Ultimate Detox: Change Your Life & Recharge Your Soul at Kalari Kovilakom

Upon arriving at India's most intensive -- and beautiful -- Ayurvedic center, your shoes are removed, you're handed white cotton kurta pajamas, and as you're led to your suite, you pass a sign reminding you to "LEAVE YOUR WORLD BEHIND." Indeed, your time at Kalari Kovilakom -- among the finest places in the world to experience no-nonsense mind-body realignment -- will reshape your attitude to life, and prepare you to take on the world with renewed vigor (and a healthier body). That will only be after a period of at least 2 weeks, when you finally emerge from your intensive Ayurveda program. Forget about spas and quick-fix diets. Whether you're here to detox, shed pounds, or finally deal with a recurring ache, pain, nervous complaint, or heart condition, this is a hard-core system of getting the balance right through Ayurvedic treatments (with plenty of massage), yoga, meditation, and ancient dietary rules (strictly vegetarian, no refined oil, nothing artificial). You're also encouraged to get into a routine of flushing out your suppressed mental and emotional issues -- painting, talking, and even praying are encouraged as ways of getting the subconscious a little more out in the open.

As much as this all sounds like we're describing the restrictive lifestyle of an ashram, you are in fact staying in a full-blown Keralite palace. Stepping over the threshold is like stepping into a beautiful film set, only all the big, splendidly decorated and authentically furnished rooms are real -- and they come with modern luxuries (including air-conditioning, and handsome modern bathrooms). Kalari Kovilakom was built in the traditional Keralite style by the Rani (queen) of Kollengode in 1810. Attached to the main palace, where the royal family lived, is a Victorian-style guesthouse designed to accommodate Western guests (who, because they were deemed to be larger, were thought to require more space). Today, you can choose between the sumptuous Kovalikom suites, or the even more spectacular (and costlier) Venganad suites, not that it matters too much since just about everywhere you turn there's something beautiful to look at, be it a fantastic statue or a delicately decorated column.

The minimum stay here is 14 days, and because there are so few distractions (no TV, no shops, no bars -- and you're encouraged to switch off your mobile phone) you start to feel and understand the passage of time; these will feel like the most precious and meaningful 2 weeks of your life. This is a program sought after by high-profile businesspeople and world leaders in need of the ultimate detox, destress, and rewiring. From the time you arrive, you're on a strict program of Ayurvedic treatments -- starting with deep cleansing treatments that involve taking medicated ghee that purges toxins from your body, not to mention bringing all kinds of emotions to the fore. Meals are individually prescribed by your Ayurvedic physician -- and there's none of the muck that might slip into the daily diet, even by accident, in the outside world. At mealtimes -- after your hands are ceremoniously washed -- each dish is explained to you, and you're encouraged to maintain silence as you dine, helping you focus on the food, the nourishment it provides, and the energetic properties contained within. On top of that, you'll be drinking nothing but medicated or ginger-infused water -- for some junkies, giving up caffeine may be the first step in a string of achievements here, but the effects are quickly visible, which does encourage you to push through. It's comforting, too, knowing that fellow guests have also given up the outside world.

This is not an ashram, but neither is it a place for any run-of-the-mill lazy vacation -- there is plenty of hard work and even some unpleasant moments (especially during the initial phase when your body is sloughing off the worst of what your normal life has done to it). Getting the balance right can be a very difficult adjustment for anyone grown too attached to everyday life (and that means all of us). But if you have the will and the money and feel the time is right to change your world forever, then this could well be the most rewarding time you ever spent away from home. The minimum 2-week manashanthy (stress relief) program costs 5,000€ to 6,800€ for a single person (7,450€-9,200€ double; rates depend on the type of suite you occupy), while the pancha karma (rejuvenation) and sthanlyakina chikitsa (weight reduction) programs start at 6,900€ per person, or 10,550€ double, for 21 days. Various other packages, including the 28-day antiaging (rasayam chikitsa), are available, or you can have the doctors design a completely individual set of treatments for you. Rates include everything from airport transfers to daily Ayurvedic treatments, and you have the attention of your Ayurvedic doctor and yoga instructor throughout your stay.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.