wellness and Ayurveda
at ÀNI Sri Lanka
“Ayurveda is a tree, with many branches: yoga, meditation, nutrition, medicine and life patterns. If we hold onto one branch such as yoga, saying, “I am practicing yoga, I know Ayurveda,” it’s not Ayurveda – it’s only the physical, strengthening part. If someone is holding onto the treatment side, saying, “I did sheetali, I did abhyanga, I did panchakarma, I did a head massage,” it’s not Ayurveda. It’s just the treatment part. Some are only concentrating on food, saying: “I’m only getting green vegetables, I’m vegetarian, I’m only eating fish.” This is only one branch of Ayurveda. Some others are only practicing spiritually: only meditation. Then you are missing the physical part and your muscles are slowly getting worse, you are not concentrating on day-to-day activities. So, you see it is a balance of all things.”
Manjula Wijekoon, Spa Manager, ÀNI Sri Lanka
AT THE HEART OF ÀNI SRI LANKA
The concept of balance lies at the heart of ÀNI Sri Lanka – and especially our approach to wellness. This philosophy is inspired by the principles of Ayurveda: India and Sri Lanka’s ancient healing system, meaning ‘the science of life’. In accordance with Ayurveda, our Sri Lankan resort’s wellbeing offering spans several branches, each supported by the others. Our approach is spearheaded by Manjula Wijekoon, our expert in-house Ayurvedic doctor, Spa Manager, physio and reflexologist. When it comes to making guests feel good, we encourage various forms of movement to suit all ages and abilities, from slow-paced to playful and energetic. Guests can enjoy yoga, tennis, impromptu cricket matches, beach volleyball, beach strolls, personal training sessions and more.
NUTRITION IS KEY
Nutrition is another key focus. Our dining options include a multitude of global cuisines and menus, making each meal different to the one before. If Ayurveda is of especial interest, our chefs can tailor dishes to suit each guest’s health needs and their unique constitution, or ‘dosha’ in Ayurveda. This may include suggestions to improve one’s diet, whether that’s minimizing something that isn’t beneficial or, in rare cases, cutting it out altogether (at least temporarily).
Manjula explains: “If guests say they want to experience an Ayurvedic diet, at that point I am advising, “Ok, not too much fried foods, or oily foods.” It all depends on their condition. If they want to lose weight, for example, having a steam bath is not enough; we have to look at the food, too. I have an Ayurvedic food list, showing what foods to avoid and favor, according to each dosha. In the food list, it says ‘avoid’, not meaning to completely stop, especially if it’s your favorite. So, if you like yogurt, but it’s not good for you, we are ask you to minimize it. This is how we advise our guests. Asking people to stop things they are fond of, psychologically, creates depression and frustration. “I like it, but my body is unable to take it.” However, there are some conditions, where we do request that they do stop. Sometimes chemicals are used to make food more tasty. If a person has arthritis, when they eat certain products, the condition worsens. I had one client who had arthritis and couldn’t use his hands to hold a spoon. Eating certain products and sauces, was making it worse. So, at that time, we needed to ask him to stop taking those things, at least until it settled down. And then you can choose.”
A special experience when staying at ÀNI Sri Lanka is our Ayurveda lunch, served at a secret location. Guests are taken to a three-hundred-year-old colonial house, owned by a multigenerational family of Ayurvedic doctors. Here, guests will taste special Ayurvedic dishes created by Chef Cyril and his team, whilst Manjula explains the concept of Ayurveda.
Naturally, our approach to wellness also champions relaxation. Guests can enjoy guided meditations and up to 15 spa treatments a day, including deep-tissue, aromatherapy, and sports massages. We also offer traditional Ayurvedic treatments (ranging from one-off experiences to comprehensive, multi-day programs), devised by Manjula, featuring the best Sri Lankan Ayurvedic oils. Using his expert knowledge, Manjula picks the right oil to suit each person’s dosha and needs.
“We are not treating all the guests with one oil. We are choosing the oil according to the guest’s condition, according to the treatment. I have more than 15 bottles of Ayurvedic oils. If you have a nerve condition, we are using Maha Narayana oil to regain your muscle strength and nerve system. If you are suffering from joint pain, we are using Pinda. And if you are having any skin rashes or skin conditions, at that time we are using Triphala or Pinda. For shirodhara, we are using Nirgundi. If we do a massage for a Vata dosha person, a fat-breaking oil for them is useless, it won’t make them feel good. If it’s a Kapha dosha person, we need to use a fat-breaking oil like Sarwavishadee.”
A man of many talents, Manjula is also an expert reflexologist. Interested guests can experience this ancient healing practice at ÀNI Sri Lanka, perhaps picking up some knowledge along the way, as Manjula explains. “Reflexology is an ancient technique. Nowadays, there are MRI, X-rays, ultrasounds and all the things to check your body. But imagine: 2,000 to 3,000 years before, without a single machine, they developed a map called reflexology. Reading it is a different story; in just one or two years, you can’t. I have nearly 20 years now in this field.
Sometimes, when I’m doing the reflexology sessions for clients, I ask them, “Do you like to know your body?” At that time, I’m going through any metabolic reactions, one by one. These cause crystal formations on the feet. From that, we can read your foot, read your body, read your organs; because through the energy channels, these pressure points get interconnected. The changes on those pressure points represent things that sometimes you may not even feel, but if you are having the stiffness in the shoulder, early on it appears on your foot. There is a reflexology presentation I have to help my therapists – and I share it with guests if they are interested, so I also teach them. One Spanish guest wanted to learn reflexology and Indian head massage. So, I gave her all the notes and she practiced!”
HOW MANY LIVES DO WE HAVE?
Recognizing the healing power of nature, ÀNI Sri Lanka’s setting on the shores of the Indian Ocean offers solace and healing in just one glimpse. Calming spaces around the resort are designed for rest, reconnection and contemplation. And, because we know that a sense of community and belonging enhances health (and the soul), we also prioritize meaningful experiences and togetherness. Again, our approach to living well comes back to the cornerstone of balance. In Manjula’s words:
“How many lives do you have? We have four. The day we are born, we have our family life. We have a father; we have a mother. Maybe we have a sister, a brother; we have a grandfather. That’s a family life. If we lose someone in our family, we are not complete, because we are attached to them. But if we are too much attached to the family, there’s another tree of life we miss.
Then, the day you go into school and onwards, you are starting your professional life, studying and learning. And, also, after that, 18 to 20 years later, you are starting a job or a business. If someone is too much attracted to their professional life, without considering their family – their husband, their children, their parents – they’re only considering their job and professional life. It’s an imbalance.
What is the third life? Your personal life. I have my personal life. You have your personal life. What do you like to eat, what do you like to listen to, what do you like to read, what films do you like, who’s going to be your friends? Because in your personal life, you’re selecting your friends, deciding how you spend your time. Where you like to be. If you are a traveler. You have your own secrets; that is your personal life.
The fourth life is your spiritual life. Your religion, your ego: your thoughts, the way you react to nature, meditation. What you believe in, your humanity, your kindness, your anger. Those things are coming under your spiritual life. In Ayurveda, balancing these four lives is balancing your life. Balance yourself and balance society. Because if you balance a full life, your family gets balanced. Your professional life gets balanced, your personal life gets balanced. Yes, you are happy, you are not in a sad mood or depressed when you maintain all four lives. This helps to maintain your health.”
Balance, health and happiness are principles that all of us at ÀNI believe in.