The latest book in Lee Holmes’ successful Supercharged Food series, Eat Right For Your Shape reveals how Ayurvedic principles can help you truly let go and create your own path to optimal health. Ashleigh Sharman discovers.
Records amount of people around the globe are practising yoga, breathing in and out, moving from one asana (posture) to the next; but it begs the question, are these many millions aware of the guiding lifestyle available to them through Ayurveda?
“We’re actually doing Ayurveda every day, a lot of us are!” exclaims Lee of the ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda — a system she embraced after studying Ayurvedic cookery and nutrition in India.
“For me it was about the core principles of Ayurveda and how its methodologies are incorporated into the whole philosophy from warm oil massage that stimulates the body to nutritional and health aspects; yoga for the mind and the body, and herbs and tinctures for cleansing and detoxifying.
Lee, who is half-Indian, looked to Ayurveda to explore her own heritage and culture, discovering a natural affinity for health, nutrition and cookery.
“Inspired, I came back and wanted to put a book together that was based on Ayurveda. It’s very complicated so I wanted to simplify it, distil it down,” Lee explains of her latest title that beautifully blends practical guide with cookbook to loving represent the philosophy of Ayurveda.
“Having recently visited an Ayurvedic hospital in Sri Lanka, I believe 50 per cent of healing does come from within, and the other 50 per cent can be whatever you want it to be.
“It can be Western Medicine if that works for you or it can be Eastern Medicine but a strong part of any balance in health comes from within and even if you’re taking medication, you can supplement with Ayurveda and nutritional components,” she says of the traditional Hindu system of medicine whose varying aspects can be incorporated into daily life.
Based on the idea of balance in bodily systems — through the three doshas or shapes, Kapha, Pitta and Vata — the goal of Ayurveda is to achieve optimal wellness not just in the physical self but in the mind and heart, including such practices as eating with the seasons and living in tune with nature.
“It’s a bigger picture, moving towards the existential element of humanity,” Lee says.
“You need to balance ‘you’, be in line with what you need, tempering it day by day, and honouring yourself and the way you are. It also means to listen to your body and being so in tune you can identify small changes.”
Lee adds that this does not require a spiritual awakening or enlightenment but rather a daily practise or routine, as little as five minutes of meditation, to check in with mindfulness.
“The title might sound superficial but it’s much deeper. It’s about eating for your constitution and achieving balance through a whole body system that leads is to optimal wellness and a feeling of being calm and centred.”
And for Lee, part of this going deep also meant coming home to Ayurveda, her cultural and spiritual heritage despite not meeting her Indian father until the age of 21.
“I knew nothing of my culture until I met my father for the first time but something ignited,” she says of the man, a Catholic, seen as ‘more English than the English’ due to his position as Colonel in the British Army.
“There was just something inside me that was interested and so I took this journey to India but certainly didn’t set out to ‘find’ myself. That happened by a process of osmosis.
“India is so chaotic, so crazy. People are just surviving, fighting for daily needs, and it makes you think. You have to let go, get out of your comfort zone and are forced to take that inward journey. I didn’t even expect it to do that. I was just joining a friend on a cookery course!”
Bi-cultural, with an Indian-Catholic father and an English-Buddhist mother, Lee (who identifies as Christian following a Yogic lifestyle) has documented her own health journey through an incredible collection of books yet her key message remains that balance and looking inside yourself should always come first.
“To connect with that place inside, where you need to be, and it can be anywhere, enables you to have a better relationship with yourself. And I feel Ayurveda helps with that, making you feel more comfortable to follow your true path.”
Eat Right For Your Shape by Lee Holmes (Murdoch Books) is available now in all good bookstores and online.