Hedonism is not usually a welcome part of Chennai’s social fabric. Keep your knees together, your head down, do your work and go home, can sum up the attitude of the city. Indulgence is a quality that was to be shunned or practised in privacy. Naturally, the concept of spas,,Hedonism is not usually a welcome part of Chennai’s social fabric. Keep your knees together, your head down, do your work and go home, can sum up the attitude of the city. Indulgence is a quality that was to be shunned or practised in privacy. Naturally, the concept of spas, which were perceived as outlets meant for the cream of society, was not popular in the city until recently. Over the last few years there has been a sudden influx of spas and it’s not just the ladies who lunch visit them now. Gyms on the other hand have always been around. You would remember a rudimentary setup at the street corner in your neighbourhood where men used to sweat it out. The growth of premium gyms and fitness centres has happened in the last one decade. The IT boom churned out weary people and their spending power gave rise to fitness centres. The fad for fitness never faded. Our select panel from a cross section of society recommend spas and gyms they have personally tried, tested and loved.Varsha Jain at Influence SpaInfluence SpaInfluence, the wellness group, is owned by Naresh and his wife Varsha Jain, leading builders of Southern India. “I was getting bored sitting at home while he was busy with his construction work. So he gifted me this spa in 2009,” says Varsha Jain. Influence has two branches, one at Egmore, which covers 4,800 sq ft and another in Nungambakkam, which spans over 5,500 sq ft. Unique to the Egmore spa is the Vichy shower, in which large quantities of warm water are poured over a spa guest while he or she lies in a shallow wet bed, similar to a massage table, but with drainage for the water. At Influence the shower has 32 nozzles from where the water flows continuously while the therapist scrubs and massages the body. The interiors are designed according to the healing power of colours. Chroma hydrotherapy is a unique feature offered at this space: lights are flashed during the massage in an attempt to ignite the chakras or the energy centres of the body. Guests are greeted by a foot wash and massage here. All the therapy rooms have separate area for steam. Cross massages (done by the opposite sex) are also performed here. “There is no rule as such against or for it in Chennai. We took precautions by taking permission from the court for a cross massage,” says Jain. Where: House No. 2/3 Wallace Garden Road.Tel: 45038436 www.influencelifestyle.inAmbience: The Egmore outlet is inspired by yingyang and pearls. At Nungambakkam, the design emphasis is on the healing power of colours.Training: The staff is from Indonesia and Bali and all the therapists have undergone a year-long training in international spa massages.What’s good: Vichy shower, chromo hydro therapy and hot bamboo massages.What’s different: Influence signature massage, a combination of Balinese, Thai and Hawaiian techniques.Cost: Rs 2,000 for a body massage and goes up to Rs10,000 for couple massage (inclusive of taxes).advertisementAjit Menon at Kenko SpaKenkoKenko is a Singapore-based chain of foot reflexology and wellness spas founded by Dr. Jimi Tan, a wellness expert, in 1991. The Kenko chain entered India in 2008 and Chennai in November 2010 making it the first international spa in the city. It is located in the luxury section of the premier Express Avenue shopping mall. “Our success lies in the fact that we can convert walk-ins to repeat customers,” says Ajit Menon, COO of the spa. The spa is directed not just at the young but is open to people aged three to 60. A threeyear-old can experience a fish pedicure. There are special reflexology packages for children aged six and above and customised packages for senior citizens. “There are different parts of the feet that govern different organs in the body. With the right technique, a number of ailments can be cured through foot reflexology,” says Menon. There are also scientifically formulated treatments for pregnant women including pre-and-post-natal treatments. The reception area opens to the fish pedicure section where gara rufa fish eat away the dead cells of the feet. Inside is a blue lit area where chairs are separated by sheers. The foot reflexology and head massages, lip treatments, facials take place here. Body massage is conducted in private rooms.Where: Express Avenue Mall, Second Floor, Royapettah.Tel: 28464177, 28464577 www.kenkospachennai.inAmbience: The fragrance of lemongrass wafts all through. The dcor is Oriental.Training: The therapists are trained Kenko, Singapore.What’s good: Kenko foot reflexology, where pressure points on the feet are massaged.What’s different: The treatments for children and senior citizens.Cost: Rs 300 for a 15 minute fish spa and Rs 3,600 for a luxury facial (inclusive of taxes).advertisementVivek Anand at Fitness OneFitness OneFitness One was one of the first gyms with state-of-the-art facilities in Chennai. The Fitness One group was founded by Vivek Anand who was a pilot in the US for 18 years. “We had a very strict fitness regimen and I used to hit the gym everyday. When I came to India I saw there were no standardised gyms but just those local places where men did body-building,” says Anand. He moved back to Chennai and opened Fitness One, the first at Alwarpet was born in 2004. The chain currently has 37 centres across Southern India. The Kilapuk branch is the only stand alone gym in the city to have a swimming pool. Other facilities in the gym include shower and changing rooms, steam room and massage facilities for men and women. Fitness One has also tied up with a number of companies and has facilities in the premises of 110 of these organisations such as Nokia, Royal Bank of Scotland and Cognizant, among others. The chain also has its own brand of fitness machines called Precor with six showrooms in Chennai.Where: The Residency, 133/1, ground Floor, Residency Road.Tel: 43347000 www.zelalife.comAmbience: The gym is done up in shades of neon orange, green and yellow as an effort to infuse energy.Training: All the trainers are certified physiotherapists. The flagship centre has about 30 trainers.What’s good: Physiotherapy rehabilitation and nutrition are core strengths.What’s different: Scientifically designed weight loss programme called TRIM.Cost: Rs 18,000 per year and Rs 4,000 per month (inclusive of taxes).Jeffry Vardon at O2 Healh StudioO2 Health StudioWith a fitness centre, a gym, an aerobics centre and a dance school, this space is much more than a gym. Opened way back in 2001, the aim was to make women take to fitness and draw men into aerobics. The O2 Health Studio hosts a range of cardio respiratory fitness equipment and strength training machines to train all parts of the body. The trainers are certified in fitness and first aid and they constantly undergo fitness-training programmes. The physiotherapists on the floor take care of fitness screening, posture analysis, exercise prescription and injury management. Says Earnest Vijay, the fitness director of the studio, “Our personal trainers take the members to jog on the beach or for hill climbing.” There are a number of group activities offered at O2: kick boxing, dancersize, step, tabata, body jam, zumba and Latin American dance forms such as salsa, cha cha, jive, rumba, samba and passo doble are taught here. The group activities director, Jeffrey Vardon, is the head of the Hot Shoe Dance Company, Chennai’s premier dance school. “You don’t have to lose those extra kilos just by hitting the gym. You can also lose weight by dancing it off and a lot of people are waking up to this face. It’s definitely more fun than working out alone,” says Vardon. The Latin American dance forms have international certification and once a year an expert from the international committee conducts assessments at the centres and gives certificates to successful dancers. There are also Bollywood dance classes conducted here. O2 currently has four operational branches in the city and is soon opening two more. Where: Wallace Garden 2Nd St, Thousand Lights.Tel: 42323231 www.o2healthstudio.comAmbience: Every branch is in different colours in keeping with the area and the clients.Training: The instructors undergo a six-month programme in rehabilitation and physiotherapy.What’s good: The health studio offers many pre-planned packages. There are also programmes for senior citizens and women.What’s different: A virtual cycle, an indoor jogging track and an e-thinner (a spinning bike with a virtual instructor).Cost: Rs16,500 for annual membership (inclusive of taxes).advertisementLata Mohan at OryzaOryzaOryza was the first stand alone luxury spa in Chennai. Lata Mohan, after successfully running her salons, Bounce and Kanya for 20 years opened Oryza in 2005. A novel concept in at the time, the spa located on Chamiers Road is bang in the lap of luxury. The clientele that walks in here carry monogrammed bags, limited edition Louis Vuittons and Chanels. The 3,000 sq.ft spa houses a salon where regular parlour services are offered. On the menu card are spa facials, body beautifiers, massage therapies including Ayurvedic massages. The foot reflexology introduced recently has become a bestseller. For most part of the day, sunlight streams through the rooms while the spa is beautifully lit up in the evening. All the massage rooms are fitted with washrooms and bath tubs. The spa day package is very popular with mom-daughter duo, friends and even colleagues.Where: 46/1, Chamiers Road.Tel: 42110930 www.oryzadayspa.comAmbience: The exteriors look like a traditional Southern Indian home with terracotta accents but the interiors are completely Southeast Asian.Training: The Bounce certifies therapists here.What’s good: All the products used are made at the spa. The lotus and patchouli scrub is special.What’s different: The Hamami Makrabi, the Turkish bath.A luxurious treatment with a scrub and steam.Cost: Starts at Rs 2,250 for a regular Swedish massage and goes upto Rs 5,000 for a luxury body massage (inclusive of taxes).A nail therapy at Senza; Abhishek D Shah, Sravan Raghunath and Yogita Abhishek at the spaSenzaSenza is the city’s only dry spa. A dry spa is essentially a spa where you don’t have to take a shower after any therapy. Perfect if you’re looking at indulging in some soul-therapy during lunch before heading back to work. The spa is owned and managed by Abhishek D Shah, his wife Yogita and their friend Sravan Raghunath. “All three of us are passionate about the beauty and wellness,” says Abhishek. “We started Senza with the intention of converting our passion into a successful service offering.” Considering the average age of the trio is about thirty, this is a spa with some young ideas. Foot reflexology and nail art is what this spa specialises in. The foot reflexology menu is vast and includes unusual ones such as manual lymphatic drainage massage and a hot volcanic stone foot massage. The nail spa offers gel nails, a fad in the city. Other services offered include head, shoulder and back massages, facials, under-eye treatments and a fish pedicure. The fish pedicure tank gives the customers a view of the Indian Ocean which makes the experience even more soothing.Where: T55-B, 6th Avenue, Elliots Beach Road, Besant Nagar.Tel: 43018888 www.senzaspa.comAmbience: Lawn flooring, translucent curtains and purple-blue light gives it a surreal feel.Training: The therapists were given a three-month training before the spa was opened in March this year.Royal treatment: The only spa to offer over nine types of exotic foot massages. They are the first and only nail spa to use and showcase over 60 shades of OPI nail colourCost: Ranges from Rs 250 for 15 minutes of fish pedicure to Rs 2,750 for a signature facial (inclusive of taxes).Dr Anuradha Mathad at AuraAuraWith nine rooms painted in jewel-tones, Aura Spa is at the 9th floor of The Park hotel. These rooms in the myriad colours of the Navaratna gems are designed with the belief that they exude their own unique sensations. For instance in thepearl room that is intended to cool the senses, there are pearl artifacts in the room and the beige bed covers go with the theme.The spa houses steam, sauna chambers and whirlpools. “We didn’t want to slot ourselves as an Ayurvedic or Thai spa. We offer a wide range of treatments from across the world,” says the Associate Director of the spa, Dr Anuradha Mathad, an Ayurvedic doctor who has worked at spas for the past 12 years. Aura Chennai was the first branch of the chain in the country at, started in 2006. The Chairperson of The Park group, Priya Paul, is an avid spa goer and Aura spas were her brainchild. Today there are five branches across the country. Treatments offered here range from Ayurvedic abhyanagas to Swedish and Balinese massages. The regional treatments offered here, such as the Chennai treatment which comprises a sea salt scrub, a massage and a clean up facial, are unique to the spa.Where: The Park Chennai, 601, Anna Salai.Tel: 42676000 www.theparkhotels.comAmbience: The accents and furniture are contemporary Balinese but there are also Indian touches in the form of kuthuviilakkus.Training: Aura hires only certified therapists who are then trained at the spa.What’s good: The Aura massage is a well balanced treatment between ancient Indian and contemporary massage techniquesCost: Rs 1,550 for a facial to Rs 3,500 for a body massage (inclusive of taxes).Ajit Shetty at Score GymScore GymIf you’re a fitness buff or even glance at the papers once in a while you will be familiar with the name Ajit Shetty, a star trainer. He’s the man behind Suriya’s six packs in Ghajini and had also helped actors Vishal and Priya Anand with their workout regimes. Shetty, 38, has been in the fitness field for over 14 year. He was earlier the fitness director of the city’s biggest fitness chain but quit. “I thought it best to and start my own place,” he says. Score was launched in 2010 and the gym spans over 7,500 sq.ft on the busy TTK road. Entering the gym is quite an MI5 affair with doors that open to a bell that’s tucked away. There is a conscious effort to make the ambience as international as possible. The design is very minimalistic; what meets the eye are just slate floors and an array of machines that spell power. Spread over two floors this place screams testosterone with over 30 cardio machines including cycles, rowers, treadmills. “I wanted to make sure that the equipment is top-notch,” says Shetty. There are no frills added to the gym by way of classes such as swimming or yoga. Where: 265,TTK Road Alwarpet Tel: 43129777-888Ambience: Minimalistic and devoid of colour. Grey is the predominant shade here. There is a lotus pond under the staircase for a cooling effect.Training: All the trainers possess CYQ (Central YMCA Qualifications), are stretch-and-remedial posture trained and ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) certified.What’s good: All the gym equipment has been imported from the US. Hoist, Tuff Stuff, Octave and True are the brands used here.What’s different: It is is run by the city’s most popular celebrity trainer, Ajit Shetty.Cost: Rs 16,000 for an annual package and Rs 6,600 for 12 sessions with a personal trainer (inclusive of taxes).Dr Jyothi Choudhary at AnantaAnantaAnanta Spa is part of Le Waterina hotels and Eminence Ananta Spa is a product of their corroboration with the Eminence spa from Hungary. Only 100 per cent organic Eminence products are used here. The spa opened four months ago. Eminence products are a luxury line used by celebrities such as Madonna and Jennifer Anniston. The draw of the spa is in fact the Jennifer Aniston chocolate facial the actress herself indulges in. The body massages at the spa can be coupled with facials. There are rooms themed after Indian flowers and herbs like jamine and tulsi. “People love the spa because there is a definite shift in the society from chemical to herbal to organic,” says Vandana Sundra, the proprietor of the spa. Dr Jyothi Choudhary, senior educator at Eminence says there is science behind the success of organic products “The products are enriched with vitamins, minerals and bio-flavinoids that repair the skin cells and act as anti-oxidants.”Where: 73/74 Rk Salai.Tel: 9500169996Ambience: Beige and brown dominates the area. The rooms are themed according to flowers, fruits and herbs.Training: The therapists undergo a three-level training by senior educators in Hungarian spa techniques.What’s good: Hungarian detox facial. Hungarian mud and paprika detox the skin expelling toxins and leaving the skin fresh and oil free.What’s different: The city’s only organic spa.Cost: On an average a body massage costs Rs 4,000 and it comes with a complimentary facial (inclusive of taxes).Karti Sekar, Sheela Vishwanath and Yashwant Saran 136.1136.1136.1 is India’s first chain of integrated yoga studios. The ambience is swanky and is frequented by the who’s who of the city. The chain currently has two branches, one in Ispahani Centre and one on TTK road offering spacious practice rooms, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 sq ft, and also yoga therapy rooms for individuals who can’t participate in the group yoga activity. The yoga studio offers 100 hours of group and personalised yoga every week. The centre was started and is run by Yashwant Saran, Sheela Vishwanath, Karti Sekar and Maitri Shah. Saran was an engineer, Vishwanath, a medical microbiologist, Sekar owned a gym and Shah was an executive. With a common passion for yoga, they began the centre in Janurary this year. At 136.1 there is an open school of thought that embraces all types of Yoga. There are classes in all styles and at all levels from classical Iyengar and Mysore Ashtanga, to Sivananda and Satyanand Yoga tradition and Power Yoga, Hatha Yoga. They currently have 15 teachers on board from reputed yoga schools such as Kaivalyadham, SVYASA (a yoga university in Bengaluru), Bihar School of Yoga, Sivananda ashram, Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. There are live demonstrations by yoga exponents, concerts, music therapy in an attempt to familiarize the students with the verticals of yoga. Where: 123 anf 124, Ispahani Centre Basement. Tel: 9500037096 www.136point1.comAmbience: There is fusion of tradition with modernity. Clear spaces with emphasis on peace and tranquillity.Training: There are about 15 Indian and foreign teachers. All teachers are certified from recognised institutions and have a minimum of 5 years teaching experience.What’s good: The centre retails merchandise: yoga mats, covers, meditation mats, yoga wear, books, DVDs, organic products.What’s different: It’s India’s first chain of integrated yoga studios. Various styles and forms of yoga are taught under the same roof, having variety in practice. Cost: It costs Rs 9,000 for three months and annual membership is Rs 16,000 (inclusive of taxes). PanelistsMathangi Srinivasamurti, Owner, Chamiers Cafe She hits the gym every day and spa on weekends.Mario, Model A popular model, Mario is an avid gym enthusiast.Paloma Rao, VJ She is a regular at spas and fitness centres.Sharad Forma, CEO, Forma GroupRecuperates from the pressures of his job at spas around the world.