Over the past few months, many of us have become aware of the benefits of taking life at a slower pace – something Jasmine Hemsley discovered years ago. Cook, best-selling author, wellbeing expert and one half of sister duo Hemsley + Hemsley, Jasmine lives her life by the principles of Ayurveda, a holistic system developed in ancient India to help people sync with nature and thrive in an ever-changing environment. Here Jasmine tells us why the 5,000-year old practice is more relevant than ever, and explains how small key changes can create a profound impact on our lives.
How have you found lockdown?
I struggled in the first couple of weeks, because it was a shock to everybody and it’s all anyone was talking about. But after I adjusted I started to enjoy it. Having a garden has been great – we’ve got a full-on veggie patch now. The hardest part is not seeing and hugging people, but we’ve been doing Friday night quizzes with my husband Nick’s family, which always involves tons of belly laughter. I’ve also been doing lots of knitting – I learnt just before lockdown – as well as gardening and cooking. I worked from home a lot before so that wasn’t such a shock to me.
Any tips for people struggling to work well from home?
My first thing I’d always say is don’t get locked up into a position where you’re sitting down. In Ayurveda we talk about moving the Prana, which is the life force in your body, and sitting down is quite stagnating: it’s not good for your flow of creativity. Try to move around your house and change it up a bit – if you’re just sitting in four walls it can feel oppressive. The other thing is the Pomodoro Technique, where you focus on one thing for 25 minutes then take a five-minute break. With everyone being able to access everyone so easily these days, you could be forever running around feeling like you’re working but not getting anything done.
How did you get into food and wellness?
I grew up in a house where food was important. My mum and dad were really into trying new things, and I was adventurous with my taste buds – I started learning to cook from about nine years old. When I went on to university and started modelling, I began to see how factors like food and sleep affected my mood, digestion, skin and energy levels. I became interested in different cuisines and cultures, particularly Eastern holistic practices like Ayurveda.
What is Ayurveda?
It translates very roughly as the science of life, and I call it the manual to nature to remind us that we are nature. Ayurveda helps open your eyes to slowing down. It’s about being more balanced in your everyday; it’s a totally 360 approach to wellbeing.
How can we practice it in everyday life?
Ayurveda is about bringing wellbeing into everyday choices – from drinking hot water instead of fizzy drinks to understanding where food comes from. Having a good bedtime routine is important: watching TV too late or doing anything that excites the mind makes sleep more disrupted. It’s also about living according to the rhythms of the day – having a main meal at lunchtime so you have plenty of time to digest it, and eating a lighter, earlier supper. I’m a big fan of meditation too because I find it helps counterbalance being on screens the whole time.
Lockdown has forced us all to slow down – do you think it’s important that we bring some of this slowness into the ‘new normal’?
Lots of people are talking about the anxiety of going back to normal life. It’s a bit like the Sunday blues: you’ve just about wound down on the weekend and then you’ve got to go back to work. I have no doubt people will throw themselves back into a busy lifestyle, but at some point they’re going to think: I want a little bit of the slowness back in my life. Once you’ve made decisions from a calmer space you realise how much more creative you can be.
What’s your food philosophy?
My food philosophy is to be present and be curious about food and where it comes from. I like to eat delicious food and I like to know that it’s doing me good. It’s important to have a connection with what you’re eating.
Tell us about ZENB’s new Veggie Sticks range…
I found out about the ZENB Veggie Sticks around when lockdown started. Even though I’ve been cooking pretty much every meal I’ve had during lockdown, I’ve still found the need to grab a snack mid-gardening or between meetings. I remember from my modelling years, if you were out and about and weren’t prepared with snacks it was hard to find something that was both tasty and made of whole foods and vegetables. ZENB meets both criteria, so it’s a brand I’m really excited to talk about.
Is snacking important for a healthy diet?
Snacking is a great idea when people work long hours, but you also get the kind of snacking where you’re not eating proper meals. Ultimately, we should ask ourselves: when does my body need to eat something? It’s about having a more mindful approach. I started growing vegetables when I was 19, and once you start growing your own you don’t want to waste any of it. You utilise every part because you’ve seen the energy and the resources that go into creating each vegetable.
Top three ingredients?
I always have my spice tin which has about seven spices in it; that adds flavour and gives you variety. I also love lime – it adds a very sweet tang to things and gives food a lift – and tamari.
Most memorable meal out?
One of my first memories of eating out was at a Thai restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush Market. My mum always cooked so we didn’t usually go out for meals, but one day my dad suggested getting some food after we went to an art exhibition. It was one of the first times we’d eaten out as a family in what I deemed a fancy restaurant.
I like one pot meals, so something like a stew or a biriyani where you’ve got rice and protein and vegetables: you can fork it into your mouth and it’s got great flavours.
Jasmine Hemsley has partnered with new plant-based brand ZENB on the launch of its Veggie Sticks range made using whole vegetables helping to raise awareness of food waste.