Her youthful looks belie her age and the fact that she’s a grandmother to a two-year-old. But if there is one thing Martha Wiedemann, spa consultant and wellness expert, attributes her seeming agelessness to, it is the power of holistic living, and paying equal attention to mind, body and soul. “We all radiate something, and finding your radiance is about finding a balance. Happiness is the key to wellness,” she says, seated on a relaxed couch in Gurgaon’s Oberoi hotel on a pleasant fall morning while on a short visit to India.
Born to Indian parents from Kerala, Switzerland-based Wiedemann always wanted to work with her hands. Though she trained as a software designer (something she admits she wasn’t very good at), she was drawn to the ins and outs of skincare when she developed acne and bad skin herself. After seeing a beautician, being cured of the issue, and developing much inner confidence, she began to look towards beauty as a form of therapy that could help people feel better about themselves. “I liked looking at the therapeutic side of it, rather than just the external,” she recalls. Despite then living in Australia, her parentage necessarily included an exposure to daily beauty and health regimes drawn from Ayurveda, and so it became a part of her study.
It was 1985, and the spa industry was non-existent in Australia. The only salons around took a very limited, physical look at makeup and skincare, but Wiedemann was certain there was no beauty without wellbeing, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Driven by these beliefs, she studied to become a nutritionist, and began her own consultancy called Martha’s Beauty Therapy in 1987, mostly based inside health clubs and hotels in Perth. “The colour theme was soft green, to represent the therapeutic aspect of it, and not feminine pink,” she recalls with a smile. Using Thalgo and other nature-based products, she offered a combination of fitness, health, nutrition and exercise in her centres. “You cannot treat skin issues without fixing nutrition,” she says. “It all boils down to lifestyle.”
Around then, she also met and married the love of her life, and they moved to China and then Switzerland a few years later. “Friendship is really the key to a lasting marriage,” she says of her husband Hans, a hospitality professional. “It’s a pleasure to be able to share your life with someone; you feel very blessed. At the same time, marriage doesn’t have to define you. Independence and identity are very important for women, and it helps if you love what you do.” The couple went on to have a son, Rafael, and a daughter, Rebecca, and Martha immersed herself more and more in the study of ancient Chinese and Indian systems of wellbeing.
While Hans moved on to becoming the managing director and delegate of the board of the luxurious Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in the scenic town of St Moritz in Switzerland, Martha opened up wellness centres in various five-star hotels and medical centres across the world. She continues to teach Ayurvedic treatments to spas in the region, and is responsible for the concept, design and functions of the Palace Wellness spa, built at a cost of 21 million Swiss Francs, in Badrutt’s Palace four years ago. Situated 1,800 metres above sea level on a lake, the hotel is in a spectacular location in a particularly scenic section of the Swiss Alps. “Nature is a big draw card,” says Wiedemann, adding that outdoor jaunts are a vital part of any tourist experience here. “In the summer, there’s the lake and fishing, and in the winter, there’s snow and skiing. So you always have something to do,” says the industry expert who now has over three decades of experience.
“When I introduced Ayurveda to the Swiss, it was a very foreign concept for them,” she explains, adding that the Swiss are very traditional and needed convincing about ancient Indian therapies. “But Ayurveda is simple, it makes sense. It treats you as an individual and puts you in balance. And we use all organic products here,” she says, elaborating on how quickly both locals and tourists took to her concepts and therapies. The wellness centre now offers indoor and outdoor sports, water therapy, a high-tech gym, and packages such as the five-day Shape Up package, which combines fitness, yoga, Pilates, cross-country skiing, lymphatic drainage, cellulite removal and sports massages, along with the services of a personal trainer. There’s also a two-day Beauty Package that is quite popular with brides-to-be, since it includes tailor-made hair spa, styling, colour, manicure, pedicure, and skin treatments.
The 53-year-old, who visits Indian often as she feels at ‘home’ here, is now writing a book on a seven-day detox programme she has tested out for herself. “Let’s face it: We live in a polluted environment. This kind of programme offers clarity and empowers you from within. It’s all about finding the space inside you, cutting out all the noise, the mass hypnosis we are constantly exposed to. Detox is not about cleaning the body; it’s about clearing the mind,” she says, explaining that her programme is all about going “off the clock” and following nature’s cues instead. Once the mind is clear, the individual automatically makes healthier choices, she believes.
An advocate of ‘slow cooking’ and natural foods, Wiedemann asserts that no outside spa or medicine can gift us health. “Wellness is all about loving yourself; beauty works from the inside out.” The twinkle in her eyes and the youthful spring in her step testify to the self-loving that’s been going on here for a while.
First published in the December 2013 issue of Wedding Vows magazine