Sanctuary Sessions: Lauren Macdonald

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We’re delighted to launch our ‘Sanctuary Sessions’ guest interview series with Lauren Macdonald – medical doctor, psychology graduate, yoga teacher and advocate of holistic medicine.

Tell us about yourself – what brought you to Sen Wellness?

I first became aware of Sen Wellness at the beginning of 2016, not long after I’d been diagnosed with stage IV cancer. I’d recently left my job as a doctor in Brighton and I’d just started having treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. In the meantime I’d thrown myself into researching all I could about my disease and what I could do alongside conventional treatment to help my body fight the tumours. It quickly became clear that I needed reduce my stress levels, support my immune system and reduce the inflammation in my body. The holistic approach I took involved starting a regular yoga and meditation practice, exercising regularly, massage and acupuncture therapies, switching to a plant-based diet and doing everything I could to support my gut microbiome. I began blogging about my journey and through my blog I connected with Sam at Sen Wellness. I had several sessions with Sam during that year and we stayed in touch throughout my treatment. A few months after finding out I’d had a complete response to immunotherapy I made the decision to travel to India to complete my yoga teacher training. Practicing yoga throughout my treatment had helped me to stay mindful, calm and grounded when my life felt totally out of control. Immersing myself in the training for a month enabled me to further my knowledge about the mind-body connection, deepen my yoga practice and ultimately, start to trust my body again. It was always in the back of my mind to visit the Sanctuary at some point as it sounded like the ideal setting to learn more about Ayurveda and kundalini and, ultimately, continue on my healing journey.

How was your experience as a guest at the sanctuary? 

From the moment the huge wooden gates swung open revealing the inner haven of the Sanctuary, I knew this experience was going to be much more transformative than I could ever have imagined. It’s almost impossible to translate the magic of the Sanctuary through photos or written words – it’s one of those places that simply needs to be experienced to be believed. A typical day involves being woken up just before sunrise with a cumin and cardamon tea, sunrise kundalini yoga on the beach, the most colourful breakfast and then a day of Ayurvedic treatments, reading, laughing, walking, swimming and more yoga and delicious, nutritious food. There’s also visits to nearby temples and local markets and once a week one of the monks from a nearby temple leads a very special meditation, followed by a deeply relaxing gong bath. It’s honestly magical! In the month I was there I heard incredible stories, made new friends from across the globe and felt a deep connection with everyone I met. The staff also play a significant part in your retreat experience as they always great you with a huge smile and make you feel at home from the moment you arrive. I left the Sanctuary feeling stronger, healthier, happier and more energised than I’d felt in years.

We’d love to hear more about your experience as a yoga teacher/medical doctor and facilitating Golden Summer Tetreat. 

It was a huge privilege to be part of the team facilitating the Golden Summer Retreat for 10 days during my stay at the Sanctuary. I’ve attended several different retreats as a guest in the past and I know how valuable it is to completely remove myself from everyday life and open myself up to the lessons and gifts that can be gained from a retreat. It was an honour to observe and facilitate the guests during the 10 days, especially as for many it was their first retreat experience. Sam, Rebekah and Candace created a safe space where everyone could disengage from daily stresses, and old thought patterns and many of them underwent deep inner transformations during the retreat. The cacao ceremonies lead by Rebekah encouraged heart opening conversations and forged deeper connections with each other. The kundalini yoga and meditation that Candace taught every morning on the beach further encouraged us to journey inwards, become more mindful and let go of any inhibitions. By the end of the retreat even the quietest, most introverted of the guests had found their (chanting) voice. I especially loved having the opportunity to teach vinyasa and yin yoga classes in the beautiful rooftop shala overlooking the lagoon in the evenings. This style of yoga complemented the kundalini style taught in the mornings and Candace helped elevate my classes by adding a gong bath during savasana – just as the sun started sinking behind the palm trees. Overall, it was a truly transformative retreat and I’m convinced the guests took away as much from it as I did.

How would you say the Sen Wellness program benefits translates to a busy London lifestyle? 

The Sen Wellness experience doesn’t just stop the moment you leave the Sanctuary. I’m still on several Whatsapp groups with different guests from the retreat and it’s amazing how many people have kept up a daily meditation practice as a result of Candace’s inspiring teaching. I also know guests who’ve quit their jobs, taken sabbaticals, improved their diet, reduced their alcohol intake and taken up yoga – all as a result of their visit to the Sanctuary. The skills you learn are things you can integrate into everyday life to help you to better cope with the stresses and strains of modern living. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on a crowded tube or a deserted beach, when you close your eyes and journey inwards you can still connect with the experience and find moments of peace and calm.

Elly G
Elly G
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Came here for a yoga retreat with our teacher. This is the place to unwind, do yoga, relax and get Ayurvedic treatment. Ayurvedic drs and therapists are so helpful and friendly. Staff are so warm and helpful. Frances is the manager at Sen, a person with a beautiful soul who is very sensitive to our needs and intentions when visiting the sanctuary. Saneth (pardon my spelling) is a very dedicated and hardworking gentleman who made sure that our stay was a pleasant one. Highly recommend Sen Wellness Sanctuary 🙏🏽
Heike Mucha
Heike Mucha
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I stayed at Sen Wellness Sancutary for the festive retreat 23/24 - for me a 10 days commitment to complete immersion. I enjoyed every bit of it already at the Sanctuary! Now, back home and 40 days later, I am still profiting from the treatments, the experiences I made and my 40-days-practise that I started, as soon as I arrived home.Here is my deepest gratitude for the gifts I received during this retreat: a wonderful place, a kind, supportive, attentive and friendly team, support and grounding in my personal difficult moments, fantastic and soothing Ayurveda treatments (thanks to the doctors & massage therapists - always there with a smile and advice), delicious food, fascinating ceremonies (an unforgettable experience!), a lot of fun & laughter with other group members...Just to name a fiew.The biggest gift is, that I still have all this in my heart, that I can feel the connection to it. And that the practice of pranayama and meditation starts to become a routine! I hope, I can return to this unique place one day.
Sally Emerson
Sally Emerson
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My stay at Sen Wellness was exhilarating, from the dramatic colours of the sunsets to the naughty monkeys bouncing on the roof of our yoga room then leaping into the jungle. Best of all was watching, after a sunset walk over the wide empty white beach, newly hatched turtles hurtling over the sand to the ocean beyond. Good food, kind smiling staff, excellent and varied company from all over the world at the communal meals, massages, swimming pool, meditation, yoga, it was all pretty faultless and very inspiring.The serene and mesmerising Tseyang from Tibet provided me with a yoga programme I am actually keeping to.
One of the most relaxing and intriguing stays I’ve ever had. From the moment you walk in to the moment you leave, the hosts and staff anticipate and provide for your every need.The creative Vegan meals, yoga, meditation and daily treatments make this retreat a must-do for anyone who wants to experience an absolute gem.
Melbin Abraham
Melbin Abraham
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I recently attended a 14-day Ayurveda and Yoga retreat at Sen Wellness Sanctuary, and I can confidently say it was the best decision I made in 2024!The sanctuary is nestled in a truly enchanting environment, providing a perfect blend of calmness and nature. Being located next to Turtle Beach added a unique touch to the overall experience, making it an ideal destination for anyone seeking serenity and relaxation.The staff at Sen Wellness Sanctuary is exceptional. From the moment I arrived, I was greeted with warm smiles, and their hospitality throughout my stay was beyond compare. Special shout-out to Sudheera, Sanath, the Manager, whose dedication to ensuring a seamless experience stood out. Frances,The wellness Manager with her beautiful soul, Tsayang, my Yoga guru, Gopi, my transporter, and the entire team, including Kavindu, Dr. Tarushi, Dr. Udari, Mahil, Madhu, and many more, contributed to making my stay truly memorable.The food was another highlight of my experience. Traditional Sri Lankan dishes, rich in veggies and fruits, were served daily, creating a culinary journey that added to the overall wellness experience.One of the most rewarding aspects of my time at Sen was the opportunity to make new friends from around the world. Connecting with like-minded individuals enhanced the entire retreat experience, and I left with a profound sense of personal evolution.In conclusion, Sen Wellness Sanctuary is more than just a retreat; it's a haven for personal growth and well-being. I completed the program with a genuine feeling of having evolved into a new person. I highly recommend Sen to anyone seeking a transformative and rejuvenating experience.Thank you, Sen Wellness Sanctuary, for the exceptional hospitality. I look forward to returning in the future!
Linda Deverell
Linda Deverell
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I have spent time in very austere ashrams through to very high end spa retreats but, Sen Sanctuary is in a league of its own, it is the only place I have ever been where I haven’t for one moment thought, what am I doing here? It is unique in its ability to blend wellness, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, diet and joy in a relaxed, unpretentious and thoughtful environment. Every member of staff is there to guide you on your way ,all you have to do is turn up with an open heart and mind!I first went there in March 2023 having met the amazing Dr Sam in London and I returned again in January 2024, both times unique, both times wonderful. I have no doubt I will go back again and again.Sen Wellness Sanctuary is a place built with love and integrity straight from Dr Sam’s heart to every one who has the great good fortune of staying there.
Ryan Samtani
Ryan Samtani
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First of all, I’d like to thank everyone working at this place for making it so magical. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and found it so incredibly rejuvenating - from the organic food, top notch Ayurvedic massages, health advice, breathwork, yoga, community.. the retreat is truly unique and unmatched.. it’s really a place that welcomes everyone and caters to each and every person’s needs. I loved connecting with others on the retreat too. I stayed for 3 short nights, but will remember the experience for a lifetime.
Elisa Brugnera
Elisa Brugnera
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I just came back after spending a week at Sen Wellness, and the experience was above my expectations.The location is beautiful, immerse in nature and with an amazing beach available.Yoga and meditation classes vary every day, and I can say I learnt so much.The main feedback I’d like to leave is about the team: all of them did everything in their power to make us guests happy, they personally cared about our wellbeing.I can say I came back relaxed, but also changed and nourished internally, I’m looking at problems with a different perspective.I am already planning to be back!
Pia Schmoeckel
Pia Schmoeckel
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All I could have asked for in an Ayurveda retreat. Beautiful place and nature, with lovely people and a lot of thought and intention in the programs.
Richard S
Richard S
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hat an incredible place and lovely team and special stay. Situated between the beach and the lagoon you are surrounded by wildlife and feel completely isolated from the outside world. The treatments, food and yoga/meditation work together to ensure an incredibly restorative and nourishing stay. Ten days seemed a good length of time to stay to maximise the benefits.Thank you to all the team at Sen for a magical stay
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