The science of life
Standing on a yoga mat atop a lush mountain high up in the trees, I inhale deeply as a gentle breeze swishes through the leaves and cools my face. Stalk-skinny palms rocket skywards, their verdant leaves fanning out to catch the morning’s first rays of sunlight.
Above, a flash of electric blue catches my eye – a kingfisher darting through the air towards the glassy lake beyond.
Surrounded by so much nature, it’s hard not to be lulled into a meditative mood. This open-air yoga shala is found at Tri, the sustainable, luxury design hotel that opened in Sri Lanka’s deep south last year. Set on a hillside on the edge of the country’s largest natural lake, Koggala, the 11-room resort offers tranquillity amid a six-acre garden of ancient banyan trees and fragrant frangipani. And yet this slice of peace is only a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride from the Galle-Matara beach road, where the traffic honks and stilt fishermen heckle tourists for cash in return for a photo.
Bumping along the dirt path towards Tri, I pass paddy fields, cinnamon farms and Buddhist temple flags strung across the road. A group of elderly women, dressed in white (as befits devotees), are on their way to offer lotus flowers to the Buddha. Although religion has been the cause of much division in Sri Lanka, many of the country’s religions, in fact, mix openly. You find Hindu shrines in Buddhist temples.
Like yoga, Buddhism first arose in India, but it has been established in Sri Lanka since the 3rd century BC. Buddhism and yoga employ techniques that focus on meditation – the former to achieve an understanding of suffering, the latter to quiet the mind.
My mind is anything but quiet as I arrive at Tri, the brainchild of British entrepreneur Rob Drummond and his yoga instructor wife, Lara Baumann. Their interests have fused to provide tasteful aesthetics and a focus on wellbeing – where everything is luxuriously contemporary, yet rooted in natural simplicity.
The hotel’s spiralling design – based around nature’s Golden Ratio – strikes a harmonious balance with the natural world. The main resort path winds through the grounds like a nautilus shell until it reaches the central water tower.
Clad in cinnamon wood, a by-product of the spice industry, this 120ft tower is home to three rooms and a roof terrace with panoramic views. I spend my first evening up here, watching the setting sun splash fuchsia across the dark glass lake.
The hotel was built with its environment in mind – water is heated using solar panels, flat-roofed villas are topped with vegetable and herb gardens, menus are made from recycled banana leaves, drinking straws are bamboo stalks and glass bottles of filtered water are used instead of plastic ones. Then there’s a 21-metre infinity pool that juts out into the lake, cleaned with chemical-free ionisers, reducing the amount of chlorine required. My villa (there are eight in total) is divine, featuring glass walls overlooking the lake, a terrace with a plunge pool and shower walls made from granite.
GETTING THE BALANCE
Back in the yoga shala, Lara says: ‘Inhale deeply, exhale completely,’ as she pads barefoot across the warm wood floor.
Lara is the inventor of Quantum Yoga, a teaching method that uses moves from the school of vinyasa flow in a way that is suited to your personal needs. These sequences balance your mental state and ‘prakriti’, or Ayurvedic nature.
To work out your Ayurvedic ‘dosha’, or bodily humour, you fill in a form, or pay for a ‘science of life’ consultation, where Lara will ask more detailed questions and take your pulse. Lara tells me my dosha is ‘pitta’, or fire. She can tell from my build, sharp eyes and reddish skin that I like to make things happen and I’m hot-headed.
Before I can wonder how she got it so right, Lara is explaining that I am naturally drawn to spicy foods and coffee (also true), but to regulate my dosha, I should instead eat cooling foods, such as fruit and yogurt.
‘It’s all about balance,’ Lara says. ‘The root of disease is imbalance, but we are pulled towards things that feel natural to us. ‘Pitta’ types are naturally active people, so you often find them in a fast-moving yoga class, but they should balance their dosha by doing more meditative practise.’
I leave the class feeling as though I’ve worked both mind and body – before having any leftover aches eased out with a massage that’s also tailored to me, and uses cooling lavender and lemongrass oil.
Dinner is a six-course affair, but the use of organic and seasonal local produce highlights Tri’s holistic approach to wellbeing. The winter menus are marked with symbols so you can choose a meal to regulate your dominant dosha.
I feast on juicy prawns from the lake, served with katta sambol (a spicy Sri Lankan paste) salad. I watch as the moon spills a silvery glow across the lake, the silence broken only by birdsong. My mind clears. Though this may not be meditation by the standards of a yogi, or even a Buddhist, it’s the closest I’ve ever come.
Because the country is blessed with lots of waterfalls, most of Sri Lanka’s electricity is generated by hydro-powered energy.
AT A GLANCE
Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit is December to April. An 11-day tour with Audley Travel (audleytravel.com) including flights and accommodation is £1,995 pp, based on two people sharing.
Galle is a city of trade, architecture and art. Visit the historic Fort area, full of boutique shops.
Rising mountains, lush forests, sandy beaches and turquoise sea.
The living walls, green roofs, solar hot water and recycled wood unify the accommodation and the surrounding landscape.
THE WATER TOWER
The striking 120ft cinnamon bark water tower is at the centre of the resort. The three rooms inside it offer spectacular 360º views overlooking the lake and countryside.
Interiors are luxurious, sleek and modern, and handmade from local materials.