The Ayurveda way is more rooted in the power of practice rather than the power of product, practitioner or place—making this ancient school of self-care much more accessible to anyone in pursuit of better health and wellness. (Who might be just about everyone these days, including today, International Self-Care Day 2020.)
“We may not have the refuge of our favorite spa, restaurant or gym right now but these rituals ask us to go inside and find a safe haven within your own self,” says Ananta Ajmera, director of Ayurveda at THE WELL.
THE WELL, a 13,000 square-foot hub for luxury wellness (think Soho House meets The Guerlain Spa at The Plaza) offers busy urbanites a “treatment menu” featuring health coaching, functional medicine, Ayurveda sessions and more. Cofounders Rebecca Parekh and Sarrah Hallock opened its Manhattan doors in September 2019 after raising $14 million in venture capital. Since closing their dazzling flagship in March, the self-care startup has shifted focus to its e-commerce and educational divisions.
“While our physical space is closed, virtual courses not only help us stay engaged with our existing community, they allow us to reach new audiences, bringing the knowledge and expertise of our practitioners to people around the world,” says Parekh, formerly the COO for Deepak Chopra Radical Wellbeing.
They’ve launched their first digital engagement, Reemerge, a three-part series focused on Ayurveda techniques to make returning to work and adjusting to the new normal post-Covid-19 easier. Ajmera shares simple daily rituals, most of which can be done with readily available home and pantry products. This curated set of practices can upgrade your wellness, relieve stress, and strengthen immunity as we continue to take on the unknown:
1. Embrace circadian rhythms by waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier.
According to Ayurveda, waking up early (ideally between 4am and 6am) is one of the best ways to curb negative thinking in order to connect with nature and increase the quality of your sattva (mental clarity and positivity). The ancient sages of the Yogic and Ayurvedic traditions regard the early morning as a spiritually charged time, which is why it’s the most auspicious for meditating, contemplating, practicing yoga and breathing exercises.
Awakening early also strengthens your ability to fall asleep earlier at night (ideally by 10pm) and improves your sleep quality. And if you really want to sleep like a baby, says Ajmera, make spiced milk your new nightcap. Spiced milk is an Ayurvedic drink that naturally helps you doze off, while the easy recipe offers other health benefits.
2. Incorporate more warm, cooked and gently-oiled foods in your meals.
Ayurveda compares your digestive capacity to a physical fire. We learn in physics that heat expands, while cold contracts. Ayurveda envisions your body as a series of channels or pathways, which are responsible for transporting and circulating nutrients and for elimination. “This is not the most glamorous topic but it’s an absolutely critical and an overlooked aspect of health and wellness,” says Ajmera. “Eating warm, cooked foods in natural cooking oil ensures these channels remain open and flowing, serving to kindle your digestive fire.”
3. Strike a power pose.
Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences of healthy living. So it only makes sense for the Reemerge course to tap both schools of wisdom. Here are two simple poses that go a long way for wellness: a) Sit in Thunderbolt Pose after meals to support digestion and counterbalance hyperacidity, and indigestion. b) Get in Cobra Pose to awaken your whole upper body and channel the strength to thrive through a challenging day.
4. Give yourself an oil massage.
According to ancient Ayurvedic texts, oiling your body with warm coconut oil (for warm seasons) or sesame oil (for cold seasons) reduces pain, wards off exhaustion, nourishes your body and equips you with longevity, good sleep and healthy skin.
“I’ve been giving myself an oil massage made from sustainably sourced and wildcrafted botanicals,” says Ajmera. “It’s similar to when leather is exposed to wear and tear that comes with use, it falls apart; but if you apply oil to the same piece of leather, it becomes stronger.” Same for your joints, hair and skin—oil rejuvenates these areas.
5. Smell essential oils to awaken to the present moment.
“The sense of smell is connected to the earth element in Ayurveda, which is what provides you grounding and stability,” says Ajmera. So when you stop to smell essential oils, it has a stabilizing effect on your mind, helping you return to the present moment. “I love smelling essential oils throughout the day. Rise Essential Oil Blend for the morning to energize me, Reset Essential Oil Blend throughout the day to bring me back to center and Relax Essential Oil Blend at night to promote calm and better sleep.” In general, citrus is for awakening, while lavender is for calming.
6. Embrace fresh flowers, whether outdoors or in your home, as a simple way to lift your spirit.
“Flowers are incredible spiritual medicine, full of healing power and symbolic significance,” according to Ajmera. “For example, roses are not only a potent symbol of love and beauty, but also very therapeutic for anger, irritability, overstimulation, heat exhaustion and overwork.”
You can simply look at them, smell them or even add rose petals to your bathwater when you are seeking relief from heated emotions. Consider growing a low-maintenance wildflower garden (to support the endangered bee population); you can even log into floral classes offered by women-owned and operated Aranj to learn the beautiful art of arranging flowers. If you want to automate the presence of bouquets in your life, consider a convenient, farm-direct floral subscription. The Bouqs Co. partners with eco-friendly farms that minimize waste, recycle water, and use sustainable growing practice.
7. Light a candle with intention.
“The light of a candle represents knowledge, illumination and winning a victory over the darkness of your negative thinking, addictions, destructive habits and excessive emotional reactions,” says Ajmera. “When you light a candle while connecting with your purpose and intention for adopting a wellness practice, it is a simple way to strengthen your resolve for embracing the practice.”
There are endless candle brands that are equal parts pleasing to the visual and olfactory senses. Rockaway Candle Company, for starters, is a women-owned soy candle company based in the beachside, blue-collar town of The Rockaways in Queens, N.Y. Its Amber Noire scent remains my favorite, year-round.
8. See your destiny in your hands.
“Gazing at your hands and affirming that wisdom and power lies in your hands first thing in the morning sets the tone for your day in a powerful way that has the potential to shape your destiny and help you be the change you wish to see in the world,” says Ajmera. She also recommends starting the day by simply stepping outdoors and feeling the warm sun on your face for a few moments, especially during these summer months.
If you’d like to learn more about the Ayurveda lifestyle, follow THE WELL’s Reemerge digital series.