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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Karolina Domaranczyk
Karolina Domaranczyk
02:38 30 Dec 21
I can’t stress enough what a pleasure and beautiful experience it was to spend 7 days at SEN. The facilities, treatments, yoga, soul warming localisation and last but not least - most helpful and kind staff made my stay there a full wellness immersion journey. I recommend to everyone to unwind, relearn how to rest and come back to the body and peaceful mind.
Charlotte Krüger
Charlotte Krüger
12:26 28 Dec 21
If you are having trouble finding peace of mind in your busy everyday life, imagine this: you are sitting in a room with wooden floor, surrounded by nature. When the monk tells you to listen to the sounds around you, this is what you hear: the wind in the mangrove forest and palm trees, the waves of the Indian ocean thundering against the nearby beach, the songs of local birds you may not have heard before. When you open your eyes, you see the dense forest, watch an eagle flying by, or look into the curious eyes of a monkey that sticks its tiny face down the roof.I came to Sen Wellness in December 2021 to get myself ready for a major surgery in January. I needed to relax, stretch, meditate and leave a troublesome year behind me. When I arrived at Sen Wellness, I quickly knew that I had chosen the right place. What struck me first was the perfect architecture of the place: the columns, the open stairs, the open walls that give you a slight breeze sometimes, the furniture and wooden carvings (all made local and/or from recycled wood). It has all the beauty of pure nature, combined with the convenience of modern life, except that you will not see a single piece of plastic and no screens (unless you choose to bring your own) while you are there. The founder, Sam Kankanamge, told me that no trees had to be removed for the construction of the building. From what I could see, the idea of sustainability is taken very seriously at Sen Wellness.From day one the staff took care of everything I needed. Madura, the concierge, welcomed me with this perfect smile, the kitchen crew around chief Darshana served us three times a day with very healthy and also delicious food, doctor Waruni provided me with an individual program of ayurvedic treatmens so full of the most relaxing massages that after a few days I already felt brand now. And I had booked two weeks!Every morning, Prema, a warm and hard-working lady, woke me up with a tea at 5:30 to get me ready for Yoga at 6:00. It sounds early, but once you are there it is as smooth as everything else. The Yoga teachers were fantastic. The level of fitness among the group was different and they found just the right way to include everybody. In one-on-one Yoga sessions, they provided me with a very good individual program (I have a severe hip condition and have seen a lot of physiotherapists in my life). The way they looked into my personal situation and developed a special Yoga program convinced me that they really know what they are doing. (Thank you @emmaflowmoon).By the way: a lot of women are working here, especially in the well-paid jobs. The kitchen and the room service staff is male, the rest is female-dominated. Since most of the guests are female, this is only fair, and it is not a coincidence: "This is a place for empowerment of women", Sam told me.But it is, first of all: a beautiful place to relax and take care of your body and soul.
Karo Domarańczyk
Karo Domarańczyk
02:57 14 Dec 21
I can’t stress enough what a pleasure and beautiful experience it was to spend 7 days at SEN. The facilities, treatments, yoga, soul warming localisation and last but not least - most helpful and kind staff made my stay there a full wellness immersion journey. I recommend to everyone to unwind, relearn how to rest and come back to the body and peaceful mind.
Cinderella Hamdan
Cinderella Hamdan
09:24 18 Nov 21
My time at Sen Wellness Sanctuary was truly awakening, and I'm really grateful for this wonderful experience. Immersed in nature, the sanctuary is so beautifully designed to naturally heal.No amount of gratitude enough for the wonderful people that work there, who have made my stay unforgettable. Every Ayurvedic treatment was served holistically with attention and dedication, and the local vegetarian options were so nourishing and filled with all sorts of colors and flavors — leaving me to feel relaxed, renewed with a better understanding of myself; merely it was food for the mind and soul. The power of kundalini yoga, meditation and sound healing held by the beautiful soul coco and the great monk have made a valuable impact on my daily practice and mindset.Above all, I’m so thankful and honored to have met and received personal care and attention from Dr. Sam. He’s an incredibly human with so much to offer and learn from. The sanctuary is purely a destination advocating a new way of life — the people coming from all walks of life and the conversations I encountered along the way have left the greatest impact on my heart and are my biggest take away from this trip. This is not a good bye but a see you soon :)Reminder that the entrance to the sanctuary is inside you — RumiWith lots of love,C
Eva Sorz
Eva Sorz
17:40 07 Nov 21
We can highly reccomend this wonderful place.My husband and I spent 2 weeks at Sen Wellness Sanctuary in October. It was just great and we felt very comfortable. After 2 weeks of Ayurveda retreat and yoga we feel relaxed and full of energy again. The Sanctuary is a wonderful place to relax and unwind. The staff made us feel very welcome. Especially the manager Gangani made us feel at home. Thanks you especially to her and the whole team. Gangani, you spoiled us every day, thank you so much for that.The place is a gem, nestled between the lagoon and the beach and away from the tourist hustle and bustle.The ayurvedic consultations with Dr. Waruni were professional and lasting. The entire therapeutic team was also excellent. The massages were wonderful. My sinusitis and back problems were sustainably treated.We also had the privilege of participating in a very special yoga experience. We have several years of yoga experience and practice Anusara Yoga regularly. We had no previous experience with Kundalini Yoga. In these 14 days our expectations were far exceeded, it was a transformative experience and a journey to our inner self. Coco introduced us to Krya sequences combined with breathing techniques, meditation and mantra chanting, and we immediately felt at ease. Coco is an incredibly impressive personality, with deep spirituality and a great teacher. Through her captivating personality and the many great conversations she gave us access to new insights. At the end of these 14 days, we received a wealth of tips and advice on how to practice safely at home.We highly recommend Sen Wellness Sancutuary and we will definitely come back.
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.
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