Ayurvedic Insights from Salila Sukumaran

Introducing Salila Sukumaran

Salila has lived and traveled almost everywhere in India and the Western Hemisphere. She has one foot firmly planted in Kerala and the other in California.

Her family lineage is steeped in the tradition of Ayurveda. The grandmothers passed down the traditions, which she often scoffed at in her childhood search for a more Western life. However, Ayurveda was in her bones, and would not abandon her.

“Although I have been successful and joyful in the Western lifestyle, I reached a point in my life where my health and my heart were missing something. Mother urged me to return to the source – Ayurveda and Yoga. I did not question her, and it was there that I found my healing.” says Salila.

After her profound and powerful reconnection and transformation, she committed herself to studying these Vedic healing modalities and bringing Ayurveda to the world she knew.

For her work in promoting Yoga and Ayurveda, Salila has been recognized as an ambassador by AYUSH, India’s health ministry and Kerala Tourism. She has also been featured in Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News and Arianna Huffington’s Authority Magazine.

1. In your opinion, what are the first 3-5 things an individual can do to get started on an Ayurvedic way of life?

    Ayurveda is highly intuitive and starts to offer up immense benefits in terms of greater mind-body-spirit balance. We experience renewed energy and deeper connection with self and others. Ayurveda rituals harmonize the rhythms of the body with the rising and setting of the sun, the moon and the passage of seasons, helping us bring more life, meaning and juice into our days. My top 3 recommended Ayurveda rituals are to learn about your Ayurveda body type, learn how to give yourself or a loved one a luxurious Abhyanga oil massage and snagging a recipe of soothing turmeric milk to wind down post dinner.

    2. Can you share a few examples of when you have seen Ayurveda at its most transformative, or essentially its best?

      For me one of the most transformative experiences is helping clients regain their natural ability to easily sleep and stay asleep with a loving oil abhyangam of the feet. An oil abhyangam not only is "nidrakara", helps with melatonin production and sleep, it is also "prasadana" helps regulate emotions, and release oxytocin, restoring a sense of joy.  Based on Ayurveda, diet and sleep are two of the three main pillars on which our health stands steady, with Abhyanga we fortify both sleep and digestive fire. This naturally then resets our relationships as well, the third pillar of health. Restive nights, active days and safe emotive relationships are critical for our overall well-being.

      3. Are there certain situations, persons, or diseases that you have found Ayurveda to be more valuable for?

        Ayurvedic rituals are "snehana" or loving. They are a perfect antidote for stress caused by back to back meetings and a never ending to-do of our modern lives. Many Ayurveda rituals use generous amounts of organic, cold pressed, nourishing oils, as diet, cosmetics and healing salves. The ancient sage physicians of Vedic India, called oil as "sneha" or love itself so we never lose sight of the fact that it is the perfect medicine for disconnecting from the source of love. As  "Vata '' imbalance caused by stress and mental strain is felt, we become 'harsh and dry' in our body and mind. Oiling slows down the agitated body and helps center the racing mind.

        4. Are there situations or conditions you believe Ayurveda may not work, or that other modalities may provide greater impact?

          Acute onset of life threatening conditions are definitely the forte of modern medicine.

          5. What are some recommendations you have for someone to get the most out of their initial Ayurveda journey?

            Ayurveda helps us go slow, and reconnect to our body. As we care for our body by feeding it nourishing fresh foods, oil and bathe, hydrate with warm teas and broths, we begin to cultivate the habit of noticing our emotions and thoughts more closely. We become aware of our connection to the greater world, the sun energy, the moon energy and the passing of the seasons. We may have previously neglected ourselves and distracted with binge eating, consuming media to cope. During the transitional phase of incorporating Ayurveda rituals, it is normal to feel unsure when some aspects of our life come into sharp focus. As the body gets healthier it begins to reject unhealthy food, a healthy mind begins to crave solitude for renewal, friendly assurance that this is an important healing phase is key. It is always a good idea to stay in touch with your practitioner or like minded friends as you gain strength in your own inner wisdom. 

            6. When choosing an Ayurvedic doctor, what are some of the questions you recommend someone ask? Are there other things you recommend people research to ensure a good fit with their Ayurvedic doctor?

              It is a good idea to ask a practitioner how long they have been working with clients, who they trained with and for client testimonials. If they are active on social media, read their content and how they respond to comments. A good practitioner strives to empower with the knowledge of Ayurveda.

              7. What are the top 3-5 Ayurvedic herbs you believe we all need in our lives? Do they have any caveats or contra-indications in some situations?

                One of my own personal favorites is Triphala, a rasayana or rejuvenating mix of three herbs which help my body overcome the wear and tear of the day, the emotional ups and downs and the indiscretions that come with a busy lifestyle. Triphala is made of the fruit of three trees, Amla, Vibhitaki, Haritaki. Amla everyday will keep the doctor away. Haritaki is a powerful immune booster. Vibhitaki, which interestingly translates to the one that dissolves fear, is a nod to its powerful stress busting, digestive, detox qualities.

                8. What are the few Ayurvedic spices we must all have in our kitchens?

                The use of spices is an important part of Ayurvedic cooking, and spices have medicinal properties that promote digestive health and wellness.The non-negotiables in an Ayurveda newbie kitchen are turmeric, asafoetida, coriander, pepper, fennel and cumin seeds. Turmeric is especially the queen of the spice rack because it has anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

                9. Could you share a favorite Ayurvedic recipe? (could be anything – an Ayurvedic breakfast or tea, a cold remedy, something for indigestion, or detoxing)


                  Please feel free to use any recipe from my blog above.

                  10. {PLEASE PICK 1 or More as you see fit!}  Can you share a brief overview of the doshic or lifestyle or other imbalances that can lead to the following common ailments? What do you see as the path back to balance?
                    • Bloating : An imbalance of Vata and potentially reverse peristalsis, best to have roasted carom tea to soothe the gut.
                    • Persistent weight issues: Usually this is a sign of hormonal imbalance, get hormones checked out, work with a practitioner.
                    • Skin ailments like psoriasis and eczema: Viruddhahara or negative food combinations like mixing dairy with meat, or sour fruit is the root cause. It is best to go for a panchakarma under the supervision of a qualified ayurveda physician.
                    • Hair fall: If this is not related to pregnancy, lactation or menopause then usually it is caused by stress or chronic inflammation. Block time for prepping nourishing meals, haircare rituals and weekly oiling.
                    • Premature greying: An imbalance of Pitta, the fiery energy of the body, is responsible for premature greying. Work to reduce stress and find a nourishing cooling season appropriate oil for regular head massages.
                    11. Please paint the picture of an Ayurvedic journey under your care as a doctor? Please touch on low-touch (remote) and high touch (basti, etc.) modalities? When do you believe a panchakarma becomes necessary? How do you recommend patients make the best of remote sessions and gain the maximum benefit before coming in for in-person treatments.

                      As an Ayurveda diet and lifestyle consultant I support clients from all over the world. Majority of my clients have chronic issues for which they are already under a physician's care. My role is to offer them guidance related to complementary Ayurveda rituals, diet and lifestyle changes, healing mantras, Yoga flows and perspective shifts that will help them stay consistent. My most successful clients work with me over 2-3 sessions, take excellent notes, use the worksheets I share, and give me timely feedback as they notice changes. Those who wish to understand Ayurvedic concepts also learn through my online courses, this helps them understand the hows and whys of Ayurveda which can be confusing to the western educated mind that often thinks in silos.

                      For those seeking a faster route to holistic healing, I offer a free referral service to Panchakarma centers in India. Health seekers get to experience accelerated healing with Panchakarma treatments under expert physicians with decades of experience. This is an investment in terms of finances, time and requires will power, I am there to support throughout the process remotely.

                      12. How has Ayurveda enhanced your life personally?

                        I come from a long lineage of women and men steeped in the mother of all medicine, Ayurveda. While I was well adjusted in the western ways thanks to my upbringing in north India and here in the US, away from the backwaters of Kerala, my ancestral home, my heart was always missing something. Coming home to Ayurveda in Kerala, India, after a bout of poor health and reconnecting with the wisdom of my grandmothers nearly a decade ago, has been the best gift I have received. Today, the practice of Ayurveda has given me dharmic purpose, and the ability to inspire and serve others in ways I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams. When health seeking womxn make me part of their wellness journeys as they navigate health challenges, and achieve all that they set the intention for against great odds, be it becoming a mother or overcoming a chronic health issue, I can almost feel my great grandmothers smiling.

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