Effects of Stress on the Nervous System and Resources to Promote Calm

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As we finally emerge from the pandemic with the lifting of lockdown restrictions and the gradual resumption of everyday life, many of us carry mixed feelings on the matter. On the one hand, we greatly anticipate being able to gather again in the physical presence of our family, friends, and colleagues. On the other hand, many of us are also apprehensive about resuming social contact after having been isolated for more than 18 months, and fear contracting Covid or spreading it to our loved ones. Having borne witness to the tragedies wreaked by Covid, of lives lost, and the millions who continue to suffer the devastating consequences of Long-Covid months after first contracting the virus, there are many who now fear human contact, perceiving them as hosts of this invisible threat.

Having treated hundreds of Long-Covid patients over the past year at the clinic, I have noticed two groups of patients come through our doors. The first group has Long-Covid, with all the physical pathologies associated with the condition. The second group on the other hand, can be described as being self-diagnosed with the virus, and no doubt suffer from the physical symptoms of fatigue and anxiety. Their anxieties about Covid have been perpetuated by the barrage of negative media headlines, contradictory government communications on the matter, as well as the financial stresses associated with the global economic downturn, resulting in a constriction of their hearts through the tensing of the pericardium, the membrane surrounding the heart, and the hyperactivation of their nervous systems.

, Effects of Stress on the Nervous System and Resources to Promote Calm

Tuning into my patients during treatment, I have felt the inextricable link that exists between the brain (central nervous system) and the heart. Stressful events and traumas of a mental and emotional nature result in the constriction and compression of the pericardium, which places mechanical stress on the heart. This can manifest in symptoms such as a sensation of tightness in the chest, chest pains, and tachycardia (fast heart rate). Additionally, with the hyperactivation of the nervous system, the flow of spinal fluid is affected, resulting in cognitive impairment manifesting in symptoms such as brain fog, and impaired speech; we have all experienced being at a loss for words when in a state of fear and anxiety. We often forget about the feedback loop that exists between the heart and the brain; our emotions affect our thoughts, and vice versa. The inseparability of both organs is established in utero; the heart develops in close conjunction with the brain, and descends afterwards, but the link between both organs still remains.

, Effects of Stress on the Nervous System and Resources to Promote Calm

In many of these patients, this hyperactivation has resulted in a state of dysautonomia, which is a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. Dysautonomia is prevalent amongst my Long-Covid patients too, and is associated with symptoms such as fatigue, frequent vague but disturbing aches and pains, tachycardia, dizziness and faintness, hypotension (low blood pressure), poor exercise tolerance, numbing and tingling sensations, blurred vision, gastrointestinal symptoms, anxiety, and depression.

The autonomic nervous system controls all the involuntary functions in our body such as heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and the dilation and contraction of key blood vessels and airways in our lungs called bronchioles. It can be split into two branches; the sympathetic nervous system, better known as the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system, better known as the rest-and-digest response.

 

Sympathetic Nervous System

, Effects of Stress on the Nervous System and Resources to Promote Calm

 

The sympathetic nervous system is activated in response to perceived threats in our surroundings, and was developed as an evolutionary response to help our ancestors survive in the face of life threatening situations by enabling them to react quickly to threats and to garner the physical resource to fight off or flee from threats such as a fearsome tiger or warring tribes.

When we experience a stressful event or encounter a dangerous situation, our eyes and ears send this sensory input to a primitive area of our brain responsible for emotional processing known as the amygdala, which interprets these images and sounds and immediately sends out a distress signal to the hypothalamus, our brain’s command centre. This process happens instantaneously beneath the level of our conscious awareness and is what enables us to react with the speed necessary to ensure our survival; for example, when we instinctively jump away from an oncoming vehicle before our minds have the chance to process what is happening. This immediate response is known as the amygdala hijack, as it bypasses our frontal lobes, which form part of the cerebral cortex; this newer, rational part of our brain is where logical thinking, reasoning, and decision-making takes place.

Upon receiving the distress signal, our hypothalamus activates the sympathetic nervous system by sending signals to our adrenal glands which respond by pumping adrenaline into our bloodstream. The circulation of adrenaline in our bloodstream brings about various physiological changes. Our heart begins to beat faster and the blood vessels in large muscles dilate, while blood vessels in the rest of the body in areas such as our digestive and reproductive organs constrict. The functioning of these systems require significant energy resources and are not a priority when we are faced with an existential threat, so the body redirects their blood flow to other areas of our body.

Blood flow to our muscles is promoted and causes our heart rate and blood pressure to increase. Our pupils dilate so we can take in more visual cues from our surroundings and respond to them. We begin to breathe more rapidly, and our bronchioles dilate so our body can receive more oxygen. Adrenaline also triggers the release of blood sugar from our liver and other storage sites in our body. The increase in oxygen and blood sugar availability results in more energy being produced by our body via the process of cellular respiration.

After the initial surge in adrenaline subsides, if the brain continues to perceive danger, the hypothalamus then releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which travels to the pituitary gland, triggering the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then travels to the adrenal glands and signals for them to release cortisol, our body’s stress hormone, which keeps the body in a state of high alert until the brain no longer perceives danger. With the passing of a dangerous situation, cortisol levels fall, and the parasympathetic nervous system is activated.

 

Parasympathetic Nervous System

, Effects of Stress on the Nervous System and Resources to Promote CalmThe parasympathetic nervous system works to counterbalance the effects of the sympathetic nervous system and is responsible for bringing the body back from a state of emergency to a state of homeostasis. It modulates our inflammatory responses, our immune system, and ensures the optimal functioning of our digestive and reproductive systems. Our pupils constrict as we are no longer in a state of high alert, our heart rate decreases, our bronchioles constrict, our salivary glands activate, our digestive organs increase their secretions and our intestines increase their peristaltic activity.

The parasympathetic nervous system is the natural state our bodies should be in when in a state of rest and recovery, and is also the state where we are able to think most creatively and logically, and resolve problems as we are not not clouded by emotions in reaction to external events.

Unfortunately, in modern times most of us now spend too much time with an activated sympathetic nervous system, in survival mode despite the fact that we are not constantly surrounded by life threatening dangers. This hyper-sensitivity of our autonomic nervous system can be attributed to the fact that our ancestors needed a nervous system that was able to fire back within a split second of encountering a perceived threat if they were to survive.

In the past, once these threats, such as encountering a fearsome tiger had lapsed, our nervous system would automatically shift from a state of fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest. This flexibility and moment to moment dynamism of the sympathetic and parasympathetic components of the autonomic nervous system, shifting from moment to moment depending on the body’s instantaneous needs, is a marker of its health.

 

Dysautonomia

In patients suffering from dysautonomia however, the autonomic nervous system loses its balance and results in the inappropriate predominance of either the sympathetic or parasympathetic response. In most of my patients, it is the sympathetic nervous system which dominates, with the body constantly being on high alert due to their perception of being surrounded by life threatening danger despite it not being the case.

Stressful situations such as traffic jams, deadlines at work, financial challenges, difficulties in one’s personal life, excessive social media use, and the threat posed by unknown circumstances all contribute towards the dysregulation of our nervous system. Prior to the pandemic, these background factors already predisposed most people towards a predominance of their sympathetic nervous system, and is associated with conditions such as hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, kidney disease, obstructive sleep apnea, ulcerative colitis, anxiety, depression, and even Parkinson’s disease.

The extraordinary circumstances of prolonged global lockdowns and social distancing measures imposed upon us with the emergence of the novel threat posed by the pandemic, however, threw the world into a state of sympathetic overactivation, with all its aforementioned health complications.

 

Resources

It is therefore imperative for us to learn how to regulate our nervous system and bring it from a state of sympathetic overdrive to a state of restorative equilibrium only possible when our parasympathetic nervous system is activated.

Below are some resources that can help you in this process:

Time in nature

  • Studies have established a positive connection between spending time in nature and stronger feelings of connection with our community and the wider world, an increased capacity to cope with life’s demands, and with greater levels of empathy and altruism. Time spent in nature is also associated with positive moods, psychological well-being, meaningfulness, and a sense of vitality.
  • Studies using fMRI to measure brain activity indicate that when participants viewed scenes of nature, the parts of their brains associated with love and empathy lit up. Conversely, viewing cityscapes resulted in the lighting up of parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety.

Social Support

  • Research has documented many physiological and mental health benefits of spending time with your friends and loved ones. These include improved immune, cardiovascular, and neuroendocrine function, as well as decreased levels of anxiety and depression.
  • Creating strong relationships and cultivating a circle of supportive friends may take some effort but is one of the best ways to enhance your health and wellbeing.

Meditation

  • Mindfulness practices reduce the activity in the amygdala, the part of our brain that triggers the activation of our sympathetic nervous system, and so reduces our levels of stress.
  • Recalling the connection between the heart and brain, meditations which generate feelings of gratitude and unconditional loving kindness (e.g. metta meditations) are especially helpful in relaxing the pericardium, which places less stress upon the heart. This in turn helps to liberate us from negative thought patterns by disrupting the feedback loop that exists between both organs.
  • Mindfulness also enables us to become more aware of our thoughts, which can help by giving us a more objective perspective on situations which we would normally have reacted to in anxiety. The cultivation of objectivity helps to prevent the stress response from being activated.
  • Fascinating research in 2012 revealed that the perception of stress having negative health effects is independently associated with an increased likelihood of worse mental and physical health outcomes. Survey respondents who reported high levels of stress and who also believed that stress had a negative impact on their health had a 43% increased risk of dying prematurely. On the other hand, survey respondents who reported having high levels of stress but who did not view their stress as harmful had the lowest risk of death of anyone in the study, even lower than those who reported experiencing very little stress. This research highlights the importance of cultivating a healthy attitude towards stress.

Visualisation

  • Visualisation is a powerful technique that helps in reducing stress levels by the use of active imagination. According to research using brain imagery, the neurons in our brain interpret the imagery being invoked during visualisation as equivalent to real-life action. Thus, even in the face of stressful situations, the ability to visualise a tranquil scene enables us to keep calm and stay present.
  • Studies have shown that novice surgeons and police officers who received visualisation training demonstrated reduced levels of self-reported stress and decreased levels of objective stress.

Osteopathy 

  • Osteopathy detects, treats, and prevents health problems by the moving, stretching, and massaging of a person’s muscles and joints to ensure that all bones, muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue functions smoothly together. This enhances the body’s natural resources and optimises health, alignment, movement, and energy.
  • Through the gentle manipulation of the vagus nerve, which is an integral component of our parasympathetic nervous system, osteopathy helps to bring the autonomic nervous system back into a state of homeostasis.
  • Treatments also help to reduce anxiety and its impact on the body by assessing the body’s overactive nervous system and its associated symptoms, and correcting them through gentle manipulation.

Yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi

  • According to Vedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy, these practices help to promote the harmonious flow of vital energy (prana and qi) throughout the body, and help to regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration and movement. The integration of mind and breath helps to boost mindfulness, promote flexibility, and an increasing number of studies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of these practices on reducing levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Individuals with limited mobility may find Qi Gong and Tai Chi to be a great alternative to Yoga, as the latter tends to require more strength, balance, and stretching.

Breathwork

  • Breathing exercises are one of the quickest ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. As the only involuntary bodily mechanism governed by the autonomic nervous system that we also have conscious control over, breathing in a manner that simulates how we feel when we are at ease sends a signal to our brain to calm down and relax.
  • Practising techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing and lengthening your exhales can help to induce feelings of relaxation. The 4-7-8 breath developed by renowned integrative doctor Dr. Andrew Weil is an effective technique. Begin by exhaling completely through your mouth, then inhale quietly through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds, then exhale completely through your mouth for 8 counts. Practice this exercise four times.

Massage

  • When stressed, tension builds up causing mental anxiety and muscular tension. The manipulation of muscles during a massage encourages them to relax and stretch, which improves blood flow. Massages also cause the release of mood-boosting hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which explains the sense of wellbeing we feel after receiving one.
  • Additionally, massages promote lymphatic drainage and help to clear metabolic wastes more efficiently. When metabolic wastes build up, they result in muscular fatigue, weakness, swelling and pain. Flushing them out reduces physical stress, which in turn reduces mental stress.

Nutrition

  • Avoid nervous system stimulants such as caffeine and sugar.
  • Incorporate adaptogens into your diet. Adaptogens are powerful herbs which help us recover from mentally and physically from short and long term stresses. They have different benefits, and depending on the herb, can help to boost immunity, improve wellbeing, combat fatigue, reduce depression and anxiety, and enhance mental performance.
  • Some examples of adaptogens include ashwagandha (reduces stress and anxiety), astragalus (reduces fatigue), reishi mushroom (reduces stress and anxiety, and has antioxidative effects), rhodiola (fights physical and mental fatigue), turmeric (fights depression and improves brain function), tulsi (reduces physical and mental stress, as well as depression), and liquorice root (reduces stress).

With the easing of lockdown restrictions globally, I hope this article has given you a better understanding of how our nervous system works, and has provided you with some inspiration of techniques and resources to bring you back into a state of health and wellbeing.

 

References

  1. Astragalus. 2016
  2. Bankenahally R & Krovvidi H. 2016. Autonomic nervous system: anatomy, physiology, and relevance in anaesthesia and critical care medicine. British Journal of Anaesthesia
  3. Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. 2008. The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207-1212.
  4. Bowler, D. E., Buyung-Ali, L. M., Knight, T. M., & Pullin, A. S. 2010. A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health.
  5. Cervinka, R., Röderer, K., & Hefler, E. 2012. Are nature lovers happy? On various indicators of well-being and connectedness with nature. Journal of Health Psychology.
  6. Coley, R., Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. 1997. Where does community grow? The social context created by nature in urban public housing. Environment and Behavior.
  7. Fisher JP et al. 2009. Central Sympathetic Overactivity: Maladies and Mechanisms. Autonomic Neuroscience
  8. Gunnars K. 2017. 10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin.
  9. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020. Understanding the stress response.
  10. Hovhannisyan A, et al. (2015). Efficacy of adaptogenic supplements on adapting to stress: A randomized, controlled trail. 
  11. Keller A et al. 2012. Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychology. 
  12. Korn L. 2017. The good mood kitchen: Simple recipes and nutrition tips for emotional balance. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company
  13. Meier M et al. 2020. Standardized massage interventions as protocols for the induction of psychophysiological relaxation in the laboratory: a block randomised, controlled trial. Scientific Reports.
  14. McCorry LK. 2007. Physiology of the Autonomic Nervous System. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education.
  15. Panossian A, et al. (2010). Effects of adaptogens on the central nervous system and the molecular mechanisms associated with their stress—protective activity. 
  16. Panossian A. (2017). Understanding adaptogenic activity: Specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals. 
  17. Rea P. 2014. Introduction to the Nervous System. Clinical Anatomy of the Cranial Nerves.
  18. Ressler KJ. 2010. Amygdala Activity, Fear, and Anxiety: Modulation by Stress. Biological Psychiatry Journal
  19. Sah P. 2017. Fear, anxiety, and the amygdala
  20. Umberson D & Montez JK. 2010.
  21. Wachtel-Galor S. (2011). Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.
  22. Wang CW et al. 2014. Managing stress and anxiety through qigong exercise in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Complement Altern Med
  23. Weinstein, N. (2009). Can nature make us more caring? Effects of immersion in nature on intrinsic aspirations and generosity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1315.
  24. Wright A. Chapter 6: Limbic system: Amygdala. Neuroscience Online. 

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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Jonathan Z. Lee
Jonathan Z. Lee
14:57 25 Oct 22
What an incredible, transformative week at Sen Wellness. A beautiful coccoon for the soul, in such a beautiful location. It's hard to describe what happens here, with the great yoga sessions, personalized Ayurvedic treatments, workshops, meditations, ceremonies, and mindful diet...it just all works together to provide a healing experience, one which expands the mind and heart, and gives the soul room to breathe. Stress lines and wrinkles noticeably vanished from everyone's faces over a few days, bodies began to unfold and stand strong once more, and smiles continued to grow day after day. Everyone at the center was incredibly kind and attentive, and it was a joy every morning to greet them. Madhu at the main desk was a ray of sunshine, Dr Harnika radiated peace and warmth, and all the therapists and kitchen staff took such good care of us. A very special thank you to our yoga teacher (and SO much more) Jamie, who helped to create a safe and nurturing space while helping us to free our bodies and minds. She is an exceptional guide, and a powerful beam of light, helping strangers from all over the world turn into a supportive community. And such deep gratitude for Arjuna who has what can only be described as the most healing hands, who helped me work through my chronic pain of 10+ years in such an intuitive manner - I'm still speechless!!Thank you so much Sen for helping so many people in deeply personal ways. 🙏
Manuela Capelle
Manuela Capelle
14:54 25 Oct 22
Thank you Sen Wellness for providing an outstanding stay for Jon and myself. It really felt like a warm cocoon, a safe space to be guided towards our essence, to feel nurtured, grounded, healthy, and to be allowed to just be. The yoga was very integrative to all levels, and Jamie helped us understand and integrate the true meaning of yoga beyond the classes. The ceremonies led by Jamie and Arjuna were so great and genuine heart openers for people from all walks of life. Arjuna’s massages were out of this world, and with a lot of love.Beyond this, the whole staff was incredibly friendly - every single one of them.Madhu’s smile simply unforgettable. Best wishes and we will hopefully be back very soon!!
Paula Alves Silva
Paula Alves Silva
11:42 20 Oct 22
I did not write a comment immediately after my retreat because I was looking for the perfect words to describe the beautiful and deep experience I lived at Sen Wellness Sanctuary. You might choose this place because you feel in a certain way but independently of the cause that might bring you there the truth is that you will leave with a clear, light and peaceful body and soul. At Sen Wellness Sanctuary I felt that everyone works towards making that space a home away from your home. The kindness and perfectionism that the staff provides is rare to find. By investing in Sen Wellness Sanctuary you are also investing in the community. The owner's philosophy of making the staff a priority really made the difference for me.The beautiful classes and ceremonies provided by Jamie Sol are undoubtedly memorable. I felt an immediate connection with the teachers and there are lessons that I for sure won't forget. Starting from the interior to the exterior, all Ayurvedic treatments brought me the feeling of floating. I felt many times that I was reborn over and over again. And I can not end this review without mentioning the unity created in the space between its architecture and nature to really create a unity between the all. I left with a tight heart because I really felt at home. The morning tee watching the sunrise from the cabana, the long walks between the empty beach and the immense lagoon, yoga while the sun goes up, the delicious (really delicious) food, the laughs, the sound of birds and monkeys playing around, the chat and meditation with the monk, the sky filled with stars, the reading by the pool, the long conversations, the sunbath by the stairs while waiting for treatments. The many many smiles. Oh I could go back in a glimpse.
Bożena Teclaf
Bożena Teclaf
15:45 18 Oct 22
I had a wonderful stay at Sen Wellness Sanctuary. I was traveling solo and honestly this retreat was more than I thought I ever needed. Everything - from facilities, food, treatments was just great. You can feel this amazing hospitality from the moment you step through their gates.What is important to mention - I am on a strict gluten free diet and the kitchen staff took every effort to accommodate my dietary requirements. They even made a special GF cake for my birthday!Big shoutout to Jamie and Arjuna - such a lovely teachers and mentors - I have learned so much from them about yoga, meditation, energy healing and more.To the whole staff (and especially the ones I was not able to say goodbye to) - thank you from the bottom of my heart. People are the ones who make places special and you were all so incredible and kind. I received so much love and care when celebrating my birthday there - something I will cherish forever.Everything was organized with lots of care. My transfer from and to the airport was very smooth. The area is very safe and honestly I can't recommend the retreat enough.
Gerti van Lier
Gerti van Lier
14:41 16 Oct 22
My retreat at Sen Wellness Sanctuary was exactly what I needed after 2,5 years Covid with full time home working. I was tired, both mentally and physically. As I wanted to completely disconnect from my day to day life, I chose for the 14 day package. It was the best thing I did to recover from these 2,5 years.The staff at Sen Wellness is very friendly and welcoming, from yoga teachers to the kitchen staff and therapists. I had an excellent yoga teacher Jamie, who also guided the ceremonies. We did a fire ceremony, water ceremony and a new moon ceremony. The new moon ceremony was very special. It was like Jamie sensed what I needed. Movement, dance, energy, joy, life! Perfect!The food was excellent, every meal a great variety of dishes. Even the few days that I had the luxury to be the only guest, I had at least 7 dishes for lunch and dinner.I loved the treatments, my favorite was the shirodhara. This oil treatment you have to experience. Words cannot express this experience, you float, lose track of time and space. And let's not forget the joint treatment, loosening your whole body.The yoga classes went beyond the physical postures. There was a lot of attention for both body and soul, with breathing exercises and meditation. And let’s not forget joy. The last day we went at sun rise to the beach to take pictures of my achievement. It was not about the achievement, it was about the joy of life we shared together.A retreat at Sen Wellness is a treat and transformation for body and soul.
Sonia Champagne
Sonia Champagne
18:20 11 Sep 22
I attended to summer retreat and this center offered me so much more than I expected. First of all, I was not sure at all of travelling to Sri Lanka from Canada, but all is good, you can travel with no fear, it was a perfect experience, from beginning to end.I have been taking care of from the most caring, knowledgeable, open hearted, and wonderful people that have made my journey at the center a exceptionnel experience.You can trust, that this center will bring you what you need, at the perfect timing in your life.
marleen blanson henkemans
marleen blanson henkemans
09:15 04 Sep 22
I stayed at Sen Wellness for the special golden summer retreat in August 2022. It was everything I was looking for: expanding my knowledge of yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. More importantly, it helped me connect with myself. The people that have built this amazing place between the ocean and jungle are so kind and welcoming. Everything is taken care off and the staff really ensures you get a wonderful experience. The food is amazing and I never felt healthier. The yoga and meditation teachers Jamie and Ardyuna who were there at the time, made the experience even more special. With their knowledge and experience, the experience was even more special. Thank you Sen Wellness for helping me connect with myself on a deeper level. I would highly recommend this relaxing and special experience to everyone.Even though Sri Lanka was in the middle of an economic crisis while I was there, this did not affect my trip in any way. The country is safe to travel to and I would recommend everyone to do so!
Dominika M
Dominika M
18:02 20 Jun 22
Everything at the highest level.A unique, authentic place at the highest level.Atmosphere, ambience, food, treatments, doctors, yoga, accommodation - ideal place for retreat for body, soul and mind.5 nights there is an absolute minimum:)Thank you Sen Wellness Sanctuary and see you soon
Grant Munro
Grant Munro
00:09 19 Jun 22
Sam and the team and SEN Wellness have done a fantastic job of creating a space for healing, rejuvenation and connecting to natureI spent 10 days at the sanctuary in April and to this day I am still struggling to put the experience in to words that could do it justice..!The whole experience there was truly magical - from the location and immersion in nature, the daily structure, community with other guests, the food, yoga and cacao ceremony. Not only was there opportunities to experience and heal during the stay but I also felt there was so much I was able to learn and take away / take back in to 'normal' life to continue the process.Litsa - the yoga teacher during our stay - was incredible at holding space and taking the group where they needed to go as a collective and really opened my eyes to another depth of yoga that I didn't know existed.I'd recommend SEN Wellness Sanctuary in a heartbeat and felt privileged to witness and be a small part of the the transformations I saw in people through their stay. Thank you!
Thanu Yakupitiyage
Thanu Yakupitiyage
16:48 18 May 22
Sen Wellness Sanctuary was exactly what I needed to start my healing journey with myself. I did the 7 day package (and honestly kind of wish I had done the 10 day instead.) I came to Sen feeling the stress and trauma of the last 3 years of the pandemic and working long hours at a remote job for an international NGO. I came with the intention to focus on my health issues, recommit to a yoga and meditation practice, and explore with ayurvedic practitioners some of my health issues that had developed due to stress. I am happy to say I got what I came for.The staff of the sanctuary - from the front desk coordinators and managers to the ayurvedic doctor to the ayurvedic practitioners, and service staff and cooks were so kind and helpful, attending to any issue that might arise. In particular I'd like to thank Dr. Harnika (the doctor), Madhu & Neeranjana (front desk coordinators), Prema (who served tea every morning), Rupika (my ayurvedic practitioner), and all the other ayurvedic practitioners and wait staff boys who helped serve food, clean rooms, etc.I also had consultations with Sam Kankanamge, the founder, at my request ahead of booking to discuss some of my needs, as well as with Davia, an international coordinator. I found everyone to be very responsive, which I appreciated.The yoga instructor, Litsa, who led the morning and evening yoga classes and meditation during my stay was incredible and I learnt a lot from her practice and really appreciated my one-on-one with her. The use of sound meditation/healing via the use of a gong was really amazing as well. Litsa really helped to focus those of us at the retreat on our healing journey. She was a real rock. Her yoga practice is really spiritual, nurturing, and also high intensity, which I really enjoyed. (Note that the yoga practitioners rotate, so I'm speaking towards the person who was there during my stay.)The ayurvedic treatments and acupuncture were divine and a lot of care was taken to do them well. I felt relaxed and refreshed after all of them.As someone of Sri Lankan descent who now lives in the United States, it was really healing for me to get the kind of care I wanted in my mother country. I felt really taken care of and respected, and I'm glad I invested in myself by coming to this retreat.I also appreciated the international nature of the retreat - and made many lovely friendships through the experience with other guests who were there at the same time. There's a special kind of bonding and relationship building that happens from eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner together with all the guests at one long table, which I appreciated.The food served at the retreat is super healthy - a lot of typical Sri Lankan dishes, primarily vegan. I enjoyed the variety in the menus. I even enjoyed the juice cleanses I partook in.If you're looking for a typical "holiday" that's not what you're going to get here. This felt like a very spiritual and intentional sanctuary, particularly for people who are trying to heal themselves and take care of themselves. Having done the research before heading to Sen, I got exactly what I was hoping for and more -- be prepared to put in work and to be committed to the journey.In addition, Rekawa Beach, which is a few minutes walk from the Sanctuary is one of the most stunning and tranquil beaches I have ever seen. While it isn't necessarily safe to swim, it was really healing to go there early morning and evening to watch sunrises and sunsets. This is a turtle nesting beach and it was truly a joy to watch massive turtles lay their eggs on the beach, a once in a lifetime opportunity.I also really enjoyed a boat ride through Rekawa Lagoon, the sounds of the mangroves, and the sweet monkeys who watch you from the trees when you do yoga in the shalet.While it's a difficult time for Sri Lanka, I highly encourage people to support the economy, invest in your own well-being and healing, and experience this very intentional and caring retreat.
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