There are many LA’s one could experience. There’s the celebrity-chasing, at-every-movie-premiere-party scene. The skater-surfer-lives-in-Venice-with-two-dogs scene. And our personal favorite, the wellness-mind-body-soul-self-love scene. It’s the kind of LA where everyone takes care of themselves, and in turn, is able to take care of each other and their environments. And there is no one who knows this side of the city better than Martha Soffer of Surya Spa.
It rings true that no matter what scene you’re currently in, you’ve probably heard of Martha’s work. Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Martha has become an internationally acclaimed Ayurvedic Panchakarma expert, Ayurvedic Chef, Herbal Rasayanist and master Ayurvedic Pulse diagnostician. Not to mention the fact that she’s been endorsed by celebrities and clients from Kourtney Kardashian to Gwyneth Paltrow, to name few.
At Surya Spa, the self-care guru offers an authentic, artisanal Ayurvedic experience through personal consultations and traditional treatments. Each one prepared uniquely for you, and designed to help each individual attain balance and wellness through healing retreats, restorative beauty, wellness and food products, and through educational guidance and support.
We caught a moment of Martha’s time to give you a look into LA through a lens of self-love. Let’s dive in…
THE PRETTIEST PLATE IN THE CITY?
Give me organic, farm-to-table, and prepared with love. I would love to give you some ajiaco from my kitchen, cooked in black clay pots, but if you’re asking me about a plate in a restaurant, I can’t resist giving a shout out to Palma, in Kelly Wearstler’s new Proper Hotel in Santa Monica. They now serve our Surya Spa Almond Banana Walnut Bread, toasted with almond butter, raw honey, and sliced bananas. It’s not just that they’ve taken our gluten-free, Paleo bread and made it even more wonderful, it’s just such a thrill to see a product with healing Ayurvedic herbs deliciously presented on a mainstream menu!
THE MOST RELAXING HOTEL IN LA?
Okay, I’m wildly biased, but that very same Proper Hotel is amazing. There’s a little library tucked away in the lobby, and the rooftop’s poolside couches overlooking Santa Monica are the perfect place at sunset. We are obviously excited to be Proper’s “spa” partner, and to bring Ayurveda to Santa Monica and many other upcoming Proper Hotel locations.
THE LEAST RELAXING PLACE IN LA?
Continuing in my vein of non-standard answers, I’m going to say that we, any of us, can be the least relaxing place in LA. From the perspective of Ayurveda, it’s less about the circumstances in which we find ourselves (though it’s important to be cognizant of them!), and more about how balanced we can be in those circumstances. We all know it—there’s no more satisfying feeling than being in balance, at peace, in the eye of the storm. So we like to say, take care of yourself first, and even circumstances which previously seemed stressful are no problem to deal with…
LET’S LEAVE LA. WHERE’S YOUR FAVORITE NATURE SPOT WITHIN A FEW HOURS?
If I could have 5 hours, and a plane ticket, I’d say Kauai. Nature overflows there. Fruit bursts into fullness in people’s backyards. And the Farmer’s Markets! Amazing! The air itself is soft and healing.
THE MOST SERENE SLICE OF NATURE IN THE MIDST OF THE CITY?
Yogananda’s Lake Shrine near PCH in Pacific Palisades. It’s a hidden gem with roses, swans, little families of turtles, a chapel with a windmill, and even a shrine with some of Gandhi’s ashes. One 10-minute walk around that gentle lake and you emerge transformed.
WE’RE HUNGRY AGAIN. TAKE US ON AN LA FOOD TOUR:
You can find great vegetarian and vegan food all over LA. On the Westside we love Gjusta, MTN, Milo & Olive, Huckleberry. For high-end we go to Rustic Canyon. Of course, there is top-notch vegan at Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre or the incredible and organic Mexican at Tallula’s. But also, try a little easy cooking at home too. There are many recipes on our website, we can always help you with more, and you can even stop by for lunch at Surya now-and-then if you email or call us a day in advance.
DESCRIBE THE SENSES OF SURYA:
When Surya opens at Proper Hotel later this year, you’ll see Kelly Wearstler’s gorgeous and colorful India-inspired design, and you’ll be offered some of that delicious almond-flour bread, and perhaps some customized oils made to order. You’ll smell all the herbs brewing and what you’ll feel is that you’ve walked into a nurturing, healing home, where you know you’ll be taken care of, and even loved. For the next few months, we’re temporarily in our home in Brentwood, and of course, you’ll feel all those things there, too!
HOW CAN I INTRODUCE AYURVEDA IN MY DAY-TO-DAY?
Ayurveda is so easy to practice when you see it as we do. If you’re too hot, cool down; if you’re too mentally taxed, calm down; if you’re enervated, you need to stir it up. These imbalances might be mental (too many thoughts from a day of pressures and stress), or physical, manifesting in your digestion. But with simple and usually temporary changes in diet or lifestyle, you can get right back in balance, and we can help you with that. Come see us for a consultation! If you want a more in-depth transformation, a 3-21 day Panchakarma Series would be wonderful, where two therapists work on you for 4 hours a day, with oils, that have been herbalized and cooked all night long, every night, especially for you.
CAN AYURVEDA BE SEEN IN THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY?
Surya has, and will have many more, truly natural and rejuvenating Ayurvedic beauty products, fundamentally handmade in our small manufacturing facility, all filled with nourishing botanicals and oils. Our signature Ayurvedic Collagen Cream, for example, has 65 herbs, 10 oils, 7 essential oils, and 3 kinds of milk, including camel’s. We love anyone in LA making genuinely medicinal beauty products, free from harmful or marginal additives, like Shiva Rose’s wonderful products, for example.
LET’S TAKE A BREAK TO MEDITATE, ANY TIPS?
I’m a big fan of TM or Transcendental Meditation. You can do it anywhere — office, car, bed, park. It’s very simple, easy, even effortless, and completely Ayurvedic in that it’s naturally balancing and detoxifying. We find that after just 20 minutes, we’ve got a new start, refreshed, revitalized and ready. I do this every day, twice a day, not as a discipline, but because it’s so immediately satisfying and rewarding. TM used to be expensive, now it’s not, it comes from a really ancient tradition, but it’s so modern and practical. We’re partners with the very cool David Lynch Foundation, which brings TM to at-risk kids, and schools and veterans.
TO SUM IT UP SELF-CARE LOOKS LIKE…
It’s taking the time to slow down for a minute—check-in with yourself, see what’s wrong, and get yourself back in balance before you tip all the way over. Add a few simple (and pleasurable!) practices to your daily life. Self-care is self-love, it’s not meant to be a burden!
AND FINALLY, YOUR PERFECT SUNDAY AFTERNOON:
Maybe I was hiking or biking, or at the movies, or had a great brunch, and went shopping, and now I’m relaxing with my husband, Roger (we have to force ourselves to stop working, haha, not Ayurvedic at all, but we love it). Or maybe I’m starting to prepare a Sunday night Colombian dinner. Our kids, Pam and Chris, are 25 and 23, and if they’re around, then it’s really fun, and hopefully, I’m making plantains and patacones and empanadas, and long-soaked black beans, coconut rice, Bogota-style guacamole, pan de yuccas, and maybe passionfruit pudding! We started this interview with ajiaco and we’re ending it with another meal, but now we’ve got the whole family involved, and that’s very Ayurvedic too!