The number one luxury one can possess is great health and your wellness journey. We had an opportunity to sit down and chat with Ananta Ripa Ajmera, author of The Ayurveda Way, in which she gives us the inside on how to achieve better sleep, less stress, optimal digestion, and much more.
GG: First, what exactly is this Ancient Teaching called “Ayurveda”
The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit root words veda (study of) and ayush (life). It literally means “the knowledge or study of life.” Ayurveda is the oldest healing system in the world. It teaches us a time-tested path of truly healthy living that is not only sustainable, but easy to follow, even if you don’t have a lot of time.
As the science of life, Ayurveda touches upon all aspects of how to live in a healthy, happy, and fulfilling way. Its wide-spanning range includes how to improve your digestion, practical ways to love yourself (and thereby improve all your relationships), what kinds of daily and seasonal regimens to adopt for health, and all-natural skincare. Ayurveda also gives you abundant spiritual insights.
GG: Your story in the preface of your book is inspiring and real. We could say that about all of our lives- it may look pretty awesome on the outside, but we each have our own struggles and stress. What is the first step of the Ayurveda way, that can help each of us acknowledge and take ownership of our well being?
Ananta: The first, and most important, step of the Ayurveda way is to recognize that health already actually lives within you, as your true state of being. My teacher Acharya Shunya’s unique way of teaching Ayurveda, reflected throughout my book, offers a much-needed paradigm shift in the way we can approach health and wellness and start to take health into our own hands.
Your first thought upon awakening in the morning sets the tone for your day, so I think it really helps to start each day by first gazing at your hands, and affirming that personal power, health, abundance, creativity, and knowledge all lie in your own hands. As you think, you become. By making your first thought of the day one of affirming that abundance, creativity, health, and power reside in your own hands, you can plant powerful seeds to reclaim your health.
GG: What’s a good breathing exercise to do when you feel like you’re about to lose it?
Ananta: The Buzzing Bee is the perfect breathing exercise to turn to whenever you find yourself about to lose it. This breathing exercise is powerful medicine for your body and mind, calming restlessness, frustration and anxiety, along with a whole host of other benefits. It’s my go-to breathing exercise that I practice each morning and have taught to many students and clients, who always immediately feel its positive, powerful impact.
It’s really easy to do – you just close your ears with your thumbs. Place your second and third fingers gently over your eyes, with index fingers on your forehead or eyebrows. Keep your mouth closed. Inhale deeply. Then slowly exhale through your nose, making a humming or buzzing sound with your throat (it’ll sound like MMMMMM).
GG: What is the benefit of drinking boiled water, as opposed to bottled or tap water?
Ananta: Digestion is the root of health in Ayurveda. And just as we have to digest our food, we must also digest what we drink. Boiling your water helps lighten the qualities of the water, making it easier for your body to digest.
GG: When women menstruate, many so called experts say that exercise is the best way to heal cramps. What does Ayurveda say, and what have you found from your experience?
Ananta: When I started resting more during my periods instead of exercising, I noticed a huge difference in terms of pain relief.
GG: What are the foods you mentioned that are “stripping you of your beauty”?
Ananta: Ayurveda recommends avoiding foods that disturb your nutritive and blood tissues. These include: very spicy or intense foods like wasabi, very oily foods like raw yogurt, fermented foods, overly heavy foods (such as thick crust pizza), canned, frozen, processed, stale, and leftover foods, as well as excessively sour foods (think canned pickles), and very salty foods.
There is also a concept of incompatible foods in Ayurveda, of certain foods that just don’t combine well with one another, and wreak havoc on your skin as a result. These include: milk and salt, milk and meat, milk and vegetables, fruits and vegetables, milk and fruits, and yogurt and fruit.
GG: What are some foods to start eating for “Greater Beauty”?
Ananta: Foods that help you start eating your way to greater beauty are those that have the right kind and amount of moisture, are sweet and/or bitter in taste, and lighter and easier to digest. Think sweet fruits including pomegranates, dates, coconut, raisins, and dates, vegetables like spinach, butternut squash, and cucumbers, ghee (clarified butter), warm spiced milk, and lighter meats such as goat meat and baked chicken. Spices like saffron, nutmeg, turmeric, ginger, and coriander are excellent for your skin and hair, as are soaked almonds, masoor dal, mung dal (green gram), and chana (chickpeas).
GG: What’s a good homemade drink recipe that will soothe the body and soul?
Ananta: Takra, a light, spiced yogurt drink is excellent to support healing your digestion. This recipe is featured in the ancient Ayurvedic texts for benefiting those suffering from piles, diabetes, abdominal tumors, diarrhea, obesity, anemia, and more. It comes in sweet and savory varieties, so you can enjoy it with spices like cumin, cilantro, ginger, and rock salt, or with sugar and crushed rose petals or mangoes. And it’s easy to make! Just boil water, and allow it to cool to room temperature. Then place room-temperature yogurt in a small bowl and whisk for 2 minutes. Slowly add water, cumin, ginger, cilantro, and rock salt (or sugar and crushed rose petals or mango pulp) to the yogurt. Continue whisking until the takra is smooth and frothy, 1 to 2 minutes.
GG: What is a healthy way to lose weight and tone?
Ananta: Ayurveda recommends concentrating your weight loss efforts in the spring for lasting results. To burn through fat layers in your body, Ayurveda teaches that you need to consume a healthy amount of the fire element. Two of the best ways to increase fire in your body are by cranking up your exercise duration and/or intensity level and eating spicier foods. According to Ayurveda’s seasonal routine recommendations, Spring is the best time to exercise as much as possible and eat spicier foods. When you exercise, you should exert about half of your capacity, and be mindful of signs that you’re overdoing it: when you have a very dry mouth, must breathe from your mouth and start sweating excessively. This will all help you lose weight and tone your body in a healthy way.
GG: Your book has some amazing recipes. Is there one that you absolutely love and make all the time yourself?
Ananta: I learned all the recipes in the book from my teacher, Chef Sanjai, who is truly like a magician in the kitchen. Our favorite recipes are butternut squash and masoor dal with rice and cilantro chutney. There is something so soul-satisfying about this combination. The recipe I make all the time is khichadi. This recipe is so simple to make – you can just add rice and yellow mung lentils to a crock pot with some water and include your favorite seasonal vegetables and spices with it. So it never gets boring and is such a staple food to detox, reclaim and maintain your health. I eat it all the time and never get tired of it.
GG: What are some of your favorite DIY Beauty Products?
Ananta: My favorite DIY beauty products include marigold petals, chickpea flour and red sandalwood powder. You can mix all of these with yogurt to create a fantastic face mask for combination skin. Marigold flowers have both a spiritual and practical component. They are the color of the sun and because the sun is considered a symbol of the bright, shining spirit within you, marigolds are the color of spirituality in India. They are beneficial for all of your five senses, and excellent for any type of skin. The mere sight and smell of these flowers has a profound wellbeing enhancing effect, which intensifies when you apply them to your face. I have included recipes using crushed marigold petals that enhance all skin types in my book.
Turmeric, saffron and masoor dal are also wonderful all-natural beauty agents. Turmeric improves the complexion, tone, and texture of your skin, and is a terrific blood purifier. Saffron is a wonderful rejuvenating herb that not only beautifies your skin, but also helps heal headaches when applied externally with ghee and consumed internally with warm milk. And masoor dal is a reddish-orange lentil that does wonders in purifying your blood, whether used externally or cooked and eaten with warming spices and ghee.
GG: What would one do to strengthen one’s mind?
Ananta: Two of the most powerful practices for strengthening your mind that I learned from my teacher, Acharya Shunya, are to keep positive company and shower daily. Both do wonders in helping keep your mind strong and healthy. Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences, and the real meaning of yoga is the knowledge that helps heal and strengthen your mind. So the section on “strengthening your mind” in “The Ayurveda Way” includes several yoga and breathing exercises you can practice for mental wellbeing.
GG: What are the secrets to Inner Peace?
Ananta: It’s amazing to me how Ayurveda is defined as a science of healthy living that teaches you how to distinguish between actions that bring you joy and those that bring your sorrow (as our mental states greatly impact our physical wellbeing). One of Ayurveda’s secrets to inner peace, then, is that happiness-giving actions are those that benefit you and society. So giving, without any strings attached, is a big secret to inner peace, so much so that alongside food and lifestyle changes, selfless service is actually lised as a key method of disease recovery in the Ayurvedic texts. Another secret to inner peace that I’ve discovered in Ayurveda is that of Karma Yoga, or valuing and putting your full attention on the process over outcome in any activity you are performing. This practice makes a world of a difference to help us say no to stress and say yes to inner peace, and happiness, as health and happiness are one and the same in the Ayurvedic tradition.
Thank you Ananta, we had the pleasure of reading your inspiring book. GG readers can purchase the book here.
Photography: Photos are copyright Liz Daly 2017, from The Ayurveda Way, used with permission by Storey Publishing