Rooted London founder, Pandora Symes

The most genius ideas are often the most simple. You know, the ones that make you kick yourself for not having though about it before. An app that allows you to share your favourite photos? No brainer. Fitness classes you’ll actually want to go to. Simple stuff. In the case of Rooted London, the health and wellness company designed to holistically get you in shape, you’d think that the penchant for all things healthy-conscious right now would have a million companies trying to do exactly what founder Pandora Symes has done so well.

At 27, her life focus changed and after years working a publicist, she took up a nutrition course and started tailoring all her time around wellness, brainstorming how she could turn it into a business. What exactly it would be, she didn’t know, but she knew she wanted to educate people on wellbeing, being happy and how to feel ‘rooted’ and connected. What started off as a platform for food workshops and a monthly supper club and has evolved into so much more. “We believe you can’t have optimum health if the core isn’t cool and complete,” Pandora tells us, which is why she offers yoga classes, health coaching, food workshops and healthy dishes all in a bid to offer something more balanced, rounded and attainable. “I’m super healthy, but I also like going out and drinking red wine…We’re here to build a lifestyle, not a quick fix,” she explains. “I feel like there was a spot in the market for someone healthy but foodie, rather a green-fingered obsessive.” Since setting up shop, she’s working with everyone from Aveda and Free People to Elle and Stylist Magazine and has made it her MO to encourage realistic eating and foods that not only nourish, but also satisfy.

In rejecting the whole harder-stronger-faster and deprivation idea, Pandora has pretty much become our poster girl for all things balance and we’ll be damned I you don’t come away from this running to sign up to your next yoga class, all while downloading the Headspace app onto your phone. We did.

Rooted London founder, Pandora SymesHER ‘A-HA’ MOMENT: I’ve worked in the wellbeing and beauty industry as a publicist for the past 12 years. I’ve always been a foodie and on deciding to train in naturopathic nutrition, I thought freelancing would work better with my working week. As I embarked on my studies, my yoga practice developed too so I decided to train as a yoga teacher to accompany nutrition – food and movement are where my passions lie. I’d watched the health world change dramatically and although it’s great that people are more conscious with what they are putting into their bodies, I felt it was an all-or-nothing approach, which for me psychologically doesn’t seem very ‘healthy’. I wanted to create something that took on board my own food and wellness philosophy. Something I could share with a wider audience. That’s how Rooted was born! We offer recipes, private dining, supper clubs and catering alongside our yoga sessions. Everything keeps my food mantra in mind – listen to your body and feed your soul. Nothing we do is a trend or fad – just good food that really does feed your soul. I always say “no fads, just feeding!”

WHY SHE WON’T SHAME YOU INTO BEING HEALTHY: There’s a huge emphasis on ‘clean’ living, which implies that eating anything other than kale and greens is dirty, which is far from the truth. That’s why Rooted offers a food mantra for those who care about what they eat but want to keep it ‘real’. This means finding balance and not giving yourself a hard time if you fancy a burger or a pizza with friends on a Friday night. I always say, “would you rather eat mung beans on your own, or pizza with friends?” When I say ‘real’ food, I’m talking about seasonal produce, a predominately plant based diet and nothing packaged. Most importantly though, it’s about finding a healthy relationship with food – a lifestyle – keeping it rooted and real! Food is to be enjoyed! If you take away pre-packed foods that are high in salt and sugar and replace them with nature’s finest sources, you’ll be enriched with what your body truly needs and genuinely feel good in your body.

WHY YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEND THE EARTH: There are lots of over-priced places but there are some reasonable food spots too. It’s about choice. It’s a case of balancing where you spend your money. I get a real kick out of making my own packed lunches and I’d rather save there in order to then go out for dinner on a Friday evening and invest in a really lovely experience (and wine). I rarely buy green juices out because I always feel like spending £6 could get me three meals worth of vegetables, plus I prefer to make them fresh at home. As for fitness, I can’t rave more about Classpass. For a set price I get to try a variety of classes as week, and all around London. It’s a genius idea! I’ve just set up Rooted Yoga on there and plan to check out lots of yoga when I’m in NYC in April. Again, it’s about choice and balance – running in the park is free so save there and splurge for your favourite teacher as a weekend treat.

ON HER FOOD JOURNEY: I used to have quite a difficult relationship with food, which I suppose is why balance is top of my agenda these days. I’ve always loved food but was very controlling with it and yoyo dieted for much of my late teens and early twenties. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learnt to really listen to what my body needs and wants and have learnt to love myself regardless of what I look like in the mirror. A lot of people (including myself) can have a negative relationship with their diets and try to control it. I gave in and worked on self-love and self-respect, which in turn helped me find a healthy balance. In all honesty, it’s the kindest thing I’ve ever done for myself.

STORE CUPBOARD ESSENTIALS: Tahini is an absolute must. It can be mixed into sweet and savoury dishes and can make even the blandest of foods to taste sweet and delicious. I use a lot of fresh turmeric and ginger, which I juice or blend into dishes like as raw, sprouted humous, soups and various nut milks. Good old coconut oil is great to cook with and can also be used away from the kitchen, as a make up remover or on hair – there isn’t much that coconut oil doesn’t do. Coconut cream and milk make any soup taste sweeter, which helps if you have a sweet tooth. I’m also a big fan of nutritional yeast, which has a salty flavour – great for blending with cashews to make cheese alternatives and into salads to give it a heartier flavour. Cacao is a great anti-oxidant and alternative to sugar for sweet treats, as is my new find, Bali Nutra, a nutrient-rich coconut syrup that has a low GI and is full of vitamins and minerals. Sun-warrior vanilla protein powder is something I use most mornings in smoothies or chia or oat porridge. My carrot cake smoothie is to die for and wouldn’t taste quite the same without it.

Rooted London founder, Pandora SymesON HER LOVE OF YOGA: I’ve been practising on and off for 10 years but it was after I started my training in naturopathic nutrition I realised I wanted to be able to teach both. The mind and body connection is so important and yoga and its philosophy can really help to tap into this. You can eat all the right foods but if you aren’t moving well and being present in the now, you may never feel optimum health. In yoga we learn the idea that your mind is not your mind – ‘chitta vritta’, the mind stuff is not you, it’s your mind, your ego. To be able to step away from the mind, move your body to the breath and eat well is what Rooted is all about.

WHY EXERCISE IS A BIG PART OF HER LIFE: I’ll always fit some form of exercise into my day whether it’s a class, walking the dog or a cycle ride to the local shop to get my veg. I walk as much as possible and like to mix it up with classes so in an ideal week I might do a rocket yoga class, a couple of vinyasa flow classes, plus my own classes followed by a chilled evening to wind down. I try and get in a run or two or spin or boxing to mix it up during the week too. Some weeks I fit it in, some I don’t but I’ll always do my best and not make myself feel bad if I can’t get out of bed. I’m a morning person so do prefer a morning class but as we all know, sometimes a cuddle with the cat and/or loved one is much more inviting, especially in winter.

A NEW TYPE OF HEN ‘DO: I was approached by a friend who was looking for something a bit different for her friend’s hen party. She loved yoga and was pretty healthy so it just worked out that I could cook a feast and use yoga to bring the girls together beforehand. We did a little blessing and some partner yoga and then they ate and drank to celebrate the bridge to be on her new life. Another of her friends had a venue and it clicked. There’s a market for it now with women who don’t want penis straws and would rather have something a little more mindful. Not that I’m anti penis straws if that’s what tickles your pickle!

ON THE RISE & RISE OF ALL THINGS HEALTHY: I think it’s turned from a trend to a lifestyle and a lot of people are choosing to live it. People are more accepting of holistic treatments and services and also so much more open to talking about their feelings. A few years ago it was still a taboo subject to discuss deeper, more meaningful feelings or mention you see a therapist and now it’s seen as a positive. We are now celebrating our journey to a higher state of consciousness and what a beautiful celebration that is. Plus, gone are the days when women thought it was taboo to talk about bowel movements – now I talk about poop and who I advise for a colonic on a daily. It’s great!

ON GETTING BALANCED: Don’t give yourself a hard time. We are all busy so just do what you can with the time and resources you have. With food, invest in Tupperware. I am obsessed with it because it means whatever I cook, I can always make double and be assured I am eating wholesome homemade food. Make a big batch of soup or stew once a week and freeze it – then throughout the next two weeks you’ve got your own ready meal. One night a week put ‘me time’ in your diary too. Go home, have a bath, turn off all electrical equipment including your phone and Wi-Fi, and spend an evening just being, without stimulation. You are the centre of your universe, so make time for you.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR ROOTED LONDON: We have a few projects coming up, working on dining events and exclusive recipes for brands. Rooted Yoga continues at Town Hall Hotel every Monday and it looks like I’ll be teaching at another studio very soon too! I’m finalising a retreat idea so watch this space for an Indian adventure come April and our hen parties will still be on offer as well as the concept for birthdays and quite frankly, any other celebration which requires tasty food, mental stimulation and a good stretch. I’ll be developing more recipes for the site and working on various collaborations and catering throughout the year. I’ll, of course, be continuing my nutrition studies and developing my own yoga practice, with lots of great workshops booked for next year. 2016 is set to boom!