“An Ayurvedic cleanse is never about weight loss,” says London-based chef, author, and food coach Jasmine Hemsley. “And it never puts your body through strain—there’s enough of that in the modern world anyway—nor does it leave you hungry as a juice cleanse might.” We’ve been fans of Hemsley’s since 2010, when she and her sister began their bespoke cooking service, Hemsley + Hemsley, which centered around gut-friendly eating.
Many of Hemsley’s more recent solo ventures have been inspired by Ayurvedic principles, which she told us on The goop Podcast have changed her life. Her latest book, East by West, (which we featured in our goop Cookbook Club series) is grounded in Ayurveda, with a bit of a modern bent.
What’s perhaps most appealing about Hemsley’s way of cooking, eating, and generally moving about the world is that it feels good to be good to yourself. And what’s most rewarding: When we’re not punishing ourselves, when we’re not restricting ourselves, it’s easier to listen to our bodies and our minds and to answer with what we want and need.
This is what Hemsley hopes you get a glimpse of in her three-day Ayurvedic Cleanse + Reset. It includes delicious and nourishing meals, and it’s also a totally flexible and forgiving plan. You can find the recipes in her book (pages 291 to 293) or (for free!) by signing up for her newsletter.
“It’s a very gentle, nurturing, and satisfying time,” Hemsley says. “We naturally know how to find balance, if only we take care to listen to our cues. It’s in this quiet space that we actually get the chance to tune in.”
A Q&A with Jasmine Hemsley
It’s a very gentle program that anyone can do anytime they feel out of whack. I aim to do it five times a year: once soon after the new year—because you know!—then once for every change of season.
Each season has different properties. For example, early fall is vata season and very dry, while early spring is kapha season and quite wet and heavy. It’s important to prep our mind, body, and spirit for the new things each season brings so we don’t feel out of sorts during these weather-changing periods.
The Cleanse + Reset is a holistic plan, which means we take care of things like our environment and sleep hygiene, too. When life is fast and furious, it means we have to bring balance with lots of downtime and rest, so gentle activities like reading a lovely book—no horrors or thrillers!—going for a walk, and practicing yoga, meditation, and breathwork are a must. Food revolves around four very simple, adaptable, and satisfying recipes to mix and match for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
It’s a time to avoid too much excitement—things like coffee, scary or upsetting or overstimulating movies, and sweaty cardio sessions, which keep us wired and stressed.
How often can you do an Ayurvedic reset? Does it change seasonally?
Check with your doctor if you have dietary concerns. Generally, people can do this reset as often as they like. You can even do it for just one day or swap in one of the recipes for a meal.
For example, if I started feeling a bit rubbish, mentally, physically, or both, I might have a bowl of kitchari as a comforting and easy-to-digest dinner before bed. A heavy meal before bed might disrupt my sleep. If I got home very late, I might sip a hot mug of golden milk as my evening meal and go straight to bed for as much rest and recuperation as possible before the alarm goes off. Or say I ate late the night before and have some heavy meals coming up, then I might just enjoy a light breakfast of stewed spiced apples to see me through to the next meal. A little bit of Ayurvedic wisdom can go a long way.
Ayurveda has subtle seasonal implications that affect everything from the food you eat to your physical activity. You’re encouraged to use local, seasonal vegetables, so your kitchari recipe will change throughout the year. In the summer, you might feel more inclined to go for a gentle walk, while in the winter you might feel more prone to cocooning. Ultimately, it’s about doing what feels right for you, and as Ayurveda understands, we’re all individuals having a different experience all of the time, so it takes some tuning in to know what’s best for you.
Apart from that, there are general things that typically work for all of us, like early to bed, early to rise and leaving time between meals so we can fully digest. And that’s what this program helps us address—we reset our taste buds, schedule, eating patterns, and digestion.
What are some things you do to stay feeling well year-round?
One of the many things I love about Ayurveda is that it’s a very gentle, forgiving system. We don’t have to be perfect—that’s impossible—and a slippery slope to other extremes. Instead we aim for a gentle balance.
Imagine a surfer riding the waves, embracing the ups and downs with strength and flexibility, rather than a flat, predictable surface. Nothing in life is predictable or constant, so don’t set yourself up for failure with that notion. We can try to incorporate healthy habits whenever we can. Once you notice the benefits of taking some time for yourself every day, you will naturally start to miss these practices if you’re not able to use them for a couple of days.
For me, it’s about listening to my mind and body and having a chance to tune in to the bigger picture spiritually, paying attention to what I’m craving and trying my best to be kind to myself. So I’m able to keep healthy habits year-round, and whenever I can’t keep to my routine, I don’t beat myself up about it. Tomorrow is a new day.
What are some practices from Ayurveda that we can apply to our daily lives?
Oh, so many! The wonderful thing about the Cleanse + Reset is that for many of my followers or subscribers, it’s their very first introduction to Ayurveda, and the plan includes so many Ayurvedic practices all wrapped up into a long weekend. So if they loved that, they might feel encouraged to incorporate some of those habits into their daily lives.
One of the simplest practices and one that I always suggest to newcomers to Ayurveda, is tongue scraping. It’s the very first thing I do when I wake up in the morning, using my East by West Tongue Tingler. It consists of bringing this U-shaped copper tool from back to front of your tongue to clear out the gunk that builds up there overnight.
Yoga and meditation are both integral to Ayurveda, so if you’re able to, those are great to practice daily. I have a YouTube playlist of some of my favorite breathwork exercises—these work wonders to ground you.
Otherwise, just generally try to live more in tune with nature, winding down when the sun goes down, waking in time to greet it, eating your biggest meal at lunchtime, and eating local, seasonal food when possible. Even something as little as walking barefoot on a patch of grass or keeping a plant on your desk can promote balance and enhance your everyday.
How do spices function in an Ayurvedic way of eating?
I call herbs and spices nature’s medicine cabinet, if that tells you anything! I would absolutely encourage anyone to add them to their cooking repertoire.
Herbs and spices are incredibly beneficial—they make your food taste delicious, and they have unique healing properties. Ayurveda starts with food and good digestion, and many spices, such as cumin and fennel, can help. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, as is ginger. I could go on forever.
I like to incorporate them as foods to enjoy their properties—a little of this and that in my everyday cooking and teas. And leave the more potent aspects of these powerful remedies with the vaidyas—Ayurvedic doctors and practitioners.
How do you manage cooking for a partner or family if there are multiple dosha types?
More important than getting caught up in the specifics—the Western way—is to follow the basic Ayurvedic principles of eating in rhythm with nature and at the right times, eating seasonally, eating locally, eating well cooked, eating freshly made, prioritizing foods that are easy to digest. Then when you get to know your mind-body type (doshic makeup) or indeed recognize any imbalances (after all, we are all made up of all three doshas) in your day-to-day, you can easily tweak it.
For example, if you have or are feeling a lot of pitta in your constitution, then reduce the chili and add a dash of coconut milk or cooling herbs, like mint and cilantro.
If you are a kapha type, which is very grounded, you could opt for extra chili or cayenne. Maybe choose darker chocolate to satisfy a sweet tooth because it’s less heavy and not as sweet and unctuous.
If you are a vata type, raw isn’t your friend. So you could sauté your salad greens. Or choose to eat salads more at lunchtime when your body has more time to digest before bed. Or save them for the summer when we could all do with a bit of cooling down and upping the grounding fats—for example, add a dollop of ghee to your dal.
Most of the recipes in East by West are dishes that you can enjoy at any time, and you can follow the little tweaks that I give you in the tips to change things up and certainly take these tweaks out into the world with you when ordering in restaurants. By cooking dishes from the book you’ll naturally get to know the different doshas, which is more important that just being versed on your dominant dosha because we will feel different doshas at different times of the day and through seasonal changes and also just depending on the environment that we’re in.
For example, a vata person, predominantly cold and dry, might start feeling very hot and sweaty when they’re in a hot country, eating very hot food. That’s when they have to learn how to balance the heat. So eating tridoshic foods, suitable for all dosha types—as mentioned, easy to digest, seasonal, etc.—is what you should aim for in your day-to-day. And then understanding the doshas enough so that you can adapt a dish according to how you’re feeling that day.
Don’t let this new-to-you—but ancient—philosophy put you off. Its simple approach is to aim for well-cooked fresh food at the right times of the day. Over time you will find that you recognize when you’ve had too much of this or too much of that. The Cleanse + Reset helps you to find your own unique balance, which will make it much easier and more intuitive to make daily choices to help you stay there.