Meet our new columnist, Juhi. She’s an acupuncturist, wellness and health guru, activist, CEO and founder of The Juhi-Ash Center in New York City’s Upper East Side. Each month, she’ll be answering your questions and sharing her tips on how to leave a healthier, more centered life from a holistic perspective. In her first column, she shares her personal health journey and a few simple tips for easing into a new year, new season, or new period in your life. Got questions? Follow her @juhi says and DM us @byrdiebeauty so she can answer them in her next column.
New Age is all the rage. It winks its promise of well-being at your every turn. Each time I see it, I smile and wink back. You see, New Age and I are old friends. In truth, there’s nothing new about it. Its ideals of serenity in a balanced life descend from a seven-thousand-year-old culture—as do I. Born in India, Ayurveda is in my DNA. Its philosophies and practices are my tool kit of well-being.
Today, I lead the same modern-mania life as you. I live in New York City, a city of sensory overload. I need every option in that kit to juggle and flourish. It is as much a part of me as my Manolos and balanced doshas (the Manolos’ adding height to my five-foot frame and balanced doshas enabling me to walk in them). Honestly, no pursuit in life blossoms in imbalance, be it mind, body, spirit or footwear—but today, we’ll focus on the first three.
In my first column, Byrdie readers, I’d like to share with you who I am. And I want to know who you are. Then we can step into this new decade together and explore the tool kit I mentioned earlier. I want you to know that your health is not determined solely by the hands of Eastern or Western Medicine. Your health is in your knowledge of both—and most importantly, in your own hands.
I knew I wanted to be a doctor at the age of four. What I really wanted, but could not articulate at that age, was to help people heal. “Holistic health” is not typically in a four year old’s vocabulary (unless of course, you are my son). There are as many paths to well-being as there are human beings. The universe tailored my journey from that toddler’s proclamation to my Integrated Health Practice today.
At sixteen, I was diagnosed with Chrons’ disease. This life-threatening gastrointestinal disease is both debilitating and excruciating. To put it as demurely as possible, it splits your day between the mattress and the loo. I was fortunate to have the brightest of Western medical professionals for my care. For three years, Western medicine put a band-aid on my symptoms. It bought me time. But Western medicine treats manifestations, not root causes. Disease is a deficiency in something your body naturally makes. I can assure you, you are never deficient in penicillin. My body was not only fighting the disease, but the intense onslaught of pharmaceuticals. My internal organs began to shut down from this exhausting task. And at nineteen, the only band-aid left to me was a colostomy. That’s a pretty serious band-aid for anyone—for a nineteen year old, it was a devastating option. In childhood, I was surrounded by herbal medicine. The kitchen pantry serving as a medicine cabinet. I cannot tell you why my cultural options were left as the last resort in this instance. But I can tell you that in doing so, it would become the catalyst to my life's work.
My mother, the most tenacious, empathetic person I know, reached out to my aunt, a Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine in India. My aunt spoke the four words that would not only save my life but change its’ path: Send her to me. I spent just shy of three months under her holistic care in India. An Ayurvedic diet, acupuncture, and herbal regimen, specific to my constitution and health challenge began to strengthen my body, while meditation and yoga strengthened my mind. Restoring the body takes time, and at times, my holistic restoration was as critical and challenging as my Western woes. But this endeavor was growing roots from which my body could blossom. Prophetically, the lotus flower is the Ayurvedic symbol; its unique blossom roots in mud. Of course, I am certain you are not rooted in mud, nor was I. But this I know: even in the most blessed lives, there will be moments when a bit of sludge squishes beneath our feet. In those moments, take heart from the lotuses’ fortitude. You will blossom just as uniquely.
I returned to the United States symptom-free. My cleared health astounded my Western doctors. Relief and love flooded through my family and friends. As for myself? Joy, certainly. And something else. Wonder. Hmmm, what have we here? Certainly both Eastern and Western Medicine had done their part in keeping me alive. Would the outcome have been any diﬀerent if the care had been reversed? Or perhaps, combined? What could be more holistic than integrating ancient wisdom with modern science? And there was the seed the universe had planted in me at four. For the most part, I have remained symptom-free for twenty years. In those twenty years, I earned degrees in acupuncture, Ayurvedic Medicine, homeopathy, meditation and yoga. As a practitioner, I believe empathy guides my immersion with every facet of Eastern Medicine. As a patient, I believe in self advocacy. As a human being, I believe in balance—empowering myself and my patients with knowledge and options, Western medicine included. Along my journey, I was blessed to meet yet another person who would mentor my path: Dr. Richard Ash. Dr. Ash established one of New York City's most renowned Medical Centers. He shared my vision of Integrated Healthcare. His passing leaves a heaviness in my heart and a loss for his patients. I am proud of the venture we began together and delighted to see our names linked on our common dream. The Juhi-Ash Center for Integrated Medicine oﬃcially launches in New York City in March. I am profoundly grateful and eager to continue our quest to personalize a unique plan for each patient. Because each patient is unique. As are you.
Question: Everyone knows the mantra, "New Year, new you." But I've found that the start of new periods of change can bring an onslaught of new stressors and a heightened feeling of anxiety. Do you have any tips on simple ways to help your body (and mind) transition into a new chapter?
As I ease into this new experience and decade, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you on how to ease into yours. You are simple. You are complex. In my opinion, it is unwise to follow a generalized list to complete transformation. And I’m betting that you do not need complete transformation; I’m betting you are already pretty spectacular. But all of us (including myself) benefit from a bit of tweaking. That said, here’s a tiny list. Take from it what is good for you.
Warm Your Feet: It is commonly suggested to sleep in a dark, cool room. I would suggest you adjust the sleep temperature to your liking and not generalizations. However, warm feet do promote sleep. A quick splash under the hot water faucet will do and socks, if you prefer socks. If not, toss them. (Again, take the information you are oﬀered and then listen to your body.) Some people prefer a sleep mask, finding the pressure on their eyelids soothing, and for some, it is an uncomfortable blindfold. Some of us live where darkness comes through the window and others of us need to pull a shade for privacy. While darkness is suited to sleep, it is not suited to rising. In our shortened winter days, rising with the sun, which is our natural state, is not a reality for most of us. Try light lamps to simulate sunrise and ease you into your day. But come summer? Rise with the sun.
Find a moment of calm: Changing patterns takes some time and eﬀort. But that eﬀort makes the rest of your days more pleasurable. I live in NYC, where most people drink their lukewarm morning beverage from a paper cup on the run. Perhaps it's better to sip your morning coﬀee or tea from a proper cup whose beauty holds meaning for you. You are worth that. Find a moment of calm before the household bedlam begins.
Choose diet updates thoughtfully: A primarily plant-based diet is one bandwagon (I prefer it), but I cannot stress enough to you that you are on your own wagon. Yes, kale is good for you but if you can’t choke it down, why do it? There are plenty of greens with equal nutritional value. There are people with a metabolic constitution who thrive as vegans, and there are those who thrive on a Keto diet. It’s something to discuss with your physician or dietician, but don’t follow every new trend you may come across in the health world.
Try rewilding: We are, in our essence, animals born to nature. So, when you have the opportunity, be a part of that. Put your feet in the sand or dirt, squish your toes in mud, touch a leaf. Or simply lift your face to the sun, soak in some natural vitamin D and say to yourself: I am one with this planet.
Move your body: Exercise is big on the list as well. Move. Moving doesn’t mean you have to train for a triathlon. Cleaning your home, cutting your grass, and washing your windows (or dog) all count. Dance with the broom. These are activities that use muscles the treadmill does not. When you can. do something for yourself, you benefit yourself both physically and mentally.
Compliment yourself: And most importantly, if you are not at ease with complimenting yourself, then I am going to gently suggest that you get over that. A small way to do so is to say to yourself, well done when you actually do something well. Did you just bake the perfect banana bread? Well done. It seems slight, but complimenting yourself on the small things will eventually instill an innate confidence with the big things that you desire.
All this caring for yourself, I understand, takes time. But you can’t give what you don’t have; that’s one generalization I can get behind completely. And I am passionate about one last tweak: your cell phone use. But that passion will take an entire article, so pick up your device next week to read. I am honored to be a part of the Byrdie family. I have shared my experience in the hope that you will understand that you have options as well—options we will explore together. It is my quest to open your heart and empower your mind so that your quest journeys in well-being. Where you soar from that strength is yours alone to choose. Be well.
Have a topic you'd like Juhi to cover in her next column? Follow us @byrdiebeauty and DM us your health and wellness questions.