Meet Martha Soffer, founder of Surya, and Learn All About Modern Ayurveda
There’s never a wrong moment to take care of ourselves. You should know by now. But it’s especially during the incipit of fall season that this comforting sense of healing, cocooning and nurturing our body and spirit, becomes a necessity. And if there’s one practice that has survived the passing of time and is still relevant to this purpose in the current days, it’s Ayurveda.
If you’re not familiar with it just yet, today we’re delving deep into this unbroken 10,000-year-old tradition through an exclusive brand launch!
Surya is an authentic Ayurvedic spa led by Martha Soffer, internationally acclaimed Ayurvedic doctor, chef and herbalist. Surya aims to translate Ayurveda ancient practices into a modern language, making it accessible and adaptable to every routine. Surya’s purpose is to restore balance and health, revive our connection with nature and spirit, and make wellness, vitality, and longevity available to everyone, everywhere.
We had the opportunity to chat with Martha Soffer, today’s Western leader of modern Ayurveda, about the foundation of Surya and her intent to connect people with simplified ancient practices. Read along to discover Martha's Ayurvedic habits and the ethos of her Surya spa!
Before being a brand, Surya was born as an authentic Ayurveda Spa. What inspired you to approach the Ayurvedic system of wellbeing? And how did this interest sparked the idea to open a spa?
I came to America to study English and Computer Science, at a wonderful school connected with Transcendental Meditation in Iowa - Maharishi International University. One day, in the cafeteria, I met a group of women who were glowing, and their hair was filled with oil, and I had to know what they were doing - they told me they were in the middle of a “Panchakarma” series, Ayurveda’s series of rejuvenating treatments that traditionally last 7 days. They pointed me to the Ayurvedic center on campus, and I think, once I went through that door, I never came out! After I graduated, having completely switched my studies, when I moved to Los Angeles, what started as a one-room clinic just grew and grew, and Surya know helps so many people!
What is the purpose, ethos and principles of Surya Spa?
Surya innovates within Ayurveda's comprehensive system of well-being, simplifying and modernizing Ayurveda to make wellness, vitality, and longevity available to all. We are honored to bring Ayurveda’s timeless wisdom into a modern and accessible framework. We know that love generates healing, so everything we do comes from the heart. In the wellness community that is Surya, everyone is welcome, loved, and supported, connected to each other, and the natural world. Our community inspires transformation and re-creation.
What are the signature treatments offered at Surya Spa?
The core of what we offer is Panchakarma, where two therapists work in perfect harmony, and all your oils are individually herbalized and cooked all night long, as they are for every client. Treatments last four hours a day, and they are completely wonderful and transformative. In our Santa Monica hotel environment, in the gorgeous spa that Kelly Wearlster designed for us, we also offer one or two hour treatments, almost all four-handed, with custom-designed oils, from gentle abhyangas to udvartana scrubs to shirodharas, where warm, herbalized oil is poured over your third eye, sending you into a profound, healing, and lasting state of relaxation, restoration, and, even bliss.
What is your ultimate beauty routine using Surya products?
It truly is the small everyday routines that will make you glow. In Ayurveda, a daily self-care practice is both the best preventative medicine and will support beauty that radiates from the inside out. I begin every day with a self-abhyanga, which is a gentle lymphatic drainage massage. I choose either the Calming, Cooling, or Energizing Surya Abhyanga Oil based on how I’m feeling each day. Working from my extremities, I work my way in towards my heart, massaging in circular motions around joints and long strokes in between. I like to meditate with the oil on my skin before showering. For my skincare routine, I begin with Surya’s Balancing Face Oil, massaging it into my face and neck. I like to do a few marma points on my face to relax my facial muscles. There’s a little how to video I did on Instagram awhile back that has some of my favorite face lifting marma points. I then apply Surya’s Balancing Collagen Cream, which locks in moisture, decreases hyperpigmentation, and softens fine lines and wrinkles.
Your focus is on “Ayurveda for Modern Life”, can you tell us a bit more about this? What does it mean?
Ayurveda is an unbroken 10,000-year-old tradition that began with the Tamil Siddhas of Southern India. Their goal was to create long and vital lives, so they could achieve enlightenment in this very life. We carry that tradition forward, in that all our services and products are designed to create wellness, vitality, and longevity. When we say that Surya’s Ayurveda is for modern life, we mean that we’re presenting it in a way that’s easy to understand, efficacious, and fits with our modern lifestyle - very different from those yogis 10,000 years ago!
Besides being an acclaimed, worldwide Ayurveda expert, you’re also an Ayurvedic chef. What’s your favorite food/recipe?
I’m also from Colombia, so I love the food of my country, of my mother, my grandmother, and I love to cook it -- ajiaco, pan de yuca, plantains -- and we make “Ayurveda” by infusing it with as much love as we can. It’s also mostly plant-based, and we unite the family around it, which is also Ayurveda - that connection to the land that feeds us, and to the family (as large as we can imagine that concept to be) around us. In terms of traditional Ayurvedic food, mung beans are a staple - so mung bean dahl and kitchari are served at Surya everyday -delicious, nutritious, easy to digest, naturally detoxifying, and SO simple to make! We even have recipes on our website, at suryaspa.com.
If you could pick one product out of the whole Surya range, what would it be and why?
My desert island product pick would be the Balancing Collagen Cream because it is multi-use, protective, and so healing. I formulated the collagen cream in part based on a generations-old family recipe and added powerful Ayurvedic botanicals, milks, and oils to make it even more regenerative. I’m constantly amazed at how it transforms the skin - within just a week or two of use, there is a visible difference in the skin’s bounciness, clarity, and glow. It also does a remarkable job at speeding the healing of scars and we’ve even had clients report that it has removed precancerous lesions.
What’s your favorite way to unwind and relax?
Yes, family. Yes, a great movie. And YES, a treatment at Surya, haha. But also, a home treatment, like one of our Surya Bath Soaks, which are made from three pounds of different bath salts plus an herbal sachet, all of which is mixed in one bath and provides a truly healing home spa treatment. But more than anything, I’m going to circle back to where I started - Transcendental Meditation. TM is such a simple technique. I do it for 20 minutes, twice a day. It's completely effortless, and always works. It also speaks to the core of Ayurveda, in that this easy practice brings us effortlessly to a state of balance where our three doshas - our elements of fire, air, and earth/water - return to exactly where they should be, and so do we, at peace with ourselves. Ayurveda, in the end, is about much more than beautiful, glowing skin, or even better digestion or freedom from whatever might ail us. Ayurveda, in its essence, is really about coming home to ourselves, and to the world in which we already live.