In Islamabad, highly commercialised spas double-book, serve too many clients, don’t give consultations and sell pretentious-sounding and westernised skin and haircare products. Ancient healing practices like Ayurveda, indigenous to the subcontinent, which date back over 5,000 years, are largely ignored.
This is unfortunate because Ayurvedic healing is extremely conducive for therapeutic spa treatments because its central philosophy relies on one, single tenant: The mind and body are the same; physical health cannot be achieved without achieving emotional, mental and spiritual health. The holistic practice goes to show that physical therapy can be more dynamic than your run-of-the-mill four o’clock seaweed wrap or aromatherapy massage appointment.
However, this is not the case with The Neem Tree clinic where a holistic approach combined with personalised treatments make up this spa’s brand philosophy. The clinic launched two years ago, in December 2009, and ensures that all treatments, from Flower Power thermo-heals (a facial scrub made entirely out of crushed flower extracts) to the Pacharma massage (healing the body with herbal oils), are 100 per cent organic and natural.
“I am one of the few people trained in the five karma — the five different procedures used in Ayurvedic healing practice,” says Zehra Azim, the spa owner. Azim graduated as a distinction holder from the Shahnaz Husain’s Ayurvedic Academy in London. Shahnaz Husain, CEO of Shahnaz Herbals Inc., is a prominent Indian entrepreneur best known for her herbal cosmetics, particularly skincare products. Husain’s products are sold in leading global stores including Bloomingdale’s in New York, as well as Harrods and Selfridges in London. Azim uses the knowledge and skills she’s acquired at the academy to provide all-natural head-to-toe treatments for her clients.
Ayurvedic healing focuses on rejuvenating life through simple and natural means. “I’m also a soul therapist, which means I can massage without using oils to heal my clients and to figure out what they need. My aim is to treat people and get them to relax to the point when they feel they are reborn,” explains Azim. On average, she takes 60 clients a month and claims that foreigners bring in a lot of business. She prefers a small and loyal client-base to an endless stream of business. Depending on the treatments decided during consultations, prices can range from Rs1,500 to Rs3,000.
Neem Tree radiates a feeling of serenity and peace; soothing music plays in the backdrop while a mini-Grecian fountain trickles water on an altar decked with seashells. Azim serves water laced with sandalwood extract, a soothing emollient. The spa includes three rooms: One for hair treatments, herbal manicures and pedicures; another for consultations and facials and the third for body scrubs and massages.
The clinic, though small, is designed to only take one client at a time as Azim gives each client her full attention and administers all treatments personally after a free consultation designed to understand the client’s particular skin, hair and body type. She also makes and prepares her organic products using fresh fruits, yogurt, milk, oatmeal, chocolate, essential oils and various herbal ingredients. Real pearls, gems and gold dust are also used for facials. The same can’t be said about other health spas in Islamabad.The local market proves challenging: “It’s difficult for a lot of people here, especially the ones who are used to mass commercialised spa treatments to understand the use of organic products like yogurt, milk and fruit,” she said but until now, only five customers weren’t too keen on the treatments. “People are still suspicious, I think,” says Azim. “They want to hide behind layers of make-up instead”.
Ayurvedic remedies to try out
To get glowing skin, grate raw coconut and squeeze the milk out of it. Apply this milk over your lips and faceApplying pure castor oil prevents wrinkles and softens the skin. This also slows down the ageing processRubbing a raw potato on the face removes marks and pigmentsCamomile or peppermint tea is a good source for sound sleep and is an effective home remedy for insomnia.Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, dairy products, nuts, dried fruit and dark green leafy vegetables encourage healthy nail growth. To make the hands soft and nourish the nails, prepare a cream of almond oil and honey and leave it on overnight.Gingko Biloba is an antioxidant and it oxidises the fatty cells under the surface of the skin. Thus any kind of build ups, like cellulite, cannot develop. It also strengthens the veins and boosts blood circulation.