“Before I treat you I want to read you”


Ayurveda is in vogue. What is Ayurveda all about? What are its opportunities and limitations? What can Sri Lankan holidaymakers expect from an Ayurveda treatment? Our Ayurveda doctor Dr Nalaka Samadhi answers these and other questions in this interview.

What is the core of Ayurveda?

In Ayurveda, we assume that humans are a part of nature. Just as our creation is based on the elements of air, ether, fire, water and earth, these natural forces also influence us humans. Each person’s constitution is individual and is determined at birth. It is based physically and emotionally on the quality of the so-called three doshas, which are different in each personality:

  • Vata, which comprises air and ether,
  • Pitta, which stands for fire and a little water, and
  • Kapha, which combines water and earth.

Every person has parts of all the elements. My job as an Ayurvedic doctor is to support people in bringing the doshas into balance.

It is this balance, balance and balance again that we work on. Because if the biological forces in the body are balanced, then the person is healthy.

What does Ayurveda mean, and where does this natural medicine come from?

The term Ayurveda comes from Sanskrit and is made up of ‘ayus’, life, and ‘veda’, knowledge. Ayurveda therefore means the science of life. Ayurveda is an empirical medicine from India that is thousands of years old.

What complaints do you often treat?

Many guests come from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and bring classic lifestyle diseases with them. They work at a computer and complain of pain in the lower back or in the shoulder and neck area. Others opt for an Ayurveda treatment because their lives have thrown them off course mentally or because they are sleeping badly. Cases of burnout have become more frequent in recent years. Or stressed people want to prevent their deep exhaustion with Ayurveda. Since the coronavirus pandemic, I have been treating more and more guests with long Covid so that they can breathe better or smell and taste better again, for example.

What motivates people without acute or chronic complaints to fly to Sri Lanka for an Ayurveda treatment?

There are many loyal Ayurveda practitioners who come to Sri Lanka again and again. Among them are many solo travellers, couples or friends. They enjoy this beautiful country, the beach and the friendliness of the locals. During the Ayurveda treatment, they relax deeply and strengthen their immune systems. Detox is also an increasingly important reason that makes Ayurveda so attractive. Since coronavirus, men and women have become even more sensitized to preventing illness. They come to me to detoxify their digestive organs and liver effectively. A traditional panchakarma treatment is the first choice for cleansing the body comprehensively. Those who take this treatment cleanse their intestines and noses as well as take oil enemas or steam baths. Acupuncture supports the processes in the body. And of course our guests enjoy soothing massages with warm herbal oils. The Shirodhara forehead oil massage, which calms the nervous system, is particularly popular. It is very important to me to work medically with these traditional methods.

I have noticed that Ayurveda is being sold more and more as a wellness programme. Of course the massages are good for you and our guests should feel good all over. That is important and of course that is what we want. But Ayurveda is also about cleansing and a traditional panchakarma treatment ideally lasts three to four weeks.

Not everyone has time to spend three or four weeks on an Ayurveda treatment in Sri Lanka. What can travellers who stay for ten or fourteen days expect?

Travellers who come to us relax and improve their immune systems. Every treatment counts. And every Ayurveda experience is formative. Ayurveda sharpens your awareness of your own body and directs your attention to what is good for your organism. The pulse diagnosis reveals the condition of the body. It reveals the acute behaviour of vata, pitta and kapha and reveals, for example, which dosha is dominant. I speak intensively with each and every individual I treat. Understanding the connections makes it easier to stay mindfully balanced in everyday life.

I explain to our guests what they can do at home to continue living in the Ayurvedic sense. This concerns certain foods and spices that they should eat or avoid. It’s the same with habits and sport. Because everything you eat, drink or do has an effect on the doshas. And that’s what I address.

Our guests take this valuable knowledge home with them. If indicated, I also give them herbal medicine. Back home, everyone has the opportunity to continue drinking warm water and to avoid coffee, alcohol and industrialised sugar, thereby extending the duration of the cure. It happens again and again that guests are so enthusiastic after one or two weeks of treatment that they immediately plan a longer stay the following year.

In Europe too, clinics, spas and freelance Ayurveda counsellors and therapists offer Ayurveda treatments. Why should you take a flight and travel to Sri Lanka?

The herbs we use for our traditional treatments and Ayurvedic medicine grow in Sri Lanka. I, the doctor, also liaise with the respective therapist. Incidentally, every patient has their own therapist. I discuss the treatment plan and instruct which parts of the body are to be massaged and how. In short, we are a team and naturally involve our guests. I find that special in the intensity with which we do this here. Of course, people who come to Sri Lanka quickly switch off in this tropical environment.

You have described what Ayurveda does. But what can’t Ayurveda do? What limits are you confronted with as an Ayurveda doctor?

Ayurveda cannot reverse heart disease, cancer or deformed joints in rheumatism patients, for example. However, what sick people confirm to me time and again is that they relax deeply and return home stronger because they experience the Ayurveda treatment as a booster for their immune system. What’s more, being treated kindly and lovingly cared for does you good. Ayurveda in Sri Lanka helps many sufferers to become more aware of their bodies and to go through life more easily. This intensive time often changes their inner attitude. Those who embark on an Ayurveda treatment gain experiences that have a lasting effect both internally and externally.

What is particularly important to you as an Ayurveda doctor when dealing with your patients?

For me, ‘Before I treat you I want to read you’. In other words, before I treat someone, I read them. This means that as an Ayurveda doctor, I see the individual. I engage with every personality and want to understand what moves each Individual. In other words: I treat holistically.

Even if we primarily treat the body in Ayurveda treatment, the body, mind and soul must be understood as an inseparable unit. I am also a yoga teacher. If time permits, I teach in person. In yoga, we also practise mindful breathing techniques, known as pranayama. Or I talk about meditation and provide guidance. So a stay here in Sandaru Lanka helps to restore physical balance, achieve a clear mind and strengthen yourself mentally.

Thank you very much for the interview, Dr Nalaka.