Ever wondered why so many daisy-bright turmeric lattes are popping up on your Instagram feed? The answer is Ayurveda, an ancient art of ‘living wisely’ with roots in ancient India. Ayurveda encourages its followers to make choices in support of their dominant ‘dosha’, or constitution, which is either vata (wind), pitta (fire) or kapha (water). But could living la vida veda really hold the key to a balanced mind, body and soul?
‘It’s an exciting time,’ says author, wellness expert and Ayurveda champion Jasmine Hemsley. ‘People realise it’s not just about the physical perception of health, about sixpacks and showing off.’ While the likes of Demi Moore and Madonna have been linked with Ayurveda, Hemsley is spearheading its steady movement into the mainstream. Her new cookbook, East By West, celebrates the Ayurvedic philosophy of eating. Turmeric is believed to have properties that balance all three doshas. ‘Turmeric lattes are the hip café versions of the delicious Ayurvedic classic golden milk,’ she says. ‘So watch this space!’
Hemsley’s dosha type is mostly vata – quick, light, creative and prone to getting wired. To balance this, she chooses dals and hotpots over raw meals and juices, avoiding spicy food and coffee. ‘But having the odd coffee or spicy dish doesn’t make for a major setback at all,’ she insists. ‘Food and lifestyle habits are less about good and bad, more about bringing yourself into balance.’
People are becoming more aware that they can be in charge of their health,’ says Sebastian Pole, Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of Pukka Herbs. ‘As Ayurveda is the oldest continuous complete medical system in the world, it is rich in context and wisdom.’
The Wellcome Collection, the London institute devoted to medicine and art, is staging an exhibition about Ayurveda, which runs until April 8. Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz, curator of Ayurvedic Man: Encounters With Indian Medicine (wellcomecollection.org), is keen to stress that there is no easy dichotomy between Western practices and the ‘ever-evolving’ world of Ayurveda.
‘Our collection reflects the myriad health conceptions and cosmologies that exist around the world,’ she says. ‘I believe that understanding them all can expand our concept of health and life.’ Whether or not we’re ready to get down with the concept of doshas, finding out more about Ayurveda might be a good way to reconnect with our body. ‘We don’t need to get hung up on our dosha type at all,’ says Hemsley. ‘It’s just a good way of understanding why we like or don’t like certain things.’
Model and blogger Rebecca Pearson agrees. ‘Having spent over half my life in the modelling industry, where food and fitness fads hit hardest, eating was a daily obstacle course,’ she says. ‘With Ayurveda I regained intuition. I have an overall attitude now that if my body is asking for something, I listen to it.’ Nourish not punish? That’s a philosophy we can get on board with.