meditative breathing exercises, help you connect with the body.

Then you will wander around the island and enjoy a light dinner. All food is vegan, the menu lists red ground rice and intricate curry dishes. The dinner is always offered on demand: you only need to eat when you feel hungry, not by following your habits. Shailesh explains, We are hostages of habits. And we eat the way we got used to. Panchakarma helps us remember what hunger is and how to achieve balance. You will have another short walk after dinner and then sleep.

An obvious question: what inspired the hotel management to launch the strictest regimen program on a resort island? Louise Anderson, Regional Director of Spa at Four Seasons in Bali, Langkawi, and Maldives, gives a concise answer: In India, it's dirty and noisy. I visited Southern Indian cities. They are mad and dusty, you just can't relax there. In Kerala, dozens of hospitals offer Panchakarma programs. But be prepared for the spartan conditions of the Indian hospital. Now, compare this to the chance of undergoing a serious Ayurvedic course in the five-star conditions of Four Seasons Resort. We're sitting on the shore, listening to the rustling water and admiring giant rays gliding along the coast. Shailesh, who was born in India, says that the meditative conditions of Maldives help to awaken consciousness. And this is the main purpose of Panchakarma. He adds: The climate in the Maldives and India is similar, therefore the takes place in optimum weather conditions, but with added comfort.

“In India, it's dirty and noisy. We offer a serious Ayurvedic course in the five-star conditions of Four Seasons.”

  • 1/8 Панчакарма с комфортом. Beach villa c бассейном © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 2/8 Вечером на виллах зажигают свечи © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 3/8 Вилла на воде © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 4/8 Вилла с бассейном. Гостевая зона © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 5/8 Море и солнце, а купаться нельзя © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 6/8 Вилла на воде © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 7/8 Метитативные пейзажи для ментального детокса © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
  • 8/8 Вилла на берегу © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

The seventh day is dedicated to eliminating the toxins from the body. In Panchakarma, there are five ways to filter the : taking medicine by mouth (Vamana), colon cleansing (Vicherana), enema (Vasti), nasal procedures (Nasya), and blood cleansing (Raktamokshana), which is rarely used. Most likely, Vasti and Vamana would be enough. The final choice is up to Shailesh.

But don't think that Panchakarma is a detox treatment. In fact, this is more about rejuvenating the body at the cellular level. Shailesh explains: Detox is a trendy word. Panchakarma aims at solving an extended range of issues, not limited to the pulling the toxins out of the body. It's about preventive medicine, and the main goal is to avoid sickness. Yet in practice, we first need to fix the organs that are most vulnerable. The begins by bringing the body to balance. In Ayurveda, which is older than 4,000 years, there are two types of therapy: Shodhana and Shamana. Shamana aims at solving an existent problem, stabilizing and controlling the situation.

And Shodhana addresses the root cause of the problem. It allows one to forget about diseases. To do that, you would need to rejuvenate the physical and mental body with the help of Ayurveda, and then undergo the supporting course once a year. If a person is healthy, we show the path to self-development. However, if health conditions are present, we attend to that first, says Dr. Shailesh. He adds: the minimum duration of the course is 14 days, and you can engage in self-improvement program for as long as three weeks. Shailesh decides the duration. One month ago, a woman decided to dedicate 21 days to a thorough cleanup. The remaining time you should devote to enjoying the sun and the sea.

It also matters how you finish the program. The central rule: after the course is completed, you should stick to the moderately strict regimen for the duration of the program. Two weeks of the course would mean that you should stay vegan for another two weeks. Again, no one will watch you, but it's only in your interest to maintain the positive effect of the program. You don't need to run towards a coffee machine for a powerful ristretto. The body will not approve. You will not long for a coffee after the course anyway. ELITE

Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru

Baa Atoll, Maldives

+960 660-0888

Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru

Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru Остров-отель Landaa Giraavaru © Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru is located on Landaa Giraavaru Island in Atoll of Baa, an archipelago of the Maldives, 120 kilometers north-east (30-45 minutes flight) from Malé International Airport. Spa Hotel was recognized as the largest in the Indian Ocean. It is divided into two zones: Ayurvedic and European. The program costs $26,000 for two persons. The program includes accommodation, meals, medical procedures, doctor consultations, and spa treatments.

Egor Appolonov
Elite Life editor

Was editor in chief of "Kommersant Travel", "Kommersant Kids", "Kommersant Beauty", "Kommersant Interiors", Forbes Style, "Transaero" and "Transaero Imperial", finally launching his own project.

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