I’m clutching Nish Joshi’s book – covered with a riot of celebrity endorsements – as I race down the street for the first of my two appointments with him. These sorts of fawnings have a polarising effect on me: on the one hand, those that grace big screens and the covers of magazines make a living from their looks; they have resources and access far beyond the norm, and one imagines that they would of course seek out the very best practitioners on the planet. On the other hand, so many of these stars are indiscriminate about hitching their praise to Doctor this and Trainer that; who’s to know if their recommendations can be trusted?
In any case, holistic health has become a catchphrase for many unconventional wellness and beauty practitioners. The fact that many of the treatment methods and programmes devised by self-styled gurus are unproven hasn’t stopped those disenchanted with the Western approach flocking in droves to the other side. But, disenchantment and A-lister quotes aside, some of them simply aren’t all they’re chalked up to be.
I’m 15 minutes late; not a great start, I admit. “Dr Joshi is back-to-back; I’m afraid there’s no time for you to fill out the forms, you will have to do what you can and do with the time that you have,” snaps the receptionist. I’m shooed up the stairs. “Come-come-come!” I hear a camp voice bellow down the landing. “You are late.” He sounds annoyed. It doesn’t last long, though; his mood turns all smiley the moment he sits down behind the oversized desk. His eyes scan me up and down, taking in my full vesture and accoutrements.
“So, tell me everything!” he booms.
I start to explain that I was introduced to Ayurveda earlier in the year and would like to find a local London Ayurvedic teacher who can help me further understand the philosophy. I’m midway through when he cuts me off: “Just by looking at you I can tell your system is in crisis; your adrenals are pumping too hard. You look tired and quite toxic.”
Defensively I explain that it’s been a pretty long week and I’m just a little tired. But with barely a pause he goes on, “We need to put you on a detox, I want to do some tests, I think you have a thyroid problem, let’s do some cupping, have a colonic and the girls at reception will give you the required supplements I want you to start taking immediately.” It feels like speed healing; but before I can muster the courage to tell him that I honestly don’t want to do his detox, he lifts me from the chair, lies me down, sticks needles in my ears and starts plugging little glass containers on my back. “This is called ‘cupping’,” he says. “It’s going to help your detoxification process.”
Cupping therapy uses glass or plastic cups to create localised pressure by a vacuum. It’s performed mainly on one’s back where the five energy meridians are based. The suction from the cups supposedly penetrates deep into your tissues, causing them to release harmful toxins. To be honest there was no discernible benefit – apart from, in the following days, my boyfriend’s sudden extended fascination with my back, something to do with the Lara Croft-like alien marks along my spine…
He leaves the minute the cups are on and although I hear his voice I don’t see him again. Thirty minutes later one of his minions comes along, removes the cups, and leads me upstairs for a colonic.
An hour later, slightly bamboozled by the whole experience, I’m out on the street, trying to make sense of the box of brightly-coloured supplements and tinctures and squinting at a “personalised diet plan” (which, seeing as it’s a photocopy, I suspect isn’t quite that personalised) that was handed to me at reception.
Then I get the bill. £740. I’m a mug!
Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, accommodation and treatments.