29 AUG 2018: “You have never taken a yoga class before.”  There. He said it. My yoga instructor in India has outed me. Red-faced and confused I thought my attempts of the usual Namaste, Downward Dog and other yoga poses were pretty good. What did I know? It turns out not much.

The shock is not so bad, in fact, I welcomed it. It's good to pin-point bad yoga habits garnered from Yoga DVDs and YouTube videos to discover that the contortionist bends and the elongated poses you've grown accustomed to are completely wrong.

It's even better to discover this ill-fated fact from a seasoned yoga practitioner whose stark statement was uttered with the same soft cadence as his Namaste greeting.

I avoided bumping into the health nuts, patchouli loving tribes in India's north opting to check-out four cities on my two week fantasy tour to health and wellness. And I chose to do it in a luxury style with a hotel brand that accentuates sustainability. It has all the ‘feel good notes’ today's eco-luxury clients seek.

My journey starts in Delhi, 14 km from the Indira Gandhi International Airport.  Upon my arrival to India's capital city the dark clouds lifted as I made my way to the hotel's reception. It turns out a heavy dust storm, the worst seen in recent history lashed wind shear of 109/kph diverting nearly 70 flights, the highest recorded in 10 years.

But there was the tried and true ITC Maurya, a Luxury Collection brand hotel fixture since opening in 1978, unhinged by the violent windstorm that swept through the capital.

The five star property is in the heart of the leafy Embassy Enclave minutes from the US Embassy. US presidents as recently as President Obama and Bill Clinton have stayed at this 437-room hotel gem. Other notables: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mick Jagger and an A-list of sports legends, Tiger Woods among them.

ITC Hotels is regarded as 'the Greenest Luxury Hotel Chain in the World’ for having the largest LEED Platinum certified hotels in its portfolio and my preference for this wellness retreat.

Here's a snapshot on how to get clients wowed on responsible luxury and wellness tourism in India.

New Delhi: ITC Maurya

THE HOTEL PERKS – For solo female travellers, the hotel company has a designated women only floor in the Towers Block called the EVA Rooms.  One of the hotel's restaurants Bukhara has been included in New York Times best-selling author Patricia Schultz's book, “1000 Places To See Before You Die.” Art is everywhere here and is home to one of the most rare private collections of contemporary Indian art.

DIVERSIONS – The hotel offers on-site tours, including a guided green sustainable luxury hotel walk or the hotel art walk.  Don't be shy trying Delhi's street food , as the hotel has a guided Foodie Sherpa Trail tour that takes you on a foodie crawl through the backstreets of Old Delhi. Indulge in popular snacks at the longstanding chaat (snack) counter, Natraj Dahi Bhalla Corner in Chandni Chowk the best known tikki and dahi bhalla seller in town, then cap off the foodie fest with dinner at Karim's, which celebrated its centenary a few years ago. The tour gets high marks on wellness because the expert guide knows 'the' top food stalls so you can avoid the Delhi-Belly.

Gurgaon:  ITC Grand Bharat

LOCATION: Located in the Gurgaon-New Delhi Capital Region, this 104-luxury suites hotel radiates a range of Indian architecture through some of its glorious dynasties like the Mauryas, Marathas, Mughals and Cholas, the royal palace of Baroda and the eternal ghats of Varanasi. Bharat in Hindi Sanskrit means India.

THE HOTEL PERKS: Prepare for a retreat where ‘Unhurried luxury’ is reflected in the hotel's spa brand Kaya Kalp. Wellness programmes are the main draw as are unique gourmet experiences. The other draws are the championship golf courses, designed by Jack Nicklaus, built on a barren sandy plain where they utilize 100 percent organic material to enrich nutrients into the arid, sandy soil, resulting in lush greenery.  
DIVERSIONS: Take advantage of the spa, and enjoy a game of golf or tennis or take gentle walks through the lush grounds searching for resident peacocks that call ITC Grand Bharat home. You will have a difficult time leaving this resort.

Agra: ITC Mughal

LOCATION: Submerged in the land of the Taj Mahal, this hotel is strategically located to offer a glance of the UNESCO World Heritage site in the horizon.

THE HOTEL PERKS: Guests staying at the Royal Mughal Suites have the services of a personal butler 24/7. My dynamic duo Raj and Trevor ensured every detail of my stay was met; no forgotten sunglasses here. Inquire about a personally escorted walk to the Grand Observatory Jharokha-e-Taj via a secret garden. This tower overlooking the Taj Mahal, has a romantic swing for a couple to enjoy the sunny breezes of a warm Indian afternoon.

DIVERSIONS: Tour the fabled Taj Mahal at sunrise followed by a late afternoon visit to the Agra Fort and the Shah Burj, home of the imprisoned Shah Jahan.

Hyderabad: ITC Kohenur

LOCATION: Situated in Hyderabad’s new business district HITEC city, close to an array of global IT heavyweights (think the new homes of Amazon, Google and Apple), today’s business traveller will get the snooze of their dreams in the hotel’s new extended stay residences, and an experience fueled by the love of Mother Earth.

ITC Kohenur, the newest property in the ITC Hotels Luxury Collection is designed to LEED Platinum quality. Among the green practices: 100 percent LED light, solar energy, multi-glazed windows, recycling water for irrigation, and using 40 percent less energy than the national average for luxury hotels.

HOTEL PERKS: Experiential bespoke tours, organically infused bedtime sleep aids, 24 hour fitness centre alongside 24 hour breakfasts and a huge nod to eco-consciousness.

DIVERSIONS: Sign up for a guided Foodie Sherpa Tour or see the local landmarks with the hotel’s guided concierge experience. Get whisked away to landmarks like Charminar, the equivalent of Agra’s Taj Mahal and Chowmahalla Palace with a stop to the hilltop fort, Golconda.

I have returned home with a newfound sense of appreciation toward the simple pleasures in life, to live life in moderation. Find a balance. India will certainly get those wellness juices flowing.

For more details on ITC Hotels see www.itchotels 

Namaste from India
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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