Art of Living Retreat Review | Food Confidence

Nutrition Strategies

Art of Living Retreat Review

As an integrative dietitian and empowerment coach with 20+ years of experience, my main goal is to help women age well, feel confident in their bodies, and create the healthy lifestyle they desire and deserve.
danielle omar

A few weeks ago I was invited to Boone, North Carolina’s Art of Living Retreat Center to review their Living Light Weight Loss Retreat at the Shankara Ayurveda Spa.

I had no idea what I was in for, but I had the most magical time.

I wouldn’t have changed a thing about my trip, and I’m excited to share what I learned with you!

I arrived in Charlotte mid-morning and made my way to Boone. It’s about an hour drive into the mountains from the airport. The November air was crisp and the scenery was beautiful!

The Art of Living Retreat Center is nestled on 380 gorgeous acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s also the home of the Shankara Ayurveda Spa and offers housing for its employees and the surrounding community.

Talk about a room with a view? This was mine from my room at the spa. I love that you can open the windows!

The first thing I did upon arriving is walk the Labyrinth.  The Labyrinth is similar to a maze, but you can’t get lost…the circular path leads you to both the center and the exit, so you don’t have to worry about making any choices along the way.  Labyrinths date back 4000 years ago and are used nowadays as a contemplative walking practice. Certainly something I can do myself at home!

Before I arrived for the Living Light Weight Loss program I was asked to complete an online questionnaire about my diet and lifestyle to help determine my Dosha. In Ayurveda, Doshas are biological energies that govern all your body processes and provide your cells with an individual blueprint for optimal health.  Your Dosha doesn’t change over time, it’s the essence of who you are. The Doshas are derived from the Five Elements and their related properties: Vata is composed of Space and Air, Pitta of Fire and Water and Kapha of Earth and Water.

Turns out I am a Pitta-Vata type. More on that here.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda literally means the Knowledge or Science of Life. As a philosophy, it teaches you to live in harmony with the laws of nature. As a science, it helps you to understand your individual makeup and how your environment affects your body.

It’s a system based on self-healing through strengthening the body, mind, and spirit and allowing your natural healing mechanism’s to work to their fullest potential. It truly is the definition of Mind-Body Medicine.

The Ayurvedic definition of a healthy person, according to the Sushruta Samhita:

One is established in Self, who has a balanced constitution, balanced digestive fire, properly formed tissues, proper elimination of wastes, well-functioning bodily processes, and whose mind, soul and senses are full of bliss.

I’ll take some of that, please! What I love about Ayurveda is the focus on creating BALANCE in the body. Your “health” is not defined singularly by labs or symptoms, but more holistically. Good health is a continuous awareness that encompasses not just the physical body, but also the mental, emotional, behavioral, familial, social, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life.

Ayurveda teaches that our body WANTS to be in perfect health and it’s our choices that determine whether we are in or out of balance. Our food decisions and lifestyle choices affect our digestion, and in Ayurveda our agni (our digestive fire) is everything!

This is pretty much exactly the way I think about heath, so learning about Ayurveda really felt like coming home.

What is the Living Light Weight Loss Program?

The Living Light Weight Loss program uses the principles of Ayurveda to help cleanse and balance your body to induce weight loss in a natural way, without restriction or dieting.

In this post, I go more into what I learned about my Dosha, how I get out of balance, and how I’ve changed my diet and lifestyle.

But first, let’s take a peek inside the Living Light retreat!

A Typical Day

I woke up each day and walked up to the dining hall for a hearty vegan breakfast, followed by a vigorous hike around the retreat center. We then met up with Kim Rossi, the Spa Program Director, for a strength-based yoga class. Kim was such a wealth of knowledge about Ayurveda, as well as an amazing yoga teacher! After the yoga class we had a lesson in Ayurveda with Kim to learn more about our individual Doshas and the Ayurvedic principles.

After the morning lessons, we got a break for lunch! We ate some delicious vegan meals each day and had a lesson on how to make Kitchari from the Chef (more on that here!).

Every day after lunch, we headed over to the spa for our Udvartana Herbal Exfoliation Treatment. Udvartana is a deeply penetrating lymphatic massage using an oat bran herbal paste. This absolutely divine, full-body treatment increases circulation, revitalizes the skin, and supports overall detoxification and weight loss. The herb paste is massaged into your skin in a rhythmic way – it’s like a body scrub and a massage rolled into one. It was pretty amazing to have one of these treatments 4 days in a row! The herbs used for my massage were Triphala, Guduchi and Neem mixed in with sesame oil and oat bran. So lovely!

We also walked the trails daily, in addition to walking to and from the dining hall – which was an uphill climb! Lots of movement is built into the program which is great because it strengthens the digestive fire!

We passed some local cows along the way, who were happy to pose for a photo!

After our spa treatment we headed back to the main campus for a gentle yoga class and meditation before dinner. This was by far my favorite time of the day. Gentle yoga is definitely my jam and meditating after I’m already relaxed and open is much easier for me than any other time.

After yoga we went back up to dinner and then back to our rooms, which is when I actually caught up on work and emails. I know…not very zen, but hey, life goes on, even in Boone!

My trip was a really great experience. I loved the facility and the people I met there, and I learned a lot about my body and how I can support my health in a more meaningful way. Pictured here is Jenna, one of the amazing yoga teachers on staff and such a sweet soul and Theodore Leaf, my partner-in-zen for the week!

In this post, I dive more into the food, my Dosha, and some practices I took home with me that have made a huge difference in how I feel. I also share a recipe for making Kitchari, the traditional Ayurvedic cleansing food.

If you’re interested in learning more about the retreat center, Click here.

The Living Light programs will teach you sustainable lifestyle habits that will help guide you toward your ideal body weight and optimal health.

The dates for the next Living Light Weight Loss Programs are below:

February 3-8
March 3-8
November 10-15
December 1-6

Click here to learn more!


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Food Confidence begins with

You may think you understand what “health” looks like right now — but have you ever considered what health looks like to you? …and not just everyone else in your life, on tv, in magazines, and in the media that you’ve been comparing yourself to? It's time to find out.






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