Recently tipped by The Sunday Times as one of 2017’s hottest topics, Ayurveda – the 5,000-year-old Indian way of healing – is the talk of the health world, with everyone from nutritionists to fitness experts preaching its curative ways. For wellness guru Jasmine Hemsley (of Hemsley + Hemsley fame), Ayurveda is a way of life, inspiring her pop-up café, East by West, in Mayfair last year and her latest book release. We caught up with Jasmine to find out why she’s such an advocate for the ancient holistic system...
Firstly – how did you get into Ayurveda?
I have always been inspired by Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, which translates as the ‘science of life’ – it’s been a massive catalyst for my own journey in health and wellbeing and over the years has become increasingly important in helping me find balance in this fast-paced world.
Last year, while undergoing an authentic Panchakarma in India (the full detox where you’re totally immersed in Ayurveda and learning a lot about yourself), I was completely inspired by the experience of this ancient holistic healing system, I realised how beneficial it can be in helping us find balance in a fast-paced world.
Okay, so what are the cornerstones of an Ayurvedic diet?
Ayurveda (the sister science to yoga) is based on a holistic, 360-degree view of health – quite different to how we usually view health in the West. It’s founded on the premise that we’re all made up of a unique ratio of elements, and are therefore nourished by different things. As opposed to viewing health as simply being free of disease, Ayurveda defines wellness as reaching and maintaining your unique balance of being in mind, body and spirit. Because we are all individuals, Ayurveda works on the idea that no single diet or lifestyle works for everyone (one mans food is another mans poison so to speak), but that food, daily routines and how you connect to your environment are essential to maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state.
There are three doshas (or forces): Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, loosely translated as Air, Fire and Earth, respectively. Each of us, from birth, have our own unique blend of all three doshas which make up our individual constitution, with usually one dominant dosha (which we refer to as our dosha type) and ideally an equal (though often fluctuating) balance between the other two. In Ayurvedic philosophy, when your doshas are balanced, i.e. at your original constitution (your true nature or Prakriti), we are healthy; when they are unbalanced due to diet, social pressures and environment, for example, we are more prone to irritations, typically in the form of skin issues, poor digestion, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety. However, the overriding message in Ayurveda is all about healthy digestion, and making the right choices to support a 360 approach to a healthy lifestyle
So, it’s all about reaching your ideal balance?
Yes – it’s definitely about being in tune. For example, if you are more of a Pitta dosha (which means fire) and you eat too much spicy, sour or salty foods, disturbances may occur. Eating foods that have a cooling effect on body and mind, for example cucumbers and yoghurt, will help to reduce the heat component of this dosha, making you less likely to experience digestive issues and fluctuations in energy and mood.
How do you know what dosha you are?
Your dosha type is most accurately worked out by a vaidya (Ayurvedic practitioner) but you can also get an indication by trying a dosha test online.
And why do you think Ayurveda is relevant now?
Unlike many diet and lifestyle plans, Ayurveda is backed by emerging science. What was pooh-poohed 20 years ago, such as yoga and meditation, or ten years ago, such as acupuncture, is now being accepted as important. I’ve been looking at Ayurveda for 12 years and actually adopted a lot of the ideas before I even fully understood the concept – for example, lunch being the biggest meal of the day and being mindful about eating before ‘mindful’ was even a buzzword.
Does your book explain the concept further?
Yes, unlike a lot of the books and information out there on Ayurveda, East by West makes the practice accessible to everyone. Expect to find delicious recipes alongside tips and tricks (and lots of black pepper – this is a cornerstone of Ayurvedic cooking) to gear towards your dosha type. Think classic Indian dosas (fermented lentil crepes) for breakfast – delicious with mint and coconut chutney – comfort food for when you need a boost and recipes such as my teff waffles with ghee, turmeric and hazelnut.
What’s your favourite recipe in the book?
Golden Spoons – this was the cult hit at my pop-up café. It’s a bright yellow sweet turmeric paste you can spoon out and lick like a lollipop as a pick-me-up, or stir into your hot drink or porridge. Everyone loved it, including the slightly scared businessmen who tried it.
What makes you feel healthy?
Yoga, without a doubt. I do the 12 classic yoga postures every morning – it’s a 15-minute practice I can’t talk myself out of and it compensates for sitting at laptops and powering around a busy city all day. Yoga also requires your undivided attention so it’s a brain trainer and helps to calm your nervous system.
Any go-to meals for a busy night?
Usually, I'll have a medley of recipes I’m testing that have been left on the kitchen table. If I haven’t been recipe testing, supper is typically some dosas fresh off the griddle with some sambhar curry, green chutney and a turmeric honey lassi. It may sound complicated but it’s not at all – it’s incredibly quick and so delicious.
And what about breakfast?
Anything from eggs to poached apples, or maybe an amaranth porridge or kitchari (a rice and lentil dish), around 8am.
Is there anything you indulge in?
I love a strong massage, dark chocolate and good-quality red wine. And when it comes to guilty pleasures, it’s got to be an all-butter croissant.
Finally, any tips for staying on track when travelling?
Try to stay grounded with meditation – this might be Vedic meditation, breathing, singing, sound baths or hiking – anything to get a break from technology and still the mind.
East by West: Simple Ayurvedic Recipes for Ultimate Mind-Body Balance by Jasmine Hemsley will be available from 2nd November, priced £25.