In all honesty, Thibault and I had no idea what to expect when we were kindly booked into a Ayurveda retreat in Sri Lanka. I’d heard of the term Ayurveda being tossed around a few times since being here, but ignorantly never even looked into what it was.
We were invited here on behalf of the Mosvold Group – a small boutique hotel chain that hosted us in two venues a couple of days previous. We were asked to work with the Mosvold Group to help create a new portfolio of images for their hotels, which they could then use all throughout the high season on all platforms, such as booking websites, their own website, and all of their social media accounts.
Anyway – as I was saying. We didn’t have a clue what we were signing up to.
Well, since then we’ve both done our research.
Ayurveda is a traditional science designed to bring the body back into balance so it can heal itself. Pretty cool, no?
In Ayurveda, the mind is thought to be the origin of all disease. It creates protective patterns and belief systems that start early in childhood and shape your personality today. Essentially, all of our negative thought processes that we subconsciously experience multiple times a day, are a result of our childs-mind trying to protect us – keeping us, and our feelings, safe. It puts us and our bodies under a significant amount of stress, ultimately leading to problematic health and an unstable mindset.
In Ayurvedic medicine, your individual nature is mirrored in your body type, or dosha. The doshas reflect three main governing principles of nature, called vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth-water).
Based on our Ayurvedic body type, what we eat, how we exercise, when we sleep, and even where we prefer to live, will have its own unique blueprint.
Once you know your body type (vata, pitta or kapha), it’s like having a roadmap that points you in the right direction of becoming the best version of your self.
We arrived at Amba at around 3.00pm – somewhat anxious of what we were getting ourselves into. That feeling lasted for about 30 seconds – pretty much right up until the large timber doors were opened before us and we were greeted with a ‘Ayubowan’ (a Sri Lankan greeting, wishing you a long life) and a ever-so fragrant floral necklace. The manager sat us down and before we knew it, we had a king coconut and fresh juice in our hand. Once we were shown to our room – which was absolutely perfect – we were left to relax for the meantime whilst they prepared our lunch. Lunch is usually served between 12:30 and 2:30pm, but because we had arrived late they organised us a dish (AND DESSERT!) for once we were settled – a touch that many hotels wouldn’t of thought of, nor bothered to make the extra effort for.
The room had everything one would need to relax – an enormous, lavish double bed, covered in the softest linen we’d experienced to date in Sri Lanka. In case you fancied unwinding outside, we had a beautiful balcony with sun loungers facing the ocean just above the retreat’s pool. Or if you prefer to relax in front of the TV, there were many English speaking movie channels to get stuck into. The bathroom was fantastically modern, with a giant overhead rain shower and toilet facilities located in a separate room.
The next few hours were spent enjoying our luxurious room, overlooking the seemingly private beach just down below, and editing a selection of photo’s that we had made since our arrival in the afternoon. Wanting to wake bushy tailed, we set our alarms and switched off the lights, excited for our first taste of Ayurveda in the morning.
We woke up at around 7:30am, with the sun gleaming through the gaps in the curtains. Amba is set in a very serene, tranquil area – with not much more to be disturbed by than the crashing of the waves, squeaks of the geckos, and chirping of the birds.
We threw on some comfy clothes (leaving out the shoes – they fully indorse the sand-between-your-toes lifestyle here) and headed down to the courtyard to have our breakfast. Seconds after taking our seats, a banana juice and a hot pot of Black Ceylon tea popped in front of us. Shortly after, we are given a beautiful display of fruits – watermelon, passion fruit, papaya, avocado, star fruit, all accompanied with coconut string hoppers.
Needless to say, after our breakfast we were feeling full of beans and ready to go. Thibault had his consultation with the in-house doctor at 11am, so we headed to reception where he was invited to wear a robe in preparation for his treatment. Whilst he got himself changed, I pondered around the beautifully decorated living room space, helping myself to one of the delicious herbal teas they had on offer for all guests, 24 hours a day. I giggled, as a very sheepish Thibault popped his head around the bathroom door, wearing his new attire. He was lead into an uber-soothing room, adorned with coconut husk drapes and beautiful smelling oils and aromas.
Today, Thibault’s treatment was going to be a medley of massages – from his head to his feet. The whole massage was all-in-all a good hour and a half, starting with one man focusing on his shoulders, neck, face and head – the areas most vulnerable to stress and tension. Head and shoulder massage induces a state of calm, peace and tranquility and promotes high levels of alertness and concentration, using a special Ayurvedic oil.
In the meantime, I’m awkwardly creeping around the dead-silent room trying to get some candid shots of the session. Thibault was then lead into another room, where there was another gentleman patiently waiting, ready to start his foot and lower-body massage. Padabhyanga, as the foot massage is called, is known to be very beneficial for balancing your doshas. It is also one of the most suggested solutions for people suffering from frequent cramps, chronic fatigue, and various sleeping disorders. The masseuse spent a good twenty minutes caressing Thibault’s feet, again applying oils and working his hands deep into every nook and cranny. He was then joined by the previous masseuse, helping eachother to synchronise an almost mesmerising massage on Thibault’s legs and upper-body. It was fascinating for me to watch and capture on camera – I’d never seen a massage resemble such a performance – almost a dance, before.
Once finished and rid himself of the oil, a very relaxed Thibault and I headed back to the living area for lunch. We started with a small but tasty bowl of fish and vegetable soup, followed by wonderful array of Sri Lankan curry dishes – blackened mushrooms, spicy dhal, delicious potato & pumpkin curry and gotu kola sambol – all together along with a huge plate of local red rice. Red rice is extremely popular here – it boasts nutritional benefits such as being high in dietary fiber, high in iron, and also a fantastic anti-oxidant. To conclude the meal, our dessert was rice pudding, with a sweet, trickle of treacle across the plate.
Many of the guests around us, whom of which were completing a lengthy stay a the retreat, had individual meal plans, accompanied by select medicines prescribed by the doctor. As we were only at Amba for two days, it wasn’t necessary for us to undertake this aspect of the Ayurveda program.
Once I’d snapped as many photos of the food as needed, we wolfed down our lunch and headed to the pool. I had my consultation and treatment booked in for 4’o’clock, so we had a couple of hours to splash around and enjoy our blissful surroundings.
Now – as many of my friends will already know, I am NOT a fan of massages whatsoever. In fact, it’s not too dramatic to say I even hate them. I’d been apprehensive all afternoon about having to endure one for the ‘experience-sake’, so I thought I should maybe tell them before my appointment about what I was feeling.
I approached one of the lovely staff members, Prithanti, and told her about my stupid predicament. I knew how ridiculous it sounded, coming to a spa and refusing a massage, so I was embarrassed to even bring it up. Prithanti smiled and told me not to worry – the treatment was something for me to enjoy, so I shouldn’t do something I don’t like. A huge weight lifted, and I thanked her for her understanding. I agreed to have a head and neck massage, as I knew if I didn’t experience any kind of treatment I would be kicking myself once we’d left.
So 4 o clock came, and I was brought back into the same room as Thibault. As I wasn’t going to be having ‘the full works’, there was no need for me to robe-up (although, I would of quite liked to!) Thibault took photographs, as I sat and surprisingly, actually enjoyed my massage. After 20 minutes, I was all done. In the end, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected it to be. Afterwards, I felt completely un-troubled and stress-free.
We headed up to the room to shower and grab our sarong, before heading down to the semi-secluded beach to watch the sunset. As we watched the giant red sun rapidly leaving the scene, we lay there thinking how lucky we were. Just by putting ourselves out there and showcasing our skills, we had been able to experience something so unique in a country that neither Thibault nor I had any previous ties or contacts with. From nothing more than a couple of friendly e-mails and telephone calls, we created bonds that go beyond a professional relationship.
The sun had now completely left us, so we gathered our belongings and excitedly proceeded to the terrace for dinner.
The meal was started with a bowl of potato and vegetable soup – one very similar to an Austrian soup that my mother makes – needless to say, I was happily nostalgic. Minutes later, we were served a fresh, light tuna steak, on a bed of grilled veg and a splashing of what tasted like celeriac and garlic puree. We finished our meal with sweet, cinnamon grilled banana fritters – to my surprise, very similar to what my Danish side of the family enjoys in summer on the barbecue!
For me, the whole meal had a small taste of home. It was simple, delicious, and admittedly a nice break from the staple local food we had been dining on day-in-day-out for the past month.
After dinner, we leisurely strolled back up to our room, where we were able to spend our evening working on our blog, scrolling through our days pictures, and generally just enjoy the comfort of our last night at Amba.
As we began packing the next morning, we regrettably asked the staff to organise a tuk-tuk to take us back to Weligama.
The whole Amba experience was likeable to heaven on earth. From the moment we stepped inside, we almost forgot where we were. Gone were the noisy, incessant beeps from the tuktuks and buses. Sri Lankans are already known for their inadvertent friendliness, but the staff at Amba took it to another level.
We were treated like a crown rested upon our heads, with our every request catered to with a warm, sincere smile.
To anyone looking for an experience like no-other, with an interest in self-awareness and well-being, we strongly recommend a getaway at Amba Ayurveda retreat. We want to thank all of the staff for giving us such an enlightening break away during our Sri Lankan trip. It was an unforgettable experience.