In 2014, boutique Ibiza hotel The Giri Residence opens up its stylish spa area to one and all, offering treatments based in Ayurveda from in-house therapist Ana Villanueva. With a Diploma in Ayurvedic Spa Therapies from the renowned Ananda Spa Institute in Hyderabad in India, Ana brings her wealth of knowledge and experience to The Giri Spa and is passionate about delivering holistic experiences that treat each and every client on an individual level. Here, she tells us about her journey, from Ibiza to Calcutta and back again…
How did you first learn about Ayurveda? I’d been living in Ibiza for many years, doing seasonal work and then having the whole winter for holidays. One year I wanted to do something different, so I went to India for two months – alone – to volunteer in the Mother Teresa homes and with some other projects in Calcutta, and it was here that I started to be around Ayurveda, and yoga too.
When did you realise it was something you wanted to study and practice? It was in 2008. For the previous two years I had been working in summer as communications manager at Space, and then volunteering in India in the winters. It was quite hard for me, as they were just totally opposite worlds – each time I came back to Ibiza, my mind felt different in a way, and something inside me changed. I felt so lucky, to have been to a good university and had so many great things in my life – when you go to a place like Calcutta, you almost feel guilty and over privileged – that I wanted to do something else.
What brought you back to Ibiza? Well, I was in India for three and a half years, studying yoga and Ayurveda and working as a volunteer, and I set up a school for children and a home for vocational training for women. I came back to Spain at Christmas time and did some charity markets to raise money, and then I would take it back with me. I had a lot of support, but in the end, my savings ran out and I needed to come back to Spain and earn a living – but this time I wanted to do something that I could really ‘feel’, like natural therapies and healing treatments. The yogis and teachers I had been studying with had all been telling me that I had the natural energy to follow this path. It’s funny – when I was 16, I decided, without really knowing why, to become a vegetarian… I think I was setting off on that path as early as then.
How did you get involved with The Giri Residence Spa? One of my best childhood friends from Madrid was working in The Giri Café, and she said to me, “Ana, I just know this is your place, were you can practice your passion.” She put me in touch with [founders] Rosa and Lars, I sent my CV and then we had an interview over Skype – but even with the distance between us we all felt very happy together, and they were also very interested to offer Ayurveda, so it was a good match.
What did you think of the spa when you arrived? The place is so amazing – not just the positive energy that you feel, but all the natural materials that the treatment room is made from make it special. The bamboo roof, the stone in the walls – it’s completely natural, and this is really important when you are working with healing. It’s perfect for me.
Have you made a lot of changes since you arrived? I brought everything with me – from my Ayurvedic bed and my Ayurdevic herbs and powders from India, incense from Nepal and Tibetan bowls. I had the freedom to set up the treatment menu however I liked, and it’s a combination of health and body treatments, spa treatments and beauty treatments, but all have an element of Ayurveda to them.
How does an Ayurvedic treatment differ to a regular spa treatment? Ayurveda has existed for thousands of years and treats the person as a whole, not just a specific concern – it’s about balancing your physical, mental, emotional and energetic bodies. When I do a massage, it’s not ‘just’ a massage, I also use Reiki and Tibetan bowls, in combination with specific oils designed to balance your Ayurvedic constitution – Vata, Pita or Kapha. I have to analyse their constitution before we start so I know exactly how to treat the person and what oils and powders to use on them.
What do you do to analyse a person? I feel their pulse, I lok at the way they walk and talk, I ask about their sleep and digestion. In Ayurveda, we believe digestion is at the heart of every illness, so it’s very important to understand it. They may seem like small things, but they are really important in order to personalise each treatment. Afterwards, if people want to know more about Ayurveda and how to adjust their diets and lifestyle, I can offer consultations, but I will always tell them what they are before the treatments.
Next month on the White Ibiza Wellness blog: Spotlight on Ayurvedic treatments with Ana Villanueva of The Giri Spa. For more information or to book a treatment, contact The Giri Residence via White Ibiza.