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feel good

Heal your world
A massage at Nirvana, an oasis of luxury in Islamabad, promises to help you forget your worries for a soothing, peaceful journey to the Orient

By Maria Tirmizi

"Let us take you on a sensory journey through the orient, a fusion of Balinese grace, Thai charm, Japanese elegance and everything in between. We invite you to step away from the city and enjoy a little peace, serenity and relaxation," promises the brochure of Nirvana Spa.

Stepping away from the city (metaphorically speaking of course, since the spa is very much in the heart of the city), what with all the dust, noise and peevish tendencies all around sounds like a great idea. But "a sensory journey through the orient?" "Grace, charm and everything in between?" That bit, I thought, had to be another case of overzealous, advertisement laden self-praise that ends up being a not-half-as-bad an experience, but one that could've safely been done without.
As it turned out, I knew I had underestimated the minute a wave of aromatic pleasure softly slithered up the senses as I stepped inside the reception. As you are gently steered towards a private massage room up the stairs, with everything basked in a dim, candle-lit splendour, it is like one has entered into a peaceful trance. Yes, this has to be a sensory journey somewhere far, far away from the city.
Word around town has it that getting a body ritual or a facial from Nirvana, which opened last year on June 1st, and is owned by Mrs Nadia Lakhani, is an unaffordable luxury. But getting a massage from Nirvana myself, I realized how incorrect that notion is. The vision of Nirvana focuses on "building the spa culture into our lifestyle to achieve inner well being," making it evident that the owners did not envisage the place to be a membership-only indulgence exclusively for the filthy rich. On the contrary, anyone can book an appointment - anyone, of course, who understands the benefits of aromatherapy, reflexology, body rituals and the like, and is willing to pay from a 1000 rupees up to a 3000 rupees for them.
Yes, barring the facials, which lie between 2000 to 5500 rupees, and the Seaweed Wrap which is for 4000 rupees, the body rituals at Nirvana stay within the range of 1000-3000 rupees, making the misconceptions about a full body massage at Nirvana costing something like 10 grand ridiculous.

The spa is designed by an architect called Usman Khan (of Impact Design) and exudes an aura, to recall the writing on the wall in the waiting room, of 'Serenity and Peace'. From sofas made of straw and propped up with oriental coloured cushions, cream coloured curtains gently swaying, stone statues of Buddha dimly illuminated by candles around it, and tiny, constantly lit candles lining
the walls of the entire place, spreading a soft, warm glow all around, it feels as if relaxation and comfort are seeping through the very pores of our skin.

Lying on your stomach on the massage board, your face doesn't gaze down at the dull sight of a floor through the opening in the board, but at flower shaped candles floating gently in a bowl of water.
As you enter each room, a different smell hits you, emitted by essential oils being heated in oil burners; one room smells of lavender, another of rosemary, a third of lemongrass. Massage rooms are labeled with signs like "Happiness", adding to the whole therapeutic experience.

"A spa can't be made without a Jacuzzi, a steam room, and a sauna room," says Nadia Waseem, the General Manager of Nirvana, while showing around the place and goes on to inform that being very careful about hygiene, the Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna are sanitized everyday.

The extremely large Jacuzzi gives the look of a large, magnificent Roman bath, with a granite stone finish to it, and can be booked for an Aromatic floral bath using aromatherapy oils and rose petals, along with a private tea service, a Moroccan bath utilizing a Moroccan soap and scrub, and a Honey and Milk bath, making you feel no less than Cleopatra (each bath for 2500 rupees for one entire hour).

There's a Nail Bar as well, furnished with massage leather sofas for relaxing while your feet and legs get the ultimate therapy. Spacious striped sofas with large arm rests are placed on a higher step against a wall on the opposite side of the leather sofas, with large bronze bowls placed at the bottom for the pedicures, making you feel like you've gone back in time to an era of opulence and grandeur.

Relaxing on these comfortable sofas, one can benefit from the deeply relaxing Reflexology Massage that applies pressure on the soles of the feet to improve circulation, for a 1000 rupees. Then there's the Spa Pedisation Foot Repair for a 1000 rupees, complete with a warm foot soak, a soothing massage, a scrub, a mask application, ending with a softening cream. There are French manicures and pedicures as well, (for 450 and 600 rupees respectively) and Acrylic Set nails for 3000 rupees, along with a whole variety of other nail treatments.

The range of full body massages offered are enticing enough to book immediate appointments, with Elemis oils used by professional masseurs and masseuses from Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, who have been trained by Elemis Institute who let you enjoy the luxury without any disturbance. They refrain from speaking unnecessarily to the clients, with utmost importance placed on making sure nothing subsides the soothing nature of the whole experience.

It is discouraged for clients to bring children along, cell phones are politely asked to be switched off after one enters the spa, and attendants are asked to make sure that the sound of their walking doesn't reach the ears of the clients. With soft, sweet music in the background conjuring images of gentle streams and delicate bird chirpings while the trained hands of the masseuse works on your tense nerves, we're tempted to believe that we really are in the Garden of Eden, especially if one is prone to dozing off.

Body massages include an Aroma Hot Stone massage for up to 90 minutes costing 3500 rupees, a Shiatsu massage, which is a Japanese massage that uses techniques of acupuncture, a classic full body massage called the Swedish massage, a Balinese massage which includes stretching, palm and thumb pressure techniques, a traditional Thai massage combining Chinese pressure point techniques along with Indian Ayurvedic stretching techniques, a Lymphatic drainage massage for those suffering from fluid retention, toxicity and skin disorders, an Ayurvedic massage based on an Indian philosophy of 'Samkhya' (translated as 'to know the truth') which uses warm herbal oils - all for 2300 rupees each and lasting for one hour. There are many other kinds of massages as well, using different essential oils like chamomile, geranium and peppermint, depending on your frame of mind at the time of the massage.

Nirvana offers other healing methods and beauty services as well, everything starting from complex anti-cellulite and de-fatting procedures, intense facials and various body polishes as well as the more regular round of salon services. The place also harbours Nirvana Café, open for all, at the backside of the spa, serving Continental food and snacks and even arranging private parties.

According to Nadia Waseem, 80 per cent of the clients at Nirvana are expats and 20 per cent are locals who understand what spas are all about. In an age of increased stress, whether it is work related or household related, one can use a therapeutic, relaxing experience offered by Nirvana. A little bit of time away from the city can do all of us some good.

Nirvana Spa
House no: 14, Street 90, G6/3
Tel No: 051-2206101-2206602.