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What Is Ayurvedic Medicine? And How to Prepare for a Retreat

By Monkeys And Mountains Adventure @Laurel_Robbins

That was certainly the case for myself before I signed up for a one week Ayurvedic retreat at the Barberyn Resort in Beruwala, Sri Lanka on the recommendation of a friend.  After a not-so-fun year of three surgeries, and almost non-stop medication,  I thought that an alternative treatment would be good to help detox both my body and my mind – something I didn’t feel I was getting from western medicine.

Turns out, Ayurvedic Medicine is not an alternative medicine.  It’s one of the oldest scientifically proven medicines that originated over 5000 years ago.

According to the Barberyn Resort, there are two main objectives of Ayurvedic treatments:

  • to treat the symptoms of a disease and 
  • to help individuals to strengthen their immune system.

Ayurvedic medicine treats body, mind and spirit of a person as a whole entity. It works on the basis that mind and body affect each other, and together can overcome disease.

Walking on the beach is a great way to get the most from your Ayurvedic treatment.  This one is in Beruwala, Sri Lanka.

Loved integrating walks on the beach into my Ayurvedic treatments in Beruwala, Sri Lanka.

So what ailments can Ayurvedic Medicine treat?

Almost anything.  Sinusitis, weight issues (both over or underweight), cancer, post-chemotherapy care, abdominal issues, depression, diabetes, infertility and frozen shoulder to name just a few.  You can see the full list of ailments treated at the Barberyn Resort here.

One of my potions and my diet plan at the Barberyn Ayurveda Retreat in Sri Lanka.

One of my potions and my diet plan. The red card indicates it’s a detox day.

What Does Ayurvedic Treatment at a Retreat Involve?

It will really depend on your ailment, but will likely include a combination of a plant-based diet, Ayurvedic treatments, rest and relaxation.  You will also likely be encouraged to do yoga and meditate.  As for the treatments themselves, again it will depend on what you are trying to heal, but when I was there, I received Ayurvedic head and body massages (pure heaven!), acupuncture, herbal baths, tinctures and herbs – not the best tasting I will warn you, and a detox day. That’s just a quick overview, stay tuned for an upcoming post in which I document an actual day during my stay at the Barberyn Resort to give you a feel for what it’s really like.

I only stayed for a week, but the Barberyn Resort highly recommends that you stay for a minimum of two weeks since it can take a while to get results.  Ayurvedic medicine is not an instant magic potion.  It takes time to feel the effects, but it can produce lasting results.  Given that two weeks is a lot of time for many people to take out of their busy schedules, you will want to get the most that you can from your stay, and to do that, the preparation starts beforehand.

Capturing one of my twice daily walks along the beach in Beruwala.  I treasured this time so much and would do walking meditations, focusing on my breathing.

Capturing one of my twice daily walks along the beach in Beruwala. I treasured this time so much and would do walking meditations, focusing on my breathing.

My Tips for Preparing for an Ayurvedic Retreat:

  • Plan in advance:  There will likely be different programs, styles of yoga and different instructors at different times of the year, so try to choose a time where the program being offered really fits in with your goals to maximize the benefits you will receive.  For example, I LOVE Kundalini yoga and at the Barberyn they have a Kundalini yoga instructor coming the first week in June.
  • Notify the Resort in Advance of Any Ailments:  Dr. Kusula (my Ayurvedic doctor at the Barberyn Ayurvedic Resort), advises patients to bring any medications they’re taking, along with medical reports and to notify them in advance of your medical issues since some rare conditions may require medicine that can take time to source. They’ll also be honest with you about the effectiveness of Ayurvedic treatment for your ailment.
  • Take Some Quiet Time Everyday Before Your Retreat: A big part of Ayurvedic treatment is quieting the mind and relaxing.  Although meditation classes were only offered twice a week, when I was there, I meditated everyday in my room.  It’s much easier to reap the benefits if you’ve already started meditating, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. I work really long hours and have a problem sitting still.  As a result, I struggled with what to do with all the free time and believe it would have been easier had I meditated more regularly and took some time to chill prior to my Ayurvedic retreat.  I’m a big fan of Headspace, guided online meditation that starts out at just 10 minutes a day.  There’s even an app so that you can do it from anywhere.
  • Prepare Yourself for a Digital Detox: Guests are only allowed 4 hours of internet a week at the Barberyn.  More time could be purchased, but guests were really encouraged to stick to that 4 hour limit.  You don’t realize how much time you spend online (or at least I do as a travel blogger and social media time optimizer for the travel industry), until you limit it. I actually really enjoyed the limit and the digital detox, but as mentioned,  did struggle with what to do with all my new-found free time.  I love to read, so had down loaded a few good books to my Kindle, but still after about 2 1/2 hours of reading a day, I would be asking myself, So, now what? You’ll definitely want to bring a few good books along with you and ones that you want to read, not the ones you think you should read.  That may mean some fluffy, yet utterly enjoyable Chic lit or in my case, books about animals. Save the murder mysteries or anything suspenseful or really depressing (you may find yourself emotional during some of the treatments, so don’t exaberate it) for after your retreat.  This is also a good time to treat yourself to activities that you enjoy doing whether it be writing, artwork or knitting. Some guests didn’t struggle with this and happily chilled by the pool for hours, so this may pose no problem at all for you, but for me it was the toughest part of my stay.
  • Change Your Diet:  Dr. Kusula recommends reducing or eliminating wheat, fried foods and butter prior to your visit.  This makes it easier for the body to absorb the medicine.  Otherwise, as was in my case, the body has to detox all the bad stuff first, so you won’t see the results as quickly.  It’s also worth noting that no alcohol, sodas or meat will be part of your diet during your stay, so in my opinion, it’s a good idea to also reduce your intake of these as well to make the transition to an Ayurvedic diet easier.

This is Part One in my Ayurvedic Series.  Stay tuned for What an Ayurvedic Retreat is Really Like, The Most Important Thing I Learned During My Stay at an Ayurvedic Retreat and The Followup After my Stay at an Ayurvedic Retreat – i.e. did I have lasting results?

Note:  Thank you to the Barberyn Ayurvedic Resort in Sri Lanka for introducing me to Ayurvedic medicine.  As always, all opinions are my own.

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