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Creating the Karma spa treatment

“We were staying outside Jaisalmer when we made contact with Channan Khan, who was to introduce us to the Manganiyar musicians. We drove with him into the Rajasthani desert until we arrived at a sun-scorched village. We were seated under the only tree for miles around as musicians with their instruments started to arrive, some on flatbed trucks, others on bikes, some emerging out of the desert on foot. Each performed their own traditional songs: songs about their environment, songs of loss, religious and cultural songs, and of course love songs.”

Sheema Mukherjee and Simon Richmond.


It was in the heady heat of India that the first seed of an idea was planted for a new kind of spa treatment. Nurtured by the travels of musicians Sheema Mukherjee and Simon Richmond, and watered by the music of desert-dwelling Manganiyar nomads, Bengali virtuoso singers and schoolchildren, this seed came to fruition.

Lush Spa treatment developer Hannah Lammiman explains: “Lush invited two musicians, Sheema Mukherjee and Simon Richmond, to travel the length and breadth of India on an inspirational journey. As they travelled, they worked with different artists wherever they went. Among all the people they encountered along the way, they met massage gurus and teachers, and experienced many elements of the culture and way of life. We wanted to create a Lush Spa treatment inspired by their experiences, where people feel transformed the moment they come through the door.”

The ancient medical practice known as Ayurveda teaches us that health comes from creating harmony within, and from living in harmony with the environment around us. These principles were first recorded in ancient Indian Sanskrit scriptures and are still widely practiced in India today. They are also embedded into the Karma treatment, which combines the experience of two therapists using synchronised massage with accompanying music to take the client on a journey from the sweltering city heat of Kolkata and the depths of the Rajasthani desert, to the humid jungles of Kerala and the majestic mountains of Darjeeling.

“We use warm oils within the treatment”, says Hannah, “as the Ayurvedic way of life tells us that oiling the body promotes long life and health, and helps keep us free from illness, common colds and stresses and strains.” Taking inspiration from this practice, two therapists work in harmony and synchronisation to stimulate flow within the body, also known as ‘Prana’ or life force. In Ayurvedic tradition, Prana permeates the body and is especially concentrated in energy centres known as chakras. Practitioners believe that when we are unwell, the flow of this vital energy is blocked or restricted and must be rebalanced.


Introducing Karma from the #LushSpa

Spa therapists performing the Karma treatment use a combination of meditation, massage and stimulation of marma (or pressure) points to retune energy through the body and ground the client. Hannah explains, “At the beginning of the treatment one spa therapist washes the feet very calmly while the other therapist prepares a poultice which contains our Karma fragrance. This is used in a firm press on the chakra points on the back of the body as Sheema sings the notes relating to each chakra. This helps to tune the body and align the client. Afterwards, we softly strike singing bowls one at a time in a pyramid formation around the body, which relaxes the muscles and declutters the mind.

“When we’re busy rushing around in our everyday life”, she continues, “we vibrate at a higher frequency and so we’re trying to lower this, so that you are able to do the same job and tasks but with a rebalanced sense of calm, elegance and ease. Having a calmer, balanced mind gives us the perspective to function more efficiently and recognise what is going on around us.”

Marma - an ancient Indian martial art that has also evolved into a holistic massage - also plays a role in the treatment, as therapists work on the marma points on the feet. In her travel diary, Sheema describes her experience of a visit to a grassroots guru recommended by a local. “The ‘marma doctor’ here”, she explains, “was apparently the best in the region and he used mostly his feet to manipulate the body. Marma point massage focuses on 107 strategic points of the body that act as energy centers.”

In addition to marma, other modern and traditional massage practices influenced the development of the Karma treatment. Well-synchronised ‘Abhyanga’ massage (also known as four-handed massage) in which two therapists work together on the body became an integral part of the treatment, which enhances the benefits of the massage and the experience for the client. Hannah explains: “Having two therapists working together promotes flow within the body, and warm oil aids the flow of the massage. The importance of synchronicity and concentration on the therapists’ part was a key part of Sheema and Simon’s own experiences of Abhyanga in India.

Sheema recalls, “Most of the time the therapists were either talking or laughing during the massage. There was only one time ever, for me”, she continues, “that the two therapists got it right and the massage was synchronised with the same pressure, the environment was comfortable and it was a truly rejuvenating experience. When it is like that, you are truly lost in the ‘dance’ of the therapists, and the music, the smells, and all five senses are engaged.”

Hannah wanted to ensure that the therapists performing the treatment in the Lush Spa would be perfectly in tune with each other to create rhythm and flow. She explains, “The therapists will mirror each other throughout the treatment but at some points break out so that one therapist may work on the head and the other on the feet. Each therapist, however, will also be watching each other to create that harmony of one person working and set an intention within the room.”

As well as harmonising their movements, spa therapists will also join the client in meditation during the treatment. Hannah says, “Before the treatment starts, we ask the client to visualise a white light which starts at the feet, works up the knees, and into the pit of the stomach where the centre of the client’s emotions are kept. We believe that working on the client’s stomach helps to release the stresses that are kept there and so we do a deep massage here as the therapists also visualise this white light moving through the body.”

To ensure the therapists could work in harmony to enhance the experience of the client, Hannah sought the expertise of a professional teacher of the Alexander technique - a way of learning to move mindfully through life. “She has taught us to set an intention in the room”, Hannah explains, “so both therapists will be thinking about the same thing, and you can really sense them creating space in the client’s mind and body. I’ve had clients say to me, ‘I felt that part’ even though we’ve not said anything to them.”

The treatment culminates in an Ayurveda-inspired Shirodhara practice, with coconut water gently poured over the third eye and down the hair, to allow the client to feel fully at peace. The thicker flow of the viscous coconut water creates a meditative flow over the brow. Hannah explains, “Shirodhara is a unique body therapy from the ancient Ayurvedic system of natural medicine which has a profound effect on the nervous system. It instantly calms and relaxes and has a cleansing effect on the mind and nerves, aiding clarity of thought and concentration when you come out of the treatment.” As the treatment draws to a close, the aim is for the client to feel completely relaxed in body and mind.

The physical benefits of boosted circulation and better digestion also last beyond the treatment. Hannah explains, “We live in a world surrounded by mobile phones, texts and social media. We’re always plugged in. We aim to take people out of that environment. If you indulge in this treatment, the feeling of relaxation will go on. It’s all about buying back good karma for your body.”

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