Yoga and Aryuveda in Sri Lanka
On my last trip to India, I briefly came into contact with Aryuvedic principles and was very intrigued. Some time had passed since that trip, and when I saw an ad for a 12-day Yoga/ Aryuveda detox retreat, I decided I was going to go. I had always wanted to do a yoga retreat, so why not kill two birds with one stone?
Before diving into my experience, let me tell you a little about Aryuveda. Aryuveda is one of the oldest systems of natural healing. It has historical roots in the Indian subcontinent that date back to the 4th century BC. The term “ Aryuveda’ in Sanskrit can be translated as science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). To many who practice it, it is more than a mere form of medicine, it is a true way of life.
In short, it is a holistic approach to health where body and mind are intricately connected. Health can be achieved through balance of the mind and the body. Aryuveda regards every individual as unique. There is no one recipe that fits all to finding balance and peace and each person has to tread their own path.
Ayurveda is based on the principles of three doshas. Doshas are what make us unique. They are our energies and they perform different physiological functions in our bodies. We all carry the energy of all three doshas, however usually one or two of them are dominant. The doshas will determine a person’s personality and physique. (Read more here: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-1117/Ayurveda-Dosha-Types-for-Beginners.html)
Let’s get back to the main story. The retreat I am going to is called Plantation Villa. The premise of the retreat is to offer guests a place where they can come to rest and to allow time to rebalance their doshas. Daily yoga, meditation, controlled food intake and a stringent aryuvedic treatment plan set up by a licensed practitioner are how this rebalancing happens. The retreat is located in Kulatara, about 45 km south of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo in a small village.
Upon arrival, I am promptly invited to sit down and have a delicious ayurvedic meal. This is my kind of place! After lunch, I am shown to my room and informed that the local on site doctor will see me whenever I am ready to start my treatments.
The doctor’s appointment is unlike any appointment I had ever had before. She feels my pulse, looks at the color of my tongue, and asks about my height and weight as well as a variety of other rather intimate questions. If I am honest, I am a bit wary at my first consultation. After all, it is not every day that you get asked detailed questions about your stool or your menstruation. But, I decide the best approach is to embrace it and so I spend a good 15 minutes divulging into the inner workings of my body as well as my mind. I get my treatment plan and was ready to get started.
It seems I am the picture of health, although my doshas are clearly out of balance. We agree that the objective for the next 12 days is to calm my Pita and expel all the toxins out of my body.
The doctor warns me throughout the treatment it is perfectly normal for people to feel very emotional. It is part of expelling the toxins that have built up in the body. To encourage mindfulness, the outside distractions are kept to a minimum (spotty wifi, no tv or radio), and the attendees’ schedule is kept light to allow time for reflection.
The first couple of days are rough. I have serious internet withdrawal symptoms and have trouble with the strong scented oil used for the treatments. In addition, I am plagued by very vivid dreams that have me waking up in cold sweat. The doctor informs me it is my sub-conscious trying to work out deep-rooted emotions. Bloody sub-conscious, please get your act together!
The next couple of day are intense to say the least. I feel like I am riding an emotional rollercoaster. During one particular yoga class, we are focusing on hip openers and I have tears streaming down my face for no apparent reason. When not on the rollercoaster, I sleep for 12 hours and am still tired. Many of my journal entries start with “I am so tired today”.
I am eased into the various steps of the treatment plan . Step one is a vigorous routine of daily massages and steambaths. Step two is rather memorable, it is innocently called ‘nose cleaning’. There is nothing innocent about getting herb scented warm oil poured into your nose and sinuses. It burns and tastes horrible and leaves me with a splitting headache. Also normal, according to the doctor. To make matters worse, I am asked to start taking herbal medicines which taste pretty disgusting.
Step three is my favorite, Shirodara. Shirodara is a practice where lukewarm oil is dripped onto your forehead for about 30 minutes. This practice is repeated for three days in a row. For some, the treatment brings out a whole range of emotions (frustration, anger), but I feel a sense of calm and deep rest. The nights after this treatment I have some of the best sleep I have ever experienced.
Step four is taking a laxative pill to ensure all the toxins make their way out of my body. All I can say about this part is that my stomach has never been this flat.
All in all it is a humbling experience. I come out feeling lighter both physically and mentally. A weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I managed to drop a pantsize. While I am not entirely ready to commit to a life without wifi, I have whole heartedly embraced yoga and meditation. I leave Sri Lanka looking 10 years younger and most importantly with a mental clarity and sense of calm.
I highly recommend trying out a yoga retreat and perhaps read up on Aryuveda. At the least, it will allow you to get bendy and meet wonderful people, and if you are lucky it can help to create some mental space and clarity.
A good place to look when booking a yoga retreat: