For years we have turned to Chinese traditional medicine for a range of treatments because we have been impressed by the merits of a holistic approach to health.
The Chinese medical history is anchored on concepts of energy flow through a web of energy channels that superimposes over the Western description of the human body as being comprised of bones and muscles and blood vessels and organs.
So we always thought of health practitioners falling into two camps… either Western medicine or Chinese medicine. Now that we are living in Sri Lanka we are starting to understand the Sri Lankan medical tradition of Ayurveda, which has a 3,000 year plus, rich history.
The indigenous scheme of traditional medicine, called Ayurveda, has been practiced for many centuries in this island nation. The ancient kings of Sri Lanka who were also prominent physicians, sustained the survival and longevity of the Ayurvedic system based on a series of prescriptions handed down from generations to generations. Interestingly Sri Lanka seems to be the first country in the world to have established dedicated Ayurvedic hospitals.
The definition of Ayurveda is “The Science of Life” and is famed as South Asia’s ancient healthcare system based on herbs and diet. It takes into account the relationship between energy and matter and emphasizes the harmony of mind, body and spirit to cure diseases.
We endeavor to put aside our own bias (in favor of Chinese holistic medicine) and start the process of discovery of what Ayurveda entails….. As we ride our motorbike around the Southern coast of Sri Lanka, we often pass multiple Ayurvedic clinics, Ayurvedic shops and as well, specialized spice and herb gardens that are grown for the purpose of Ayurvedic treatments. It is all somewhat mysterious and it is time for us to “get with the Ayurvedic program.”
Of course we have long been exposed to the concept of the three Ayurvedic body types, or doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) through our years of immersion in and study of yoga, and and how it can help to balance the three energy forces.
Far from being a gimmick to attract tourists to Sri Lanka, Ayurveda is the dominant local medical treatment. In fact 75% of the islands population depends on Ayurveda because of it’s reliance on natural plants,locally grown herbs and created oils. There is even a Minister of Ayurveda in the government.
So off we go for a short stay at Sen Wellness Sanctuary, which is located in a nature sanctuary, on the Southernmost tip of Sri Lanka, near a pristine beach and designed to be in harmony with its surroundings For us, the setting is the cherry on top.
We take a slow drive further south from beaches we have been exploring in the area. Driving here is easy as the the further south we go, the smaller the villages and the more rural the region becomes. Small countryside scenes of locals going about their day, be it selling from a small store front or working in a rice field or walking home from school, dot the landscape.
Sen Wellness Sanctuary is a dream that had been 25 years in the making. The founder and celebrated osteopath Dr Kankanamge, left his Sri Lankan homeland for London at the age 18, like so many youth, during Sri Lanka’s troubled history. Dr Kankanamge established a holistic clinic in the medical district of central London and had a vision to return one day to his homeland to establish a holistic health care sanctuary, and now he has done just that with Sen Wellness Sanctuary.
The location of Sen Wellness amidst a natural reserve is very much consistent with Ayurveda’s emphasis on all things natural. The design of the facility further features the primacy of energy as part of the healing process. For this reason the main building and all the bungalows are built as cylindrical shapes like shells, which draw energy from the earth.
The recommendations we receive from the Ayurvedic doctor re food intake include some surprising information. Using the Ayurvedic concepts of cold and hot foods (which has nothing to do with the temperature but more the innate heat in foods), we are told for instance that raw tomato is fine, but cooked tomato is not. Mushrooms and all citrus fruits are to be avoided. This definitely runs counter to our notion that all fruits have important vitamins and minerals and therefore are beneficial to overall health.
A big thanks to Sen Wellness Sanctuary for hosting us: http://senwellnesssanctuary.com/