HEALTHY PRACTICES: Mira Manek


MIRA MANEK ON HER NEW BOOK AND THE ART OF BEING HAPPY

by ASJAD NAZIR

IN HER younger days Mira Manek thought Ayurveda was a destination and benefited immensely from visiting health spas across India.

It was only later on that she realised Ayurveda was a lifestyle filled with enriching practices, including cooking with certain spices, rituals and correct nourishment.

The London-based business entrepreneur and writer embedded these practices into her daily life, which subsequently led her to opening a successful café in Soho’s Kingly Court. Then, with her acclaimed first book Saffron Soul, Manek was able to rediscover the wholesome nourishing food she grew up eating and ones elders in the family still cook almost daily.

Manek has now followed up that book of simple home recipes with her second offering Prajna – Ayurvedic Rituals For Happiness, which brings together her entire journey of wellbeing, including yoga, food, philosophy and spirituality. The book has received a brilliant response and is making a real difference to those who have picked it up.

Eastern Eye caught up with Mira Manek to learn about her new book, health and happiness.

Tell us about your book Prajna – Ayurvedic Rituals For Happiness?
Prajna weaves together elements of Indian philosophy, principles of Ayurveda, simple recipes to cook everyday, the power of breath work (pranayama), morning yoga and deep evening stretches. It is interspersed with my own thoughts and journey, bringing India to life through small anecdotes and moments of inspiration. It’s a book, a gift to yourself and others of wellness, lifestyle and rituals inspired by eastern traditions.

What are the key messages you want people to take away from the new book?
Ayurveda is as much about when you eat as it is about what you eat and how much you eat. It’s supremely important to understand your own body and that it’s different to another body. I also highlight the benefits of eating seasonally; we come from nature and are attuned to it, so crave warming hearty foods in winter and lighter foods in summer. Having less raw foods generally, especially in the winter months, is important (depending on the climate you live in). Also, the importance of mindfulness. The book also conveys the benefits of mindful practices.

Tell us about that?
Listening to your thoughts, practising being present with wherever you are and whatever you are doing goes hand in hand with healthful practices. Mindfulness and healthfulness create a package of happiness and wellbeing.

How would you describe a ritual for happiness?
Individuals are unique and will have rituals unique to them. For me on a cold rainy London day, warmth, chai and playing a melodic tune come to mind. (I also give morning, afternoon and evening playlists in Prajna). So it could be pouring chai into your favourite mug, sitting on the sofa, taking a few deep breaths, writing down a few things you’re grateful for, or anything else that comes to mind. Moments like these, even if it’s just half an hour, can reset you, infuse a sense of calm, spread warmth through the body and energise you for the day.

How would you define the feeling of happiness?
Being as present as possible in every moment. It’s difficult to do this all the time, but practising this more will help. Also a gentle reminder or momentary nudge will make you more aware of how the mind drifts and how you can bring it back.

How much is happiness connected to health?
Health is as much about the body as it is about the mind. We are realising this more and more as mental health has become a bigger issue. Both are intrinsically linked. Movement, exercise and yoga all release endorphins, which are the happy hormones. Anything that generates a better state of health and wellbeing promotes happiness.

Why does an ancient system like Ayurveda remain popular today?
Ayurveda, as well as other systems of wellbeing and medicine, have suddenly regained popularity. Part of the reason is that science is now able to prove the mind-body connection that these ancient systems of medicine have taught us. People are realising that one-size-fits-all remedies, medicines and diets don’t work, and that understanding our body is key to our health and wellbeing.

What can we expect next from you?
I have a café in Kingly Court Soho in London called Chai by Mira. For now, I’m focusing on that, expanding the Chai with online orders and working with larger cafes and hotels across London, promoting my new book and doing day retreats and wellbeing events. I also have a supperclub coming up, along with a yoga and food retreat in Oxfordshire this December!

What inspires you?
Creating recipes, being creative, writing, bringing people together, and, of course, lots of chai (tea).

Why should we pick up your new book?
It’s a beautiful gift-worthy book with practical tips, nuggets of ancient wisdom and meditative practices. It brings India to life, has simple delicious recipes for morning to evening and allows you to create your own playlist of rituals.

MIRA MANEK GIVES QUICK HEALTH TIPS

  • Having ginger powder in hot water first thing in the morning or during the day can help reduce inflammation in the body and gives inner warmth.
  • Try having your biggest meal at lunchtime as this is when our agni, digestive fire is at its strongest (I explain this in detail in Prajna), but work according to your lifestyle, so for example, if you’re extremely busy and eat that big meal at your desk, not chewing properly, this defeats the purpose entirely.
  • Be aware. Making small changes will bring about greater awareness and bigger changes in the future.
  • Do one thing every day that makes you happy and connects you to nature, like a walk through the park, yoga class, spinning, a quick meditation while sitting outdoors, painting or drawing. A short passage of me-time creates a state of daily happiness.