Hosting our Bites of Nature podcast series, chef, author and wellness expert Jasmine Hemsley has talked to a line-up of inspiring individuals, gleaning amazing insights into the landscapes that speak to them, and their own ways of connecting with the natural world.
So we decided to sit down with her to discover more about the topics she’s been chatting about.
But first, here’s a quick reminder of her exceptional guests, whom you can listen to in action right here.
TV presenter, DJ, fitness coach and sports nutritionist AJ Odudu
Breathwork coach and inspirational speaker Richie Bostock
Yoga teacher, personal trainer and rock climber Kim Hartwell
Professional kitesurfer and extreme sports athlete Hannah Whiteley
TV presenter, garden designer and ethnobotanist James Wong
Hi Jasmine, you’ve had fun chatting to amazing people about the places that inspire them.
Kitesurfer Hannah Whitely said a bad day at the beach is better than a good day at the office. Where inspires you?
I never cease to be inspired by nature – whether It’s an epic view hiking in the Indian Himalayas (back when we could travel), or simply walking my dogs in the rain in my local woods, or even watching seedlings grow in my vegetable patch. Nature in all its guises grounds me, gives me perspective, and inspires and connects me to my environment.
You talk about being in the moment when you’re in nature. “Be present or go home,” you said. But it can be difficult to switch off, so what techniques can help?
Look up at the sky! Looking at a natural landscape draws us back into the moment and gives us a break from the constant chatter of our minds. But many of us can’t always immerse ourselves in a natural environment, like the sea or a forest. That’s where the open sky comes in — looking out we might see cityscapes but looking up we get the expanse of the sky.
AJ Odudu talked about how, as a child, we are better at simply appreciating what’s around us for what it is. Do you think in this digital age we could all do with being a bit more childlike?
A childlike attitude to life – playfully curious, driven by instinct and having fun in the moment – is definitely something we could all do with a bit more of! TV was a part of my life growing up but not to the extent that screens are today. Prioritising time away from screens means you’ll have more time to spend with your imagination, and really connect to the world around you. Ultimately you will connect to yourself and your ‘inner world’, which naturally helps us be more present, time slows down, and we can feel cooler, calm and collected.
Richie Bostock said he looks for food that’s taken the fewest steps to reach him. How does eating well fit into a more balanced life and do you have a similar rule?
Eating well for you is a key pillar to reach optimum health. I look out for local, organic and biodynamic, and seasonal in my food choices. But I also don’t stress about it, making the ‘better-than’ choices if I can’t quite find what I’m looking for.
Wherever possible I source my food where I can actually meet the producers, like my local farmers’ market. Modern lifestyles mean we really have lost the connection to our food, how it’s produced and where it comes from, and that is a key component to connecting back with and respecting nature.
Kim Hartwell is all about pushing through your fears. How important do you think it is for us to leave our comfort zones?
Change is a constant in life, so we have to get comfortable with the idea that we’re not in control of the external world, and how we react to it makes all the difference to our health and how we experience life! So I try to live by the idea that the bumps – sometimes mountains – that come up are all part of the journey. They are a way for us to grow, learn and evolve.
James Wong talked about swapping the gym for kinds of exercise that you almost don’t notice, like gardening. How else can we ‘feel the burn’ without treadmills?
We were designed to walk. I try to walk everywhere and it’s beneficial on so many levels. I have a daily gentle yoga practice, mostly floor-based stretches focused on moving and working with the body's natural flow rather than pushing hard to work up a sweat. I also practise Qi Gong, which really balances the mind and body. I think the ‘work hard, play hard, no pain, no gain’ attitude can lead to added stress on the body and potential burnout, as there’s no time left to be gentle with yourself.
You’ve asked all your guests to give one tip for how to snatch a bite of nature. What would be yours?
Breathwork! Breath is life – just ask Richie! Many of us don’t breathe efficiently and utilising the right breathing techniques can remedy negative feelings, and make us feel happier and energised. It also reminds us that we are nature. We have nature at our fingertips – or lips – and it’s completely free.
And is there one positive message we can take away from these difficult times?
I think a message we’re all coming to is that this is an opportunity to slow down, to reconnect and rethink our priorities. Also, that self-care is of the utmost importance — we must take responsibility for ourselves. The pandemic serves to show us in a big way how little control we have over the external world. But we have every opportunity to connect with our inner world, which helps us to not only cope better, but to thrive – even in uncertain times.