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The Wellness Questionnaire with Mahesh Natarajan, Chief Operating Officer of Ananda in the Himalayas

Discover how this C-suite executive prioritizes wellness in his own life

When it comes to holistic wellness, Ananda in the Himalayas (Uttarakhand, India), a luxury wellness retreat celebrated for its comprehensive programming, is an extraordinary sanctuary that seamlessly blends the timeless wisdom of Ayurveda, the transformative power of yoga, and the therapeutic beauty of its Himalayan surroundings to offer an unparalleled experience promoting wellbeing. As COO, Mahesh Natarajan works to bring Ananda’s teachings to the world. He has been leading brand and business development there since 2008. With more than 30 years of experience in brand marketing, sales, and business development, he has established the destination spa as a leader in the wellness luxury industry. Passionate about Ayurveda, yoga, and Vedic mantra chanting, Natarajan is also a music enthusiast with training in classical music and interest in several other genres. He is in a unique position to benefit from Ananda’s many teachings. Here, Natarajan shares the wellness secret that helps him thrive.

What does wellness mean to you?

It’s a feeling of physical, emotional, and mental balance and a state of being connected and content. It takes a continuous and conscious journey to achieve this state.

What are your favorite things to do to maintain your personal wellbeing?

I do meditation with pranayama (breathwork) and mantra chanting. For regular activity, I either work out, practice yoga, or play sports for fitness.

Is there a specific fitness activity that you love and why?

I have grown attached to traditional hatha yoga since I first experienced it at Ananda. There is nothing that creates a gentle reviving energy each morning better than the gradual joint opening and mobilization practices of hatha yoga. I also love to swim. The immersion into water is soothing and a withdrawal of external senses, almost meditative. It’s fitness without feeling like fitness.

What is your favorite healthy beverage (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), and do you have any insider tips for preparing it?

Enjoying a ginger, lemon, and honey infusion is a great way to rise each morning. It’s what we serve guests every day at Ananda, and it’s a favorite. The Himalayan ginger growing around there has an earthy flavor that is unique. Chopped ginger can be steeped in water and refrigerated overnight and mixed with lemon, natural honey, and lukewarm water the next morning. It’s a simple preparation, but it completely revives you for the day.

What is your greatest wellness achievement?

Each year of guiding Ananda towards a deeper, authentic, and transformational wellness offering feels like an accomplishment. But some of these recent milestones are highlights: I presented to a global audience of specialist doctors and researchers at a healthcare conference to convince them of the benefits of holistic wellness practices. I also conducted a guided meditation incorporating mantra chanting for the first time. 

What person in wellness do you most admire and why?

Swami Niranjanananda, the guru and head of the Bihar School of Yoga. His teachings are so direct, relatable, and spoken with the lived experience of a lifetime of spiritual knowledge and practice.

What is the best piece of wellness advice you have ever received and from whom?

My grandmother who lived to be 100 years always said life was meant to be joyous. Until her last minute, she lived to laugh, to connect with others, to soak in beautiful music, to read guiding or spiritual words, and to see others be well. There are numerous things that keep us occupied daily, but these words have stuck with me and help my journey.

What do you think is the most overused word or words in wellness?

Body, mind, and spirit. While these are so fundamental to what wellness really is, they have been used more as a marketing pitch than an intrinsic part of the wellness design. These cannot be discrete elements that you can pick and choose from a menu. One must reflect on how they integrate and become a consistent part of daily life.

Do you have a secret health or wellness tip you would like to share?

Start your morning early. I know many say, “I’m not a morning person.” I was one of them. But I feel it’s all in the mind. Set an alarm and force yourself to wake up before 6am for a week. Even if you feel groggy till mid-day. Initially, you will find it easier and easier to do. Start a short mindful practice first thing when you wake up early. It could be a breathing practice, meditation, or even reading something for the soul. See for yourself how your perspectives and balance start to change.

What is your favorite place for a healthy vacation or escape?

Ananda for sure! Even if it’s partially a workspace for me, each time I step into its nature-filled, tranquil surroundings, I feel a sense of calm and restfulness that is a soothing balm for the spirit.

What is your favorite self-care routine?

A good head massage with coconut or Ayurvedic oils. It’s usually a Sunday routine, which started in my childhood. After a good head massage, it’s a good time to let the oils soak in while I relax with my Sunday morning reading. I always feel completely nourished and at peace afterwards.

What is your go-to for de-stressing?

Listening to classical music of any genre, Indian or Western. I grew up learning Indian classical Carnatic music and have learned to appreciate the beauty of the structure of notes and their arrangements, the creativity of composers, and virtuosity of the performers. The beauty of this music is universal and uplifting.

What aspect of your wellbeing do you struggle with the most, or would most like to improve?

Conscious and mindful eating. Over time, I have been able to incorporate fresh, natural, plant-based foods into my daily nutrition, but I still struggle with periods of letting go. More importantly, I would like to work on being more thoughtful through each meal, eating with all the senses fully aware, which is the right way prescribed by Ayurveda.

What wellness-related books or authors do you recommend, and why?

Prana and Pranayama by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati. Energy systems are the least understood among holistic and psychic practices. Accessing subtle energy channels through pranayama is explained in a very practical way in this book.

What brings you joy?

Small moments of contentment: A perfect melody, a task fully accomplished, time spent in really engaging conversation.

About The Author
Heather-Mikesell-author-1

Heather, co-founder of Well Defined and the former editor-in-chief of American Spa, is an award-winning journalist and content strategist, skilled in writing, copyediting, and media relations. She is also a freelance writer and has contributed to Elite Traveler, Islands, Kiwi, Luxury Travel Advisor, Organic Spa, Porthole Cruise, Travel Agent, abcnews.com, jetsetter.com, outside.com, and wellandgood.com, in addition to various custom publications. She is frequently called upon to comment on various spa and wellness trends for various media outlets.