“I loved how Ayurveda addressed ALL of me.”
I interviewed Ayurvedic Expert Ananta Ajmera to tap into the time-tested wisdom of Ayurveda. Finding ways to incorporate this ancient science from India that has existed for centuries has led many to a path of vitality and a life of balance. So I asked Ananta to share her thoughts and insight on how to easily integrate Ayurveda for the modern lifestyle.
Currently, Ananta serves as Director of Ayurveda at THE WELL, a modern wellness club that brings together world-class doctors and master healers for a more balanced you. She is also author of the award-winning book "The Ayurveda Way," which offers you 108 simple, doable practices for better sleep, less stress, optimal digestion and more.
For those who are new to the science of Ayurveda, could you quickly describe this ancient Indian medical tradition?
Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga that teaches you all about how to live a healthy lifestyle in harmony with the cycles and rhythms of Mother Nature. Ayurveda heals you by helping you find balance at four levels of your being: your body, mind, soul and five senses.
What drove you to follow the path of Ayurveda?
I was drawn to benefit from Ayurveda personally from my own health struggles. I suffered for many years from eating disorders, which compromised my digestive system and caused me to struggle with breakouts and insomnia. I also dealt with anxiety from post-traumatic stress. I searched everywhere for answers to my own health challenges, from different kinds of fad diets to online support forums to therapists to yoga and meditation classes. Each solution helped to a degree, but none really holistically addressed the root causes of my problems, that is, until I discovered Ayurveda. I loved how Ayurveda addressed ALL of me. I really resonated with its positive, uplifting message that health is your basic nature. Having somewhat 'subscribed' to different labels based on my health issues in the past, this was so deeply reassuring, comforting and liberating to me, and convinced me to follow Ayurveda.
Currently with more people being less active, what are some ways to boost metabolism?
The number one way to boost your metabolism, which is so helpful that I made it the very first health promoting practice I recommend in my book "The Ayurveda Way," is to eat warm, cooked foods. Metabolism and digestion are poetically compared to a fire in Ayurveda. To keep your digestive fire strong, you need to give it warm, cooked substances. Cold food and water tend to extinguish your inner fire, just as cold water puts out a physical fire.
Eat when you truly feel hungry. When you feel your stomach growling, it's actually a really positive sign that you are ready to eat. When you eat in response to hunger signals from your body, you are much more likely to digest what you eat more easily and effectively (than when you simply eat because it's time to eat).
It helps a lot to follow Ayurveda's food equation, in terms of eating to half of your stomach's capacity, having one quarter of your stomach be free for liquids and leaving a quarter empty to be able to digest your food. 1/2 food + 1/4 liquids + 1/4 empty space = happy stomach and healthy digestion. Usually when you experience your first burp while eating, that is a tangible signal that you've had enough and should stop eating to prevent indigestion.
Are there specific foods or activities to increase digestion?
Cumin seeds are amazing for your digestion. They are like a matchstick that ignites your digestive fire. This pungent, heating herb can help you digest any savory food you add it to. You can also roast cumin seeds on a dry skillet to increase cumin's potency to help you digest your food. Another thing you can do is boil cumin seeds in water and drink a cumin tea once cooled to promote healthy digestion.
Turmeric is another Ayurvedic digestion promoting friend. You can use 1/4 tsp per person in your daily cooking to support your digestive system by making your food more appetizing. Its cleansing effect helps free you from toxicity while fighting off excess fat.
Ayurveda heavily emphasizes ghee (clarified butter), so much so that there's a whole chapter devoted to exploring its benefits, which include enhancing your complexion, giving you strength, intelligence, relieving gas and fever and enhancing your immunity. The root of all these myriad benefits is the great impact ghee has on your digestion. Cooking regularly with ghee in your food makes a world of a difference in terms of strengthening your digestion.
Showering before eating breakfast is very helpful for igniting your digestive fire. Doing so makes you feel hungry and ready to eat. It makes a difference to shower prior to eating your first meal of the day, as Ayurveda reveals how showering after eating disturbs digestion, while doing so beforehand supports it.
Exercising regularly does wonders to increase your digestion. If you are not feeling your digestive fire flare up (with your stomach growling for food), try just simply even walking for 30 minutes and you may notice how you start feeling hungry (around mealtimes).
How do the foods we eat and our digestive health play a role in the appearance of our skin?
In Ayurveda, we have a saying that you are not just what you eat. You are actually what you digest. When the foods you eat digest properly, you get beautiful, glowing skin as a result. When you eat incompatible foods, very hot and spicy foods, excessive foods, foods that are too heavy for you to digest properly, etc., your skin literally gets clogged and breaks out in rashes, acne, rosacea, etc. The skin is a mirror of your digestion in this sense. So if you want healthy skin, it's really important to eat seasonally, according to Ayurveda's vast food wisdom.
What are some daily practices that help delay the aging process?
Oiling your body with warm coconut oil (in the hotter months) and warm sesame oil (in the colder months) prior to taking a shower, on empty stomach is a powerful anti-aging practice. It feels really good, too!
Sleeping early (by 10pm) and waking up early (by 6am) really helps delay the aging process. Sleep, in Ayurveda, is one of the three key pillars of overall health. It nourishes and rejuvenates your entire being as a mother cares for a baby. Keeping yourself well-rested helps you look and feel good in the long-term.
Chanting mantras, or engaging in other spiritual practices that connect you with your inner self, is incredibly helpful as rejuvenating therapy for your mind. The mind, being subtler than the gross body, influences your physical body and health in a profound way. Therefore, when you engage in spiritual practices that help you stay anchored in your spiritual self, you keep your intellect strong and your emotions under control, which translates to greater health and slower aging as a result.
This is a hard question- what is one spice, herb or supplement you cannot live without?
The one substance I cannot live without is ghee (clarified butter)! I literally cook everything in ghee and personally believe that everything tastes better with ghee! There's not a single day I go without consuming it.
What is your favorite way to treat your skin?
My favorite way to treat my skin is to oil it with seasonal Ayurvedic oils on a daily basis. It's my favorite self-love and self-care ritual that grounds, centers and soothes me. I literally feel like this practice helps to turn back the clock, too, in terms of its anti-aging benefits and powerful rejuvenating qualities for skin.
Your favorite quote that you live by:
My favorite quote that I live by is "You make yourself. You mar yourself." My Vedanta guru, Swami Parthasarathy, says this a lot. It's such a powerful reminder of the importance of taking responsibility for everything, positive and negative, in our lives. This quote is also a constant reminder to me of the opportunity brimming in each moment to be able to recreate ourselves and become the best possible versions of ourselves we can possibly be.
Ayurveda has been a life long journey where I find myself continuously discovering more of this complex science and find my appreciation for it deepening. I am in awe of how much comprehensive knowledge about the body was discovered at a time where information was limited and how even today it continues to be effective. In those times people were more in tune with their own bodies and the intelligence of nature. I remember hearing stories in India about how people would live to the age of 110 and look like they are in their 50’s by just following the regimen Ayurveda recommends and it would amaze me. This is why I wanted to share the plethora of wisdom from this holistic medicinal science with all of you and welcome Ananta to continue to share on our platform as her deep knowledge is a treasured resource. Thank you Ananta!
Love + Light,