Embracing Ayurveda

Writer Rebecca Walker | November 11, 2012

Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel when I arrive in Sri Lanka and stumble, half-asleep, into the Barberyn Resort reception at 2am. I’ve flown from Hong Kong after what has been one of the most intense months of my life. The quick summary is this: After an action-packed eight years in the Fragrant Harbour I’ve decided to exit the urban rat-race, resign from my job and walk away from a life that had pushed me as close to burnout as I’ve ever felt. Subsequently, I’ve spent the past month packing, making my way down an endless to-do list, and saying goodbyes. My emotions are raw, my body feels toxic, and my spirit is in dire need of some healing and replenishment.


I wake completely disoriented just in time for my first consultation and head straight to the Ayurvedic clinic where a sign reading, “Health is the greatest Wealth”, and a smiling receptionist greet me. My height and weight are promptly measured before I’m ushered into another room where a doctor awaits with a lengthy health questionnaire.

We discuss my current complaints (namely exhaustion and digestive issues), and I’m surprised when she takes my blood pressure and tells me it’s low (hence the dizzy spells I’ve been having). After looking at my tongue and puffy eyes, she tells me that there are signs of toxicity in my system and that my kidney function needs improvement (hence the fluid retention). Diagnosing my dosha (body type) as vata-pitta, she assures me my energy will return once we clean the toxins out of my system and get my eating and sleeping patterns back on track. Her prescription: a panchakarma purification programme.

My detoxification begins the minute I step out of her office when I’m led down a winding staircase to the treatment suites and told to change into a loose sarong. A therapist guides me into a waiting chair, drizzles herb-infused oil on my scalp and begins a drool-inducing head, neck and shoulder massage. Known as Shiroabhyanga, this calming therapy is said to nourish the scalp, increase blood circulation in the brain, balance the pineal gland, and strengthen the nervous system. Therapeutic benefits aside, it feels great.

This preliminary massage draws to a close, and I’m transferred to a table where my therapist administers some herbal eye drops before beginning an acupressure face massage. A second therapist arrives and together they coat my skin with warm, medicated oil (containing more than 35 herbs) and begin a synchronised Abhyanga massage. Known for its cleansing properties, this gentle massage technique helps improve circulation and expel toxins from the dhatus (tissue layers) via the body’s largest organ – bsorb the healing properties of the oil. My therapists sweep oil from my feet to my head in perfect rhythm then apply steam-heated bundles of herbs that smell delicious enough to eat.

Afterwards, I’m led to another room and told to lie face-down on a specially designed massage table for some Vaaspasveda (inhalation therapy) to cleanse my sinuses and lungs. A bubbling bucket of water, infused with aromatic herbs, rests below my face and the fragrance that drifts upwards smells sweet and pleasant.

Without proper diet, medicine is of no use, and with proper diet, medicine is of no need
~ Ayurvedic proverb