Eleanor Phelan’s visit to the sanctuary

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We are truly blessed that Eleanor was able to join us at the sanctuary and share her gifts with us.

Thank you for your warm words Eleanor.

SERENITY THE SEN WAY

This summer I was lucky enough to spend a month as resident yogi at the Sen Wellness Sanctuary in Sri Lanka. What I found there was the perfect recipe for serenity and I want to share with you some of the Sanctuary’s ingredients!
S is for slowing down. Coming from London where the pace of life sometimes feels untenable, I felt a little like I’d landed on a different planet when I first arrived at the Sanctuary. There is a stillness which permeates the space, a sense that you can slow down, start to breathe a little more deeply and let your frazzled body and mind begin to unwind. It reminded me of the importance of allowing myself time and space away from the hurried fray and seemingly relentless and ever-increasing demands on time and energy. A welcome reminder that I am a human being, not a human doing!
It’s when we pause that we are able to reconnect to ourselves, to hear the soft voice of our intuition and let it guide us so our choices and actions are aligned with our soul. And when we slow down we are more able to notice the beauty and magic in the every day, like the vibrant colours of a flower or the sight of birds flying in formation, which we are so often blinkered from when rushing. In slowing down we start to drink in our surroundings and become more present with ourselves and others.
A is for Ayurveda. In Sanskrit the word Ayurveda means ‘science of life’ and describes a magical and ancient tradition of wisdom and healing based on the belief that health comes from a delicate balance between our body, mind, spirit and environment. It views health as much more than the absence of disease and provides a holistic approach to address our whole being, helping us to stay vibrant and realise our full human potential. Each person has a natural constitution made up of the three doshas or elemental base energies: Vata (air / ether), Pitta (fire / water) and Kapha (earth / water). All three doshas are present in everyone but in each individual, one or two will be dominant, determining the person’s physiological and personality traits. In order to stay well we need to maintain our individual dosha balance and Ayurveda gives us guidelines on daily and seasonal routines, diet and behaviour which help us do just that.
Each guest at the Sanctuary has a consultation with the Ayurvedic expert, Dr Harshi, and is then prescribed a comprehensive programme of treatments and herbal medicines depending on their individual dosha combination and any imbalance. It seems that many guests coming from the West have an excess of Vata, in the sense of too much mental activity and are in need of what Dr Harshi refers to as ‘mind calming’ – something the Sanctuary definitely caters for!
The treatments are out of this world, in particular the full body massage with two therapists who were miraculously completely synchronised with every touch!
And in a wider sense the whole of the Sanctuary revolves around Ayurvedic principles, with its emphasis on being in harmony with the natural environment, getting abundant and restful sleep, rising with the sun, daily physical activity and meditation, eating a fresh, seasonal and balanced diet and eating it mindfully! The idea is that when you include the six Ayurvedic tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent) in each meal you feel satisfied and less inclined to snack or overeat. And it really works! I was in the habit of snacking a lot at home but was amazed that at the Sanctuary I didn’t even have the urge to. Many guests said the same and also that they did not miss meat at all because the food was so deliciously varied and satisfying.
N is for nature. The Sanctuary is nestled in between a mangrove forest and lagoon on one side and a beautiful deserted beach and wild ocean on the other. Being in nature does something powerful to us: our natural rhythms and cycles, for example sleep or energy levels, which may have become off-kilter with a hectic lifestyle, prolonged busy-ness, stress or use of stimulants like caffeine or sugar, start to rediscover their natural rhythm as we are surrounded by the natural rhythms of the sea, the animals and the plants. Just as everything we see around us is comprised of the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, so too are we – we are not separate from nature. Spending time at the Sanctuary helped me remember this and as I felt the softness of the sand under my feet and the warmth of the sun and the spray of the ocean on my skin, I felt it healing the disconnection which can come from living in a concrete jungle. And I believe that when we are more aware of ourselves as part of nature and more connected to our environment, we are motivated to take better care of it.
C is for connection. Whether you’re at the Sanctuary for a couple of nights or a couple of weeks, the connections here run deep. When you share mealtimes together every day you really get to know one another, and bonding happens through shared experiences, whether it’s doing yoga as a group or laughing together over trying to work out which unfamiliar Sri Lankan vegetable might be in the delicious soup you’re eating! As well as connecting to others we also reconnect to ourselves, start to feel more aligned and in touch with what’s important to us and what we need.
T is for transformation. It has been a joy and a privilege to support people on their journeys here. Some guests come with specific things they want to work through, others come simply for some time out. Whatever the case, people don’t go home the same. I was surprised to see how quickly things can change for people when they are in the right conditions. We have all the answers we seek inside but are often blocked from accessing them. In a conducive environment, like at the Sanctuary, this wisdom reveals itself, insights come, we start to feel clearer and more able to move forward with our next steps.
U is for uplifting habits. For many of us, life at the Sanctuary is very different to our everyday lives, however it’s always possible to make changes to our routines at home which enable us to have a richer and more fulfilling experience of life. I’ve loved keeping in touch with guests after they’ve left the Sanctuary and hearing about the new habits they’ve been introducing into their lives inspired by what they learned here, whether it’s a daily yoga and meditation practice (even if just for 5 minutes a day – start small and build up!), or having a more balanced diet, cutting out meat or alcohol for a while, making more time and space in their lives for connection, play and fun, going to bed earlier, getting out in nature, allowing themselves a massage once a month. Whatever form it may take, it’s about replacing self-defeating habits with uplifting ones – ones that leave us feeling good inside and with a feeling of congruence with ourselves.
A is for acts of kindness. A special mention has to go to the amazing local staff who really help make the Sanctuary what it is. From the wonderful Ayurvedic expert Dr Harshi, the skilled and caring massage therapists, the fabulous kitchen team, helpful reception staff and attentive waiting and house staff, from the moment you arrive here you have the sense of being well looked after. It’s all about the personal touches and the little gestures which often mean so much more than the big ones. There was a kindness and gentleness in the people I met here which transcended any language barriers. I must not forget to thank Visa Logistics for thier prompt and friendly service in getting my police clearance certificate fast and with no hassle for my pending trip to thereafter.I was reminded that a smile, whether it’s you giving or receiving it, can change a whole day. And when we really feel cared for like at the Sanctuary, that’s when we can really deeply relax. Which leads me onto the next ingredient….!
R is for relaxation. In a yoga class the relaxation at the end is just as important as any other part. However, sometimes there’s a temptation to think we get more from the physical activity and we might even skip over the relaxation because we want or feel the need to get on with our day. But it’s actually during the relaxation that the body heals and integrates the energy generated through the physical postures. This is true of life in general: we need to relax every day, to spend time in the parasympathetic nervous system (the one which grounds us, like a parachute!) rather than constantly being in the sympathetic nervous system (flight or flight mode, feeling wired, running on adrenaline). The parasympathetic nervous system is where we rest and digest, where the body can relax and renew and where our experiences and feelings can integrate. If we don’t have this relaxation time we just keep filling up to saturation point and nothing can digest – we feel overwhelmed and lack clarity.
Relaxation is an art and the more we practise it the more easily and deeply we can relax. At the Sanctuary a lot of time is devoted to relaxation; it even features specifically on the daily schedule. Why not try creating space in your daily schedule to relax – write it in your diary, whether it’s for 10 minutes or a whole evening. Relaxation is not a luxury, it’s a basic human need.
Y is for yoga and meditation, of course! And at the Sanctuary this is how the days start and end. In the morning we practise on the beach, illuminated by the soft and beautiful sunrise, and in the evening we come together on the yoga shala, with an audience of monkeys watching us from the mangrove forest! I teach Kundalini yoga, an ancient and powerful system of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Kundalini yoga combines postures, pranayam (breath), mantra (sound) and meditation to balance and strengthen the glandular, immune and nervous systems, release stress and help us to feel more alive and connected. It brings our natural rhythms back into harmony and helps us come home to ourselves as we transform self-imposed limitations and start to experience our full potential.
Many guests leave the Sanctuary wanting to continue with the yoga and meditation they have learned here. Developing a daily practice (Sadhana) is one of the best things you can do for yourself because whether it’s for a few minutes or for a few hours, this is our time set aside each day to turn inwards and connect to our Higher Self. It’s where we build our physical, mental and spiritual fitness and start to transform and grow into our potential. It’s our anchor for the healthy habits we want to instil and helps us feel grounded and able to thrive under the pressures of modern life.
A tradition of Kundalini yoga is to practice a particular kriya (sequence) or meditation for 40 days as this is the time taken to establish new habits and really feel the full effects of the kriya or meditation you have chosen. Having a Sadhana is like planting a seed of spiritual growth, watering and nurturing it each day and then seeing it grow into its fullest and most radiant bloom!
I returned home with a heart full of gratitude, my life forever richer and forever changed by the people I met and the experiences I had during my stay – thank you Sen Wellness Sanctuary!

– Eleanor Phelan, Resident Yoga Teacher

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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Sonia M
Sonia 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.
Zulkatro Duque
Zulkatro Duque
09:16 12 May 22
I’ve never felt so alive for such a long time! All thanks to my decision to visit Sen Wellness Sanctuary. I have been on autopilot with my daily life, work & even breathing for the longest time I could remember!Sen Wellness had helped me appreciate having a healthy routine, learn to love Yoga and understand the importance of breathing.The sanctuary is a real epitome of inner peace! All the staff both from London office & in Sri Lanka were oh so lovely! And the guests I was with during my stay were all so awesome! The country itself is gorgeous! All these helped make my stay all worth the while..Because of my experience, I can say that I will definitely do this again! I highly recommend that you try this out :)
Tatjana Winter
Tatjana Winter
07:35 26 Apr 22
Ich war im März dort und habe das 10 Tages Spring Awakening Retreat mitgemacht. Alles in allem war es großartig. Ich habe einen sehr stressigen Alltag und das Retreat hat mir sehr geholfen mich wieder auf mich zu besinnen, abzuschalten und vor allem auch nachhaltig neue Routinen mit in meinen Alltag zu nehmen. Das Team ist großartig - super kompetent, super freundlich und super hilfsbereit. Es gibt nichts, das nicht möglich gemacht wird. Die Ausstattung ist hell und freundlich, Betten super gemütlich, das Essen ist phantastisch, die Ayurveda Ärztinnen super kompetent und ich hatte noch nie bessere Massagen als dort. Ich bin wirklich rund um begeistert und werde definitiv noch einmal wiederkommen. Die Lage ist abseits vom Trubel an einem naturbelassenen und geschützten, kilometerlangen Strand (an den sich kaum Menschen verirren). Morgens sieht man sogar Schildkröten ins Meer wandern. Also, top!
Zine Jemmali
Zine Jemmali
16:49 23 Apr 22
Most special and magical place !!The sanctuary is totally immersed in Nature in between a stunning wild beach hosting sea turtles and a large lagoon.The entire team is really amazing, extremely kind and super talented. The food is healthy, delicious and all meals are prepared with local products.The cabanas are super confortable, peaceful and perfectly neat.Had the most amazing experience I highly recommend ✨
Hoori J.
Hoori J.
12:52 07 Apr 22
I am a Holistic Health Practitioner, and I also work in the HR department of a not-for-profit institution. I found out about Sen Wellness Center through AFAR. I decided to fly to Sri Lanka from Washington D C to visit this Sanctuary. Upon my arrival at 11:30 p.m. I was received with a warm and kind smile from Maduro. From the moment you step into this Sanctuary you are treated with compassion and kindness. The manager and his entire staff are always attentive and caring, making sure all of our need were met. The food is nutritious and wholesome made by a chef who is always smiling. The Ayurveda Doctor, and the healing hands of the staff during the Ayurveda treatments, and last but not least the kind voice of an elderly lady who would wake us up at 5:30 with a warm cup of tea.All of the three yoga teachers were good. In particular, Flame! She is extraordinary, knowledgeable, and inspiring... During a meditation around a fire, she was able to open the hearts of nine strangers so that they were able to see the beauty and strength within each other and complement each other. This was an amazing attribute to everyone who came to this Sanctuary to get closer to their inner Self.My experience from this visit is that this is truly a Sanctuary, and I am grateful to everyone from the staff in the office in London, UK, to everyone in Sri Lanka.I was fare welled at 4:30 a.m., again, with a kind and warm smile from Maduro.Thank you!
Manuela
Manuela
11:09 30 Mar 22
People from all over the world who are looking for peace and relaxation meet here, together with monkeys ;-), turtles, peacocks ..... and a fantastic, huge sea with a deserted beach.Everyone will find what they are looking for: a wonderfully designed retreat, dreamlike nature, soothing treatments, very well guided asanas and pranayamas, relaxation .... and fine food!We enjoyed it very much! Thank you!
Silvana Kopani
Silvana Kopani
08:02 23 Mar 22
Must visit this amazing place, a great yoga 🧘🏾‍♀️ healing & spiritual also a delicious vegan food. Thank you Sen Wellness team 🤍🙏🤍
Nadia Mathew
Nadia Mathew
16:30 10 Mar 22
A magical gem set amongst the Rekewa lagoon and the Indian Ocean. Sen Wellness has been an extraordinary experience that I will cherish.I reached out to Sen Wellness when I was going through a pit in my life and was in search of self-direction and self-love. I was beyond grateful for the opportunity and collaboration that Sam, Davia and Camilla had offered me in order for me to visit the sanctuary and make this trip possible. They didn’t have to do that but they did and they are incredibly generous for it ♥️I was looking forward to visiting the sanctuary for the weeks before and all that I had hoped for had exceeded all my expectations! From their very kind staff, the lovingly prepared meals, the in-depth Ayurvedic treatments, the relaxing nature and the luxury accommodation. This really is the place to be if you need reawaken yourself or find yourself.I felt welcomed right away and the team is very inclusive of the guests with it’s family-type of community. My first friend in the sanctuary was Fiametta who is an amazing yoga instructor and retreat host. She really made my stay exceptional and she picked me up even when I was mentally down at times and always gave me the reassurance to uplift me. What a star she is! ⭐️If you are in search of something, or if you feel lost or need a break from the stresses of reality. Sen Wellness Sanctuary is the place with all the tools to help you put yourself back together. You have the amazing staff to help you, the Ayurvedic treatments to heal you, the other like-minded guests to support you and the perfect location to build you.I’m ever so blessed to have come here. Every sunset was golden by sea. Every smile was beautiful to see. I left the Sanctuary feeling the best version of myself. Thank you for this great experience and I am very lucky to have come ♥️
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