SRI LANKA: Yoga and Auyvedic Retreat at Sen Wellness – By Babette

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We arrived at Sen Wellness in the south of Sri Lanka in the late afternoon, deposited by a grumpy driver who was entirely unimpressed by the unpaved, bumpy dirt road that leads to the hotel. The retreat is very much a sanctuary from the moment you step inside. No shoes, minimal wifi (I opted to switch my phone off for 5 days to really get into it), open spaces and general peacefulness disseminates in the circular space. The air is humid, carrying the sound of the ocean, the trees, birdsong and the occasional monkey.

On the ground floor is the kitchen, communal dining table, some lounge areas, the Ayurvedic doctor’s room and the treatment rooms as well as, set back slightly, the private cabanas. If you want your own toilet you’ll need to book one of these. On the second level are the bedrooms, shared bathrooms, lounge areas and the yoga / meditation space that looks out into the jungle.

Shortly after arriving, we had our consultations with the resident Ayurvedic doctor.Dr Waruni, was serene and gorgeous, always dressed immaculately with her beautiful long dark hair swaying in a plait as she moves about the sanctuary. She’s clearly an expert in this field and radiates, for want of a better phrase, girl power. There were many many questions asked during the consultation, including what were my favourite foods (how difficult I found this!! Is bread and butter a bad answer? Am I restricted by cuisine, meal, ingredients!?), when and why I became stressed, who is in my family, how fast do I walk and how is the health of my vagina. We covered all topics. She then read my pulse according to Ayurvedic principles with 3 fingers to determine my constitution. I was judged a ‘kapha’ or water-based personality. Soft skin, empathic and stubbornness are all characteristics of kapha people. Each person’s constitution determines their Ayurvedic treatment plan whilst at the sanctuary.

As the sun goes down, the Sri Lankan staff busy themselves lighting candles and then later burning scented smoked. Everything is very ritualistic. A gong sounds at 7pm, as it does for each meal. The dining table is communal and so over each meal we got to know others who were either staying at or working as teachers at the retreat. The yoga / meditation teachers live in another part of the sanctuary and do many of the activities with the guests. They were all lovely and I very much enjoyed hearing about their journeys; everyone from a Wall Street banker with his wonderfully tattoo’ed and bohemian Chilean wife to an 18 year old German yogi and meditation teacher fresh out of his Indian yogi school.

The food is Sri Lankan and lovely, definitely on the healthy side and guided by Ayurvedic principles. Dhal, potato curry, onion sambal, pittu, coconut sambal, kiribath, rice, hoppers, roti and herbal teas. And generally not all that much sweet.

At 9pm it’s bedtime and the lights everywhere are turned off.

The next morning we’re woken at 5.30am with a knock on the door and a warm cup of cardamom tea. We sleepily get up and make our way into the yoga room just as daylight starts to creep in. The morning yoga session is 90 minutes and is truly the loveliest way to wake up. I don’t know how I’d ever introduce a 6am class into my daily life where bedtime is rarely before 11pm, but I’m hoping I can do some (slightly less early) morning classes in the future.

The first morning, and every morning after, each class was partially disrupted by a gang of very wild monkeys throwing themselves between the trees and then only the roof, running like thunder over our heads.

Rekawa beach is a 2 minute walk; the beach is wild and not great for swimming, but deserted and incredibly beautiful. It’s a great place for a long morning walk post-yoga or an afternoon nap in the sun. They are in the process of building a saltwater pool for the sanctuary which will be a great addition.

Breakfast begins with large pink coconut, fresh fruit, some sort of take on porridge (I was never sure if it was sweet or savoury) with either ground flour or grains or both. Followed by curry and traditional Sri Lanka accompaniments like hoppers, coconut samba and onions. And then finally comes your Ayurvedic medicine mixed up with plant-based ingredients with some very suspect smells and textures, not for the feint hearted!

The Ayurvedic treatment begins after breakfast, the descriptions of which were often in Sri Lankan (e.g. ‘Shirodhara’ and ‘Abyanga’) with no explanation so it was always a surprise when I entered the treatment room!

I had everything from face masks, to full body massages, chakra treatments and herbal baths. My most interesting and unusual treatment was Sarwangadhara. Firstly, I was asked to undress and lay naked on a big wooden bench. The table was built at a slight angle so liquid could run down into a hole. I was covered, no, smothered, in the most incredible way with a special oil. The giant drum of oil had my name on it, so I assume it was mixed with various things deemed beneficial for me. Words can’t accurately describe volume of warm oil that was poured over me, all the while the dexterous therapist rubbed it into me with her other hand. Very very relaxing, once I got over my bemusement. Until she asked me to turn over onto my back and I slipped around in the oil like a sardine in it’s tin until I’d come all the way around. Getting off the table was also no mean feat either.

Most days, there are activities in the afternoon – ranging from trips to a local temple, market visits, meditation with a monk and cooking classes. We did a temple visit and watched the sun go down over the jungles of the Southern coast. We also did a cooking class which I loved with a very handsome chef call Bony. I will share the recipes for Dal and Hoppers soon!

In the evenings there is a local turtle conservation project and if you let the sanctuary known they’ll tell you when you can go and watch the turtles lay their eggs. Otherwise, no one is allowed on the beach after 7pm. It’s so inspiring to see these little grass roots projects and these people with very little themselves working so hard to protect the turtles. The sight of the 1.5m green turtle laying over 100 eggs in the dark was amazing.

Your experience at Sen Wellness will in part be determined by what teachers are in residence at the time and what they are trained in. We had 3 beautiful women whilst I was there: a lithe young British/Indian teacher who had recently finished her teacher training in Rishikesh and specialised in Hatha, a gloriously fair British Kundalini master with a very cheeky smile but a fellow Virgo with a very warm heart and finally, an etherial Dutch woman who was mesmerizingly quirky and made you want to live a more peaceful life with her breath work and creative practice.

We chanted, we meditated, we listened to the magical gong, we drew, we did sensory mindfulness, we did breathing exercises, we accidentally fell asleep sometimes, we almost did headstands, we giggled and we sent positive energy out. We learnt a lot from these three women.

Guests can opt to join a set 10-day retreat or just visit for a set number of days.

Thank you to everyone who made our 5 days so magical, and a special thank you to Sam, the lovely owner of Sen, who has truly created a sanctuary to heal both the spiritual and the physical self in beautiful Sri Lanka.

 

Sam Kankanamge

Sam Kankanamge BSc (Hons) Osteo, DPO, Dip.Acu is an exceptional, world renowned healthcare professional, with over 25 years-experience transforming patients’ health, and has been called ‘the best back specialist in the country’ by The Times (2014).

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Asrar Mousli
Asrar Mousli
10:24 16 Oct 21
My time at Sen was nothing short of transformational. Every day in that sanctuary brought me a new gift, a new truth, or a new opportunity to heal from my pain. It wasn’t always smooth, or necessarily happy, but it was deeply fulfilling to my body, my soul, and my soma. It almost felt like a pilgrimage to nature, to purity. The people I met there, the conversations and rituals we had together, the meals, laughs, and stories we shared, they were life-altering for me. Some of those moments left an impact that is still with me today, two months later. Thank you Sen team for all you have given and done. 🤍
Karin Richter
Karin Richter
04:51 03 Sep 21
I was a part of the Golden Summer Retreat at Senwellnesssanctuary. This has been a very intense experience. The Sanctuary is built within the middle of nature on the lagoon near Tangalle with an outstanding architecture. The whole stuff is perfect working together within their different tasks and does everything for the wellbeeing of the guests. Very soon you don't feel as a guest but more as a member of a loving and caring family. Excellent ayurvedic food, doctor and treatments as a basic for a deep going transformation process with special tools and combination of ongoing steps. A real magic experience within the travel bubble in islandwide lockdown and global pandemic. My deepest gratitude for all the people there which makes this possible
Karin Richter
Karin Richter
12:55 02 Sep 21
I just was part of the Golden Summer Retreat at Sen Wellness. This was a very special and magic experience on an outstanding place in nature with awasome people on a wonderful island. Started with super friendly and caring hotel managing team, best ayurvedic kitchen, doctor and treatments, lovely yoga work and special and carefully developed transformation tools and process. Highly recommend Sen Wellness for a mindful and deep going stay. My deepest thanks for all who created and worked for this space and give their best whatever their task is
Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly
05:34 06 Jul 21
This was my first wellness trip .. and I loved it!Every other holiday I have been on involved drinking and returning to normality feeling worse than I did before I left.After visiting Sen for 2 weeks, I felt brand new.Before leaving I was concerned that I would get bored, but I never did. Just pure peace, relaxation, and contentment, for 2 full weeks.You get so well looked after every day, from the early morning tea wake up call, to your serving of herbal medicine before bed. With plenty of yoga, meditation, and treatments in between.The food is delicious! Clean and fresh. The daily ayurvedic treatments are bliss and the beach is isolated and beautiful, perfect for an afternoon stroll.Thank you to all the staff at Sen for making my stay so worth it. From the management, chefs, cleaners, treatment therapists, yogis, the monk and especially the resident doctor, who put a smile on my face every day!I recommend Sen to anyone that just needs a good break from life. To switch off, refresh and reconnect with yourself. The results are long lasting.Paul.
Pruz0001 Pruz0001
Pruz0001 Pruz0001
18:32 24 May 21
Perfect place to truly reset yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. Pricing is very cheap for what they offer - all inclusive food (each meal a symphony!), treatment plan, massages, shirodara, cleansing options, beautiful accommodations, gorgeous secluded beach with turtles, daily herbs per your plan as prescribed, daily yogic practices etc etc. Current is strong so might need to arrange for lifeguard for swimming. I highly recommend this place for tired Europeans and US residents. Yes, even from US, totally worth the loooong flight. If you want to explore the country after quarantine at SenWellness, recommend hiring a private driver guide as public transport is not welcoming tourists per covid.
Trajce Dimkov
Trajce Dimkov
04:33 20 May 21
I spent 2 weeks at Sun Wellness to rest and recharge/detox from the every day life. It was an amazing place.The staff is professional and super helpful. We got delicious food everyday (mostly vegan), and daily support from a doctor that monitored how are we doing.The yoga teacher was also excellent and i enjoyed the 2 sessions we got every day.The massages were the best I got in my life. they really knew the anatomy of the body and focused on the right muscles and pain points. It was a great recovery after the yoga sessions and long beach walks.Finally, the beach is amazing. Its long with kilometers, its sandy, its full with palm trees. And the best part, we saw plenty of giant turtles nesting on the beach and small turtles hatching almost every day.The trip was a great pleasure, and left me refreshed, energized and more mindful. I warmly recommend this place.
Christian Wellinger
Christian Wellinger
07:39 23 Apr 21
I was planning to come there for only one week to start practicing yoga and also to see if ayurvedic treatments were helping me to overcome some of the stress as most people experienced in this Covid period. After only a few days i already felt how the daily practices in Sen Wellness Sanctuary (with daily yoga and meditation classes, ayurvedic treatments and super healthy and natural food) changed my perceptions and helped me to become much more centered and connected with myself again. That is why i extended another week and it was a very good decision to strengthen the skills and way of life which is thaught there. The place is really well made which lots of attention to details and the location at the remote and beautiful Rekawa beach can not be better to get into the vibe and spirit you feel there.Thanks alot to Dr. Sam and the whole staff for this fantastic experience.
Gabrielle Stewart
Gabrielle Stewart
16:58 20 Apr 21
I didn’t think it would be possible to travel somewhere far during this pandemic, let alone feel completely safe, in awe of all the country’s and the sanctuary’s protocols, and their ability to allow you to enter a bubble with a group of fellow retreaters so that for 10 days we completely forgot about the covid world out there. In our little haven between beach and lagoon we healed, relaxed, meditated, swam, did yoga, slept, made life-long friends and found an emotionally safe place to let go, process, feel vulnerable and share much needed laughter. You return home so healthy from the incredible locally sourced foods and the cleansing monitored by an impressive ayurvedic doctor, so at peace... Now the challenge is to use all those new tools we have acquired there and use them in our daily lives to feel happier and more fulfilled in our day to day lives. Thank you to the whole amazing Sen Wellness team. Namaste.
Pawel Marona
Pawel Marona
16:35 18 Apr 21
Amazing place with beautiful people. Delicious food and great, helpful stuff. I've been very satisfied of treatments and whole stay. Really recommend that place!
Mark Ford
Mark Ford
13:21 18 Apr 21
The Sen wellness centre was a refreshing place to find. The current world, post covid climate only served to boost this gem of a (possibly) life changing, experience.Arriving at the centre was a little daunting to start with, people sitting at a large table engaging in lively, upbeat conversations, whilst the newbies sit in partial isolation. A requirement of law to ensure covid safety for all at the centre but a comforting experience none the less.After a day or so of settling in (this being my first experience of such a place), I was blown away by the warmth of the team. All professionalism and smiles, from the doctor to the cleaners, they all made you feel incredibly welcome and special.In turn, this encourages you to be equally open. Not an easy thing for us all to do but once you start, you begin to feel your way and gain in confidence, finding a better you.Then there are the treatments .. I have been a meat eater for 20 years and here I was with no meat, no dairy, no bread and butter and no alcohol, tea or coffee & enjoying it all, looking forward to all meals and often asking for seconds. It’s amazing how one’s pallet can change.Living on a mainly plant based diet took a few days to get used to but my body ended up feeling like it hasn’t done since childhood. Functioning as it should, processing the food easily, no bloating or discomfort and sleeping like a baby in the wonderful surroundings.The diet along with a tailor based health plan of herbal medicine, teas, detoxes, yoga and a general reset have changed the way that I feel and also how I am starting to think.It’s not just the food and the treatments. The energy of the staff and the guests who visit Sen Wellness is heart-warming experience, I cannot recommend it highly enough.I’d also like to thank all those that shared this experience with me .. thank you guys, it was amazing !Take time out of what you consider to be the important things in your life. Take a trip to this centre and find out for yourselves what is really important. Forget the constant consumption that we are fed, as being a necessity to happiness on a daily basis - go and feed your soul, you really will not regret it !
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