[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?
What is Ayurveda?
Literally 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.
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.
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.