[HOTEL REVIEW] No alcohol, no soft drinks, no caffeine, no TV, no WiFi, no junk food, no meat, no dairy and no cold drinks. That’s the first overview I got when googling ‘Ayurveda‘ after being invited to stay at the Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort in Welligama on Sri Lanka’s west coast. Being somewhat reliant on coca-cola (Don’t judge: I don’t drink coffee, coke is my caffeine), my laptop is an extension of my body and my need for wine wifi similar to the need for air, I was a little apprehensive to say the least. Would I survive? Would I enjoy the experience of an Ayurveda retreat – and what on earth was Ayurveda?

Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Retreat

Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Retreat
– Holistic Healing in Paradise

I stayed at Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort as a guest of the hotel, however all opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurvedic MedicineLiterally translated, Ayurveda means the “Science of Life” in Sanskrit. It originated over 5000 years ago and was passed down from generation to generation before being formally recorded in ancient scripts called “veda”. It is a traditional healing system the respects the human individuality and in it’s application it takes into account that each person’s health is made up of harmonious interaction of the body, mind and living environment. Noting, that when this natural interaction is disturbed and negatively affected by various influences, a person can begin to feel unwell.

Ayurveda seeks to prevent and heal diseases and their symptoms, strengthen the immune system, increase the body’s general well being and vitality and delay the aging process. In traditional Ayurvedic philosophy the body is comprised of three life energies – also known as doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha and the levels of each are what governs a persons life.

The Three Dosha

Doshas
VATA:
Comprised of the qualities represented by the elements of space and air, the Vata Dosha is the energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat. When in balance it promotes creativity and vitality. When ‘aggravated’ or out of balance it creates fear ad anxiety.

PITTA: Comprised of the qualities represented by the elements of fire and water, the Pitta Dosha is the energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body’s temperature. When in balance it promotes contentment and intelligence. When out of balance it can cause ulcers and anger.

KAPHA: Comprised of the qualities represented by the elements of water and earth, the Kapha Dosha is the energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system. When in balance it encourages love and forgiveness. When out of balance it can lead to insecurity and envy.

These energies shape a persons mental and physical character and it is the imbalances in these doshas that lead to ‘disease’. Imbalances result both from a person’s decisions surrounding unhealthy habits such as incorrect eating patterns, stress, negative feelings and lack of exercise etc but can also be affected by air and noise pollution. The most easily identified consequences of an imbalanced dosha are prevalent throughout modern life and include pain, insomnia, depression and tension. (How many times have you felt a twinge somewhere in your body and thought ‘I need a massage’ recently?!)

In contrast to western medicine where the disease is identified and the symptoms treated, Ayurveda philosophy seeks to reach deeper and cure the cause of the problem and not just the symptoms, which includes bringing together and balancing the doshas to bring about harmony within a person.

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Ayurvedic Food & Drink

Eating nutritious food is one of the main ideas behind the Ayurvedic system of healing, and is viewed as a complementary natural medicine.

Overall Ayurveda recommends a fundamentally vegetarian diet, and believes cooked vegetables in particular to provide the most nutritional value. Ayurveda also identifies 6 tastes – also known as rasa – which include sweet, sour, salty, sharp, bitter and astringent – and it is recommended that each of these are consumed as part of a balanced meal. The quality and ingredients of your meals is as equally as important as the time allocated to the meal’s digestions.

Liquids also play a key role in an Ayurvedic compliant diet, and it is important to drink as much warm water as possible which is meant to support and detoxify the body. There is a strict policy against drinking coffee, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, carbonated or cold drinks during treatment (more below) as these decrease digestive power and slows the detoxification and healing of the body, and such practices are encouraged as part of day to day life.
Consuming this diet, for even the shortest period results in Ayurvedic cleansing.

Ayurveda Treatments

Shirodhara with therapistThe word ‘treatment’ may conjure up a hospital like facility, with cold white walls – but that is simply not the case which it comes to Ayurveda health retreats.

Ayurveda physical treatments have 2 main functions: Shamana Chikista is the treatment of illnesses already arisen through internal and external therapies; and Shodana Chikista which is the prevention of illness and improvement of well being by purification and is a 3 step process:

  • “purva karma” is pre-purification (getting the body prepared for purifcation)
  • “pradhana karma” (panchakarma) is the 5 main techniques of purification
  • “paschath karma” is post-purification and rejuvenation.

In an ideal world, shodana chikista will take place over 2-3 weeks, but can be modified to give you the maximum benefit from your stay – however short.

Ayurveda internal treatments consist of both good nutrition and herbal concoctions which come in the form of tablets, liquids, and pastes and are prescribed at regular intervals throughout the day.

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Why Visit An Ayurveda Retreat?

Ayurveda Retreat Sunset YogaTraditionally, most people have visited an Ayurveda Resort to obtain assistance with a specific problem, disease or illness which can include anything from ache and arthritis to high blood pressure, mental stress, obesity and weight loss. A full list of conditions that are receptive to Ayurvedic treatments can be found here.

And whilst the same still holds true today, the tide is turning, as Ayurveda retreats become popular with the burned-out, highly stressed people whom are simply a victim of modern-day life. A step-up from a traditional yoga retreat or meditation retreat, a visit to an Ayurveda Resort is a wellness retreat experience reserved for those who want to re-start, refresh and re-energize their bodies with a view to living a better life at the completion of their stay.

Booking a stay at an Ayurveda Retreat gives visitors a chance to put everything I’ve mentioned above into practice at the ultimate detox retreats whilst undergoing a traditional treatment plan (which for those without a specific ailment to be cured is a full detoxification and rejuvenation program), all under the supervision of qualified Ayurvedic doctors, therapists and dieticians. Making such a huge commitment to your health and well-being is not always easy to do on your own (it’s like a new years resolution: you start off well, but then life gets busy and it all goes to pot? Right? We’ve all been there), but by booking into a Ayurveda resort, participants are either giving themselves the best chance possible to make a long lasting positive change in their lives – or giving their body some time and attention as a respite from this busy world. Short term or long term, practicing Ayurveda can only be a good thing.

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Why Choose The Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Retreat

From the moment you arrive at the reception pavilion and are welcomed with a lei of fresh flowers, fruit juice cocktail and warm towel, you know that you are in good hands. There is a air of calm and serenity throughout the grounds and it feels like a place a relaxation and healing. Perfect for getting away from the busy modern world and giving yourself time to focus on yourself.

The Rooms

Sea View Room Barberyn Beach resortThere are 3 different sizes of rooms available at Barberyn Beach, standard, deluxe and deluxe studio ranging form 300-450 sq ft. Each is simply but elegantly decorated and has a balcony overlooking the rainforest that leads to the ocean. The ensuite rooms are bright and airy with ceiling fans and mosquito nets around the four poster beds. Rooms with air conditioning are available but it is advised against artificial air for the duration of your treatment.

There are no TV’s, radios or WiFi access in the room, but visitors are encouraged to embrace the quite, and have the natural sounds of the nearby Indian ocean act as the soundtrack to one’s stay. For those that need access to the outside world, there is a WiFi connection at reception and in the library.

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The Facilities

Barberyn Beach Swimming PoolThe Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort was named as one of the top Ayurvedic wellness resorts in Asia and has a range of facilities available to guests including:

  • Free pick-up and return to Colombo Airport (approximately 1-2 hours away dependent on traffic)
  • Custom Built and Equipped Ayurveda Health & Treatment Center
  • Swimming pool overlooking the Indian Ocean
  • Yoga and Meditation Pavilion with Sunrise and Sunset yoga classes available daily
  • Walking routes throughout the property
  • Off-site excursions including city and temple tours
  • Weekly food presentation and cooking class
  • Library & Reading Room
  • Sea-view Dining Hall
  • Ayurveda lectures
  • Shrine Room
  • Asian craft shop showcasing the work of local artisans

The Ayurvedic Treatments & How It All Works

Barberyn Beach Herb GardenAn Ayurvedic treatment plan is designed for each guest following your initial consultation with the on-site doctors. The doctors conduct an two Ayurvedic consultations with you (on and the start and end of your treatment) which will check your vitals, discuss your general health & lifestyle and address any specific complaints or concerns you may have. At this time they will also assess your dosha’s; the results of this consultation will map out your treatment plan and dietary requirements for the duration of your stay.

It is important to note – especially for the control freaks and inquisitive among us (I am both!) that your doctor will likely only advise what treatments have been recommended and not what their purpose is. Traditionally, people seeking Ayurvedic therapies simply and completely trust the doctor’s recommendations without question. I decided to follow this practice in the spirit of immersing myself in the experience – but if you want to know more about what is being done and why, it is absolutely OK to ask.

From here you’ll receive your physical treatment plan which will include daily rounds of various therapies which often start with acupuncture and an Ayurvedic synchronized oil massage followed by the application of herbal pastes, steam and herbal baths. Treatments can also include steam inhalation, herbal oil baths, facial and nasal treatments, purgative therapies and blood letting. You can read all about the treatment methods prescribed at Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort here.

Whilst most treatments are self explanatory, I feel it necessary to explain that an Ayurvedic massage is not like any massage you have ever had before. It starts with a head and shoulder massage which is conducted whilst you are sat in a low back chair (which is lovely). Once you move to the bed the Ayurvedic massage is more of a synchronized, vigorous rub down. You will also be naked except for your underwear throughout the treatment as, unlike a regular massage, no sheet is used to cover you whilst on the table.

Yes, it’s weird the first time. But you get used to it. And now you know, you’ve got time to get used to the idea!

You’ll also be given a dining card to be placed on your table and which will detail any specific meals or drinks you are to be served and note at what level your dosha’s are. This card helps the restaurant staff know what to serve you, and helps the dietician advise what items from the buffet are good or bad for you to eat.

In addition to this the on-site apothecary will set to work creating Ayurvedic medicines from a combination of natural herbs, paste’s and plants, known as decoctions. These medicines will complement the physical and nutritional therapies in helping to detoxify and balance your doshas and come in the form of liquids, tablets and pastes.

The Meals

Ayurvedic FoodsBreakfast, Lunch and Dinner is served from the dining room on the third floor of the treatment building with views stretching out to the Indian Ocean.

Meals are either served buffet style or from a set menu, with variations made where your treatment plan dictates. For buffet meals there are a range of cooked vegetables, red and brown rice, potatoes or bread products and a range of salad ingredients alongside fruits, nuts and desserts, which a heavy focus on vegetarian cuisines. For those that cannot bear the thought of a meal without meat, there is often one choice of ‘traditional’ protein, typically in the form of fish or chicken.
Set menu meals occur a couple of times a week, one night being a showcase of traditional Sri Lankan dishes.
Each meal is served with your choice of tea (herbal or flavored – and in keeping with the requirement to drink predominantly hot/warm drinks throughout your stay) and a freshly squeezed juice combination as prescribed by the doctor.

Meals may be a little different to what you would traditionally eat – and for someone as fussy as I am, it was a little bit of a challenge – but all dishes served embody the Ayurvedic requirements of being healthy and nutritious.

At your first meal you will be allocated a table to yourself, but you are more than welcome to join others should you wish (and are invited to anther table!). This is perfect for solo travellers who may appreciate the solitude on some nights but prefer company on others. As the idea of the wellness retreat is to focus on oneself, single travelers are not in any way singled out and are more than welcome in the resort.

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A Typical Day at Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort

Yoga Barberyn Beach6-7.30am – Sunrise Vinyasa Yoga* at the purpose built yoga pavilion with views of the ocean
6.30 – First round of internal decoctions
7.30-8am – Buffet Breakfast + any liquid concoctions to be taken with meals
8-11am – Ayurveda Treatments: Typically Acupuncture followed by Massage + whatever other therapies have been prescribed.
– Morning Freshly Squeezed Juice-
1pm – Buffet Lunch + any liquid concoctions to be taken with meals
– 4 hours after physical treatments there is possibility to swim in the ocean or on-site salt-water swimming pool, or take an afternoon excursion to the local town and temples –
4pm – Second round of internal decoctions
6pm-7pm – Sunset Ayurvedic Yoga on the roof (Ayurvedic yoga incorporates and encourages chanting)
7.30pm – Set Menu or Buffet Dinner + any liquid concoctions to be taken with meals
– Opportunity to attend an education session or guided meditation –
9pm – Take your before bed decoctions

*Yoga sessions run at sunrise and sunset each day but are not compulsory. Likewise all activities available are optional, and should you prefer quiet reflection or reading in your spare time, that is perfectly OK too.

On your final day at the Ayurveda retreat you’ll visit with the doctor again who will re-check your vitals and compare them to your arrival readings whilst discussing any changes you have noticed or questions or concerns you have. You’ll also be given a final packet of concoctions to pack and take with you to help continue your Ayurveda treatment at home.

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Would I Recommend Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort?

Yes. I would absolutely recommend Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort. From the beautiful location, fantastic staff, and great facilities to the incredible holistic healing offered through Ayurvedic treatments plans, nutritional healthy food and tailored herbal decoctions, it was a unique experience which did wonders for my health and taught me how to better care for both my body and mind through digital detox. (I also taught myself to become a tea drinker – having never drank hot drinks before my stay!) If you are looking for a place to reset and revitalize your body in a tropical paradise following a Sri Lanka Safari or other adventures in the country, Barberyn Beach is the perfect choice and is available all year round to fit with your own availability.

Go. Immerse yourself in the Ayurvedic retreat: eat clean, take daily yoga, and embrace the Ayurvedic detox. You will definitely feel better for it.

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Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Retreat  Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Retreat

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