Panchakarma in Sri Lanka – The Essential Ayurveda Therapy

Treatment Massage 2

What is Panchakarma?

Panchakarma translates to ‘five actions’ in Sanskrit and is an Ayurvedic cleansing and detoxification treatment programme. Traditionally, it comprises five sequential treatments that work synergistically to eliminate toxins and balance the doshas to their natural equilibrium:

  1. Vasthi (herbalised enema): herbal oils or medicines are suspended through the rectum to cleanse the intestinal tract.
  2. Nasya (nasal irrigation): medicinal oils are administered through the nostrils to clear the sinuses and drain excess mucus.
  3. Virechana (purgation therapy): herbal medicines with gentle laxative effects are ingested to induce bowel movements and eliminate toxic and metabolic waste from the liver, gallbladder and intestinal tract.
  4. Vamana (therapeutic vomiting): herbal medicines are ingested to induce therapeutic vomiting and encourage the release of accumulated toxins and mucus in the upper gastrointestinal and upper respiratory tracts. This treatment is only administered for severe disease conditions.
  5. Raktamokshana (blood letting therapy): carefully controlled quantities of impure blood are removed to neutralise accumulated toxins. This treatment is only administered for severe disease conditions.

According to Ayurveda, every living or non-living being in nature is a combination of five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. The human body too is created from these elements in various compositions; therefore, optimal health is not only a state of balance within the body but with the external environment. A combination of ether and air constitutes the vata dosha, a combination of fire and water constitutes the pita dosha, and a combination of water and earth constitutes the kapha dosha.

Each constitution has its own unique ‘fingerprint’ or balance of vata, pita and kapha which determines their unique combinations of physical, mental and emotional characteristics. This doshic balance is the natural order, and any disturbance that causes excess or deficiency of vata, pita or kapha causes disorder.

A key culprit of imbalance is the accumulation of toxins or ‘Ama’ due to often unhealthy eating habits, stress and exposure to toxic chemicals and pollutants which can impede our body’s natural ability to efficiently remove toxins. Ama, however, can also refer to the toxic residue of emotions or experiences that have not been fully metabolised. The build-up and spread of Ama clogs the channels that function for release and leads to the deterioration of bodily function.

Panchakarma therapy offers an intensive treatment programme to release toxins and restore the body’s natural healing and cleansing capacities. It offers an array of benefits to reduce inflammation, reset the autonomic nervous system to induce a state of rest and recovery, and often release deep-rooted stress that has been held in the body for a long time. Developed over 5,000 years ago, it is a treatment method that has stood the test of time.

While the terms ‘panchakarma’ and ‘detox’ are often used interchangeably, it is important to note that while detox encompasses a broad spectrum of cleansing practices and treatments that often include dietary modifications, panchakarma refers to a specific Ayurvedic treatment protocol.


Benefits of Panchakarma

Whether you are in good health or have a specific condition that you wish to address, panchakarma treatment can serve as both a preventative and curative measure, contributing significantly to general well-being. While the treatment suitability and outcome may vary from individual to individual, some reported benefits include:

  • Eliminates toxins from the body and mind, which are the root cause of disease
  • Restores balance in the Vata, Pita and Kapha doshas
  • Strengthens your immune system and supports resilience to disease
  • Improves digestion and metabolism, supporting weight loss and promoting better nutrient absorption
  • Improves skin health by promoting circulation and removal of impurities
  • Encourages deep relaxation and stress reduction
  • Increases energy levels, vitality and mental clarity

Why visit Sri Lanka for a Panchakarma Retreat?

Sri Lanka is a highly sought-after destination for those seeking authentic panchakarma treatment.

The wisdom of Ayurveda and traditional indigenous medicine is deeply ingrained in Sri Lankan culture, functioning not just as a well-established medical system, but as a way of life that recognises the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and spirit to maintain our natural state of health and happiness. This knowledge has been preserved and passed down through generations of Sri Lankan practitioners and continues to be shared in wellness centers and hospitals throughout the country. In addition, an abundance of medicinal herbs and plants flourish in Sri Lanka’s varied climate and geography which lies at the core of Ayurvedic therapy.

Importantly, Ayurveda emphasises a holistic approach to health and recognises the healing power of a peaceful and rejuvenating natural environment. Known as the teardrop of India, Sri Lanka exudes a unique charm with miles of unspoiled beaches, lush green rainforests, and vast mountain landscapes. It is an island of warmth, abundance and vibrancy – an ideal setting for a transformative healing journey. 

Panchakarma at the Sen Wellness Sanctuary

Although panchakarma is traditionally an intensive and demanding programme, our team at the Sen Wellness Sanctuary have developed a modified version that is suitable for the modern lifestyle, based on decades of experience working with Western constitutions. Our focus is on non-invasive treatments including Vasthi, Nasya and Virechana, which integrate well with other treatment modalities.

This treatment programme is most effective for longer durations of stay, therefore, we recommend a minimum of 7 days and if possible, 10-14 days to fully experience the benefits. Traditionally, it is recommended to undergo a panchakarma programme with each change of seasons or every three months,  as it is easy for things to fall out of balance during times of transition. 

Upon arrival, you will have a consultation with the resident Ayurvedic doctor who will curate a personalised treatment programme and determine the suitable herbal oils and medicines based on your dosha and potential imbalances. Each day, you will receive two to three treatments (totalling 80 – 90 minutes) that will be administered in three stages.

Stage 1: Preparation (Poorva Karma) (1 - 3 days)

During this stage, the body is prepared for elimination and detoxification. Treatments are aimed at encouraging drainage and toxin release from the internal organ systems and include:

Abhyanga (massage therapy) is the external application of warm medicinal oils to the body, to stimulate lymphatic drainage, increase blood circulation and loosen toxins.

Swedana (herbal sweat treatments) is a form of therapy that uses herbal steam to open up the pores and release impurities through the skin. This treatment is often given after Snehana.

Stage 2: Cleansing procedure (Pradhana Karma) (3 - 7 days)

Following the preparatory stages, the cleansing procedure focuses on a selection of the five classical panchakarma treatments; this will depend on the dosha imbalance and individual suitability as determined during the doctor’s consultation.

At the Sanctuary, the initial stage typically focuses on Virechana where herbal medicines with gentle laxative effects are ingested to induce bowel movements and eliminate toxic and metabolic waste from the liver, gallbladder and intestinal tract.

If suitable for the guest’s constitution and needs, additional panchakarma treatments may be prescribed, including: 

Nasya (nasal irrigation): medicinal oils are administered through the nostrils to clear the sinuses and drain excess mucus. This is a particularly effective treatment for sinus problems, migraines, chronic colds, and allergies.

Vasthi (herbalised enema): herbal oils or medicines are suspended through the rectum to cleanse the intestinal tract. This therapy primarily treats the vata dosha, which is the main causal factor in the manifestation of disease. It is effective in treating digestive disorders and nervous system disorders.

In between each of the principal panchakarma treatments, there will be rest days with gentle treatments, alongside yoga and meditation classes to promote the body’s natural healing abilities.

Stage 3: Integration (Paschat Karma) (2 - 4 days)

The final stage of panchakarma focuses on rehabilitation and rest, with treatments to induce deep relaxation of the body and mind, such as: 

Abhyanga which is the oil massage therapy as introduced earlier. 

Shirodhara is a procedure where warm oil is poured over the forehead in a gentle steam which is then massaged into the head, face and neck. This treatment functions to pacify the central nervous system and has a profoundly stress-relieving effect.

At the heart of Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health. The panchakarma programme is supported by a light, clean diet combined with teas, fresh juices and herbal medicines to support complete detoxification on the physical level and allow the body to concentrate its efforts on healing. This will work alongside daily yoga, meditation, breathwork and other spiritual practices to support an emotional and spiritual cleanse.

Before departure, guests will have a final consultation with the Ayurvedic Doctor who will prescribe specific dietary and lifestyle regimes to maintain the digestive fire and prevent toxin accumulation.

The Final Word

Our panchakarma programme goes beyond a traditional medical experience and includes Ayurvedic treatments, herbal medicines, yoga, meditation and nourishing food to support complete detoxification on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. We provide an environment for individuals to immerse in the healing of nature and a supportive space for individuals seeking to begin their healing journey.

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).

Sen Wellness Sanctuary is the result of Sam’s dream to support people in an even deeper way, and realising his vision of combining his experience working in the West with his Sri Lankan heritage, rooted in Ayurvedic traditions. His sensitive understanding of these different cultures, mindsets, challenges and needs is reflected in the authentic retreat centre he has created.

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Rebecca Taleb
Rebecca Taleb
An experience that changed me forever!I can't even begin to thank Sen Wellness enough. I came to this retreat with the will to change, and it is here that I learned to inhale what's good for me, exhale all the toxins and past traumas, and let my body breathe and be free. Living in a nature reserve helped me reconnect with nature and overcome my fear of animals and insects. In this place, I found the link between my body and mind and reconnected on all levels.The treatments and medicines definitely aided in the healing process, and the food was nourishing for both the body and soul. The staff were phenomenal, and I can't thank them enough. Special thanks to Francis, who listened and took care of every detail, Irina, who made me fall in love with yoga, and all the professional therapists, especially Tini, whose smile brightened my day and whose positive energy boosted me into becoming a happier person.So much love for this place.Rebecca
Ute Kostle
Ute Kostle
My recent stay at the Sen Wellness Sanctuary in Sri Lanka was an extraordinary experience that exceeded all my expectations. From the moment I arrived, I was welcomed with warm smiles and exceptional service by the friendly staff, who went above and beyond to make my stay comfortable and memorable.The Sanctuary is nestled in a beautiful natural setting, with lush greenery and a stunning beach just a stone's throw away. Each morning, I woke up to the soothing sounds of nature, feeling completely rejuvenated and at peace.The cuisine at Sen Wellness Sanctuary was a highlight of my stay. The delicious local dishes, prepared with fresh, organic ingredients, were a true delight for the senses. Every meal was a culinary adventure, showcasing the rich flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine.The personalized Ayurveda treatments were simply outstanding. The expert practitioners took the time to understand my individual needs and tailored the treatments to promote healing and wellness. The therapies were not only incredibly relaxing but also highly effective, leaving me feeling revitalized and balanced.Adding to the holistic experience were the blissful meditation sessions and professional yoga classes. The meditation sessions provided a deep sense of tranquility, helping me to connect with my inner self and achieve a state of complete relaxation. The yoga sessions, led by a highly skilled instructor, were both invigorating and restorative, accommodating all levels of experience and enhancing my overall well-being.Overall, my time at Sen Wellness Sanctuary was a perfect blend of relaxation, natural beauty, and holistic healing. I highly recommend this sanctuary to anyone seeking a transformative and blissful retreat in Sri Lanka. I can't wait to return!
Marylyn Wangai
Marylyn Wangai
I visited Sen Wellness for the spring awakening retreat in early April this year.The retreat was very rejuvenating and I got to meet amazing women who had joined the retreat.It is my second time to visit the Sanctuary and I can't begin to explain how peaceful, rejuvenating the surroundings are.The diet follows Ayurvedic principles, mainly vegan, and vegetarian lots of herbs and indigenous vegetables. Good for the digestive system. You can immediately feel the difference.The spa treatments are very good too, I specially enjoyed the herbal steam bath.A very special thank you for the manager Sanath. He was very quick to solve any problems issues that arose and always followed up to ensure that the guests were satisfied and happy.The staff in general are extremely polite, attentive and very kind. As a solo traveller, this Sanctuary will make you feel at home.Hope to be back soon.!
Claire White
Claire White
I have just completed a 10 day retreat at Sen Wellness and having researched many options, I was drawn to this but it was way beyond my expectations, it was amazing. The yoga by Frances and the monk was incredible, the doctors were kind and helpful and all the staff could not have been more helpful. Special mention to treatments from Tanisha and the manager Sanath who got me out on the beach one evening to see the mother turtles. A dream come true in so many ways, left feeling refreshed,so much healthier in body and mind!! I would highly recommend to anyone who needs a reset.
Michael B
Michael B
My stay at Sen Wellness was absolutely amazing all-round. Sen is a beautiful place, in the middle of nature with a serene atmosphere. I had a deeply relaxing,  inspiring and unforgettable stay at Sen.I stayed for three weeks in April/May 2024. The Yoga and meditation classes were great and even as a (complete) beginner, I felt very well supported. Also the therapeutic sessions were fantastic and effective. The food is delicious and rich in variety, which was very welcome for my longer stay.As I was traveling alone, I much enjoyed the close-knit group and personal feeling at Sen. Meals are enjoyed sitting together around a large communal table, allowing you to connect and meet.The staff is just fabulous - everyone, from the gardener, kitchen staff, to the therapists and managers (to mention just a few), really cares to make you feel well. Whenever you need something, they help you. Everyone greets you always with a smile.I would like to thank the whole Sen team for an amazing experience, and I am sure to be back here in the future
britta barth
britta barth
I had a wonderful stay and participated in the Signature Retreat. The resort is located in a very beautiful nature reserve. There is a beautiful beach for long nice walks and you also can see turtles.Meditation and Yoga were very also so good as were the ayurvedic treatments. I love it.The Signature Retreat led by Sam is a great, inspiring journey in itself - I can highly recommend.The ayurvedic food was delicious and the staff is great.I hope to go soon again to this wonderful place.Mandy thanks to Sam and his team at Sen Wellness Sanctuary. Britta
One of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had in my life. The 10-day retreat is the ultimate in relaxation. They feed you all your meals (delicious homegrown/homemade food), schedule yoga and daily spa treatments and hold special ceremonies throughout the week. The staff go above and beyond to make your experience deep, meaningful and heartfelt. The sanctuary is located in a jungle so be prepared to be immersed in wildlife! Monkeys, reptiles of all kinds, turtles on the beach, eagles/birds and more! I stumbled across this place researching Sri Lanka and it was truly meant to be. The faculties are stunning, comfortable and reasonably priced. Don’t miss an opportunity to come here!
Melanie Farfel
Melanie Farfel
A wonderful stay! The staff was so incredible and thoughtful throughout. I left feeling very rejuvenated. Thank you !
I had really nice experience at Sen Wellness for 8 nights. Here is in the middle of nature, we can feel that we are a part of nature and it is very natural to live with all kinds of animals and plants. I am now mentally and physically fit.What I really appreciated is food - healthy, everyday different menu, some vegetables that I have never seen… I felt that my feeling of taste transformed through my stay and skin condition and body condition became better.All people here is really kind and peaceful.Yoga teacher, Stefania, is a wonderful teacher, she is really knowledgeable and so kind to care all participants. I had enjoyed conversations with her at breakfast, lunch and dinner.Doctors, therapists are nice, I could ask questions and request whatever I feel comfortable.There are different types of rooms, I experienced the most luxury cabana and eco-cabana with Air Conditioning, too. Luxury cabana was awesome but I liked eco-cabana as well. It was an old facility but authentic, compact and I felt cozy. I was alone in the room so the space was enough for single use. If you wish to have luxury stay, I would recommend you to go for Luxury cabana.Everyone has different purpose and expectations. My purpose was feel nature, have simple life and feel appreciation of life. And it was fulfilled. Thank you so much for all Sen wellness team.
sunil damodar
sunil damodar
Went to Sen Wellness with family for a retreat, it was a nice spiritual and healthy experience. Fantastic team who were friendly and did everything possible to make it us feel special, great doctors and therapists and of course the daily yoga and one on one interaction with Sam was icing on the cake. Would recommend this to anyone looking for a great mix of spirituality, yoga, treatment and healthy eating. Look forward to my next one at Sen Wellness.
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