How are you today – what does a normal day consist of for you?
A normal day really varies. I could be researching Ayurvedic remedies for inspiration, emailing with someone who has expressed an interested in SAMAYA or thanking those who have provided feedback on our products, or I could be in the lab working on a new formulation or visiting one of my suppliers. Thankfully most of them are not far from London so I don’t have very far to travel. I am also selectively reaching out to retail partners so a normal day is usually rather busy and hectic. I also have two young children so there is the usual parenting routine layered on top of my work day.
What is your morning routine in terms of skincare, breakfast and exercise, if any?
SAMAYA’s Pitta Hydrating Cleanser gets my day off to the right start as I always feel especially good after using it. In the mornings I find the jasmine aroma very pleasing and gently invigorating. I follow it with the very effective Pitta Anti-Ageing Cream. The fragrance from the natural ingredients lingers and carries me through the day and helps me relax and stay grounded as my days can get quite stressful multi-tasking and juggling the various aspects of my work.
I always start the day with a glass of water at room temperature. As my Vata is usually high on most days I tend to be on the dehydrated side so I have lemon with a dash of honey in hot water as this is very hydrating and soothing. Breakfast consists mostly of fruits: papaya is a firm favourite but I have whatever is in season. Bananas are a great energy booster too. When I need something more substantial I cook myself oatmeal or scrambled eggs with salmon.
I try and fit in two Pilates classes a week in the mornings. Depending on my travel schedule I might only manage one in a week but then I try and stretch for a few minutes before breakfast. I usually lift light weights for an hour twice a week in the evenings at home once the kids are in bed.
Can you explain what Ayurveda is please & how it works for those that don’t know?
Ayurveda means ‘life knowledge’ or ‘science of life’ in Sanskrit. It is a system of holistic wellness and healing that has evolved and been perfected continuously over 5,000 years. Ayurveda’s basic premise is that the mind, body and soul need to be in balance for an individual’s wellbeing. Lifestyle as a whole is key to achieving this balance as is looking after your wellbeing according to your specific dosha or constitution.
The first step is to discover your own dosha type. Doshas are the energies that govern each individual. There are primarily three types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Some people tend to have just one dosha while others have a combination of two. Each dosha has its unique emotional and physical characteristics. Ayurveda tells us how to balance the original dosha that we were born with by adjusting our diet, sleep, exercise and skincare. In Ayurveda, like increases like so imbalances are treated with their opposites. This makes sense as you would balance hot with cold, dry with wet and so on. Also, people with a particular constitution might love spicy food while people with a different constitution might have a complete aversion to spicy food and prefer sweets. So Ayurveda is really intuitive once you get into it.
I am a big believer in recycling. I take public transport most of the time and I am constantly switching off the lights at home.Abida Halstenberg
How and when did you first become interested in the ancient art of Ayurvedic medicine & culture?
I was born and brought up in India where Ayurveda is a way of life. So it is hard to pick a particular moment in time as I really grew up within an Ayurvedic culture where natural remedies were passed down the generations in our family.
My grandmother was an especially important influence in my life and she always stressed the importance of taking time out to relax in order to achieve balance and wellness. She always said that it was never too early to start looking after oneself. I must have been only seven or eight years old when she handed me my first Ayurvedic ingredients. I still remember what they were – rosewater, glycerin and Multani Mitti (Fullers Clay) – with which I enthusiastically mixed my first face pack.
What was it like growing up in India?
I grew up in a city that was famous for its slow way of life. No one was in a hurry to get anything done and we took the time to appreciate the small things in life. Yet we were so productive and it felt like there were so many hours in a day. We had time for ourselves, our family and our friends and made time to enjoy nature, even if it was sitting together as a family for half an hour in the garden every evening. We ate freshly prepared foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables. It was really idyllic. My brother and I cycled all around the residential colony we lived in and had plenty of freedom and we explored every nook and cranny of our neighbourhood on our own. Friends regularly dropped by unannounced so it was always very social. Holidays were primarily spent bonding with family and I am particularly grateful for that time with my grandmothers and aunts as this is when Ayurvedic kitchen remedies were typically passed on.
What Ayurvedic principles did you use while growing up?
My father was a big fan of moments of silence so I grew up practising some healthy downtime. Even now, I need a bit of time to myself daily to recharge and rebalance. Every culture promotes the idea of meditation through self-reflection or prayer and growing up in India meant I had lots of such moments of calm as my family was very particular about not getting caught up in mindless rushing.
Our house always had Chyawanprash, the immunity boosting herbal tonic made with amla or gooseberry which is a powerful antioxidant. Oil baths were common in Southern India where I grew up. Coconut oil was the go-to moisturiser but we also used olive oil and oiled our hair every week and used natural herbal pastes made from besan or gram flour combined with turmeric, sandalwood, cucumber, rosewater, lemon juice or milk as the occasion required. I even remember using egg white to get my hair really shiny!
If someone was unwell, we always tried traditional Ayurvedic remedies such as haldi doodh (turmeric in warm milk) which was a cure for most maladies that befell us! Worked wonders for sore throats and made our skin look great too.
Why did you decide to create a range of skincare products based on Ayurvedic principles?
I felt the need for greater balance and wellness in my life and struggled to find the time to meditate. I thought, ‘Why not combine the two and incorporate balance and wellness into my daily skincare routine?’ I had tried most beauty products on the market and was invariably disappointed by how far off they were from the pure and natural solutions that I had grown up with. I knew our skin is our largest organ and readily absorbs essential oils and active ingredients. So I thought I would use skincare as a vehicle for achieving wellness. Of course, the skincare had to be all-natural and I wanted to curate the finest authentic elements of Ayurveda so that each range had dosha-balancing ingredients that had been used to balance particular constitutions for thousands of years. I wanted to take it one step further and include clinically proven anti-ageing active compounds in the range so people could experience the results of all-natural functional skincare that imparted a sense of tranquillity and calm as it helped to balance particular constitutions.
What was the process like creating a skincare range from natural ingredients without any parabens and synthetics and all the bad stuff?
It was surprisingly easy because it was simply never an option for me. Even when it took months to find the right partners and suppliers who could provide us with ingredients that were sustainable and pure, when it took simply ages to get the formulations’ textures and aromas right, I never once considered including synthetics or any nasty ingredients to take a short-cut. My goal was always to create an effective, premium skincare range that was not only all-natural and functional, but also one that provided holistic wellness and I don’t believe that is possible if one includes synthetic and harsh ingredients.
I drew up a wish list of all the dosha-balancing authentic Ayurvedic ingredients I wanted in each range and was ruthless about excluding any that did not adhere to the strict criteria I set out for the range. For example, I remember searching for months for a supplier of Guggul, which is a wonderful tri-doshic Ayurvedic herb. I could only find Guggul in a tincture format that included the very drying substance ‘alcohol denatured’. So I made the decision to exclude Guggul from the entire range rather than compromise and include ‘the bad stuff’ as you put it.
We loved taking SAMAYA’s quiz to discover which dosha type we are. What dosha are you?
I am a Vata-Pitta combination. So I am creative but focused when necessary!
I think a lot of people would like to create ‘samadosha’ (perfect balance) in this day and age. How would you recommend they do this?
The first step is self-awareness. We need to know our basic constitution so we can then balance ourselves accordingly. It is the small things that help us achieve samadosha – little changes such as going to sleep an hour earlier, waking up an hour earlier, starting the day with warming honey and lemon water, stretching, using natural skincare with dosha balancing ingredients, staying active, eating according to our dosha type and so on. Using products with natural fragrances that help you unwind are an important and easy way to reduce stress and anxiety in our lives.
What’s your favourite product from your skincare range?
My personal favourite is the Vata cleanser. Like all SAMAYA’s cleansers it is formulated with practically no water and is predominantly oil-based. The texture is magical. It resembles a cream but when massaged on to dry skin it melts into skin like an oil balm, penetrating deep to lift stubborn impurities and even removes waterproof eye-makeup. While some people use a damp muslin to remove the cleanser, I prefer to use just water to rinse off the balm which turns into a milky emulsion when it comes into contact with water.
My skin is left feeling deeply hydrated as we use a natural hydrating active ingredient which works together with the Ayurvedic oil blends and botanicals to soften skin so it never feels dry and tight. This is especially important around the sensitive eye area which can easily be stripped of moisture, resulting in more pronounced lines and wrinkles as well as dark circles.
The uplifting and relaxing aroma evokes a mild, delicate scent of a rose that I find particularly soothing and comforting. I always look forward to cleansing my face at night and use it to boost hydration. It calms me and helps me prepare for a good night’s sleep.
I think it is incredible how one’s dosha determines one’s scent preferences and influences one’s mood. The Vata cleanser never ceases to lift my spirits!
What does the future hold for you and SAMAYA?
I would like to introduce Ayurveda and SAMAYA to as many people as possible because I think both have tangible benefits that everyone can benefit from. I am already working on new innovations to grow the SAMAYA family so stay tuned.
How Eco-friendly are you and what are your top tips for living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle?
I am reasonably eco-friendly and am a big believer in recycling. I take public transport most of the time and am constantly switching off the lights at home. We installed LEDs throughout our home and I am now contemplating buying an electric car. It is about taking the time to recycle something that could easily end up in the rubbish bin if we get lazy about it. I think we can all do more and again it is the small choices we make that make a big difference.
Top Eco tip: Walk more! Walking is the most eco-friendly activity most of us have access to – it is the best form of exercise as it is gentle on our joints yet gets our heart rate up. In addition to being environmentally friendly it is also relaxing as it clears and calms the mind.
Do you have any mantras that you live by?
Life is fleeting so make the most of it. Be positive, be kind and be helpful. Nothing is perfect. Learn to enjoy the imperfections. We have so much to be grateful for.
Photography by Beautyqueenuk.co.uk and beautypassionista.com