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.

Claire White
Claire White
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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
1717236953
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
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!
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