with Martha Soffer, Ayurvedic Doctor + Founder of Surya Spa
Tell us about Surya Spa and what makes it unique?
Surya focuses on a modern application of Ayurveda. We’re an Ayurvedic Spa that helps people return to balance through the wonderful healing properties of Ayurveda, and helps them help themselves! I discovered the power of Ayurveda 30 years ago and every day I feel so lucky to get to be the conduit for that wisdom. Ayurveda has transformed my life, and my family’s, and I’m so grateful that I get to help other people experience that same transformation every day. At Surya, we see balance in really simple terms — if you’re too emotionally or physically hot, you need to cool down; if you’re stressed, you need to calm down; if you’re feeling sluggish, you need to energize. It’s so amazing to see how Ayurvedic treatments and simple diet and lifestyle changes can radically shift your state of being.
Can you give us a basic overview of Ayurveda?
Ayurveda translates to ‘the science of life.’ It is an ancient system for wellbeing and longevity that yogis in India started developing 10,000 years ago. It includes everything from yoga and meditation to natural science and healthcare. Ayurveda understands and treats discomfort and disease by understanding the imbalances in our constitutions, which, in Ayurveda, are comprised of three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Derived from the elements, our doshas are the three biological energies that govern our physical and mental processes. Vata is associated with wind and air; Pitta with fire; and Kapha with the solidity of earth and water. When these elements become imbalanced, we begin to feel unease that can eventually manifest into disease. Ayurveda seeks to rebalance the doshas to restore health and wellbeing, and hopefully before the symptoms of disease manifest.
Elizabeth loved coming to do Panchakarma this past December, can you explain what that entails?
We loved having Elizabeth at Surya! Panchakarma (or PK) is the ancient Ayurvedic series of nourishing, detoxifying, and restorative treatments, which typically occur over the course of 3-28 consecutive days, and dramatically improve health and wellbeing by returning balance to our mind and body. Using the best aspects of Ayurvedic medicine through a combination of diet changes, herbal remedies, warm oils, and other transformative daily therapies, Panchakarma lets the body rest, open, and heal. Clients leave feeling physically and emotionally revitalized, both calm and energetic at the same time. And that real transformation lasts.
Given our current environment, what advice or tips do you have for easing anxiety and boosting immunity?
Stress is one of the primary factors that reduces immunity, so the absolute best thing you can do for your wellbeing right now is to soothe your nervous system. Meditation is my daily nervous system reset— at Surya we love the simplicity of Transcendental Meditation, which we do twice a day every day. It’s hugely helpful. For herbal help, I crafted a blend of soothing Anti-Anxiety Tea. Sipping on warm liquid throughout the day helps keep mucous membranes moist which fortifies your body against pathogens. One of my favorite immunity tools is Thieves Oil, a blend of antibacterial and antiviral essential oils. I apply it to my palms, cup my hands around my face, and inhale deeply. I also like to apply it to the soles of my feet and the top of my head before going to sleep so I’m fully enveloped in the scent and the protective immune benefits. I also love boiling a pot of water on the stove with antipathogenic herbs like eucalyptus, rosemary, and thyme. It smells incredible and helps to add a bit of humidity to the air. If someone feels a little itch in their throat, it can’t hurt to gargle with a hydrogen peroxide solution to kill any pathogens.
Are there any particular foods that you would incorporate or avoid in times of stress?
Our overall health begins with the health of our digestive system, so in Ayurveda we always begin with the most nourishing diet. When we feel stressed, our Vata (air element) is out of balance, so it’s important to eat foods that ground and warm us. When we’re feeling that stress, it’s best to avoid cold and dry foods like smoothies and popcorn, and instead opt for warm and easy-to-digest soups and sauteed vegetables. It’s also best, during those times, to avoid too much inflammatory gluten, or dairy or sugar. In Ayurveda, we often recommend Kitchari, which is made with rice, mung beans and balancing spices — it’s the ultimate Ayurvedic comfort food, delicious and easy to digest.
What is different about Ayurvedic beauty and what products or routines would you recommend to someone just trying it out?
In Ayurveda, inner beauty is the source of outer beauty. The more we take care of ourselves, the better we feel, and the more beautiful and radiant we both are and appear. This means being mindful of what we eat, and what we put into and on our bodies. The way you eat, sleep, and care for yourself show up on your skin and in how you look. And how we care for ourselves not only affects how we feel within ourselves but affects the people around us. It’s really true — taking care of ourselves can also lead to taking better care of those around us.
Nourishing your skin with non-toxic products is crucial to your skin’s health — and your internal health. When you put something on your skin, it enters your bloodstream within 20 minutes. That’s why using organic, nourishing ingredients is so important. It’s so worth taking an extra couple of minutes to pay a bit of extra attention to your skin each day. Here’s my routine: I wash my face with just warm water or baking soda. Then I use a pump or two of Surya’s Liquid Gold Face Oil (which takes seven days to brew!). I use a kansa wand to work in the oil, using small circular motions. It feels so good, and it also helps enhance circulation and reduce wrinkles. I follow the oil with a bit of our Collagen Cream, which has 45 herbs, 10 oils, seven essential oils, and three kinds of milk, including camel’s! This cream helps bind toxins and pull them out of the skin, and stimulates collagen production. The effects are amazing. I finish off by using a gua sha tool to do a bit of lymphatic drainage.
What do you recommend for getting a quality night’s sleep?
Deep, consistent, rejuvenating sleep is so important. If you have trouble sleeping, do all the obvious things like turning off your phone and computer earlier so your body’s melatonin production begins as it naturally gets dark. And for the Ayurvedic tips, as you’re getting ready for bed, massage your feet with a little ghee. If you like, you can even put on a pair of socks. This really helps to ground and comfort the nervous system. We make an herbalized ghee specifically for this purpose, but any ghee will do. For extra warmth and grounding, place a hot water bottle near your feet when you get into bed. Try to go to sleep by 10pm each night — the most restful hours of sleep are between 10-2. If we need a little extra help, practice or listen to some yoga nidra in bed. That can lead to really a deep rest!
What are a few of your can’t live without daily wellness practices?
My morning routine is so important. It makes a huge difference in my overall wellbeing throughout the day. When I wake up, I scrape my tongue and oil pull. I drink a glass of warm water and do my 20 minute meditation. Before my shower, I love to dry brush and do a quick and light abhyanga, which is a self-massage with warm herbalized oil. I use our Vata Balancing Abhyanga Oil because it helps me stay grounded. Start doing this routine every day and you’ll feel a shift really immediately.
As we are transitioning to Spring, what should we be eating and doing?
The change of seasons is the absolute best time to cleanse because you’re mirroring what nature is doing — clearing out what’s old to create space for the next cycle of life to come. I like to do the cleanse we have all our clients do before the start of Panchakarma. I designed it as a home prep diet to prepare the body for the deep cleansing of Panchakarma, but it’s powerful on its own. It’s a gentle detox that cleanses without depleting the body. It involves a nourishing, cooked vegetarian diet and a little ghee each morning to pull toxins out of the tissues. Reach out to us to schedule a consultation if you’d like more in-depth guidance. Because we’re all remote right now, I’m doing lots of video consults to help people, even short immunity ones. We’re always here for you!
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