Sanctuary Sessions: Babette’s Spiritual and Transformative Escape

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We arrived at Sen Wellness in the south of Sri Lanka in the late afternoon, deposited by a grumpy driver who was entirely unimpressed by the unpaved, bumpy dirt road that leads to the hotel. The retreat is very much a sanctuary from the moment you step inside. No shoes, minimal wifi (I opted to switch my phone off for 5 days to really get into it), open spaces and general peacefulness disseminates in the circular space. The air is humid, carrying the sound of the ocean, the trees, birdsong and the occasional monkey.

On the ground floor is the kitchen, communal dining table, some lounge areas, the Ayurvedic doctor’s room and the treatment rooms as well as, set back slightly, the private cabanas. If you want your own toilet you’ll need to book one of these. On the second level are the bedrooms, shared bathrooms, lounge areas and the yoga / meditation space that looks out into the jungle.

Shortly after arriving, we had our consultations with the resident Ayurvedic doctor.Dr Waruni, was serene and gorgeous, always dressed immaculately with her beautiful long dark hair swaying in a plait as she moves about the sanctuary. She’s clearly an expert in this field and radiates, for want of a better phrase, girl power. There were many many questions asked during the consultation, including what were my favourite foods (how difficult I found this!! Is bread and butter a bad answer? Am I restricted by cuisine, meal, ingredients!?), when and why I became stressed, who is in my family, how fast do I walk and how is the health of my vagina. We covered all topics. She then read my pulse according to Ayurvedic principles with 3 fingers to determine my constitution. I was judged a ‘kapha’ or water-based personality. Soft skin, empathic and stubbornness are all characteristics of kapha people. Each person’s constitution determines their Ayurvedic treatment plan whilst at the sanctuary.

As the sun goes down, the Sri Lankan staff busy themselves lighting candles and then later burning scented smoked. Everything is very ritualistic. A gong sounds at 7pm, as it does for each meal. The dining table is communal and so over each meal we got to know others who were either staying at or working as teachers at the retreat. The yoga / meditation teachers live in another part of the sanctuary and do many of the activities with the guests. They were all lovely and I very much enjoyed hearing about their journeys; everyone from a Wall Street banker with his wonderfully tattoo’ed and bohemian Chilean wife to an 18 year old German yogi and meditation teacher fresh out of his Indian yogi school.

The food is Sri Lankan and lovely, definitely on the healthy side and guided by Ayurvedic principles. Dhal, potato curry, onion sambal, pittu, coconut sambal, kiribath, rice, hoppers, roti and herbal teas. And generally not all that much sweet.

At 9pm it’s bedtime and the lights everywhere are turned off.

The next morning we’re woken at 5.30am with a knock on the door and a warm cup of cardamom tea. We sleepily get up and make our way into the yoga room just as daylight starts to creep in. The morning yoga session is 90 minutes and is truly the loveliest way to wake up. I don’t know how I’d ever introduce a 6am class into my daily life where bedtime is rarely before 11pm, but I’m hoping I can do some (slightly less early) morning classes in the future.

The first morning, and every morning after, each class was partially disrupted by a gang of very wild monkeys throwing themselves between the trees and then only the roof, running like thunder over our heads.

Rekawa beach is a 2 minute walk; the beach is wild and not great for swimming, but deserted and incredibly beautiful. It’s a great place for a long morning walk post-yoga or an afternoon nap in the sun. They are in the process of building a saltwater pool for the sanctuary which will be a great addition.

Breakfast begins with large pink coconut, fresh fruit, some sort of take on porridge (I was never sure if it was sweet or savoury) with either ground flour or grains or both. Followed by curry and traditional Sri Lanka accompaniments like hoppers, coconut samba and onions. And then finally comes your Ayurvedic medicine mixed up with plant-based ingredients with some very suspect smells and textures, not for the feint hearted!

The Ayurvedic treatment begins after breakfast, the descriptions of which were often in Sri Lankan (e.g. ‘Shirodhara’ and ‘Abyanga’) with no explanation so it was always a surprise when I entered the treatment room!

I had everything from face masks, to full body massages, chakra treatments and herbal baths. My most interesting and unusual treatment was Sarwangadhara. Firstly, I was asked to undress and lay naked on a big wooden bench. The table was built at a slight angle so liquid could run down into a hole. I was covered, no, smothered, in the most incredible way with a special oil. The giant drum of oil had my name on it, so I assume it was mixed with various things deemed beneficial for me. Words can’t accurately describe volume of warm oil that was poured over me, all the while the dexterous therapist rubbed it into me with her other hand. Very very relaxing, once I got over my bemusement. Until she asked me to turn over onto my back and I slipped around in the oil like a sardine in it’s tin until I’d come all the way around. Getting off the table was also no mean feat either.

Most days, there are activities in the afternoon – ranging from trips to a local temple, market visits, meditation with a monk and cooking classes. We did a temple visit and watched the sun go down over the jungles of the Southern coast. We also did a cooking class which I loved with a very handsome chef call Bony. I will share the recipes for Dal and Hoppers soon!

In the evenings there is a local turtle conservation project and if you let the sanctuary known they’ll tell you when you can go and watch the turtles lay their eggs. Otherwise, no one is allowed on the beach after 7pm. It’s so inspiring to see these little grass roots projects and these people with very little themselves working so hard to protect the turtles. The sight of the 1.5m green turtle laying over 100 eggs in the dark was amazing.

Your experience at Sen Wellness will in part be determined by what teachers are in residence at the time and what they are trained in. We had 3 beautiful women whilst I was there: a lithe young British/Indian teacher who had recently finished her teacher training in Rishikesh and specialised in Hatha, a gloriously fair British Kundalini master with a very cheeky smile but a fellow Virgo with a very warm heart and finally, an etherial Dutch woman who was mesmerizingly quirky and made you want to live a more peaceful life with her breath work and creative practice.

We chanted, we meditated, we listened to the magical gong, we drew, we did sensory mindfulness, we did breathing exercises, we accidentally fell asleep sometimes, we almost did headstands, we giggled and we sent positive energy out. We learnt a lot from these three women.

Guests can opt to join a set 10-day retreat or just visit for a set number of days.

Thank you to everyone who made our 5 days so magical, and a special thank you to Sam, the lovely owner of Sen, who has truly created a sanctuary to heal both the spiritual and the physical self in beautiful Sri Lanka.

 

Lina

Coming from a lineage of healers, Lina works with somatic embodiment, breathwork, energetic healing, sound, and naturopathic nutrition. She channels her practice into words and thoughts to share with you. Her warmth and radiant energy will capture you through her words

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Claire White
Claire White
1715076485
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.
britta barth
britta barth
1713871962
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
1711609773
A wonderful stay! The staff was so incredible and thoughtful throughout. I left feeling very rejuvenated. Thank you !
M UW
M UW
1710650939
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
1710516667
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.
Jessica Crozier
Jessica Crozier
1709904229
Sen Wellness is the perfect place to go to when you are exhausted by life and need a rest to get back to yourself and work through any difficulties you may be experiencing.There’s lovely yoga and meditation classes every day plus a set schedule which is a great way to structure your day of rest alongside tailored Ayurvedic treatments and healthy food.The place is for me perfect but it’s not like a 5 star hotel so if that’s what you are looking for it may be the wrong place for you.If you are lucky you’ll see some turtles as well.Samath and Francis are great managers and will make sure everything goes well.
Kumail Syedain
Kumail Syedain
1709739998
Beautiful experience, beyond my wildest expectations. Would recommend to anyone interested in Ayurveda and healing
Neil Wadhawan
Neil Wadhawan
1709656423
I was fortunate to lead a yoga retreat in early February of 2024. Everything was absolutely spectacular. Sen is a very special place with a beautiful energy that is perfect for retreat and healing.What really makes Sen so special are the people. Every single one of the staff members as well as the ayurveda doctors and all the managers were so kind and always trying to make each experience special. The entire team was led by Sanath and Frances and they were both absolutely wonderful. I can't possibly find enough kind words for both of them. Their leadership and warmth really allowed me to lead the retreat in the best way I could and they were always there for me whenever I needed. Thank you!
helen wright
helen wright
1709279369
Sen wellness is a perfect sanctuary. The Ayurvedic retreat was insane - I loved every minute of it . Thank you
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