"Ayurveda doesn’t generally recommend making big changes overnight. Let’s say you want to follow a vegetarian diet after having been brought up on a meat-based diet for your whole life. Ayurveda recommends making incremental changes to avoid a jarring effect from radical and sudden changes that might leave you more unbalanced than before. Maybe you stop eating red meat as a first step. After a while you might decide you want to only eat meat a few times each week. Maybe that shifts to only eating meat at midday and relatively quickly you find you’ve made a big change in a sustainable and smooth way."
Jillian Lavender is a Vedic Meditation Teacher and Vedic Wellness expert and has been teaching people to meditate for 15 years. She is the co-founder and co-director of London Meditation Centre and New York Meditation Center with her partner, Michael Miller, from their base in London. Through teaching Vedic Meditation, the world’s most ancient form of meditation, Jillian has helped thousands of people across the globe to transform their lives. Alongside teaching meditation, Jillian is also an expert in Ayurveda and consults on health, diet, sleep, fertility and lifestyle
"AVOID DRINKING COLD DRINKS AND START SIPPING HOT WATER THROUGHOUT THE DAY. IT WILL BE A GAME CHANGER IN TERMS OF PURIFYING YOUR SYSTEM."
What does Ayurveda mean to you?
I see Ayurveda as a system of ancient wisdom about lifestyle and diet that will bring balance into modern day life. It’s practical, it makes sense and you will notice improvements by making a few simple changes.
When did you discover it?
I discovered Ayurveda when I learned Vedic Meditation (VM) over 20 years ago in Sydney, Australia. Ayurveda, yoga and VM all come from the Veda - the many thousand year old body of knowledge that has come out of India. My meditation teacher directed me to Deepak Chopra’s book “Perfect Health” as a good introduction to Ayurveda. Once I read that I was hooked. I went to see a western doctor who was trained in Ayurveda and had a pulse diagnosis and received some simple diet and lifestyle recommendations. I noticed improvements in my health very quickly. It all resonated with me and I immediately began a process of study and practical learning in the west and India.
What drew you to Ayurveda?
When I started meditating I very quickly became more conscious about what I was eating and drinking and how I was living my life. It affected everything, from what time I went to bed to what kind of exercise I was doing. Then when I started learning about Ayurveda it reinforced the changes I was making naturally. I love that Ayurveda is not prescriptive. It’s all about knowing what’s right for you in any given moment. In Ayurveda we don’t say “no”. We say “know”. Rather than prohibiting something, know what the effect of consuming that is on your mind and body eg what’s good for one person’s mind/body type might be completely toxic for another person. And what’s right for you in the middle of August might not be right in the middle of January. It’s all about being tuned in to what’s going on for you and being connected to the natural rhythms of life. This is so entwined with my work as a meditation teacher because it’s hard to tune in to those subtle cues of nature when you are tired and stressed. The Veda cites meditation as the number one tool to being balanced and connected to nature. For me it has been the foundation tool and then Ayurveda has been able to support that and enhance the decisions I’m making in my life.
How long have you been practising it?
For nearly 25 years.
Anything major it’s helped with?
My general health is stronger as a result of following an Ayurvedic approach. My digestion and elimination is much better. My skin has improved. My monthly cycle is much smoother and my weight doesn't fluctuate in the way that it did before. I know the Ayurvedic purification process called Panchakarma played a big part in me conceiving naturally in my mid-forties and I’m sure it has influenced the health and strength of my daughter. Panchakarma is a system of treatments to purify the toxins out of your system in a way that is not harsh or damaging. There are many studies showing how powerful it is for anti-ageing and correcting deep-rooted imbalances. We know how influential the health of both mother and father is at the time of conception and I’m certain I was in much better shape as a result of my Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Is it part of everyday life or merely part of your medicine cabinet/fall back routine?
It’s part of my everyday life. The principles are so ingrained in what I do now that I don’t think about it too much. However I’m not rigid about it. Sometimes I’m not able to follow it exactly - maybe I’m travelling and staying somewhere where it’s tricky to stay on track. What I find is that my system is pretty resilient and I don’t get thrown off balance as easily as I would have in the past. I definitely put that down to my digestion being stronger.
Top 3 Ayurveda tips that have worked for you:
- Sip hot water throughout the day – AMAZING to purify toxins and hydrate the body
- Eat your main meal at lunchtime rather than late at night - your digestive system is going to be strongest in the middle of the day
- Limit raw food – I might have a salad in the middle of summer, otherwise I go for cooked food which is so much easier for the body to assimilate
What surprised you most about Ayurveda?
- How quickly you notice positive changes
- How common sense it is
Did you integrate it gradually or overnight for any particular reason?
I started making a few simple changes very quickly and I noticed such a positive change pretty much immediately that I found both reassuring and exciting. It grew from there as I learned more and as I became more balanced and less stressed.
Do your children/family eat like this? And if they do they know it’s Ayurveda or just home-cooking?
Generally yes. My daughter is only 4 and so she doesn’t yet understand how different her meals are! Having said that, she is noticing that other children eat meat and we don’t and so we’ve talked a lot about that. My partner Michael is totally on board. He’s also a meditation teacher and he’s also spent a lot of time doing Panchakarma. He had an overactive thyroid issue that western medical doctors were saying would require a lifetime of heavy-duty medicines. After receiving certain Ayurvedic treatments in India his condition was completely corrected and now he doesn’t take any allopathic medicines. The doctors back here couldn’t understand what happened!
Favourite Ayurvedic recipe or go to ingredient?
One of my go-to ingredients is ghee. I cook with it every day and I make my own every few days. Great for joints, skin, elimination, digestion, eyes, cholesterol. The list goes on…
Day to day routines
I have a few things that help my day get started in a good way:
- Brush teeth and scrape my tongue to remove toxins
- Sip hot water
- Mini oil massage (abhyanga) and then oil-pulling when in the shower
- Vedic Meditation
Do people around you/in your circle of friends know about Ayurveda?
Generally they have heard of it and have a little bit of knowledge. I think people are interested and keen to know more. I’ve noticed a lot of demand with our meditation students and I’m writing about it a lot more. Michael and I recently brought our Ayurvedic doctors out from India to London and that was a huge success. One watch out is there’s a lot of what I call “spa-Ayurveda” around at the moment that can be less than helpful. Ayurveda is so much more than having warm oil drizzled over your forehead (although that is lovely!). My aim is to stay true to the pure knowledge in a way that is easy and doable for busy people.
What’s the one thing you would encourage everyone to try/do you think would benefit the majority of people’s health for the better?
Avoid drinking cold drinks and start sipping hot water throughout the day. It will be a game changer in terms of purifying your system.