Planning an event in 2016? We have your venue.

By Debra Locker Griffin
February 11, 2016



Are you planning a special event or meeting for 2016? A wedding, family reunion, group retreat, corporate meeting? Our retreat center in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains will be remembered for years by your guests.


Denise Williams has arranged her fair share of beautiful, successful events on our mountaintop. Denise is the regional sales manager for Art of Living Retreat Center.  She has been with the Center for more than two and a half years.


In 2016, Denise has groups booked as early as March, which is the first time she has made bookings so early in the year. The spring months of April and May are filling up too. Denise says 2016 holds visits for many yoga events, women’s groups and faith-based organizations, including a Sunday School group of 100 high-school students coming to North Carolina from across the country. An editor from Rejuvenate Magazine also included the Center in an article about faith-based retreats.


A calming program at the yoga & meditation retreat center meditation hall on the mountain


College groups love the relaxing atmosphere of the Center too:

“The Student Government Association of Elon University came to The Art of Living Retreat Center in 2013 for our Annual Fall Retreat. The staff was wonderful and hospitable during the booking process and throughout our stay. The amenities and resources provided by the center were excellent as well, allowing us to have a relaxing retreat with exactly what we needed to be productive. We were able to have a successful retreat and return refreshed to our campus.”
– Joe, Student Council Representative, Elon Univ.


Denise adds that a group is scheduled from the Wounded Warrior Project, “The caregivers who help the wounded warriors will be coming to have their own retreat to rest and rejuvenate. Our serene location, programming, spa treatments and vegetarian dining will give them the peaceful retreat time they deserve. We are honored this respected group chose the Art of Living Retreat Center.”


Spaces for your group’s home away from home include:

  • The Main Hall features stunning natural light and a spacious grand room, capacity: 3,200.
  • The four Veda Halls are situated side-by-side, so they are ideal for groups requiring adjacent retreat spaces and/or breakout rooms, capacity: 215.
  • With a capacity of 300, the Hillside Hall includes two breakout rooms, multi-tier lighting and a wood-worked open ceiling.

If you are interested in beginning the process for a group booking or event, Denise would love to chat with you. She may be reached via:


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

panchakarma retreat a new year cleanse

Go Beyond a Basic Cleanse to begin 2016

By Debra Locker Griffin
January 15, 2016

As we head into a new year, it’s likely you are taking an assessment of your lifestyle choices. Did 2015 hold too much stress and bad eating habits?  You can recover. We’d like to help you put a plan into place to be healthier in 2016.

panchakarma retreat at Shankara Ayurveda Spa
Photo courtesy of @theDabblist

The plethora of holiday cheer can leave you bloated and tired. With the new year, it’s time to turn over a new leaf, which, for many people, comes with the promise of being healthier. Instead of turning to the latest cleanse or detox, we have a solution that’s lasting, led by experts, and offers the camaraderie of people who share your goals: Panchakarma.


What is Panchakarma?

The Panchakarma retreat (PK for short) is a series of ancient health-boosting treatments that cleanse the body of toxins, while increasing vitality, and restoring inner balance and wellbeing.

Throughout 2016, the team from Shankara Ayurveda Spa at the Art of Living Retreat Center will lead PK over several dates that consist of eight- or six-night programs.

Panchakarma is a Sanskrit word that translates to five actions, which we translate into treatments. The program is personalized and customized; therefore, the level of treatments needed varies among participants. Some of the treatments in the process include:

  • Nasya: During nasya, herbalized oils are administered through the nostrils to clear toxin buildup from throughout the head and neck.
  • Shirodhara treatment is a continuous pouring of warm oil on the forehead to calm the doshas, which creates a very meditative state and a relaxed mind.
  • Swedhana can be likened to an herbal sauna and is a treatment designed to encourage sweating to release toxins.
  • Virechana is a therapeutic way of removing accumulated toxins from the liver and gallbladder, thus cleansing the GI tract.

When is PK recommended?

When you want to bring the body and mind back into balance. For example, when you want to feel strong and vibrant or if you feel that you need a boost. PK is also recommended if you are going through a transition, such as a job change, a move, or emotional change due to stress. Additionally, PK is often recommended for those over 40, especially during a change in season, such as the recent transition to winter.


You may learn more about our PK program options here: Panchakarma Retreat in the Mountains.


We also invite you to download our PK e-booklet to answer your questions about PK in more depth :

ayurveda guide download


We hope you have a wonderful holiday season. We would love to see you on our mountaintop in 2016!


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: Ayurveda , cleanse , Panchakarma

Comfortable in the Cold: Ayurvedic Meals for Fall

By Debra Locker Griffin
November 30, 2015

Along with falling leaves and cooler temperatures, heartier meals are a sign that fall is here. So, what’s cooking on our mountaintop? We spent some time in the kitchen at Art of Living Retreat Center to learn more about Ayurvedic Cooking in this season.

Of no surprise, squash and pumpkins are key ingredients in fall meals. They are nutritious, tasty, vegan and gluten-free. Here are a few of the ways we use squash and pumpkins:

  • Puree or add chunks of squash to soups or use as a starch.
  • Sprinkle pumpkin seeds in salads to add crunch.
  • Bake pumpkin and squash with oil and salt as a side dish instead of fried potatoes.
  • Stuff acorn squash with quinoa and kale or spinach for a healthy main dish.
  • Add a sweet ending, such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread or pumpkin pudding.

Alternative Foods for Fall

Some fall ingredients with which you may not be as familiar:

  • Chayote squash or turnip to make a hearty stew.
  • Endive, pomegranate and feta crumble salad is an effortless, yet tasty salad for fall.
  • And, persimmon smoothies for children because of the great, natural sweetness.

The smoothie could be an after-school treat along with these suggestions, which could also work for packed school lunches: veggie noodle spaghetti, fall veggie wrap and pumpkin & sunflower seed muffins.

If you crave sweet, sour or salty foods, fall is a great time for your taste buds. Fall is a vata season and carries with it dry, rough, cold, subtle & mobile qualities. One way we can achieve balance in the fall is by eating foods that ground, moisten and warm the body. Sweet, sour and salty tastes do so. We recommend including in your diet

  • Fresh, sweet fruits like apples and berries
  • Fresh, sour fruits such as cranberries, lemon and limes.
  • Sweet vegetables including corn and peas.

The Season for Detox

As we’ve written on the blog previously, fall is the best time of year for a detox. If you are cleansing, here are a few tips:

  • Follow a khichari diet for five days to help dissolve toxins. Khichari is a dish made from rice and lentils. It’s known for the ability to detox and balance the body.
  • Avoid oily foods and overeating.
  • Drink a glass of hot water before sleep.

Regardless of the season, the benefits of Ayurvedic cooking are plentiful and contribute to overall health and wellness. They include better mood control, freedom from depression & anxiety, and increased energy levels.

To experience Ayurvedic cooking personally, please feel welcome to visit us.


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

Ayurvedic detox in fall

Ayurvedic Detox in Fall

By Debra Locker Griffin
September 11, 2015

Ayurvedic detox in fall

The temperatures are beginning to cool down on our mountain and the leaves will soon be sporting golden hues. Fall is definitely a season of reawakening, which makes it a great time for an Ayurvedic cleanse.

Renewing in Fall

To protect your health year round, but particularly during the fall, Ayurvedic health educators say it’s important to slow down, support your liver’s natural ability to remove toxins from the body, and take stock of the influences you allow into your life. The influences include the food you eat and the time you spend in front of or on electronics (phone, TV, computer, etc.)

To help you detox successfully, we spoke with Ayurveda Health Practitioner Lokesh Raturi. He’s a globally renowned Ayurvedic doctor, trainer and pulse diagnosis expert associated with Sri Sri Ayurveda and the Art of Living. Raturi is an expert in pulse diagnosis, reproductive health & maternal care, yoga and meditation. He is one of the experts who lead our Panchakarma retreats.

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall…” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Lokesh says fall is the best time to do a detox in order to help the body rejuvenate naturally. He explains that an Ayurvedic detox is unique for each individual as per their body constitution as well any imbalance they may have, their age, body strength, etc.

A fall Ayurvedic detox includes a pre-cleanse, main course and post-cleanse. The pre-cleanse includes cleansing with diet, which allows the undigested toxins to digest, then internal and external moisturizing with ghee or oil and body massage. These tips from Lokesh make up a part of the detox process:

  • Avoid oily, fatty foods.
  • Avoid overeating and a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Take hot water before going to bed
  • Follow a kichadi diet for five days to help dissolve toxins. Kichadi is a dish made from rice and lentils. It’s known for the ability to detox the body and balance the doshas.

Ayurvedic Detox Programs

Panchakarma can be incredibly useful during this seasonal transition because it gives the body extra strength to support itself for the seasons ahead. Our upcoming Panchakarma Retreats are online.

If you can’t commit to a six-night retreat, the Taste of PK is three nights. The Taste offers a gentle cleansing of your system on the physical, emotional and even, spiritual level, through a regimen of healing time, therapeutic treatments, diet & Ayurvedic lifestyle education. This shortened version of the full Panchakarma Retreat is an immersive experience in an Ayurveda lifestyle of health & wellness and a taste of PK with a more flexible schedule.

Plus, there is the Ayurveda Deep Cleanse, Virechana, which includes a full body of treatments and diet, but can be done on your own schedule for when you need a fresh start. More here.


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: Ayurveda , Detox

What Is “Bliss Therapy”? Exploring Shirodhara

By Debra Locker Griffin
August 14, 2015

Our Shankara Ayurveda Spa is unique in that it’s one of only a few spas in the United States that offers Ayurvedic treatments. These treatments originated in India a long time ago and have been used for centuries, if not longer to restore wellness and balance. Can you guess which treatment is called “Bliss Therapy”?

It’s a treatment that may be new to you: Shirodhara. The name comes from the Sanskrit works shiro, meaning “head”, and dhara, meaning “flow.” Because of the profound effects shirodhara has upon the consciousness, it’s often called bliss therapy.

Shirodhara is a continuous pouring of warm oil in a slow steady stream on the forehead that helps to pacify the subtle aspects of the doshas. Results include: nourishing the nervous system, promoting relaxation & tranquility, and improving mental clarity & comprehension.


When done in a series as part of integrative approach to wellness, shirodhara can help with various neurological and mental imbalances. The treatment has also been used to treat conditions including eye diseases, sinusitis, insomnia, and certain types of skin diseases like psoriasis.

The benefits are greatly enhanced if they follow a therapeutic massage, or abhyanga, when the body is already relaxed and in a very receptive state. When the body is restless, abyanga is very powerful and grounding; and when the mind is restless, shirodhara is calming. Speaking of Abyhanga, this treatment is one of the world’s oldest massage therapy techniques. It’s a form of Ayurvedic therapy that involves massage of the body with generous amounts of warm oil.
Abyhanga loosens toxins and relaxes the nervous system. It differs from many Western massage techniques in that the pressure is not very deep. Oils used in Abyhanga vary depending on the season and the individual’s constitution. Commonly used oils include sesame, coconut, sunflower, mustard and almond.
Abhyanga can be done as part of the steps of Panchakarma  or as its own therapy. You can also perform Abhyanga on yourself. This is a very grounding, calming practice, especially when followed by a bath or shower.
A specific type of Abhyanga that incorporates hot stones is called Shila. The hot basalt stones are placed on core centers of the body for a deep massage that promotes healing and longevity by releasing tension and connecting the flow of prana (vital energy) throughout the body.
Why are stones used? Stone therapy brings about a relaxing, deep-tissue release and alignment in the body-mind complex. The heat of the stones softens tension and melts away stress and anxiety. As most minerals possess a magnetic quality, the stones also work like magnets. The Abhyanga stones magnetize and extract repressed emotion, depression, and physical pain. These are just a few of the treatments that we’re highlighting this month. If you want to know more about a treatment, please leave a note in the comments section.

Please visit our treatments page to learn more!


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: Ayurveda , treatments

Using A Doctor’s Approach To Lose Weight

By Debra Locker Griffin
July 29, 2015

Are you trying to lose weight? If so, you are not alone. A new poll from Gallup, shows about 51 percent of Americans said they would like to lose weight, but only 26 percent say they are seriously making an effort towards that desire.

weight loss


As many ways as there are to lose weight, there are also many reasons why weight is gained. In a conversation with Dr. Sarita Patel, she delved deeper into the reasons why, “According to Ayurveda, the causes of weight gain are either internal or external factors like the kind of diet, the food and how we process it. The internal is based on our constitution; we may be eating the wrong food, which the body is unable to process. Ayurveda actually takes care of the internal and external factors. It balances the digestive fire in such a way that you don’t accumulate the toxins that are coming.”


Dr. Patel is the Director of the Palliative Care Program at Kingsbrook in Brooklyn and is board-certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. She has studied Ayurveda with particular regard to pulse assessment and lifestyle transformation. Dr. Patel is also a teacher with the Art of Living Foundation and is leading our weight loss program in September at our North Carolina Retreat Center.


“Be like water. It rises above the stones and flows. Similarly, rise above the obstacles in life and move through them with practice.”


Dr. Patel adds, “Most of the traditional, modern weight loss programs have not utilized the body’s self-healing ability to heal, and, for me, that is a very unique approach that is quite different from what we traditionally do with medical science. Going back to your genetic constitution, you decide the diet and allow the body to heal and lose the weight by itself, thus improving the metabolism. Panchakarma is one way to do this.”


Dr. Patel goes on to talk about the upcoming Ayurveda Weight Loss Program, “It’s not just a 10-day program where you lose weight and go home. It’s basically empowering the individual to take upon those commitments to reach to where they want to be. Taking care of the mind is extremely important. We teach unique breathing techniques that ease the mind. Plus, yoga, massage therapy, meditation and bringing out our creative energy; all of this is going to be part of this program.”


We’ll share more from our talk with Dr. Patel in our next blog. In the meantime, we invite you to begin exploring the Ayurveda Weight Loss Program. It’s set for Sept. 4-14 on our mountaintop. Check out more information about our weight loss program! 


And if you’d like to learn more about the Ayurvedic approach to sustainable, natural weight-loss, check out our ebook, Ayurveda Tips for Weight Loss

weight loss

Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: Ayurveda , healthy lifestyle , weight-loss , yoga
ayurvedic lifestyle happiness

Five Benefits of the Ayurvedic Lifestyle

By Debra Locker Griffin
July 8, 2015

Do you feel you live a healthy lifestyle? From what you eat, to your fitness level, your job, and your home life, there are many facets that go into a healthy or not-so-healthy way of living. An Ayurvedic lifestyle produces numerous benefits that are wonderful for enriching your life. We highlight five in this post and you can find the complete list in our new, free e-book, “Ayurveda 101”.


1. Improved Concentration

An Ayurvedic lifestyle is grounding, which allows focusing more in the present and worrying less about the future. When we slow down, we get to better know and understand our bodies and the way in which our natural constitutions require balance. A balancing diet and lifestyle sooth our minds and allow for easier, more focused concentration. Mental balance is no less important than physical balance; Ayurvedic practices are designed to promote both.

2. De-stressing

 Working under pressure, as most of us do, aggravates vata and produces stress. This vata imbalance affects the joints first, which makes sense that we often notice high stress levels by sore, clenched jaws. Through diet and lifestyle, Ayurveda alleviates stress.

3. Revitalizing energy

We all do things that unbalance our bodies and minds, which lead to sluggishness and lethargy. Coffee and other stimulants might work in a pinch, but Ayurveda offers a comprehensive, long-term approach to revitalizing energy. Ayurvedic practices and routines help ensure that we get enough rest. Cleansing practices like Panchakarma help eliminate toxins and heaviness so that we feel fresh and alive throughout the day.

4. Relaxation

When you are relaxed, you feel comfortable and content in mind and body, which is an important benchmark for physical, mental and spiritual balance. Whether using self-massage practices or pursuing a professional, therapeutic massage, these practices, especially when enhanced with Ayurvedic oils and various heat sources, help remove excess vata that causes stress.

5. Anti-aging

We wear the signs of our health on our faces. Through maintaining a healthy balance between vata, pitta, and kapha, we reduce the anxieties that wear out our bodies. This balance not only promotes a healthy, youthful body; an Ayurvedic lifestyle also promotes a healthy, youthful mind as we age. By being mindful of what we eat, the way we live, and the way we handle stress, we can maintain and promote the balance in our lives so vital to the dynamic expression of life.


Find out more about how Ayurveda can help you improve the quality of your life through simple, natural methods with Ayurveda 101: Vibrant Health with the Science of Life.

ayurveda guide download

Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: Ayurveda , dosha , lifestyle

Wellness Tourism and Panchakarma

By Debra Locker Griffin
June 27, 2015

Have you ever thought of taking a non-traditional vacation that could make a positive impact on your wellbeing? If so, you are part of the growing travel trend of wellness tourism. Wellness tourists are those traveling within their own country, or to other parts of the world, in order to carry out activities which may help them to improve their quality of life. The market size of wellness tourism is forecasted to reach approximately $680 billion U.S. by 2017.

Why Would I Want to Mix Wellness with My Vacation?

Travelers who have experienced wellness tourism emphasize the positive effects on the mind, stress reduction and promotion of physical health. Our Panchakarma programs are a great fit for those who want to try out wellness tourism. Panchakarma is one of the most effective healing modalities in Ayurvedic medicine. It promotes detoxification and rejuvenation and is recommended on a seasonal basis, as well as when someone feels out of balance or is experiencing illness.
Shankara Ayurveda Spa at the Art of Living Retreat Center offers two Panchakarma offerings:
Panchakarma Detox Retreat – scheduled monthly for 6 nights.
Taste of Panchakarma – select your dates over three nights.


Both of these personal journeys to wellness begin with your pulse. The ancient practice of Ayurvedic Pulse Assessment provides a deep understanding of your current state of health or imbalance. Led by our team of Ayurveda experts, a custom treatment program is created from therapies that are tailored to your assessment.



The Panchakarma Detox Retreat includes 10 treatments, cooking demonstrations, specialist consultation, health coaching, yoga, meditation, organic meals, and take-home education. Taste of Panchakarma includes five treatments. Dates are set through November for the Retreat and the Taste may be booked based on your schedule. Complete details may be found on:


If you’d like to learn more about Ayurveda, check out Ayurveda 101: Finding Vibrant Health through the Science of Life. It’s a simple guide to the science of life, Ayurveda.



Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: Ayurveda , Panchakarma , wellness , wellness tourism

3 Ayurvedic Oils for Massage at Home

By Debra Locker Griffin
June 5, 2015

What are the benefits of using essential oils in Ayurveda? They are plentiful! Using Ayurvedic oils for massage at home can help you manage weight, sleep better, achieve clearer skin, and de-stress. Vata and Kapha body types benefit most from warming oils, especially sesame oil to offer relaxation. Pitta people have a type-A temperament, so cooling oils, such as olive or coconut, help de-stress their mind. Here are three essential oils that you may want to add to a self-massage:


Patchouli: Relax

The calming, relaxing and anti-depressant properties of Patchouli oil make it effective in reducing stress, nervous tension, and anxiety, while stimulating creativity. Other benefits of patchouli are: its ability to improve metabolism, stimulate appetite and digestion, and regulate the body’s hormone and enzyme production.The major Ayurvedic health benefits of Patchouli essential oil are:

  • The antibacterial properties of Patchouli help ward off allergies or infections.
  • Improves mental clarity by diffusing jealousy and feelings of insecurity.
  • Uplifts the mind and helps overcome depression.

Rosemary: Uplift

Rosemary is touted for its memory-enhancing power and anti-depressant properties. Traditionally, issues treated with the oil include: halitosis (bad breath), upset stomach, headaches, insect bites and stings. Rosemary is among the few essential oils that must be in everyone’s medicine cabinet according to the book, “Ayurveda and Aromatherapy”. Primary benefits:

  • The stimulating properties of rosemary oil improve stress-related disorders, nervous exhaustion, depression, dear, fatigue and anxiety.
  • Improves memory and cognitive performance.
  • Tonics for healthy hair and skin.

Sandalwood: Calm

Sandalwood has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda for beauty, calming the mind and soothing an array of physical and emotional health problems. Sandalwood oil has the potential to benefit the reproductive and nervous systems, marrows, plasma, muscular and circulatory systems. The Ayurvedic health benefits of sandalwood oil include:

  • The cooling effect on the brain and calming effect on the mind, which makes sandalwood oil the perfect meditation tool.
  • Reducing pain, inflammation, digestive and respiratory issues.
  • Repairs, rejuvenates and nourishes the skin and hair.
Listen to your own body and do not force yourself.

When using oils for massage, they have the best ability to pull out toxins if they’re cured before application. To cure, heat until boiling, remove from heat and cool, and store in an airtight container.


Find out more how Ayurveda can benefit your lifestyle. The ebook Ayurveda 101 provides clear facts in simple language to help you successfully understand the essence of this ancient science.

ayurveda guide download

Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: Ayurveda , massage , oil

Summer Relaxation with Ayurveda

By Debra Locker Griffin
May 23, 2015

Getting Ready for Summer

If the lazy days of summer are looking more like the crazy days, take a few deep breaths and try an Ayurvedic approach to calming down your lifestyle. The word “Ayurveda” comes from two Sanskrit words: Ayur meaning life and Veda meaning knowledge or science. Developed around 1500 BC, Ayurveda is an approach to living in harmony with the universe in order to achieve optimum health.


3 Tips for Summer

As you plan your summer schedule, here are three tips to help you have a de-stressing, Ayurvedic season:

  • Give Yourself a Massage – Massaging your feet and scalp with warm oil is grounding, supports downward moving energy, and helps soothe the mind. The Shankara Ayurveda Spa team recommends lavender, bergamot and jasmine oils for stress relief and relaxation.
  • Try Meditation – Meditation is a life-long practice, but even just 20 minutes can improve the quality of your day.  Two steps to get started:

Generate moments of awareness during the day. Finding your breath and “being present” while not in formal practice helps to evolve your meditation habits.

Listen to instructional tapes and CDs. We recommend Guided Meditations by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

  • Catch some Z’s – Trouble falling asleep? A bath and a cup of boiled milk of chamomile tea may do the trick. The drinks are grounding and soothing in nature. If you like, add a pinch of nutmeg, cardamom, and some ghee to the milk.

Or visit us on the mountaintop!
Shankara Ayurveda Spa offers workshops, retreats and treatments focused on Ayurveda, one of which is a Panchakarma program. The six-day Panchakarma Cleanse is led by our team of Ayurveda experts and is customized to each person. Offered throughout the year, Panchakarma includes 10 Ayurvedic treatments, cooking demonstrations, yoga, meditation, vegetarian meals, and take-home education & tools


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: Ayurveda , health , summer , wellness

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