Vana is fortunate to be in India where wisdom, wellness, nutrition and food are seen interdependently.
Its wellness offering, therefore, is based on Ayurveda, Yoga and Sowa Rigpa.
Ayurveda exists confidently and authentically at Vana, Yoga manifests in its true nature, as a practice and philosophy, indifferent to how it is understood outside India, and Sowa Rigpa (Tibetan Medicine) is found unlike anywhere else.
Even a modest study of the wisdom traditions born here reveal their foundation in intimate connections: the body affects mind, food is sacred, harsh physical penance is not a pre-requisite for wellbeing, and so on. The uniqueness of each individual and therefore the approach prescribed is fundamental in the traditional medicine systems of India, Tibet and China. This makes their understanding of wellbeing contradict the reductionist method of conventional modern medicine.
Vanavasis usually find tangible and measurable improvement not only in their physical health at Vana but also in their overall wellbeing.
Ayurveda or the Sacred Knowledge of Life is a complete lifestyle philosophy in existence. Developed, and perfected over a millennia and founded on Indian wisdom, Ayurveda is more relevant today than it has ever been.
Ayurveda expounds that each individual is unique, in constitution and context. This makes the root cause of imbalances and suggested remedies equally unique. Restoring balance is given equal importance as curing disease. A long life is considered not as an end but a means to fulfil one’s spiritual journey, where Yoga plays a vital role.
The aspects of wellbeing, first articulated by Ayurveda, are emphasised in its approach – physical, mental, social, environmental and spiritual. The body doshas and mental gunas are balanced through diet, routine, discipline, ayurvedic medicines, yoga and ritual prayers.
Our highly qualified Ayurvedic doctors and formally trained therapists at Vana offer the full spectrum of Ayurvedic treatments. Panchakarma as a protocol is given only after due consideration, followed religiously and in its entirety, with the prescribed minimum of twenty one days.
While the world has embraced Yoga and allowed it to flourish, like with many things of profound nature, it has also been diluted, fragmented and exploited. The eastern traditions of health and wisdom should not be manipulated or followed in half measure. Approaching them with a narrow view or a sense of vanity, is to miss the point entirely.
Yoga is awe-inspiring not because it mastered the understanding of the human body. But due to it seeing this knowledge as a means to develop one’s spiritual practice, working towards Yog – the union of body and mind. This wholeness or union is a recurring concept in every major genre of Indian wisdom.
Under the skilful guidance of our yoga practitioners, we teach Yoga comprehensively, practicing aasan, pranayam and dhyan in group and individual sessions. Therapeutic benefit, structural alignment, coordination, mental strength and healing are incorporated as objectives. Yoga is perhaps, one of the best practices for you to take back home from Vana.
Vana is one of the few places in the world where Sowa Rigpa is formally offered in its complete avatar. Tibet’s traditional system of medicine finds it roots in Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and Buddhism. It is this amalgamation that makes it truly unique. Sowa Rigpa is governed by the Men-Tsee-Khang, the Institute of Tibetan Medicine and Astrology of the Tibetan government in-exile in Dharamsala, India. Our doctors and therapists are alumni of the Men-Tsee-Khang, from where all our preparations are also procured.
Sowa Rigpa’s emphasis on the mind and emotions, integrated seamlessly into its approach, make it one of the few to have embraced wellbeing in its entirety.
Vana will continue to explore the eclectic pool of ancient traditional medicine and contemporary therapies found in cultures around the world. This will add to the repertoire of treatments already offered at Vana, appreciated for their therapeutic quotient and as catalysts to healing
The toolkit of complementary therapies at Vana keeps evolving. They play a vital role to begin or support the process of healing and ease out of deeper retreats. These therapies have varied origins and are given by highly qualified practitioners not easy to find.
Certain treatments work on the abdomen and other internal organs, cutting through energies and deep emotions. Reflexology, for example, removes the most stubborn energy blocks to improve organ function. Physiotherapy works to manage pain, improve body alignment and generate mental and emotional release. Specific spa treatments and raag therapy provoke relaxation and deeper rest.
We consider fitness from the perspective of movement: to be able to perform daily functions with ease. Movement represents life and a more agile body allows us to enjoy it better. Individual assessments at Vana can determine your level of fitness, body composition and structural alignment. You may work on these areas through individual and group sessions, swimming, hikes, tennis, badminton and other exercises.
Cuisine at Vana connects many aspects of Vana’s philosophy. Nature and ecology are forever present in how the seasons and our supply chain influence menus. Wellness objectives and personal preferences are provided for. And nutritional and dietary information are made available, to make choices that you can follow back home. What you put into your stomach most certainly acts to nourish, heal or harm. Our cuisine philosophy also tries to awaken traditional values and cultural nuances from India, an intention that might one day go beyond the boundaries of Vana.
Vana’s menus include vegetarian and vegan choices as well as mindfully sourced meat, fish and poultry. We endeavour to source organic or naturally grown food and do not air freight any produce. Our cuisine team produces everything from bread and butter to ice creams in our kitchens; broadening its knowledge and deepening roots tirelessly. Vana’s cuisine is one of its greatest strengths.
To us, our cuisine is a vital contributor to the preservation and revival of our culture and traditions. Food has always been seen as an offering to the divine and we consider the food that we create as an offering to our Vanavasis and Team. We follow cuisine practices out of genuine understanding and commitment rather than trends.
Our cuisine team has successfully prepared traditional Indian bhojans at the Siddhartha Festival and Vidyaloke, reinforcing our vision to be of service and seeing food as a divine offering.
Another bridge between the traditional medicine systems and cuisine at Vana is its apothecary. Prescribed by our doctors and based on principles of Ayurveda, Sowa Rigpa, naturopathy and contemporary western nutrition, Vana’s apothecary creates decoctions, infusions, herb mixtures and topical applications.
Our cuisine supports a positive and embracive outlook to food and might just be one of the highlights of your retreat!
Your desire to come on retreat to Vana should be rooted in an aspiration to rest, discover a better state of health, learn, be, be creative, eat well, develop awareness, find stillness, give to others, be with nature, and make progress in one’s personal practice and inner journey. One should strive to find more balance and yet be open to being provoked.
It’s also good to have a focus on some aspect of wellbeing and have a flexible objective. This might change when you understand Vana better or we learn more about you, or even at particular inflection points during longer retreats. While Vana was not intended to focus on curing illnesses, our team of doctors and practitioners across genres has often made noteworthy progress with several ailments. These include specific auto-immune disorders, neuro-muscular conditions, respiratory concerns, metabolic disorders, gastro intestinal concerns, musculoskeletal conditions requiring alignment and mobilisation, hormonal imbalances, migraines, chronic depression, chronic fatigue, insomnia, eating disorders and dependencies. Like with everything at Vana, we require time, an open-mind and your support to enable transformation.
There is no one objective that is the most common amongst Vanavasis. This represents the diversity of people that come to Vana, from different cultures, perspectives, ways of life, genders and age groups.
Some wish to focus on natural healing, where we choose treatments and sessions to work on specific issues, tangible or intangible. The traditional medicine systems and complementary therapies at Vana are effective with chronic concerns and health issues, for which solutions are otherwise elusive. Also, undesirable habits and stress manifest in all sorts of ways, making detox a focus for many. We do not follow fad-based detoxes at Vana or prescribe detox for weight loss, as they cause more damage than the superficial or short term results they provide. Instead, our various detox approaches are based on Ayurveda, contemporary nutrition, Sowa Rigpa, Naturopathy and Traditional Chinese Medicine, uniquely and not altogether.
Quite a number of Vanavasis come to Vana for Panchakarma. Often misunderstood as just a random series of Ayurvedic treatments, Panchakarma is in fact a very specific protocol, with a defined minimum duration. Not suitable for everyone, a person’s readiness must be assessed by an experienced Ayurvedic doctor before booking a retreat. Our team of highly qualified doctors and therapists give us the expertise we need. We are one of the few places in the world, where Panchakarma is made equally comfortable and fruitful, through our unique cuisine, complementary therapies, healing spaces, caring team and beautiful environment.
Developing your practice of Yoga can also be a motivation to come to Vana. Yoga unifies all the wisdom traditions, both of the mind and the body, and should form a part of every Vanavasi’s retreat. However, some might wish to go deeper, exploring all the aspects of Yoga in the process, which our qualified practitioners can guide you through. Vana’s admiration for Yoga, as a precious tradition of India, gives us the confidence to offer it in its truest, undiluted form.
Rest and a need to de-stress might be what you need most at Vana. Physical or mental exhaustion is common today and cannot be addressed without taking time out and making tangible life changes. Similarly, living with and accumulating stress is a habit, which needs delayering, awareness and stillness to be dismantled. Followed by wisdom and a practice to keep it in check. Vana as a whole provokes you to rest and leave the outside world outside.
You can also work on functional fitness as a focus – muscular strength, flexibility and agility, coordination and balance, managing weight or improving body tone. This is done through private and group sessions, stretching, body treatments, complementary therapies, nutritional consultations and the use of outdoor spaces.
Maintaining a particular bodyweight has unfortunately become a modern day obsession. However, keeping it within a healthy spectrum to avoid it becoming a root cause of illness is necessary. We address weight management holistically at Vana. Reinstating a healthier body composition is kept as a focus, rather than an ideal body weight. The approach followed prioritises the long term over immediate results and looks into diet, mind, activity and the individual.
For millennia, the role of food has been as complex as the variety of our emotions. From craving and attachment to a source of inspiration and meditation, food breathes life into life. With over abundance, infinite choice, misinformation and indiscipline, we have also made food a major cause of illness today. At Vana you can be in control of what you eat by learning all about cuisine and making it the focus of your time here. This would mean discovering what you should eat, learning recipes and techniques and exploring how to make healthy food practical to create back home.
Deciding to go on retreat should arise from a known intention and be accompanied by a goal. However, some of us are intuitively drawn to a place like Vana, without being able to define why. Others might be pressed for time to articulate their needs before coming on retreat. It is therefore alright to discover your objective after arriving at Vana. Regardless, Vana’s offering as an interdependent sum of parts will lead you towards a journey of transformation. Working on finding genuine coherence while at Vana, is important, through learning and practice. A journey we would love you to continue after your retreat.
Your retreat at Vana can differ greatly depending on your length of stay, how deeply you wish to go into your wellness and the level of independence or hand holding you need. Longer retreats bring deeper transformation and have proved life changing for our growing community of Vanavasis. Our endeavour with you is to create a wholesome and interdependent sense of wellbeing.