Ayurveda might sound like one of those mystical practises that you’ll never wrap your head round, but actually it’s remarkably simple. If you start your day with a detoxing hot water and lemon or have tried a turmeric latte at your local coffee shop then you are already enjoying the benefits of Ayurvedic treatments.
The 5,000-year-old ancient Indian wellbeing system focuses on a mind-body connection and a belief that any symptom from a headache to insomnia or even cancer is your body’s way of telling you it is out of balance.
“If you start your day with a detoxing hot water and lemon or have tried a turmeric latte, you’re already practicing Ayurveda.”
Bring yourself back into balance – through a combination of aromatherapy, diet, herbal medicine, yoga, massage and mediation – and your body will heal itself. Or so the theory goes.
Whether or not you subscribe to the idea that cancer can be cured through meditation, there are proven health benefits to everyday Ayurvedic practises. The best Ayuverdic treatment for a body and mind out of whack however, is Panchakarma – an intense, deep cleansing and rejuvenating two-to-three week program which should be done in an Ayurvedic centre under supervision.
While it will come as no surprise that India is home to some of the most authentic retreats (Vana and Ananda in the foothills of the Himalayas are two of the best known), there are also plenty worth visiting in Europe, and the rest of the world.
Wellness expert Jasmine Hemsley came across Ayurveda ten years ago when researching ways to look after herself during her modelling career and has been incorporating the Vedic philosophies and principals into her life ever since. This is her guide to the best Ayurvedic retreats around the world.
1) Ayuverda Parkschlösschen, Germany
This resort has been offering Ayurvedic treatments like complete detoxes for 25 years, so you can bet they know what they’re doing. Everything here is based on traditional practices, from the food to the therapies, as well as exercises, yoga and meditation. A wifi-free, eco-friendly space, Parkschlösschen gives new meaning to the word “getaway.”
2) The Clover Mill, UK
You don’t have to travel far to experience the rejuvenating benefits of an Ayurvedic retreat. Clover Mill in Worcestershire is a gorgeous retreat, committed to ecological practices and based on Ayurveda. Guests enjoy Ayurvedic treatments, yoga classes and Ayurvedic meals to balance their mind, body and spirit. Sustainability is central to the Clover Mill concept, which encourages us to live a life closer to nature.
3) The Raj, Iowa
On your next trip to the US, skip the bustle of New York and LA, and make a beeline for Iowa instead. The Raj Ayurvedic retreat will guide you towards living a life in balance according to the principles of Maharishi Ayurveda, during your stay and beyond.
4) COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali
If you needed another reason to book a trip to Bali, you will surely find it in the Como Shambala Estate spa — a favourite of celebrities like Sting and Donna Karan. they specialise in individualised treatments from practitioners of Ayurveda, as well as Chinese and Western medicine. This includes massage, food, yoga and meditation for a holistic reset over three or four days.
5) Sukhavati, Bali
This resort is particularly special, as the Ayurvedic doctor, Dr. Mithun Raju, comes from the Raju family, a long line of distinguished Vaidyas (ayurvedic physicians). Here, you will experience luxuriant healing based on the ancient principles of Ayurveda, through foods, yoga, meditation, treatments and, of course, the dreamy location.
6) Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts, Sri Lanka
Barberyn boasts three resorts across Sri Lanka, each dedicated to helping guests find increased wellbeing. Expect Ayurvedic treatments, yoga, meditation, lectures and well-deserved time off, all in idyllic oceanside settings.
7) Ayurveda Resort Sonnhof, Austria
Located in the beautiful Tyrolean mountains, this resort is a family-run affair manned by 13 Ayurveda specialists who guide guests on Panchakarmas, as well as performing acupuncture and oil massages. The resort also offers yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic meals suited to your Dosha.
No time for a retreat? Here are Jasmine’s five everyday Ayurvedic tips to get your body into balance without leaving home.
1) Align your circadian rhythms
Sleep before 10PM, wake before 6AM, eat your main meal at lunchtime, when digestion is at its strongest and make your evening meal early and light so that it is well digested before you hit the sack. Have a go for a couple of days and feel the difference.
2) Eat well
Eating well according to Ayurveda means cooked, locally-sourced and digestible foods made using plenty of herbs and spices. Avoid reheated, frozen, canned or prepackaged foods. In Ayurveda these foods are considered Tamasic, making us feel sluggish, heavy, and even anxious or depressed. Try cooking as often as possible, using a thermos to keep foods hot for later, instead of reheating them.
3) Watch your mouth
Digestion begins in the mouth — from your mouth watering at the thought, sight or smell of food to the tasting and chewing. That’s why Dinacharya, a set of daily Ayurvedic rituals, begins with tongue scraping and oil pulling, two practices meant to preserve the balance of flora in our mouth and allow us to feel healthier overall.
4) Practice yoga and meditation
Yoga and meditation are integral to Ayurveda. Beyond the asanas (or poses) that Western yogis are familiar with, yoga is simply the real-life application of Ayurveda’s teachings. Along with regular meditation (20 minutes twice a day is ideal), the physical practice of asanas and breath work helps to ground us, channel our energy and make us more present in our day-to-day lives.
5) Express gratitude
Expressing gratitude for the things we are given — nourishment, shelter, love, health amongst many others — helps us to feel more balanced and better able to give in return, by caring for the planet, for our loved ones and for ourselves. When you go to bed, reflect on the day’s events, concentrating on the positives — this works wonders for your health of mind, body and spirit.
Jasmine Hemsley’s book East by West: Simple Ayurvedic Recipes for the Ultimate Mind-Body Balance is published by Bluebird and is out now.