Say “detox” and images of medicinal-tasting green juices come to mind. Thoughts of starvation pains and headaches run rampant. After all, cleansing the body of toxins can’t be fun. Not when the possible side effects are everything from a fever to body odor to sticky saliva and a white coating on the tongue. But these potential horrors may be worth the risk if the program chosen is a three-day Ayurvedic Detox or five-day Panchakarma Rejuvenation at Parrot Cay and COMO Shambhala Retreat. This paradisiacal resort on a 1,000-acre island in the British West Indies is a direct four-hour flight from New York and just 90 minutes from Miami to Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos. Then it’s a 15-minute drive from the airport to Parrot Cay’s new welcome center, where ice-cold washcloths, every type of drink, and fresh fruit are offered, before setting out on a 35-minute boat ride to the private oasis.
Ringed by bright white beaches and the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea to the north and low-lying wetlands to the south, Parrot Cay is a cluster of beach houses, villas, and two-story buildings featuring garden- or oceanview rooms and one-bedroom suites. The decor throughout is white-on-white with teak accents, sun-bleached oak, and pale stone. Its pared-down sophistication features four-poster beds with billowy draping, light Balinese furniture, and colonial-style ceiling fans. The rooms have large balconies; the villas and beach houses have conservatories, plunge pools, outdoor shower gardens, and direct access to the beach. Butler service is available, a welcome amenity when detoxing. No need to worry about what time to eat, missing a spa treatment, arriving late for a consultation, or just simply getting around the property. Buggies are the only mode of transportation on the island, and a butler knows how to maneuver through the narrow winding paths that connect, for instance, the yoga pavilion to the poolside restaurant. It all makes for a very civilized and, dare we say, luxurious detox.
The secret to an easy cleanse is preparing for it in advance. COMO Shambhala Retreat, the resort’s spa center, offers more than 40 therapies, treatments, and services, but if you know before arriving that it’s the detox program you want, you will hear from Dr. Saraswati Dwarakanath, the Indian-born Ayurvedic consultant on-site. Dr.Swati, as she is known, is an expert in holistic health, a qualified instructor in yoga, and a certified Reiki master.
She will send a prearrival questionnaire asking for personal details, medical history, food allergies, likes and dislikes, exercise habits, emotional health, goals, and intentions. Sounds like a lot, but it’s mostly yes or no answers to be checked off. She then follows up with a one-page outline detailing how to jump-start your body for detoxification a week before your trip. It’s a basic guideline that actually makes sense for healthy living, whether you’re planning a cleanse or not. It includes things we always hear we should do but generally disregard—like drink lots of water (8 to 12 glasses daily); avoid frozen, packed, canned, dried, or processed foods; skip sugar and alcohol. “Think of it very simply,” says retreat manager Susan Allison, “the least processed is best. Keep it as natural as possible.”
And the simplicity of it continues once you get to Parrot Cay and have your first of two consultations with Dr. Swati. Ayurveda is a compound of two words: ayur, meaning life, and veda, meaning knowledge, i.e., the knowledge of life. It’s a philosophy based on an individual’s constitution as it relates to inherited and emotional characteristics, like height, eye and hair color, and innate personality traits. The forces, or doshas, that make up our constitutions are vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth). Through a series of questions and casual conversation, Dr. Swati determines which is your dominant dosha and tailors a cleansing program for the course of your stay.
Mine turns out to be pitta, which means, for example, I must avoid spicy foods that act as nerve stimulants. Dr. Swati worked with spa chef Amanda Gale to create a menu that included dishes like porridge with stewed apples and brown sugar, sweet-corn and roast-pumpkin soups, salads with no onions or peppers, and desserts (yes, dessert!) of red grape granita and mango sorbet. Afternoon tea with carob cookies and coconut macaroons was also included. A minimum of two Ayurvedic treatments, like Abhyanga (an oil massage) and Shirodhara (oil steadily streaming over the forehead), must be done to further eliminate toxins. Kaphas have a tendency to be overweight, so the program may include two hours of yoga, Pilates, and weight training daily.
On my last day Dr. Swati hands me a thick packet of information, a personalized guide to staying healthy, making sure I continue what she started. She tells me to call anytime for guidance or encouragement...and she means it.
Detox programs are à la carte packages from $1,160. Accommodations range from $775 to $20,000 (649-946-7788; www.parrotcay.como.bz).
The Ultimate Clearing Factor
The 4-hour Massage Detox
There are no mysterious juices involved in this ritual but rather a relaxing series of spa treatments—and it’s just as effective. The Ultimate Clearing Factor at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental, New York begins with a full-body exfoliation that preps you for massages aimed at releasing excess fluid and toxins, while lymphatic drainage helps boost circulation (with the added benefit of toning and firming). You’re also covered in black clay, known for drawing out harmful substances. Another step, cupping, is a traditional Chinese form of therapy: Suction is applied to a cup, which is then placed on the body, pulling the skin and, in turn, bringing fresh blood to the target area and extracting even more toxins. Senior therapist Wafa Mzeghet has studied lymph drainage therapy for seven years and created this breakthrough treatment. $950–$975; www.mandarinoriental.com
The 3-Day User-Friendly Detox
Six fresh vegetable and fruit juices a day. No coffee. No alcohol. No other food. And it’s user-friendly? Part of the appeal of this popular one- to six-day program is the packaging. The Web site describes three levels of detox. How to know which to choose? Renovation is for those whose idea of fruit is “the garnish on [their] cocktail.” Foundation is for those who don’t usually order dessert but sometimes sneak a piece of flourless chocolate cake—only because it’s flourless. Excavation is, well, for those diligent souls who eat right all the time and probably don’t need to detox but want to anyway. It would all be too cute for words, except the juices—pineapple with apple and mint, spinach and kale, and a creamy cashew milk with vanilla and cinnamon—are quite tasty and, yes, satisfying. They’re shipped overnight and delivered to your door. From $65 per day; www.blueprintcleanse.com
The 5-day Bespoke Detox
If your body is a temple, consider this a gut renovation. There are two ways to look at the five-day juice fast: as a healing cleanse or a laborious detox. And if you insist on suffering, you will. Jill Pettijohn, the mastermind of this cleanse, is a New Zealand native who happens to be a registered nurse and a health food chef. She will prepare six organic vegetable- and fruit-based mixtures per day for you. Most of them are pretty tasty, especially the Hazelnut Milk and the Daily Green (a concoction of kale, celery, and other greens). Your daily allotment can be delivered to New York City locations each morning with instructions, information, and encouragement from Pettijohn, who guides you through the ups and downs—both physical and emotional—of cleansing. She also offers the option of helping you kick-start a healthy diet with organic meals from her Brooklyn eatery. $410; www.jillpettijohn.com