One of the oldest forms of holistic healing in the world, Ayurveda promotes natural beauty, positive health and a long life. Sri Lanka heaves with Ayurveda practitioners, and treatments vary from wandering into a centre for a relaxing massage to an intensive stay at an Ayurvedic retreat in Sri Lanka where you’ll be revived physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Before booking your plane tickets and going all zen-like, here’s the lowdown on what to expect at an Ayurveda resort in Sri Lanka.
1. Up close & personal
It’s going to be confronting. There will be much poking and prodding and expect questions about your diet, exercise regime, lifestyle and medical history. The physical examination gets to the root of any ailments and leaves no sin unturned.
When your dosha (life force) is in harmony, your body is in good health. Employing the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space, there are three doshas:
- Vata: air and space relating to body, movement, mind and senses
- Pitta: fire and water relating to heat, metabolism, energy and digestion
- Kapha: earth and water relating to physical stability, body structure and fluids
Practitioners assess the dosha of each quest to determine their diet, medicinal herbs and treatments throughout their stay. The prognosis isn’t open to negotiation; doctor’s orders.
Every guest is provided with bespoke herbal medicines using herbs and plants native to Sri Lanka like leaves, bark, berries, roots and flowers. Taken several times a day, it’s an acquired taste.
The daily treatments use a lot of oil and include head, face, and body massages (sometimes synchronised), herbal inhalation, herbal water baths and herbal steam baths. Unique treatments include:
Shirodhara: Oil is gently poured from a special vessel for 30 minutes onto the third eye on the forehead.
Eye therapy: eyeballs are washed with oil to relieve tired eyes
Panchakarma: an intensive cleanse incorporating several treatments
An Ayurvedic menu is mainly vegetarian with a small amount of fish. Food is classified into six taste categories of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. The philosophy recommends all categories are to be included in every meal to achieve proper nutritional balance. Guests are advised to only eat the dishes aligned with their dosha.
Caffeine junkies and smokers may suffer as stimulants aren’t welcome at some retreats, while other retreats accept moderation. There won’t be any gin and tonics at sunset either. It’s also advised to avoid the sun as skin will be sensitive after treatments. It’s best to bring your old bathers and sarongs as the oils don’t come out of fabric. Intensive treatments may induce side effects as both body and soul are cleansed.
Allow your inner beauty to shine and forgo the hair styling and makeup because the oily treatments will undo any work spent in front of the mirror. On that note, contact lens wearers should bring some spares and glasses because oil can get in the eye depending on the treatment and damage your contact lenses.
As buried emotions are released, the behaviours of some guests can be erratic, with some appearing ecstatic, angry, sad or withdrawn. Give your fellow guests space, after all, you are all there to heal and relax in your own way.
There are very few times in life where total self-immersion is possible. Rest whenever you feel tired and indulge in the pampering. Succumb to the treatments, nutrition and potions because there is true freedom and leaving yourself in the hands of professionals.
Ayurveda alleviates many ailments, from headaches to chronic back pain and more serious diseases, including detoxing after invasive treatments such as chemo. Some even swear it’s anti-aging and since Sri Lankans are believed to have the longest life expectancy in South East Asia, the proof is right before you. If nothing else, swanning around in little more than a sarong adorning your radiant skin is a liberating experience.
Want to try it for yourself? With so many to choose from, I highly recommend Wedagedara Spa (Kandy), Ayusha Weda Madura (Ella), Shine Spa (Sheraton Kosgoda Turtle Beach Resort, by Marriott Bonvoy) and Good Spa Weligama. If you’re looking for something more involved, try one of the four Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts or Siddhalepa Ayurveda Resort in Mount Lavinia (Colombo) and Wadduwa, about 30 minutes south of Colombo.
If you enjoyed this fleeting insight into what an Ayurveda retreat in Sri Lanka is really like, you might enjoy A funny thing happened at the Ayurveda spa in Sri Lanka and while you’re researching or dreaming about a trip to this magical island, check out 10 unforgettable things to do in Sri Lanka.