Your retreat at Vana is intimately connected to the wellness journey you follow and how you approach food and nutrition. To share and apply what we know, we require trust and time. We also need you to make informed choices and work on developing a personal practice. Only then is a gradual rhythm established and does Vana truly work. This applies equally to the treatments and sessions you have and the cuisine that you eat.
The synergy of our different wellness and cuisine teams helps us understand and respond to your needs and preferences. This is not always perfect but we do try our best. Our endeavour is to facilitate rest and healing but also learning and the forming of good habits. Food and its various expressions at Vana are inspiring, creative and thoughtful. Treatments not only provide immediate relief but work on goals, the mind and emotions.
Consultations at defined points during your retreat help us frame your time at Vana and also see how you’re doing. It is common to make iterations, while being consistent and persistent at the same time. Only then are deeper results perceived and wellbeing sustained. Know more…
Vana is committed to the traditional systems of medicine from India and its revered neighbours. Ayurveda exists confidently and authentically at Vana and Sowa Rigpa or Tibetan Medicine is found unlike anywhere else. Yoga manifests unapologetically in its true nature, as a practice and philosophy, indifferent to how it is sometimes understood outside India. Traditional Chinese Medicine, naturopathy and homeopathy are also minor protagonists in our offering.
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.
Ayurveda or the Sacred knowledge of Life is perhaps the most complete lifestyle philosophy in existence. Developed, distilled and gleaned over millennia, intertwined with Indian wisdom and ancient culture, 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 emphasized 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.
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.
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.
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 and other exercises.
The 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 on 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. Know more…
Personal transformation is the overarching goal of any wellness journey at Vana. However, more and more, there are those who wish to come to Vana for an extended retreat, in order to create long-term change regarding their personal wellbeing.
It is with this in mind that we introduce the concept of the ‘Vana Wellness Sabbatical’; a 30 day or more program that is designed to help Vanavasis create long-term change in a way that is sustainable, holistic, and most importantly, achievable, without taking a long period of time cut-off from work and life in the outside world. This is because we recognise that, increasingly, going totally ‘off-grid’ for a significant duration is not possible for the majority of society.
Historically, the idea of a sabbatical was reserved for scholars or academics. It was a long period that they were encouraged to take off in order to focus on a meaningful research project. This term, when borrowed by the wellness industry, retains its meaning. However, here, the ‘project’ is the person – or Vanavasi – who is identified as the focus of the project. We consider taking time to dedicate to personal well-being as one of the most important sabbaticals of all.
Crucially, Vana’s Wellness Sabbatical does not mean that ‘time off’ occurs in an isolated place that is cut off from the demands of the everyday. Rather, it incorporates some element of ‘normal life’ into the Sabbatical – calling upon this carefully designed program to accommodate this delicate balance.
We recognize that to create long-term change, people need to have the support of an infrastructure that complements their particular journey. For Vanavasis who choose to take the time to experience Vana’s Wellness Sabbatical, they will find themselves in a Retreat that is supportive, encouraging and, most importantly, flexible – including access to tech-friendly work spaces (such as to Sketchbook, our sunlit, casual ‘office’) and retreat programs that have been designed so that they consider realistic everyday needs.
Therefore, writing emails between an Ayurvedic treatment and a game of tennis and having a conference call after an appointment with a Tibetan Healing doctor are not paradoxical: they are in fact, complementary, and encouraged. This balance between the ‘real world’ and life at the Retreat is the spine of the Vana Wellness Sabbatical.
The Sabbatical will start and end with a series of in-depth consultations with Vana’s Wellness Team focussing on Ayurveda, yoga, cuisine, nutrition and physical fitness, to ensure goals are mapped out and tracked over the period.
It is our hope that this initiative will allow our Vanavasis to actually live wellness, both during their sabbatical, and long after they depart.
Vana’s Wellness Sabbatical:
Vana’s Wellness Sabbatical includes:
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 we do not air-freight any produce. Our cuisine team produces everything from bread and butter to wasabi and 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!
The year 2017 saw three firsts for Vana; our first Short Retreat, our first Vana School and our first Vana Foundation Workshop.
Short Retreats at Vana will always be based around a key aspect of Indian Wisdom and will usually be led by a Master. The purpose of a Short Retreat would be to deepen spiritual practice for both beginners and intermediates. They are available to a greater spectrum of people given their duration of only a few days and their modest fees. Short Retreats must be attended in their entirety and be approached with dedication and focus. Wellness treatments and usual retreat activities are not offered to those on a Short Retreat and cuisine arranged specifically. We usually call those attending them Shishyas, which means ‘students’ in Sanskrit. These retreats also provide an opportunity to meet a wonderful diversity of people with the common intent to learn and deepen their understanding. Short Retreats are open to existing Vanavasis, Vana Foundation and Vidyaloke Shishyas and their genuine nominees, and must be signed up to in advance. We hope to offer them a few times times each year and Vanavasis may include a Short Retreat as part of a longer retreat.
The Vana School for Young Vanavasis in August 2017, marked the completion of a long-standing project, to create an opportunity for children and young people to benefit from Vana’s intention and work. It also marked the beginning of a new journey and plan to host the Vana School each year with improvements each time.
Accompanied by their parents, the Vana School shall open Vana to the age group of 0 to 15 for a curated retreat replete with activities, learning, authentic experiences and fun. Each element and space of Vana is transformed and our team is reinforced by external facilitators that bring in new areas of expertise. Our aspiration is to offer the Vana School for a defined period of time every summer.
In July 2017, we also hosted our first workshop for Vana Foundation to support its efforts in social, emotional and ethical learning. Vana seemed the perfect canvas for people, ideas and knowledge to come together, to think creatively and develop positive motivations. Vana is a place for the individual journey amidst the collective journey. The ability to serve an ever far-reaching purpose, by using parts of Vana as a space for respectful learning and exchange, is also part of Vana’s ambition.
Each year various artists and musicians come through Vana’s doors, fleetingly or for residencies. This adds to Vana’s creative energy. Vanavasis benefit from these encounters and often wish to participate or learn more. Vana will therefore have its own art studio and also a music recording studio. May great minds and great artists forever cross paths at Vana and may it be a refuge for creativity!
Vana is not only our offering to the world but also home to our vision and mission. Various new initiatives are springing forth here through ideation and collaboration amongst the Vana and Vana Foundation Teams. These include Vidyaloke, Vanaveda, Vana Krishi, Vanapurna, Vana Lifestyle and more, all of whom call our Retreat their home, laboratory and place of inspiration.