Keeping mindful on the move with Ashley Hart
A passionate yogi, teacher and meditation enthusiast, Hart has been a proponent of health and wellness in the modelling industry since she joined her sister Jess Hart to pursue an international career.
Now based in L.A, we caught up with Ash while she stayed at The Olsen to compete on DWTS to talk exercise, health and how it all fits together when you’re travelling internationally (tip: it’s not as hard as you think!). As the closest thing to a human sunbeam, we’re pretty sure Ash is onto something with her focus on mindfulness, happiness and exercising for fun as the cornerstones to health.
Whilst you were just recently dancing up a storm on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ we know you lead an active lifestyle and incorporate many forms of exercise. What are your earliest memories of exercise, were you always active?
Ash Hart: I've always been a real earth baby; playing outside in the grass, splashing in the mud, at the beach. As I attended a Rudolph Steiner school growing up, a big part of my years was spent camping, hiking or being active in the outdoors. I never really saw these fun activities as exercise - it was just fun and what I loved doing.
I started modelling when I was 15 and as I became more body conscious, I went from just desiring to be fit to wanting to be thin - and did anything that would kick my butt, make me sweat, and was somewhat intense.
I forgot that exercise should just come naturally in a desire to do fun activities. Those first years of modelling and thinking 'I need to work out' took the fun out of it and added stress to my system from the pressure I'd put on myself.
The way I came to yoga was when I went to my first bikram yoga class and thought 'that was so hard, I want to do it again'. It was that intensity of bikram yoga that got me there to begin with, but over time I started noticing benefits beyond the physical.
My mind would be chatting away in class yet I kept coming back to my breath and movement of the body which brought me fully into the present moment, which brought me happiness and peace. From then on, I was on my path as a yogi.
“Now, through yoga I have remembered there is no ‘need’ to work out and I just do things because I enjoy them”
I do live a very active life naturally; walking or running the canyons, beaches, biking, snow-boarding. I also love trying new things, like boxing or dancing, both of which I really enjoy as they are mindful activities, I can't be thinking about what's for dinner if I'm thinking about left/right coordination or a full routine!
You swear by the benefits of yoga and meditation to stay physically and mentally healthy. Do you have a go-to routine for travel?
I devote my mornings daily to my yoga practice - some would call it exercise or working out but it's truly far beyond that. For me it’s all about my intention behind any action of activity I do that makes it what it is, and my highest of intentions I set for myself are health and happiness for my mind, body and spirit.
When I'm up in the air, I will meditate many times throughout the flight. It's like the superheroes trick to beating jetlag completely, as the deep level of rest received from meditation enables me to get off any flight and work straight for a week and feel great.
I will also go up the back of the plane and have a stretch. I love it when everyone else is sleeping, it's quiet and dark and I can sometimes do a full flow for 90 minutes and forget I'm flying! I must admit sometimes it's hard to get the motivation or be fearless enough to not care what others think but once I’ve started I always think 'I can't believe how much bliss I'm experiencing whilst on a plane'.
My practice doesn't really change once I'm away, as it's the one constant thing in my life that keeps me grounded and centred. So every morning I do some form of Sadhana (spiritual practice) whether that be journaling, breathing exercises or physical yoga practice before I meditate for 20 minutes.
This sets up my whole day to flow from a place of clarity and peace.
What are some of your favourite asanas for travellers?
When it comes to asanas for travel, they are all good but the difference would be doing them on the grass or sand to ground yourself to nature. Being in fresh air as much as possible, helps so much to get the timing of the body into the time zone of whatever country you have arrived.
Sun salutations would be perfectly appropriate to bow down to and give thanks to your new arrival destination.
Similarly, what do you do to maintain a nutritious diet when you’re travelling?
The first thing I do when getting to a new country or town is research the closest health food shops. I find it fun doing so - I don't like being too rigid and like to stay open to the culture of where I am, yet I'm always looking for the healthiest options. I am so grateful for good produce when I find it.
This most recent trip to Australia I have been pleasantly surprised how Aussies are onto the latest in the health world, such as pressed green juices. Greene St Juices have been a huge part of my nourishment and happiness while maintaining my busy and physical dance training schedule in Melbourne.
Other than yoga, what else is part of your exercise regime and helps you get in the zone wherever you travel to?
Skipping with audio tapes. If I only have 20 minutes and feel like a sweat, I love putting on inspirational audio tapes and skipping, I’ve found myself doing this in the smallest hotel rooms over the years - I get so pumped, inspired and fired up, it makes me feel great! Greene St Juice Co have been a huge part of my nourishment and happiness while maintaining my busy and physical dance training schedule in Melbourne.
Finally, how do you stay mindful with such a busy lifestyle and what tips would you have for staying calm and centred?
Mindfulness is something I work on daily. When I'm super busy I find it easier not to drop into ignorance mode - it's when I have lots of free time that I'll find myself slipping into checking social media or putting on a brain dead TV show.
Keeping calm among the storm all comes down to staying connected to my centre by twice daily meditation, which as my teacher would say is 'non negotiable', but it's easy to do when it's so blissful!
All images from Ash Hart’s Instagram