“The word Ayurveda means ‘science of life,’ and really, that’s what it is,” explains Holecek. “It offers incredibly practical and intuitive advice about diet, exercise, and general lifestyle to help you thrive and be the best you can be. It encompasses not only science, but also philosophy, whereby the whole of life’s journey is considered sacred. Ayurveda draws on a system of scientific and practical knowledge, which is rooted in the ancient belief systems about the constitution of the human body and its close relationship with the environment within which it exists.”
Five years prior to launching her luxury beauty and wellness brand, UMA Oils, known for its luxurious, small-batch products, Holecek was a consultant at McKinsey. When I inquire why she left her corporate position to launch her own company she tells me it wasn’t an easy decision. “Part of me feels like I always knew that this was something I was meant to do. Yet, the other part of me was also so content to be a consultant, work with the amazing people I did, and on some incredibly challenging problems.”
“Having come from such ‘earthy roots’ in India, I think I craved the tangibility of product, and product-driven businesses,” continues Holecek. “More importantly, I think there was an element of ‘the universe conspiring’ as the chatter about organic, cleaning, wholesome living—arguably the very core values of Ayurveda—was getting louder around me every day. I really felt that with UMA, we could create something of value that would touch many lives positively and also become a conduit to understand Ayurveda, which can really transform health, wellness, and beauty so profoundly.” Holecek made Uma Oils a full-time commitment in 2016 when she formally launched the brand.
As soon as get your hands on the brand’s products and experience its contents, you know love is the key ingredient. I attribute this in part to the fact that raw ingredients come from Holecek’s organic family farms where each ingredient is tenderly cared for. Holecek tells me, “Reputation and word of mouth are incredibly important and we were fortunate to receive international accolades from those in the know (like celebrated perfumers) early on especially for oils like jasmine, vetiver, sandalwood, which are specialties of the Indian subcontinent. Over the last few decades, we’ve supplied some of the biggest names in perfumery and beauty with individual ingredients.”
Her family farms grow about 500-acres of essential oil ingredients, which can range from flowers, roots, grasses, and trees with roughly 100 of those acres dedicated for use in UMA products. “A lot of our farms have been in our family for centuries, though there are other lands we’ve started to farm more recently as we consolidate our operations geographically to allow for efficiency and lower our transportation footprint.”
A team of dedicated caretakers selects only the finest seeds, then they nurse the plants through the growing season. “While many crop growers harvest the same plant multiple times to produce as much oil as possible, at Uma we harvest each plant no more than two times before replanting, because we have learned that the first two harvests generate the highest quality essential oils, and that their potency declines after the second harvest,” explains Holecek. “This results in a lower yield, but far superior oils. Once the plants move from the meadow to the factory they are greeted by a team of skilled technicians and extractors, who shepherd the plants through the distillation process. The factory itself is uniquely self-sustaining and environment-friendly, with its innovative machinery that converts waste product back into reusable fuel. This allows us to operate with minimal dependence on outside energy resources, while leaving behind the smallest of footprints.”
Sustainability is at the core of UMA Oils. “Ayurveda philosophies dictate all the practices within UMA’s product lifecycle, from our farming methods to the actual formulas in our products,” states Holecek. “According to Ayurveda, a close relationship exists between human and the universe we exist in of which nature is a key part, and has long been held in a place of reverence. Ayurveda dictates that we give back in equal part what we take from the environment, a mantra we closely follow.”
Holecek continues, “It’s always important to consider the communities that are just as important to sustain when thinking about environmental sustenance. Especially since empowering communities to have an environmentally sustainable outlook leads to real impact. UMA has a long history of providing safe and dignified employment for women, and takes great pride in the fact that local women make up over 50% of its workforce. From its inception and as a pioneer for its time, UMA has provided men and women equal pay for equal work. In a country that where gender discrimination is sadly too often the norm, UMA’s progressive stance on gender equality sends a powerful, positive message that past injustice will be tolerated no more.
Self-love is arguably the most important tenet of Ayurveda. “It empowers you to not only garner a deeper understanding of your uniqueness and what a powerful gift individuality is, but also to strengthen that natural intuition whereby listening to your body – truly listening - can help you become the healthiest, most vital and balanced version of yourself that you can be,” explains Holecek. “Traditional ways of showing self-love can range from self massages to even respecting the body’s needs—like going to sleep when it tells you to, eating nourishing foods, and practicing emotionally/ spiritually healthy habits. I really believe that a majority of the answers we seek are within us already. We just need to learn to listen to ourselves again.”
With the ongoing pandemic and recent studies validating many of Ayurveda’s practices supporting immunity, I thought it would be interesting to tap into Holecek for some helpful tips that anyone at home can do to boost their immune system health. Since UMA Oils formulations used in the below practices are based on ancient formulations once only used for royalty, we can now all experience the royal treatment in the comfort of our homes.
One of the most powerful elements of dry brushing is its ability to stimulate the lymphatic system. In short, the lymphatic system acts as an important fluid guard against illness and disease, helping protect the body against foreign elements, toxins, or other impurities. As the firm, stimulating motions of dry brushing boost oxygen and blood flow, the flow and drainage of lymph is also boosted, allowing for healthy circulation and the necessary expulsion of toxins. In addition to the general promotion of good health and the expulsion of toxins, a stimulated and active lymphatic system has also been shown to reduce swelling and inflammation.
In Ayurveda, the mouth is viewed as a telling reflection of the body’s health. Since the mouth is a site that harbors bacteria, toxins, and other impurities, our oral hygiene is closely linked to our overall health. As various studies demonstrate, the practice of oil pulling generates antioxidants that pull the lipid layers of bacterial cell membranes into the oil and block bacterial growth and plaque formation. As a result, the toxins and impurities in our mouths—or ama—can be removed from the body once the oil is spit out. In Ayurvedic tradition, oil pulling is carried out in the morning before brushing the teeth.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve also dutifully scraped my tongue alongside brushing my teeth. In Ayurvedic tradition, tongue scraping is an extremely simple practice that has a major impact on our health: it removes the impurities on the tongue that might otherwise compound into more serious health problems. As we sleep, a combination of food, bacteria, fungi, and other toxins accumulate on our tongues. Without proper care, these impurities—or ama—can be reabsorbed into the body, leading to problems as varying as digestive issues, acne, or bad breath. Through tongue scraping, the negative effects of accumulation can be countered and prevented—as one study shows, this Ayurvedic practice improves bad breath and eliminates harmful coatings on the tongue.
Triphala is an ancient blend of bibhitaki, amalaki, and haritaki, three organic fruits native to India known for its balancing, cleansing, and nourishing properties. Triphala is a multi-purpose herbal remedy used for various ailments including digestive issues. Research shows that it may help to support internal cleansing, healthy regular bowel movements, and tissue nourishment. Some experts suggest it offers adaptogenic benefits. Triphala is also looked to as a general Ayurvedic rasayana to support bodily functions and promote overall vitality, longevity, and good health. It is found in our Digestive Detox Triphala Herbal Supplement.
In Ayurveda, hot or warm water is preferred over ice-cold water because it is believed to hydrate our bodies and tissue more. Warm or hot water helps flush out toxins (or excess ama) and aids in hydration of the organs and assisting with lymphatic drainage. Drinking freshly boiled water, especially with the addition of lemon, first thing in the morning and before mealtime helps to stimulate healthy digestion and soften hardened foods. Cold water has been shown to hinder this process.