How to Prepare for an Ayurvedic Retreat and What to Expect

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Find out how to prepare for an Ayurvedic Retreat before you go and what you can expect. 

What is Ayurvedic Medicine?

Most people in the western world have at least hear of Ayurvedic Medicine. However many would be hard pressed to describe it.

That was certainly the case for myself before I signed up for a one-week Ayurvedic retreat in Sri Lanka.

guests eat a plant-based diet at an Ayurvedic resort
You can expect to eat healing vegetarian food at an Ayurvedic retreat

After a not-so-fun year of three surgeries, and almost non-stop medication,  I thought that an alternative treatment would be a good solution. I knew that I needed to detox both my body and my mind. And I wasn’t getting it from western medicine.

A friend who had gone through similar surgeries had been to an Ayurvedic retreat several times and highly recommended it. 

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

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

According to the Barberyn Resort in Sri Lanka where I went, 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 the body, mind and spirit of a person as a whole entity. It works on the basis that the mind and body affect each other and together can overcome the disease.

So what ailments can you expect to be treated at an Ayurvedic Retreat?

Shirodhara treatment is an oil massage
Shirodhara treatment in which oil is poured over your head is a popular Ayurvedic treatment

Almost anything.  Sinusitis, weight issues (both over or underweight), cancer, post-chemotherapy care, abdominal issues, depression, diabetes, infertility and frozen shoulder. Just to name just a few.  You can see the full list of ailments that can be addressed with Ayurvedic treatment 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.

The Panchakarma 5-Step Rejuvenation Experience at an Ayurvedic Retreat

Guests will take herbs while staying at an Ayurvedic spa.
Your Ayurvedic treatment will likely consist of healing herbs.

While your Ayurvedic treatment will really depend on your ailment. However, it will involve Panchakarma. It’s a five-step, total mind-body rejuvenation process. It consists of herbal oil massages, steam baths, cleansing enemas, a healing plant-based diet and other purifying treatments.

Panchakarma is effective at eliminating toxins from the system, rebalancing the Doshas, and healing numerous ailments.

Furthermore, it creates a sense of clarity and inner peace. I met several other guests whose primary motivation for being at the Ayurvedic Resort was to work on mental ailments.

One lady I met had experienced a burnout from a stressful job. Another one was seeking inner happiness that she said evaded her no matter how good things were going in her life.

During your stay at an Ayurvedic Retreat, you will also likely be encouraged to do yoga and meditate.  

My Panchakarma Ayurvedic treatments included Ayurvedic head and body massages (pure heaven!), acupuncture, herbal baths, tinctures and herbs. I will warn you,  herbs taste pretty awful. I also had a detox day in which your toilet will be your best friend for the day. It’s not a pleasant day but it’s an important part of your Ayurvedic treatment.

Related Reading: Complete Guide to Yoga in India.

How Long Should You Stay at an Ayurvedic Retreat?

While at my Ayurvedic Resort I did 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. I did 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.
I only stayed for a week due to limited time. However, the Barberyn Resort highly recommends that you stay for a minimum of two weeks. That way you’ll see results.  Ayurvedic medicine is not an instant magic potion.  

It takes time to feel the effects. But it can do so within a couple of weeks. And it can produce lasting results.  In retrospect, I wish I had taken the time and stayed for an extra week. I did notice some improvements in my energy and I did lose weight. However, I felt that I was just starting to feel the changes and that given another week, I would have noticed more dramatic results.

Related Reading: How A Hiking Trip Can Change Your Life.

My Top 5 Tips for Preparing for an Ayurvedic Retreat

Feeling the pulse is one way Ayuredic doctors can diagnose ailments.
An Ayurvedic doctor can diagnose many alignments by feeling your pulse.

Two weeks is a lot of vacation time for many people. You want to get the most that you can from your Ayurvedic retreat. And to do that, the preparation starts beforehand.

1)Plan your visit to an Ayurvedic Spa in advance:

Most Ayurvedic retreats offer different programs, different styles of yoga and different instructors at different times of the year. 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. Had I planned my visit better, I could have been there when that was being offered.

2) Notify the Ayurvedic 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. You should also bring your medical reports. 

It’s also important to notify the Ayurvedic resort in advance of your medical issues. Some rare conditions may require Ayurvedic medicine that can take time to source.

They’ll also be honest with you about the effectiveness of Ayurvedic treatment for your ailment. 

3) Take Some Quiet Time Every day Before Your Ayurvedic 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 every day 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.

I believe it would have been easier had I meditated more regularly and took some time to chill prior to my Ayurvedic retreat.

Afterward, I became a big fan of meditation. Here’s a link to my favourite Kundalini Meditation that only takes 10 minutes. There are different types of meditation but this one works extremely well for me.

4) Prepare Yourself for a Digital Detox Before Your Ayurvedic Retreat

Plant-based diets are a key component of Ayurvedic treatments
You’ll eat a delicious plant-based diet while staying at an Ayurvedic resort.

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 until you limit it. I actually really enjoyed the limit and the digital detox. However,  as mentioned earlier, I  did struggle with what to do with all my new-found free time.  

I love to read, so I had downloaded a few good books to my Kindle, (see my top Wildlife Books for recommendations) 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 for after your retreat. You may find yourself emotional during some of the treatments, so don’t exacerbate it.

This is also a good time to treat yourself to activities that you enjoy doing. It could 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 at the Ayurvedic retreat.

5) Change Your Diet Before Your Ayurvedic Treatment Begins

  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. That means you won’t see the results as quickly.  It’s also worth noting that no alcohol, sodas or meat are allowed during your stay at an Ayurvedic resort. Therefore, I recommend reducing your intake of these as well. It will make your transition to an Ayurvedic diet easier and will result in fewer withdrawal symptoms.

Would I Recommend An Ayurvedic Retreat?

In sum, I loved some of my Ayurvedic treatments, like the Ayurvedic massage. While others like the detox day, not so much. Although I do understand why it’s important.

If you’re ready for the emotional ups and downs that may come with detoxing (not everyone experiences this but I did) and you’re ready for lasting change, I’d highly recommend an Ayurvedic retreat. I’d also recommend staying for two weeks. And be sure to get the most from your Ayurvedic treatment by following the tips above. 


Ayurvedic Retreats in Sri Lanka and India

I did my retreat at the Barberyn Ayurvedic Resort in Sri Lanka and would highly recommend it. 

Ayurvedic retreats in India

Check these out:

  • 7-day Ayurveda-Panchkarma-Yoga & Adventure Package  in Rishikesh
  • 8 – 15-day Ayurvedic treatment in Kottayam, India.
  • Or if you’re just looking for a taster, this 1-hour treatment in Kerala. 

what to expect from an Ayurvedic retreat

Have you ever tried an Ayurvedic retreat?

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