Wellness expert Jasmine Hemsley lets us in on the techniques she uses to navigate fast-paced living.
Jasmine Hemsley is the raven-haired ex-model turned wellness guru who has a knack for making a trend. As one half of the duo Hemsley + Hemsley, along with her younger sister Melissa, she became a pioneer of the wellness movement, advocating whole, natural and plant-based food before any of us really knew what those things meant. And it worked. As well as two bestselling cookbooks (2014’s The Art of Eating Well, and last year’s Good + Simple), she has co-hosted Channel 4’s Eating Well with Hemsley + Hemsley and opened a Hemsley + Hemsley café in Selfridges.
She lives in north London, in an open-plan flat that was originally a work space. “It’s full of plants and eclectic furniture,” she tells me when we chat over lunch. “I studied furniture and contemporary design, so I love mixing contemporary pieces with classics and clashing patterns.” She finds nicknacks at car-boot sales – where she whiles away any spare Sunday mornings. “There’s also lots of dog toys, or things that have become dog toys lying around,” she says, in reference to her three four-legged friends, Julie, Arunja and Beamer. “They get me out of the house into whatever nature you can find in London.”
How would you describe your philosophy?
Balance is the first word I’d use. Finding a way to nourish every part of you. And in terms of food, for me it’s all about comfort. I feel like food has the power to nourish you on so many levels – mentally, emotionally and physically – as long as you’re eating something you love. For me, that’s a warming bowl of something freshly cooked, like a soup or a stew.
Your book focuses on exactly that – balance – using Ayurvedic principles. Where did that passion come from?
I first came across Ayurveda during yoga classes around 2001, then again in 2005 when I was researching philosophies on wellness during a time of “low-fat, low-calorie diets” and I started incorporating the principles that made sense to me into my life. Learning vedic meditation in 2010 really propelled me to learn more about Ayurvedic principles, which have informed much of my wellness journey.
The timeless laws of nature make Ayurveda as relevant today as it was 5,000 years ago, and perhaps even more relevant as modern inventions, societal pressure and unnatural habitats send our innate link to the intelligence of our universe out of whack.
Why do you think this mind-body-soul attitude to food and wellness is so relevant and important now?
I think we’ve come to realise that we can’t just look after one part of ourselves and expect to feel amazing. We’re always looking for a quick fix, but we forget how connected everything is. If you neglect your mind, if you’re anxious and stressed all the time and don’t do anything to address that, it doesn’t matter how well you treat your body – it’ll have an impact.
Technology is great, but when you’re so disconnected from the natural world, it’s difficult to feel whole and centred. Millions of people feel like something is wrong, even though on the surface they have perfectly nice lives. I think it’s partly to do with modern society having started to view the human body in a robotic way. But that’s not nurturing our soul, spirit, creativity – whatever you want to call it – that makes each of us unique.
How has it helped you personally?
Well, I live in London, it’s very fast paced, I run my own business, there’s lots of stimuli. If I don’t take care of myself – if I don’t think about clearing my mind, trying to be present in my body – I end up being reactive and wired. It’s not just making sure there are calories in my body and that I’m getting enough sleep.
We forget how stimulated we are, compared to people who lived thousands of years ago. Now we have a million job titles and hobbies, we interact with hundreds of people every day – even if it’s just via Instagram. We’re constantly planning the future and thinking about the past. Certainly for me, meditation – 20 minutes a day of clearing my mind – helps keeps me calm. Which in turn helps me to make better decisions.
What simple ways could people incorporate more balance into their daily lives?
First start making wholesome slow-cooked food, which is great for everyone’s digestion, as often as possible – after all you are what you can digest. Add a sprinkle of herbs and spices regularly in your dishes to take advantage of nature’s medicine cabinet, and sip herbal teas throughout the day. Try making lunchtime rather than evening your main meal of the day and enjoying dinner as early as possible for a better night’s sleep. Finally, drink hot water or warm rather than chilled. I carry a thermos of hot water to remind me to drink and stay hydrated, especially during this time of year.
Tell us more about the type of meditation you practice…
Vedic meditation, which is the oldest technique. It uses a personalised mantra to enable you to meditate whenever and wherever you like. It’s similar to transcendental meditation, but feels more personal. I’ve been advancing my practise with Will Williams who’s based in Soho. He’s a friend and teacher who nudged me to spread the message of Ayurveda.
You also use sound baths?
Sound therapy has been a natural extension of my interests in health and wellbeing. The tones produced by crystal singing bowls are heard by the ear and felt in the body, with certain tones affecting your energy centres (chakras) for balancing and meditation. I started studying it a few years ago, then decided to set up my own pop-up workshops called Sound Sebastien at the Devonshire Club in London with my friend Toni Dicks. Together we create soothing sound baths to relax, uplift and inspire.
Why do you think people are resistant to talking about the spiritual side of wellness?
It’s another language, another culture. It’s difficult to get your head around it initially. I think we’re now tuning into more subtleties. We talk about energy more. We’re also realising that there’s no magic pill. We can have vitamin injections and drink the ultimate protein shake, but at the end of the day, if we’re working against the natural rhythms of our bodies, we’re going to burn out at some point.
East by West: Simple recipes For Ultimate Mind-Body Balance by Jasmine Hemsley, £25, Bluebird, is available from amazon.com
Jasmine Hemsley’s London Glossary
Best Beauty: Content Beauty
An organic and natural skincare shop and salon, Content Beauty stocks the latest natural products and innovations. I never leave the shop empty-handed and can vouch that the staff are some of the most knowledgeable around.
14 Bulstrode Street, Marylebone, W1; contentbeautywellbeing.com
Favourite Locale: Albemarle Street
This is a bit of a cheat but I love Albemarle Street. There’s Brown’s, the oldest hotel in London, which is also the home of new Italian pop-up Ora. It serves delicious dishes (the chef is from Rome and has three Michelin stars) using fantastic produce. When I’m done, I always stop by Raw Press; they do the best organic juices and banana bread.
Mayfair, W1; rawpress.co
Hottest Spa: Coco Shambhala Spa
Como Shambhala Spa at the Metropolitan, right on Park Lane which feels so London. It’s the perfect escape; you feel the city melt away as you enter. They have an evolving list of visiting practitioners so you can discover new, and often ancient, healing practices from energy work to a good old-fashioned massage.
19 Old Park Lane, Mayfair, W1; comohotels.com
Good for Gut Health: Kultured
Kultured is a brilliant space in the heart of London near theatre-land. Making their own ferments, tonics and syrups, and serving old-fashioned dishes from tangy kimchi to bone broth, it’s an exciting place to try the whole fermented food trend if you haven’t already.
21 Great Windmill St, Soho, W1; kultured.co.uk