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).

All Posts
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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