As someone who is keen for life to be as natural as possible, I recently found myself drawn to the ancient India healthcare system of Ayurveda. You may have already heard the buzz about it, but from my (limited) understanding, Ayurveda helps you achieve balance physically and mentally through very specific diet, yoga, meditation and lifestyle changes tailored to your personality and body type, or 'dosha'.
Rather than go down a social media rabbit hole and attempt to do it myself, I decided to meet Ayurvedic practitioner Anne Heigham (pictured) at eatandbreathe.com in Norwich (she also offers Skype sessions).
Anne was very warm and welcoming. We discussed my diet, any supplements I take, my general health, my veganism and lifestyle. Based on the information I gave her, Anne said that from an Ayurvedic perspective my natural constitution (dosha), was pitta (the others are vata and kapha).
This means that I am a fire-dominant; I have a lot of energy, drive and a determination to get on and achieve certain goals. She also told me that my general health was in pretty good shape and I was quite balanced – I actually have my life in order!
Diet-wise, I used to be a meat eater, moved onto vegetarianism, and then eventually became vegan. This change in my diet has had an impact on my digestion, making it slightly sluggish as I love sugary foods. Anne suggested taking probiotics for a while to help repopulate my gut bacteria, which was slightly depleted. She also said that it’s a good idea to keep an eye on my iron and B vitamin levels and advised me to eat more grains and pulses to ensure I’m getting the protein that I’m not getting from meat or dairy.
I told her that I don’t have the time to cook amazing meals – pasta is my savior most days. Anne said it’s important to keep meals varied but simple and incorporate as many veggies, protein-rich foods (such as tofu, and soy-based meats) and of course grains and pulses. The trick would be to bulk cook food when I have time and reheat them on busy days.
As an ardent tea drinker – favourites are English tea, green and vanilla rooibos – I always forget to drink water. Anne suggested a litre a day is the perfect amount (around eight glasses) and getting a flask to keep at work would be a good start to keep track and make sure my body is hydrated.
We spoke about my yoga journey and how, despite my mission to do yoga several times a week, sometimes laziness kicks in. “That’s ok”, Anne reassured me. “We’re all human”. As a Pitta, I need to add fire to my fuel. I need to create a rhythm though routine. Although my diet is already balanced, I need to feed my mind and look after my mental health: the physical and mental forces of my being need to align and flow.
Anne suggested creating realistic goal plans and to meditate for just three minutes a day for a month, creating a timetable for myself can help me feel a sense of structure and purpose. As a fiery person, Anne suggested I take up a sport or activity that could keep my heart pumping, my body occupied and ready for action. I told her I loved badminton although I haven’t played it in years – it was a lightbulb moment, I definitely need to take it up again.
One of the things that came up was my posture. I sit hunched over my desk a lot, and my shoulders and neck can get painful. Anne suggested an Abhyanga back treatment and left the room so I could lie down on the treatment bed. She used cured sesame oil that is heat-treated to help activate its properties in the back massage.
The massage was so gentle, and I instantly felt soothed. Silk paper was placed on my back to create heat and help my muscles to further relax. After the treatment, I felt so rejuvenated and refreshed, the pain had completely gone from my lower neck as if it was never there.
The whole experience was eye-opening. I was taught the importance of taking care of my mind and body in ways that complement who I am as a person. Things that may seem obvious, such as healthy eating and yoga practice, are easy to say you will do. But using your individual Dosha as a guide is a great way to engage with the process in a way that works for your personality. If I was skeptical or confused before, Ayurveda made perfect sense to me after this session. I learned so much more about myself than I expected and look forward to putting some of Anne’s advice into practice.
A one hour consultation with Anne at Eat and Breathe costs £55. She has sessions in Norwich, Norfolk and Stevenage, Herts as well as yoga classes and kitchen workshops. To find out more visit eatandbreath.com. Follow Anne on Insta @anneheigham for Ayurvedic/Yogic wisdom and seasonal food ideas.