The acclaimed Ushvani spa brings a touch of Malaysian tranquility to the busy streets of Chelsea. A retreat to this haven for a day has the extraordinary effect of making you feel like you’ve been away for weeks.
Ushvani is unforgettable thanks to an appropriately balanced combination of intricate detail set amongst the grand backdrop of a Grade II listed building adorned with imported Malaysian décor. From the sheer orange drapes that float down the dark wood walls and banisters, to the sound of gently trickling water and wafting scent of essential oils, the calming effect Ushvani delivers is immediate.
The thick brown door that acts as a portal to this tranquil universe gives Ushvani a mysterious air akin to that of a private members club. So discreet, it’s only when you look up that the traditional hanging sign comes into view, marking Ushvani as Number 1 Cadogan Gardens.
The ritual of relaxation…
Once that door is closed behind you, so too are all your tensions and worries shut out. The initial exchange of complicated, heavy personal belongings for the simplicity and purity of a white robe and slippers is in itself like a rite of passage.
Ushvani’s pre-treatment bath ritual is almost a treatment on its own. However, it is for ladies only, in keeping with Malaysian bathing tradition that separates them from men, who have their own exclusive treatment rooms on the top floor.
First, the hydrotherapy plunge pool. As you wade across, four staggered jets pump out water at different temperatures aimed at stimulating circulation in your legs. After a trip to the steam room, you enter the rainforest experience shower. The three settings – ‘cold wave’, ‘warm monsoon’, and ‘tropical fusion’ – are accompanied by colour therapy lighting, immersing you in calming shades of blue and green.
You are invited to linger both before and after your treatment in the Relaxation Room and Tea Room respectively. Pre treatment, nibble on dried fruit with cranberry juice and water, intentionally served at room temperature to regulate your body heat ahead of a massage. Afterwards, rehydrate with a sumptuous cup of hibiscus tea and the sweet delight of candied winter melon.
The Ushvani treatment list may not be extensive but each is meticulously applied, with an inherent intention behind everything. There’s just one type of facial available, but at 90 minutes long and encompassing a hand and foot treatment, it’s more than a facial.
Unlike the spas that insist you complete a consultation form that they merely glance over, Ushvani therapists address your personal ailments with knowledge to rival that of a medical professional. They’ve attained the seemingly impossible equilibrium of attentiveness and responsiveness without being invasive.
Ushvani’s massage menu juxtaposes the gentle strokes of the Malay variety, with the tension-relieving pressure of the Balinese approach. The Signature massage, meanwhile, selects the best of both worlds. For an all round treatment, choose the Full Body Experience: a body scrub with a 30 minute massage, closing with a full body wrap.
For an extreme pamper package, book the Asmara private suite: two people, three hours, the ultimate indulgence. Complete with plunge pool and coconut milk bath, the suite makes the top offering of a five star hotel look shabby. If only you could stay the night.
Even the smallest Ushvani experience, such as its yoga classes, leaves a lasting impression. With its high ceilings, original fireplace and ornate wooden carvings, the Sentosa studio is as much of a sight to behold as the rest of the spa.
Vinyasa instructor Kasia may be a petite, soft spoken blonde but don’t let that fool you. Her class puts you through your paces, but with just three people in our session, Kasia peppers her instruction with feedback aimed at individuals. The light touch as she applies the Ushvani healing balm to your temples at the end of the class is magical.
The whole experience is the product of owner Usha Arumugam’s vision – Ushvani is a culmination of her name, the Hindi word for ‘dawn’, and ‘avani’, meaning ‘earth’ in Sanskrit. After four years of research and development, drawing on both Usha’s Malay roots and her experiences of day spas all over the world that never could quite satisfy, Ushvani opened in 2008.
Taking Ushvani home with you
Ushvani’s healing effects last well beyond the light step that you’ll bound out the door with. Its specially developed product range, from creams, balms and gels to masks and scrubs is available to purchase. Spa manager Kelly reveals that many clients carry the Ushvani balm in their handbags for all manner of troubles from jetlag to headaches – a real miracle cure.
It’s hard to believe an oasis like this exists in the middle of London. But here it is, no flight, passport or luggage required.
Yoga class and site tour was courtesy of Ushvani. All images courtesy Ushvani.