Hanging in the Balance

Writer Stephanie Shiu | May 9, 2018

If it’s wellness you seek, there are few places better than Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort. Located on a remote beach on the southern coast, a four-hour drive from Colombo, your home for the week-long programme is shrouded with coconut palms and the roaring Indian Ocean, a fitting backdrop to reset. All programmes are based on Ayurvedic principles using a holistic approach to achieving health and balance through identifying body composition, uncovering lifestyle imbalances and focusing on mental clarity to make choices in line with well-being.

DAY 1

In our initial consultation, Dr Jayachandran Thampi, spa director, explains that each programme is tailored to the individual. The Natural Weight Ayurveda Programme  centres around wholesome food specific to your dosha combined with detoxifying techniques for a holistic approach without the usual calorie counting and deprivation.

After expressing my interest in elements of the Inner Harmony programme which focuses on stress management, Dr Thampi  adds sessions emphasising mindfulness to combine the two. The flexibility and customisation make it possible to create my own experience.

My morning spa treatment is a Deep Tissue Massage with Ayurvedic pinda sweda, a herbal compress soaked with warm medicated oils to banish water retention. They are offered separately on the spa menu but Dr Thampi recommends them together, and 90 minutes later I emerge unknotted.

More stress busting takes place in the afternoon personal training session with Chathuranga. He has me running to warm up before getting through most of the weight machines, adding dumbbells to leg, arm, and ab movements for a full-body workout, finishing with a stretch session. I feel more together than my comparatively anxious self this morning.

DAY 2

I spend the morning with the refreshingly no-nonsense Teresa Richard, the resort’s visiting guest artist who teaches yoga, meditation and holds private sessions blending a variety of techniques, her specialties encapsulating everything from somatic movement and anatomy to tantra-tao massage. Group yin or hatha classes are held most mornings after a 30-minute meditation and her method of teaching is highly specific, hands-on and prioritises form.

After a heavenly Marma Abhyanga, again combined with pinda sweda, whereby the marmas – or ayurvedic energy points – are stimulated to achieve balance, I have a private session with Teresa. We discuss what I would like to get out of the session, easing anxiety being my focus. She teaches me breathing relaxation techniques before leading a guided meditation, which helps heighten my awareness to the places in my body I am holding onto stress.

Feeling less tightly wound, Eddie the resort nature guide and I take to Mulgirigala Raja Maha Vihara, an ancient Buddhist temple built on 205 metres of rock, a half-hour drive from the resort. You’ll find lying, sitting and standing figures of Buddha housed across all five compounds, with Kandy-era wall painting based on Jakata stories adorning the temple walls. Ladies are recommended to wear long skirts or trousers, but a sarong tied over bare legs will do in a pinch. The highlight of clambering to the top is the epic view that stretches along the southern coast which makes the 533 steps completely worth it.

DAY 3

The morning yoga session with Teresa focuses on opening up the chest and shoulders, working towards wheel pose.  As always she offers modifications, and with three generations present in class, ensures each person is personally challenged. We are reminded that our practice is just that – our own – and to avoid making comparisons, the theme of self-compassion the main theme of the class.

If I wasn’t relaxed enough after a full body and head massage with the pinda sweda, the afternoon reiki session with Diwa ensures there isn’t an ounce of tension left in me. She practises a hands-on style which I prefer for its nurturing quality, which she mixes with angelic reiki, calling upon Guanyin or Mother Mary for maternal compassion, which I must be in need of. Afterwards I’m energised yet calm – this must be what balance feels like.

The meal plans help with this and you never feel deprived as protein, usually fish, features heavily. The only no-nos are shellfish and red meat which are difficult to digest, but Italian restaurant Il Mare has plenty of healthy options like minestrone and salmon with mango salsa. Adjustments to the meal plan can be made to suit your taste, and my preference for local dishes taken into account. The coconut porridge and local spicy salad (usually accompanying the lamb starter) makes for a satisfying dinner, as well as vegetarian or tuna curries. The egg hoppers at the Journey breakfast buffet are also a must.