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Learning about Ayurveda in the healing heart of Sri Lanka

02/06/2017

sri-lanka-dg-spices.jpgLate last year I visited Sri Lanka to learn about an ancient healing system with some similarities to Chinese Medicine – ‘Ayurveda’. Interestingly, Sri Lanka is home to what is believed to be the world’s oldest hospital (3rd Century BCE), so it seemed like a pretty good place to discover an ancient medicine system.

‘Ayuervda’ is roughly translated as the science of life. It is the predominant traditional healing system of the Indian subcontinent. Sri Lankan Ayurvedic medicine differs somewhat from Indian Ayurveda particularly in relation to herbal medicine which takes on a local variation. Ayurveda, like Chinese Medicine, involves supporting the body to attain balance. There are also Five Elements that are fundamental to this system however they are not exactly the same as those in Chinese Medicine. According to Ayurveda, there are three basic diagnostic types (dosha) based on their Five Elements: pitta, kapha and vata. Find out your dosha by doing this quiz.

My trip took me to the Dalmanuta Gardens Ayurveda Resort and Restaurant, a peaceful oasis on the Bentota River. Most people attend Dalmanuta Gardens to learn about Ayurvedic principles to improve their health and/or to correct imbalances in the body; some patients are long term guests with serious health concerns. Patients are treated through a regime of yoga, specific dietary considerations (food cooked to balance out your ‘type’) and a range of herbal and bodywork treatments. Each patient has their treatment plan guided by an Ayurvedic doctor; in my case, Dr Vimukthi. Body palpation and pulse diagnosis form a major part of forming a diagnosis, in addition to questioning. I cannot speak more highly of my two Ayuredic therapists who carried out the prescribed treatments: Gayan Sameera Samaranayaka and Jeewani Champika. Sameera was a master of deep tissue massage and Jeewani gave the most soothing shirodhara treatment. Both were extremely professional and happy to teach me about their medicine.

Each day at Dalmanuta Gardens goes something like this:

  • Morning yoga
  • Breakfast (cooked for your type) served in a little hut on the Bentota River. It included a green herbal soup which looked ‘interesting’ but was actually quite tasty.
  • Treatment time: for me this lasted two and a half hours and involved a range of massage including deep tissue, herbal compresses, herbal facial steam and shirodhara (that wonderfully calming technique of having warm oil poured over your forehead. It involves the acupuncture point, Yintang, in Chinese Medicine known for it’s calming function.)
  • Lunch (cooked for your type, again served in the river hut while you are still in your treatment robe soaking in the good oils and herbs. Sri Lanka DG curries
  • Relaxation after lunch (it’s a nice opportunity to explore the magnificent ayurvedic herbal garden or sit in the meditation garden.
  • Dinner – here you have the opportunity to join the chef to learn how he cooks the foods that have been prescribed for your dinner. I had a one-on-one session and learnt to make several Sri Lankan curries from scratch (including with milk straight out of the coconut) and coconut sambool. The fresh ingredients are mostly grown organically on the property. Once again dinner is served in the river hut where you can hear the aquatic life swimming below, nocturnal animals moving around on the opposite river bank and prayers from the nearby mosque. Sri Lanka DG cooking class
  • Bedtime. I probably don’t need to point out that I slept very, very well here.

I left Dalmanuta Gardens far the wiser (although certainly no expert) about Ayurvedic medicine, treatments and dietary medicine as well as having glowing skin and a hard, old, hip injury that was feeling a lot more supple.

For further information on Chinese Medicine or to make an appointment contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

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