In this week’s article of our Rediscovering Ayurveda series, we interviewed Salila Sukumaran.
Salila Sukumaran is the founder of Ayurgamaya, an Ayurveda wellness and travel concierge based in San Francisco Bay Area, USA. Growing up as an army brat, having trained as a chef with degrees in Nutrition, Biology and Chemistry along with 500 hrs of Yoga Teacher Training, Salila now practices Ayurveda as a diet and lifestyle consultant. “I feel like life has come a full circle for me,” she adds.
Salila is best-known for her ability to tap into her experienced to bring healing and health to her clients. However, this wasn’t always the case. For someone who comes from an Ayurveda lineage, Salila grew up around Ayurvedic rituals where healing food and decoctions were natural parts of daily life. But as she grew, she became rebellious (as is the case with most teenagers) and did not value the wisdom her mother was trying to pass on to her. “I was also influenced by the “old is regressive” fallacy rampant among Indian youth.
“I couldn’t wait to live my big life in the US. The result of living my life here was a complete breakdown in health in 2015. I returned home to Ayurveda which restored me back to not only my physical health but gave me purpose and connected me to my soul's strength. Since then, there has been no looking back.”
A complete breakdown in health was the reason Salila decided to move towards Yoga and Ayurveda. She went through multiple miscarriages in a short duration, and this left her depleted in mind, body and soul. “I had gained extra weight due to hormone supplements and losing my pregnancies destroyed me mentally every single time, she shares. However, things seemed to get better after she began incorporating the sister sciences in her daily regimen – something she grew up with.
Also read: A Brief History & Introduction to Ayurveda
As a result, she became more intentional about what she consumed and how she showed up in the world. “My diet is what I take in through all my senses, not just my mouth. It has become important that all of it is wholesome and nourishing to me on all levels. I am at my best – looks wise, health wise and mental attitude wise now in my forties than I ever was in my twenties or thirties,” she exclaims. Salila’s internal health also reflects in the health of her hair, which she says, have never been lusher including her skin that stays vibrant throughout the day. Her energy levels have also risen that help her juggle clients, her daughter’s scheduled and create content to connect with her tribe online.
“I have a deep sense of knowing that with Yoga and Ayurveda I am passing on precious knowledge to others, not just for now but to the next generation as well. This knowledge is transformative, in the sense that it can bring immediate relief to someone who is feeling unsupported, in doubt and is suffering. I always think back to my challenging days and how much a yogic breath like an Anuloma Viloma (alternative breathing) or a simple ayurvedic ritual like waking up, taking the first 30 mins for myself and slowly sipping on a warm cup of herbal tea was of benefit to me to ground me in my own strength. If through this knowledge and my life experience I can bring relief to women like me, then all the efforts are worth it.”
A typical day in Salila’s life involves consulting clients, eating healthy and well, performing yoga asanas, and moving in sync with her 11-year-old daughter’s schedule. Her day starts at 7AM and ends by 10:30PM. She meets her clients over the weekends or in the evenings, depending. Ayurveda, she says, is a part of her life to such a degree that even when she is moving fast, she is relying on a ritual or a quick yoga session. “For example, I love to do Natarajaasana or Padahasthasana as I am stirring veggies on the stove,” she says.
Also read: Compatible & Incompatible Food Combinations as per Ayurveda
Food at her home is always cooked thoughtfully with healthy unrefined seed oils, herbs, spices and plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. She makes sure that her family eats on the floor level table on floor cushions, so our hips and spine stay healthy. Salila prefers to end her day on a quiet note with a warm soak, a cup of herbal tea and some aromatherapy on my pillows. Her weekends are sacred to her where she refrains from making big commitments and keeps aside fully for creative work, rest and indulgence, going over her past week and preparing for the next!
“I wake up to a prayer of gratitude and end my day with a prayer of gratitude. Through years of this practice, I have now trained my mind to go into a state of "Ajapa Japa", meaning my mind continues to chant mantras even as I am sleeping. My first ritual is always drinking a warm cup of herbal tea with a seed bliss ball or some Rasayana like Brahma Rasayana or Chyawanprash for my feminine health. Bathing is an important time to slow down, enjoy the experience and enhance it with aroma therapy oils, a hemp glove for Garshana (dry brushing) exfoliation, and Abhyanga (self-massage), applying generous amounts of oils to my body.
When asked what or who has influenced Salila the most, she says that her daughter is the biggest influence on her. Elaborating on the same lines, she shares an instance where both she and her daughter went out for a burger and fries because her daughter was curious about it and craving it since she saw a friend eat one. Salila realized that she has not stepped into a burger joint ever since my daughter was born. “Growing up in Delhi, and then Bangalore, a burger joint was where I hung out on a Saturday afternoon. The moment my daughter was born I became intensely aware that here was a little mini me who would inherit my mistakes just as much as my wins,” says Salila. This instance made her fiercely focused on passing on the best habits as she had seen modelled by her parents, aunts and grandparents.
Also read: Debunking Food Myths that You Still Think are True
With her devotion to changing lives through the gift of Ayurveda, Salila has bagged many accolades in her career. Her biggest achievement has been getting herself to a place of confidence where I am seen as a trustworthy spokesperson of Ayurveda and Yoga. Salila was chosen as a Yoga ambassador by AYUSH in 2018, and since then has been quoted by Mind Body Green, Healthline, Washington Post, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global several times. She has also appeared on London Real by Brian Rose, a London based health and wellness influencer with 3M+ community.
We ask Salila to share some of her best go-to tips inspired by Ayurvedic philosophy. She says:
“One of the best tips I can give, which trumps all tips, is to eat a home cooked simple meal of lentils, rice, 3-4 veggies and a couple of fruits when hungry, sip on warm water during the meal and fast once every 2-3 weeks, if not having underlying health issues. This will take care of health, skin and immunity in one go. Follow me on Instagram @salila.ayurveda and you can have the treasure trove of all my time tested tips and tricks. I am super social and love to get to know my community and personally respond to comments.”
Ayurveda and Yoga are first mentioned in India's ancient bodies of knowledge, the Vedas. Ayurveda comes directly from the foundational texts of Atharva Veda and then branched out and grew into the voluminous body of medical literature called the Samhitas, like Sushruta, Charaka and Ashtanga Hridaya. “Think of the Vedas as a large umbrella, Ayurveda is a segment of this umbrella. The Vedas address the questions "why and how must we live a dharmic life". Yoga gives us a blueprint, a road map, to lead a daily dharmic life”, Salila adds.
Also read: Seven Interesting Facts You Should Know About Acharya Charak
She explains that Yoga is one of the six major ways to live by Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma. The other philosophies are Vedanta, Nyayika, Vaisesika, Samkhya, and Purva Mimamsa. We do practice Ayurveda in India; we are simply not aware of it. The more we learn the more dots we connect. As more and more people in power begin to lead a Yogic life, Yoga and Ayurveda will become as widespread as it was a few generations ago.
“In today's fast paced world, Yoga and Ayurveda can be an oasis of calm centeredness. As demands increase on us, the answer is to protect our wellbeing and our downtime with nourishing Yoga and Ayurveda. With work from home and flex schedules we are challenged to create boundaries, to shut the notifications off and to decompress. Now more than ever we need the wisdom of our ancestors to carve out time for rest, renewal and recharging.”
To tread the path of Ayurveda, you must ask yourself: is good health and balance one of my major values? Only then will you be able to value the depths of the Ayurvedic wisdom. Salila believes that Vedic wisdom is not the only way to have good health, but Vedic wisdom is where everybody who is serious and mindful ends up because it is the source and the fount of living as one with nature’s rhythms. It is called the unchanging and eternal for this reason. “No matter what path you take, know that your home is ultimately Vedic wisdom. So don't worry about getting it right, and getting all the details in, just walk, your way will unfold and will bring you home.”
From Amrutam’s range of authentic Ayurvedic formulations, Salila would love to try out Amrutam Kumkumadi Oil. She’s been using the formulation for nearly a decade now and is always eager to try out the recipes of different brands simply because it reduces pores and acne scars, leaving her skin plump, nourished and glowing!
We are beyond grateful to have Salila Sukumaran as part of our #AmrutamFamily!