The first time I visited Villa de Zoysa was in 2016. I travelled to Sri Lanka with my mother from our home country, South Africa. It was the first international trip we would be taking together as mother and daughter. We chose Sri Lanka based upon a vague imagination of warm tropical weather, access to Ayurveda spa and wellness treatments, interesting vegetarian-friendly cuisine, and yoga.
My mother has done yoga since her teens, and she continued her practice throughout her pregnancy with me. I grew up doing yoga with her, and my practice has subsequently blossomed into a daily ritual that structures, nourishes and enriches my life. I feel yoga is the greatest gift my mother has ever given me (other than my life, of course!), and as a yoga teacher over the past decade, I have made it my mission to amplify and share the beauty and integrity of this gift.
We quickly slotted into the warm, friendly and relaxed vibe at Villa de Zoysa. It is in every sense a home away from home. The yoga teacher at the time was Fernando, a superbly gentle, patient and knowledgeable yogi, who both challenges his students, and makes them feel at ease. Yoga at the Villa bookmarks every day, with a session in the morning and evening. I clearly remember sweating buckets! The tropical climate warms muscles and ligaments – it invites you to move your body and detoxify!
The accessible and relaxed vibe at Villa de Zoysa is in many ways a reflection of Villa owner, Devinda. He can be seen floating between his suite and the shala, or the villa office, barefoot and in traditional Sri Lankan dress (a rich cotton sarong, called a sarama in Sinhalese). Devinda has a good feel for what constitutes a relaxing, enriching and energising holiday. It requires balance – a mix of quiet down-time, yoga, good food shared with others, and cultural/nature excursions. Villa de Zoysa offers this in abundance!
My mother and I shared a wonderful time together at the villa. We reached a new level in our relationship and we were also able to meet other like-minded yoga students and travellers. Every morning and evening after yoga, everyone convenes in the villa dining room. Seated around a massive jackfruit wood table, we share a meal. These meals constituted some of my fondest memories of Sri Lanka because I got to ‘taste’ culture through the dishes lovingly and meticulously prepared by Villa De Zoysa cooking staff. All dishes are made according to Devinda’s grandmother’s traditional recipes. All ingredients are sourced locally and made fresh.
By the time my mother and I left the Villa to travel on to Kandy, we felt fabulously rested, healthy and pampered. I kept in touch with Devinda, keenly thanking him for one of my best holidays ever.
Two years later, around the same time of year, I returned to Villa de Zoysa. This time, I was invited by Devinda to teach yoga classes. I felt an immense honour at this invitation and prepared my two weeks of classes with care and enthusiasm. I got to observe as guests evolved through the same rewarding and wholly enjoyable one or two week process my mother and I had. The food was, once again, the most vivid memory of my stay. I also took the time to schedule a few extra superb massages with the on-site Ayurveda doctor, to keep my body and mind sharp to best facilitate the yoga sessions.
As I write this, seated at the jackfruit wood dining table, in February 2019, it is now my third visit to the Villa. A train has just tooted and passed by the property, and I can hear the staff softly chattering as they begin preparations for our dinner. Soon, I will wonder down to the yoga shala to teach the evening yin yoga session. It is always my intention when I teach yoga classes to lead from the heart. This, I feel, is effortless when at Villa de Zoysa. My heart sings here – I am in a home that welcomes all with an understated grace, and authentic, generous hospitality.