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Originally from Kerala, India, Dr. Samantha Semmalar heads BodyHoliday’s innovative, one-of-a-kind BodyScience program – a fusion of western science and technology with eastern practices. Not long ago, writer (and spa aficiando) Shari Mycek experienced, firsthand, BodyHoliday’s BodyScience program with Dr. Samantha. Following are excerpts of her account, which appeared in Healing Lifestyles magazine…
“Your heart is green.”
Dr. Samantha Semmalar, head of BodyHoliday’s BodyScience program in St. Lucia, smiles at me from across her desk. “Don’t worry. A green heart is good, we will discuss more thoroughly,” she says, continuing down her list. “Your blood pressure is on the low side, lower than I’d like to see. And do you often have leg cramps.”
I do. Painful, charley-horse, tight-balls-in-my-calves that wake me in the middle of the night kind of cramps. But how does she know?
“Your sodium is low. You need to eat more salt. In fact, you need to eat more in general, you’re not eating enough.”
We are seated inside Dr. Samantha’s office – an oasis of wellness and calm, set high above the Caribbean Sea. The BodyScience program – “the next level or optimal level of health” – I quickly learn, is intense. And begins weeks before arrival. From home, guests are asked to complete a 96-page questionnaire, offering insight into their medical and family histories; lifestyle rituals. Blood, urine, stool and even DNA samples are collected and sent to a European lab for analysis, after which time Dr. Samantha and the lab physician consult. A determination is made to place the guest in one (or combination of) BodyHoliday’s six core programs: digestion, healthy aging, destress, detox, weight management or fitness. Upon arrival, guests meet with Dr. Samantha and during discussion of lab results, the European physician joins the call.
The second phase of the program takes place onsite, with a series of non-invasive tests. This part of the program is available to guests already at the resort whose curiosity is piqued. Or those who simply opt out of the more intense lab portion. For either option, seven days is recommended, although guests may choose a five or even three-day plan. I’m on the fast (three-day) track.
During my initial meeting, Dr. Samantha asks me to complete a health assessment, only a few pages, and from this information, prescribes a series of non-invasive, onsite tests:
For me, Dr. Samantha prescribes all five non-invasive tests, hooking me to wires, placing sensors in my armpits, bellybutton, on my neck. After the first three tests are completed, we break for lunch, meander together down the long winding wellness stair path to a buffet lunch. The offerings are plentiful. Beautiful salads, hot entries, gluten-free, vegan options, fresh fruit. But I hesitate. Lunch is not part of my daily regimen. I don’t ‘do’ lunch. But Dr. Samantha is not having it.
“Take a plate. Eat anything you want.” She smiles, kindly, knowingly. And as we converse, plan out the rest of the day – I will have two more tests, then into the thalassotherapy pool and infrared sauna, followed by a cocooning body scrub – I catch her observing my sparse-with-raw-greens plate.
The thalassotherapy pool, prescribed by Dr. Samantha to rebalance and remineralize is divine. Warm. Private. The water pumped directly from the Caribbean Sea.
“Sea water contains the same minerals we have in our bodies,” Dr. Samantha explains. “So when there’s an imbalance, sea water helps. It’s why people crave the sea. The salt water absorbs immediately into the skin and begins to do its work.”
During my 30-minute thalassotherapy session, conducted in an indoor, enclosed area, a therapist enters the water with me, carefully positioning me – feet, hands, arms, thighs, calves, stomach, buttocks – in front of high-pressure jets. At one point, when my shoulders are poised directly in front of the spewing sea water, they begin to itch. My therapist immediately notices, and queries: “Are you uncomfortable? Do you want to stop?”
“No, but it’s so strange,” I say.
“Not strange at all,” she smiles. “The itchiness means the (thalassotherapy treatment) is working. Your shoulders are a source of pain.”
The infrared sauna – a new treatment available to all BodyHoliday guests – proves equally therapeutic, although much more low key. Up to six people can undergo the treatment simultaneously. Men arrive shirtless; women in bathing tops or bare backs, to sit quietly 20 minutes in the warm wooden chairs. There is no sweating, just a light, gentle heat penetrating into the back, through the spine and into the organs and bones – warming and speeding up the lymphatic system. Increasing circulation. Relieving muscle pain. Burning fat. And helping to destruct ‘bad’ cells.
The next morning, I’m back in Dr. Samantha’s office where, after analyzing my test results, she’s created my treatment plan for the day. A warming body wrap. Time in the Ayurveda Pavilion for Abhyanga massage and Shirodhara. More infrared sauna and thalassotherapy. A private yoga and meditation session. And lunch – prepared by the chef as prescribed by Dr. Samantha.
We start with the Abhyanga massage with warm oil to repair and retexture the skin, and long soothing strokes to benefit the lymphatic and nervous systems, increase circulation and aid joint pain. The treatment moves immediately into Shirodhara, an intense treatment, where a warm-to-hot oil, specific to dosha body type is slowly dripped onto the third eye (forehead) and hairline for ultra-deep relaxation. And a bonus hair-conditioning treatment.
I arrive at lunch, hair dripping in oil, give my name as instructed to the server, then sit back as one-by-one my lunch courses arrive. A beautiful pink-red hot beet root soup. Delicious. A large plate of warm wild rice with cooked vegetables. And for dessert, fresh mango sorbet served in gorgeous blue glass. For someone who skips lunch, I’m surprising not ‘full.’ And in fact, feel balanced. Energetic.
One-on-one yoga, outdoors in a tree house – personally led by Dr. Samantha, is followed by another round of sauna and foamy seawater thalassotherapy session. Late in the day, in robe and slippers, watching the sun sink into the sea from my verandah, I detect a theme – of warm – to my day. Warm massages, oils, saunas, sea baths. And even meals.
The next morning, walking me through my test results, Dr. Samantha explains the warming factor. In Ayurveda, my body composition is vata, which means I’m more on the airy side, in my head, easily stressed and anxious if out of balance, so warm foods and relaxing, grounding therapies work well. Overall, I’m in good health, my vascular age that of someone 15 years younger. My heart, green, near perfect. But with a slight lack of oxygen to it (yoga will help). The Nerve Express test reveals stress; while the EIS, low sodium, decreased serotonin and joint pain.
And it is here Dr. Samantha offers my personalized take-home prescription: daily yoga; monthly massages with focus on abdominal massage; meditation and breathing techniques; a change in diet to more warming and easily digestible foods, and recommendation to fast once a week. She presents me with a hardbound book containing printouts of my test results, a personalized yoga plan; breathing and meditation exercises, and a three-month diet-and-lifestyle plan including specific foods to eat (rice, oats, cooked vegetables, salt). And those to avoid. She encourages me to contact her with questions, and to follow-up with her on my progress.
And I’m on my way.
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