Jamila Knopp is bringing a fresh holistic approach to health and well-being to Nelson

How did you know you wanted to be an Ayurveda Practitioner? Can you explain what Ayurveda is? 

I have always been interested in, and fascinated by, the functioning of the human body. Even at an early age I loved studying biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology. Then in my twenties it became clearer to me that I wanted to help people in another way. My passion for the healing arts began with a qualification as a Reiki practitioner and I started taking yoga classes. Through yoga I heard about Ayurveda - the world’s oldest surviving healing science. Yoga is a part of Ayurveda as both have the same Indian origins.

In January 2000 I travelled to southern India to undertake a three-month Ayurveda certificate course at an Ayurvedic hospital in Kerala.  Though the course was extremely comprehensive, I realized that I had only just begun to scratch the surface of this ancient healing art. After moving to New Zealand the same year I enrolled in a three-year Ayurveda Diploma course at Wellpark College for Natural Therapies in Auckland.  I think that the year 2000 was a major turning point in my life and I decided that I wanted to make the study and practice of health and well-being my life’s work.

Ayurveda originated in India;  it is dedicated not just to curing disease but preventing it too. Ayurveda treats the person as a whole – body, mind and soul. In this regard it is a totally holistic healing system.

The word “Ayu” means life and the word “Veda” means knowledge or learning. So, Ayurveda is both the knowledge of life, and the science of life. Ayurveda believes that every person has his or her own individual constitution which is based on the five elements - space, air, fire, water, and earth. Using herbs, lifestyle advice and nutrition, I create a holistic treatment programme specifically designed to suit the client’s individual needs.  The focus is always to treat the whole person, not just the condition.  By introducing these changes, the body’s natural balance is improved, and its natural healing supported. Basically, Ayurveda is all about balance -  keeping your natural balance or bringing you back into your natural balance.     

You are passionate about wellbeing. Connecting, giving, being present, and being active are just some of the ways we bring more balance to our lives. What are some of your insights to bringing more balance to our personal and professional lives? 

The truth is that we all have 24 hours in a day and even though our lives can be busy it is important to set some of this time aside for yourself. If you would like to make some changes to your life or improve your well-being, I recommend focusing on changing one thing at a time. It’s important to plan ahead. Create a schedule and write down what you want to do and make sure that it is achievable. If you can stick with that one change for a minimum of one month you will notice that it will become easier and that you will have formed a new healthy habit.

Nowadays we all seem to be very stressed. Here are some pointers on how you could manage and improve your stress levels.

Rest and Relaxation - So important! Take some short breaks and rest. I can recommend relaxation techniques such as tai chi, qui gong, yoga and meditation to help you control stress and improve your well-being. Going for a nice walk in nature is another great stress buster. Going to bed early and getting enough sleep is essential.

Yoga and Exercise - Yoga works on more than just the physical level - it calms the mind and more. Do a little bit of easy yoga at home, in the morning and/or evening, or find a yoga class that suits you. On a physical level it stretches those tight muscles that stress creates. Yoga is exercise and combined with good regular walking or other calming exercises can do you a lot of good. Check out the free website  HYPERLINK "http://www.doyogawithme.com" www.doyogawithme.com for some inspiration.

Routine - Having a regular routine is very calming for our mind and nervous system. Try and have a little morning routine after getting up and an evening calming routine before bedtime. This doesn’t need to be long. Make yourself a simple schedule that is easy to follow and that doesn’t put more stress on you.

Breathing –  Start the day with long and deep breathing (about 3 - 10 deep breaths). This could be a simple part of your morning and evening routine. During the day, whenever you feel overwhelmed, have a little break, try and remember your breathing and take long, deep and slow breaths.

Thinking - Think positive! Watch your thoughts and the way you think. Maybe have an experienced practitioner, like a life coach or someone like myself, help you to adjust the way you think and therefore ultimately change the way you perceive and handle stressful situations. A good attitude is fundamental. Thinking positively will help you get through a stressful period with greater enthusiasm and drive.

Pamper Yourself - Enjoy a well-deserved massage or perhaps soak in a bath with some Epsom salts and relaxing aromatherapy oils like lavender or geranium.

Eat Healthy Food - For a healthy mind and body, eat a diet full of fresh natural food and abundant fruit and vegetables.

What is something you can teach us right now that is practical to help us manage the stress of our everyday lives?

Basically, all the above. But the one that stands out is breathing. I can highly recommend taking a few deep breaths. In the physical response to stress (e.g. increased heart rate, increased blood flow to muscles etc.), our breathing is the only thing we have control over that switches off the stress response immediately. Deep breathing switches the body from the sympathetic nervous system use (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (being relaxed). Whenever you feel stressed, challenged or overwhelmed try and remember your breathing and take a few deep and slow breaths. Even just three deep breaths will help. Close your eyes if that is possible or hold a gentle gaze on something. Whenever you remember, pause for a moment and take a few deep breaths trying to be in the present moment and soon you will notice the benefits of this simple practice.

We know that diet is important for our health but is there a piece of advice you can give to help a person struggling to really make that change to a more organic whole-foods diet?

A healthy diet means eating real and whole foods. That means eating foods as they grow in nature. Organic foods are best but if you can’t afford organic foods then just focus on real foods. I can recommend the same as with the lifestyle changes – focus on one new food at a time. Making changes step by step will make it easier and more achievable. And again, it’s important to plan. Try and introduce one new food per week. For example, in the first week focus on eating more vegetables, in the second week introduce drinking only real beverages, in the third week to eat only locally raised meat and to reduce your meat intake, the fourth week to stop eating fast food. I have created a free online group called ‘The journey to well-being’ which can help people make these changes. In this group I share easy and doable steps to encourage eating more real food and other tips to move towards well-being. You will find more info here .

I suffer from a chronic pain disorder and I've sought your therapy through massage, so I know how much relief I've found through massage. When did you start your journey in massage? And what drives you to keep practising? 

My journey in massage started in 2000 with my Ayurveda training, which included massage training. I also trained in pregnancy massage at Wellpark College. In 2008 I completed a certificate course in Reflexology at Aromaflex in Nelson. I love studying and always look for opportunities to further my training. In 2010 I trained to become a foot-joint-mobilization practitioner (level one and advanced level). In 2011, 2012 and 2013 I continued my massage studies and trained in level one and advanced levels of Myo-Fascial Release massage which is working on the fascia (connective tissue) where we hold most of our physical tension.

What drives me to keep practicing is that I love helping people and that I’m passionate about health and well-being. I love helping people creating a balanced life and on their journey to well-being.

Jamila facilitates regular yoga/mindfulness weekend retreats at Kimi Ora Eco Resort in Kaiteriteri. These retreats are popular, a wonderful way to de-stress, relax and having some well-deserved time-out. Her next retreat is mid-June. You will find more info here

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Keegan Jeffries