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Wellness

Three Ayurvedic Experts Talk Balance, Ritual, and Listening to Your Body

An endlessly curious mind and an eye towards alternative healing led Jenni to the ancient tradition of Ayurveda. The practice is an estimated 5,000 years old, originating in Sanskrit texts, known as the Vedas. Ayurveda is an individualized system of medicine rooted in the notion that everyone’s body has different needs. To understand Ayurveda requires an understanding of your body’s constitution, or the balance of your three doshas: data, pitta, and kapha. According to Ayurveda, we are all made up of a unique combination of these three elemental energies. Your doshas are determined at birth but fluctuate with the influence of outside factors like environment, food, climate and age. Ayurvedic medicine is focused on restoring the balance of your prakriti, or nature, through building a healthy metabolic system, practicing yoga, and meditating. Some of its basic tenets—balance, intuitive eating, and mindfulness—can be found in many of today’s alternative wellness treatment and philosophies. Integrating Ayurveda to any degree can lead to a better understanding of your body’s systems and their needs. To find out more, Jenni stopped by Poppy and Someday in Laurel Canyon for an Ayurvedic facial, where owner and healer Kari filled us in on this ancient practice. We approached our research holistically, of course, consulting two more experts in the field for a comprehensive understanding of contemporary Ayurveda. 

Martha Soffer is an Ayurvedic healer, chef, and specialist in Panchakarma and Marma. Panchakarma is a mind-body healing experience that detoxifies the body and strengthens the immune system, while Marma is a bodywork technique that stimulates conjoining points on the body to open energy channels. Martha is also the founder of Surya Spa, an artisanal Ayurvedic clinic in the Pacific Palisades famed for its cleanses and personalized treatments. 

Julie Bernier is an Ayurvedic practitioner, certified massage therapist and classical hatha yoga teacher. Through True Ayurveda, Julie provides consultations and treatments to establish lasting wellbeing. Using a holistic approach, True Ayurveda offers a range of services that include her revered facelift massage and notable preconception, prenatal, and postnatal care.

Kari Jansen is an herbalist and the founder of Poppy and Someday, a line of natural products focused on the power of the plant. Jenni has long been a fan of their organic, wild crafted skincare, so it was only natural to pay a visit for the full treatment with one of their signature services. Akin to a facial, Shirodhara is intended to bring peace to the present mind. The treatment left Jenni with a sense of euphoric relaxation and a piqued curiosity for all things Ayurveda. Check out her amazing space in the photos below.

We talked to these three experts about their daily rituals, the paths that led them to where they are now, and the ways we can integrate basic Ayurvedic principles into our daily lives. Each woman had such an inspiring and unique story to tell, but they all had a common goal: to find a path towards balance through listening to your body and giving it what it needs. XXJKE

Rip & Tan: Describe your morning ritual.

Julie Bernier: I love my morning ritual. Admittedly, it took some serious discipline to develop. I get up early—6 at the latest—which is an Ayurvedic secret to waking up with more energy. Before even getting out of bed, I think something happy like, “Today’s going to be a beautiful day!” Then I brush my teeth, scrape my tongue, sometimes oil pull [the ancient Ayurvedic act of swishing oil in the mouth for up to 20 seconds to improve oil health], and drink a cup of hot water to get my digestion ready for the day. Mornings are my time for movement—either 20 minutes of hatha yoga or a hike on the Malibu bluffs with my man and our dogs. My most important morning rituals are pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) and chanting. They’re my way of cleansing my mind. Finally, if I have time, I give myself an abhyanga (oil massage) before showering and eating a warm breakfast. It sounds like a lot but it’s simply become a part of what I do, and I make time for it because it makes me feel so good.

Rip & Tan: What piqued your interest to pursue Ayurvedic medicine? What keeps you motivated to pursue a life of healing others? 

Kari Jansen: My path started with yoga. After studying for my certification, Ayurveda was a natural next step. Both of these studies are old-world notions—they embrace the idea of chance and balance, something that resonates with me strongly. At this point, I have been studying health for 20 years and still love gaining knowledge to increase my healing ability. My heart is warmed with every client who leaves a session more vibrant and relaxed than when they arrived. Witnessing this shift is what keeps me motivated.  

Rip & Tan: Do you have a specific intention, mantra, or text you return to when you’re feeling misguided or imbalanced? 

Martha Soffer: Specially, I use the mantra I have in my meditation, but only 20 minutes a day, twice a day. Does that mean I’m always balanced? No! I’m human! But it does help me in all areas of my life, and I love it. Of course, Ayurveda itself is about balance, so I balance through diet, through herbs, through treatments, through vigorous exercise when my Kapha needs energizing, or a walk on the beach when my Pitta needs cooling, all the common-sense stuff. (Editor’s note: Kapha and Pitta are doshas, the elemental substances that make up our bodies and minds. Kapha is the physical structure of the body, while Pitta rules digestion, metabolism, and energy.) 

Rip & Tan: Ayurveda is Sanskrit for “life-knowledge” — how do you apply the life lessons you’ve learned outside of your training to your practice?

Kari Jensen: I am a lifelong learner and pride myself in applying the lessons I have gained on my path to my current experiences and work. I am humbled by my story and the stories of those who have shared with me, and this knowledge enables me to relate to others with an open mind. This process is essential for my work and allows me to connect deeper to my clients and offer specific healing suggestions.   

Rip & Tan: What are some basic principles you’d share with someone just beginning to dip their toe into Ayurvedic healing?

Julie Bernier: So much of our health depends on what we eat. Unfortunately, the modern wellness world makes eating very confusing. Ayurveda widens their microscopic view of vitamins and and fats and numbers and takes a macroscopic approach, looking not only at the nutrient value of the food, but at who’s eating and how they’re eating. For example, we look to the sun to understand our digestive fire, as one mirrors the other. When the sun is burning at its strongest around noon, our digestive fire also burns at its strongest. This is the time when we should eat our biggest and most hardy meal of the day, and it makes such a difference in digestion and energy. Another great principle is to honor the body’s urges—suppressing them is a root cause of many health issues. If you have the urge to pee, pee! If you need to sneeze, yawn, cry, burp, eat, pass gas, do it!

Rip & Tan: Are there any common misconceptions you encounter about your practice or field of work? What is your approach to dispelling some of these myths?

Julie Bernier: Too many to count! Ayurveda is still poorly misunderstood in the US. Many people think that Ayurveda is just about nutrition, or massage, or skincare, or body types. It’s so much more than any one of these things. It’s both a way of life and a very comprehensive system of medicine. There’s Ayurvedic ENT, gynecology, toxicology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and even surgery. Ayurveda is a very deep and complete body of wisdom that encompasses everything about life. 

Another common misconception is that Ayurveda is somehow outdated or irrelevant beyond India. In actuality, Ayurveda is timeless and universal. Our Ayurvedic forefathers explained thousands of years ago that our food and lifestyle must be adapted for where we live, the nature around us, and our culture’s customs. Its principles will forever hold true, as it was designed to be used by all beings, everywhere.

Because I love Ayurveda so deeply and hold it in the highest regards, it breaks my heart to see it distorted or downplayed or dismissed as esoteric. The only way to dispel the myths is through education, which is a huge part of my work.

Rip & Tan: How do you, if at all, integrate Western philosophies or methods into your practice? How do you introduce folk and Eastern medicine to those who may be conditioned to understand only Western medicine?

Martha Soffer: Some eastern philosophies say, just accept whatever is, whatever is happening.  Western philosophies sometimes say, you can change whatever you want, you’re in control, do it!  But we like that old prayer, “give me the power to change what I can, and accept what I can’t.” With Ayurveda, you can change a lot. So, I’d say that with Ayurveda, you can affect great changes, you can get to the core of issues that Western medicine might view more symptomatically. In Ayurveda, if you rebalance the core, not only is the problematic symptom taken care of, but so are all the associated symptoms that have manifested or are about to.

Rip & Tan: How can someone make sure that the herbs, tinctures, or tonics they’re ingesting are safe, organic, and ethically sourced? 

Kari Jensen: With so many herbal companies popping up, it’s hard to know where the products are coming from. My advice would be to look for biodynamic, then do your research, and once you find a company that is in alignment with your needs, stick with them. Two of my favorite companies are Sunpotion and Zenbunni, which both use safe adaptogens (adaptogens are a unique group of natural herbs and mushrooms that restore body’s natural physiological functioning and encourage non- specific response to stressors). In simple terms, adaptogens help us respond to our external environment without compromising our own wellbeing. But overall try and get your vitality from food and spices. Go and support your farmers markets and make your own meals. Vibrant vegetables offer amazing medicine!   

Rip & Tan: Are there any wellness trends today that you think are superficial or, at the least, ineffective? In the realm of alternative medicine, how can you tell between a fleeting craze and a medical breakthrough?

Kari Jensen: The biggest wellness trend that doesn’t work for so many is the juicing craze. Juicing diets can be hard on Vata constitutions and people with low stomach fire. Juicing is cold and can put out the stomach fire. The increasing of cold and dry foods takes people more out of balance and tends to increase worry, fear, and anxiety. You can use your intuition to tell the difference between a fleeting crazy and medical breakthrough.   

Rip & Tan: Describe your nighttime routine.

Martha Soffer: Ideally, it’s so good to be asleep by 10, because you’re going to get the best and deepest rest. It’s great not to eat right before you go to bed. It’s great to do relaxing things before bed. Sometimes I do all of that, and I’m always happy when I do. I think we all know what’s good, and maybe the last things I want to say is that a big part of Ayurvedic self-care is listening to what we know, what we feel is right, what we feel in our bodies, and allowing ourselves to act on that.  I’m going to remember that myself, and see what a beautiful night’s sleep I can give myself tonight!

Photos: Poppy & Someday Studio, photographed by Nicki Sebastian