Sanctuary Sessions: Babette’s Spiritual and Transformative Escape


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.



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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Roberta G
Roberta G
My experience at the sanctuary was out of this world - I booked online & I didn’t know how my husband and I would have found it, but the experience definitely outweighed my expectations. It is a dream location with Km’s of secluded beach and fabulous cabins. The food is all vegan and honestly outstanding and very varied. We did not miss having meat at all, they even had fish twice but only because it was a fresh catch. The treatments are also fantastic. I was on the verge of a burnout when I went to Sen Wellness and honestly came back feeling like a human again. So much so that I still think about the little moments and my husband and I have decided to go again next year. We can’t imagine our March trip to be the last one to this magical place.
Lozzy Emily
Lozzy Emily
Fantastic retreat, I loved the personalized approach a lot of other retreats do not provide this you really do feel part of a family. The staff were so attentive and relaxed even the way they cleaned around you was relaxing! I enjoyed all the treatments I would just warn that you will be asked to remove underwear for some massages and steam baths for me I felt a little uncomfortable being massaged naked and couldn’t fully relax. You can tell this to the doctor prior to them scheduling treatments. The food was so delicious I enjoyed everything I ate in the 5 days I was there. There were yoga sessions twice daily however I would say they are definitely meditation/breathing workshops. It would have been nice to do some active yoga to get the body moving but still enjoyed the breathing and gong baths. I would advise if you struggle with the heat to upgrade to a cabana with AC as the rooms were so so hot! I did so much research on retreats in Sri Lanka and I’m 100% certain this is the best for a wellness retreat/spa. It showed me a new way of looking after my body with sleep and nourishing food Thank you!!!
This is a rare jewel of a place. Nestling in forest, beside a sacred stretch of protected ocean, where endangered turtles ay their eggs and give birth. Just to witness this alone is a life changing experience. Everything about Sen gently lulls you into your heart, tensions melt away, with incredible organic food, camaraderie of other like minded souls there to relax and heal, and a smiling staff who genuinely care about your well-being. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the co founders, even the story of how this stunning yet simple structure came into being, exudes love, heart and above e all vision and bravery. In a corporate, unfeeling world gone mad, intent on destroying all life on our planet, this place offers a glimpse of hope. Where kindness is the currency and healing and transformation the aim above all else. World class yoga, breathing, Ayurveda, and if you are lucky enough a treatment or tow with sam the co founder. This is something not to be missed. Just go there and see for yourself how it revitalises and offers a new perspective on life. now that is something that money cannot buy.
shanto mathew
shanto mathew
I recently stayed at San Wellness Sanctuary in Sri Lanka for nine days to treat my long COVID brain fog and shortness of breath. Overall, my experience at the sanctuary was excellent. The staff and people there were incredibly welcoming and made me feel at home right away. The food was also fantastic - I looked forward to every meal.While I didn't see much improvement in my long COVID symptoms after the treatments, I still greatly appreciate the care and attention I received. The treatments themselves were great, and I felt like the practitioners really knew what they were doing.Overall, I would highly recommend San Wellness Sanctuary to anyone looking for a peaceful and rejuvenating retreat. The location is beautiful, the facilities are top-notch, and the staff is truly exceptional. Thank you for a wonderful stay.
Ankur Kamalia
Ankur Kamalia
Having known Sam for a few years, I finally made my way to the Sen Wellness Sanctuary in Sri Lanka in Jan 2023. And what an experience it has been. Words (and pictures) will never do justice to the care, warmth, generosity, expertise and the beauty of the 9 days I spent at the Sanctuary.Whether it was the morning wake up with a gentle and persistent "Good morning, Sir" at 5.30 and a hot cup of cardamom tea being held outside my room (till one got out of bed and opened the door), the morning yoga sessions (for the first time I was able to drop into that practice), the pre-breakfast walk to (a good little work out too!) and dip in the rock pool or a gentle raft-ride along the mangrove lagoon, the Ayurvedic doctor customising a daily treatment plan which included 3+ treatments a day, the early evening meditation (or sound healing or Breathwork) sessions, the ceremonies, an opportunity to be with the Reverend Monk or the little mini-excursions they organised, was all really special. Add to this the delicious and locally sourced food, the incredible team, the small community where we ate and checked-in together and the beautiful sanctuary itself and their cabanas. All that one needed was to be embedded in nature, and on the luscious beach, a protected turtle sanctuary (with an opportunity to see the turtle come out and lay eggs!) - which I enjoyed too.I have come back refreshed, rejuvenated and excited to enjoy what 2023 has in store. I will certainly be heading back - perhaps this time also to their sister Forest Retreat center in addition to the Sanctuary. Thank you Sam, Sudheera and the kind, generous and capable team at Sen Wellness.PS: Their selection of reading materials while lazily lounging waiting for the "next" treatment, was a treat and Sam's clinic in London, has been a real blessing and gift too!
Staying at the Sen Wellness Retreat in Sri Lanka was one of my best experiences from the moment I entered the retreat I was enveloped in all the warmth and love you could possibly wish for. The delicious food, Ayurvedic treatments, relaxing on the comfortable furnishings in the common areas and the well appointed bedrooms. The thrill of enjoying the sunrise while doing kundalini yoga on the golden sand where the turtles had struggled up the beach the night before to lay their eggs. Sunset yoga, meditation and sitting around the fire chatting to my new family is unforgettable - I am planning on returning in November!! A pool would be lovely - Sam had best start digging!!!!
Thanks to Sen Wellness I'm starting my year completely refreshed from the inside out. It's the most beautiful, serene, welcoming place located between the sea and a lagoon. The team has gone over and beyond looking after every single guest with individual treatment plans and always being around to support. Not to mention the amazing food.. I've only stayed 6 days and would have loved to have some extra days. Can only recommend it and hope to be back again!
Arjuna Devas
Arjuna Devas
Whether you are looking to take a break from the busyness of life, a complete overhaul of the mind, body and soul or just a place to completely relax and get a good sleep, look no further. You have the ability and opportunity to completely unplug here with no outside distractions. Completely rest and rejuvenate at this very private location with super comfortable beds, nutritious food, amazing daily Ayurvedic therapies and supportive staff. It is called a sanctuary for a reason. The only distraction may be your minds addictive behaviors, for most the rabbit hole of the internet. With the limited wifi, you can turn off your phone for your entire stay or limit it to an hour a day. Then you may get to discover what truly makes you happy from within.My partner, Jamie, and I worked here for 3 months as therapists, yoga teachers and hosts. We fell in love with the place and the staff, we now call friends, that we would often here laughing while they worked. Something that we have discovered working at other retreat centers was not the case.We also noticed the pure synchronicity and harmony of the individual guests who showed up. Most of them became, not only friends with each other, but the perfect support persons in their transformative processes and I'm sure many will stay in touch for years to come.Please consider staying here to not only find your light but to turn it up so bright so you can be a lighthouse onto everyone around you. This world needs more light-bearers.Last but not least when considering how long to stay we noticed guests who stayed for less than 7 days felt their time was cut short and were only starting to get into a rhythm. Those who stayed for 2 weeks or longer were completely transformed and were literally floating by the time they left.Jamie and I look forward to coming back, for our own wellness and to support others in finding theirs. OM.
Jonathan Z. Lee
Jonathan Z. Lee
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 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
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!!
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