Ayurveda is one of India’s oldest practices, dating back over 5,000 years to the Vedic period.
Known as the Mother of Healing and the sister science to yoga, Ayurveda is a holistic healing system that uses the elements in the environment as the raw materials to be in a better relationship with the body.
“Ayurveda is a unique plan for self-care that can carry us through our lives. We’re constantly changing, and the world around us is constantly changing; Ayurveda honors being in the flow and allows us to stay open to the flow. Nothing is fixed in the world, so we can’t be fixed either”. – Ali Cramer.
Ali Cramer is a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic Counsellor, and author of Modern Ayurveda: Rituals, Recipes, and Remedies for Balance. She joined us on the Practice with Clara Podcast to share her simple and effective Ayurvedic practices you can make do at home to ease the transition into winter.
Table of Contents:
A Brief Introduction to Ayurveda and the Doshas.
Ten Tips from Ali Cramer on Ayurveda at Home.
Preparing For Vata Season/Winter.
Imbalances and How Toxins Build Up in the Body.
Yoga for Your Dosha on Practice with Clara.
3 Questions to Get To Know Ali Cramer.
Resources to Continue Learning About Ayurveda.
Ayurveda and the Doshas
Ayurveda is a system of holistic health that was born in India, in Southern India, at a place called Karola. The whole system is based on the Tattvas, the Five Great Elements.
Ayurveda works with the elements to examine the energies we perceive in the world. The five elements are earth, air, fire, water, and ether. These five elements create the three unique doshas, or energies, that provide our constitution.
Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are the three doshas that make up a person’s constitution. The doshas are reflected as Vata (movement), Pitta (digestion), and Kapha (stability), with unique characteristics and requirements to maintain equilibrium.
Examining diet, movement patterns, work, relationships, environments, and habits—especially patterns that cause disease and imbalances—contributes to our overall constitution and lifestyle.
The elements contribute to the overall constitution of the doshas and provide a lens to understand how to work with each.
- Kapha = Earth + Water
- Pitta = Fire + Air
- Vata = Air + Ether
Age and what we’re experiencing affect our constitution, our body, and our overall energy. We’re always degrading once we’re born.
One way to think of it is that the Virkriti is always changing as it represents what’s going on right now, so it may not be the same as it was some years beforehand.
Just as each person has a primary dosha, there is a dosha that describes the current season:
Late winter to spring is damp and heavy, thus assigned to Kapha.
Late spring to summer is hot and dry, thus assigned to Pitta.
Fall to late winter is dry and cold, thus assigned to Vata.
Our point of reference is always shifting. I like to ask, how am I doing right now? Am I feeling good about what I’m doing right now? And if I am awesome, then I keep going. And if not, I need to pacify those particular things because I’m feeling out of balance with my constitution.
— Clara Roberts-Oss.
Once we know the season’s qualities, we can observe the opposite side of what we’re currently experiencing to balance us out a little bit.
That’s a universal tactic to balance the doshas. It requires self-reflection every day. Each day is different; self-reflection and accepting that we are unique beings and need different things at different times.
The main thing to understand is that we have all three of the doshas within us because we are all made up of the five great elements.
Some elements and energies are more dominant than others, based on what we feel on any day.
10 Simple and Effective
Ayurveda Tips from Ali Cramer
One of the things I usually ask my clients is, does your current lifestyle make you happy? — Ali Cramer.
1. Right sleep.
Getting enough sleep is key to our mental, physical and emotional health. In savasana, the body absorbs all the work done during the yoga class. During sleep, the body regenerates, recovers, and repairs itself, aiding in immunity and decreases and inflammation. Research shows that getting a good night’s sleep can improve concentration, productivity, and cognition.
2. Right nutrition.
Studies have shown that those who have healthy eating habits live longer and are at lower risk for serious health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Consuming unprocessed foods, shopping local, and preparing meals that align with the seasons are three ways to support the body. Ayurveda also promotes eating for your dosha to aid digestion.
3. Right hydration.
Drink water- lots of it! Water helps the body regulate temperature, lubricates joints, removes toxins from the body, and protects the spinal cord. It also prevents dehydration, aids digestion, and carries nutrients to your cells.
4. Right movement.
Exercise has many wonderful benefits to your physical and psychological health, including the release of endorphins that reduce anxiety and depression. Physical activity is necessary to regulate and support the systems of the body digestive, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, cardiovascular, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, and reproductive.
5. Work within the current season and elements.
Ayurveda observes the seasonal changes and adjusts diet, activities and sleep accordingly. There are three seasons in Ayurveda which are represented as the three doshas. Kapha is late winter to early spring; Pitta is late spring to summer; Vata is fall to early winter.
6. Check-in with how you feel.
Observe how you feel and the sensations you experience daily. Feelings are the conscious perception of changes that are occurring in the body.
In addressing how you feel, every day will be different depending on the internal conditions (your mood, what you ate) and various external factors (weather, time of day).
How you feel will change daily; the world is in constant flux, and so are we. Ali tells her clients to check in and inquire into how they feel to see what is working and what may need to shift.
7. Reflect on your current state.
Reflection is a powerful tool to improve performance, strengthen self-awareness, and assess personal growth. To reflect is to engage in a non-judgemental practice of what worked, what didn’t and where you can do better moving forward.
Applying this to Ayurveda, it’s important to consider where you are and how you got to your current state before crafting a plan to move forward.
8. Understand your patterns.
Habits are soothing and routines bring comfort, even if what we do is not always the best practice for your mental, physical and emotional well-being.
Habits trigger the release of positive endorphins dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, which is why we pursue the same pattern even if we consciously know it is not the best path.
Ali says to get to know your patterns, the subtle makings of your routine, and see where you want to switch out an action for a better ritual.
9. Acknowledge your triggers.
Knowing what you find triggering is essential to your overall well-being. It’s part of understanding what makes you feel good and what doesn’t.
We cannot eliminate all of the triggers in our lives, though research shows that healthy boundaries and self-esteem help with making us less reactive.
Acknowledging what makes you angry and creating a condition or response to work with it rather than resisting it is a healthy and proactive way to manage stressful situations.
10. Stick with what’s working and drop what isn’t.
The final and perhaps most vital step is to stick with your commitments- what’s working- and drop whatever does not serve!
The flow state is a term being used to describe states of heightened consciousness and total absorption, where performance skyrockets. When we are in a state of flow, we feel good and can move through whatever the task is with ease and control.
Remember that all things change. The season, time of day, and events around you affect your feelings. An action you took in the summer that brought success may not work in the winter.
So keep taking stock of where you find ease and flow in your routine and where you hit a wall.
Preparing For Vata Season (Winter)
“In Vata season, what we’re all experiencing right now, there’s lots of energy moving very fast. It’s light as opposed to heavy, dry, and irregular. So if it’s fast, we need to move slightly slower. Give ourselves a little bit more time to do things. Vata tends to be cold, so we need to make sure that we stay warm.
Vata is dry, so we need to add a little bit more oil, which could look like adding another slice of avocado to your meal or incorporating some good fats.
In this season, the veil is very thin. So this is the time for creativity and spirituality. This is a time to journal, meditate, to practice yoga, especially between the hours of 2-6 AM or PM, because that’s Vata’s time of the day. This is the peak part of the day where you want to create. It’s magical, and it is a time when keeping a meditation practice will help ground.
When we ritualize a practice, it has a grounding effect. The yoga practice, or whatever you decide to do, is meant to keep us connected and grounded in something consistent.
Yama is the lord of death, so Yama Damstra reflects the time of year when the veil between our world and the spirit world is very thin. Across so many traditions, this is a magical time of the year, an unearthly kind of time. Vata is part of this realm, being very imaginative and ethereal.”
— Ali Cramer.
How Toxins Build Up in the Body
“I’ve had a bunch of incredible Ayurveda teachers. My primary teacher is Dr. Vassant Lad from the Ayurvedic Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When I first started studying, I asked him why we are drawn to the things we know throw us out of balance. I love popcorn, and it’s not great for me because it’s light, and it’s dry and hard and brittle, and all of those things are not good for Vata. It’s also acidic, which is not good for Pitta, and I have a lot of Pitta in my constitution. I asked him why I was drawn to these things—things that are not good for me. This is what he said:
‘The system is full of Ama, which are toxins in the body. The toxins could be from our food, the air we breathe, or even the toxins we perceive on violent TV shows or media. Toxins could also be a fight we had with a friend or stress from work. The toxins build up in the body and clog the steady state of flow; our bodies need to remain in harmony with the flow of the universe. When there’s a big buildup of Ama, we’re drawn to other things that bring us out of
balance. Whereas once the Ama is cleared, we make better decisions.’
The thing I always think of is when I don’t get enough sleep and when I wake up in the morning and make a poor breakfast choice because I’m fatigued and I can’t make as good of choices for myself. This leads to a slippery slope of degradation. However, we can always come back up by making small, simple choices toward living in better health. We can take many small actions that bring us back to harmony, such as drinking water, going to bed earlier, and not snacking between meals.
The best advertisement for self-care is that when you take care of yourself, you’re better able to take care of the people around you.”
— Ali Cramer.
What’s your superpower?
Ali Cramer— I would say cooking. I’ve been cooking since I was little, and I’m good at it. Cooking is a beautiful way to connect; it’s a nourishing experience to share with others. I remember standing on a stepstool and making breakfast for my grandfather. I recall scrambled eggs and toast. I progressed to making chocolate chip cookies for my dad; it was never complicated or fancy.
If you could choose any era to live in, what period would you choose?
Ali Cramer—I think it would have been very interesting to be around in the late 19th century when Krishnamacharya was teaching his students because he was one of the first official yoga teachers that shaped the practice as we see it today in the modern yoga world.
What do you never leave the house without?
Ali Cramer—Marty, my dog. I keep essential oils next to my keys, so I kind of douse myself before leaving the house. That’s my little protection against New York City, dousing myself with some oils. And then I take my phone. Those are the three practical, concrete items.
I’m in New York City; I’m going to be extremely truthful here and transparent and say being on my guard is a way of protection and being on my guard in terms of who needs help. The other two things I take with me are a generous frame of mind and an open and compassionate frame of mind with boundaries and attention.
Join Practice with Clara
Sign up for a recurring subscription and get access to hundreds of different yoga classes and join the weekly LIVE yoga class.
Classes that ground the over-excitement and angst associated with Vata.
- Ganesha Mantra
- Yoga Nidra
- Quick Chill – Restorative Yoga
- Back Release – Hatha Yoga
- Get Ready for Bed – Yin Yoga
- Stay Low – Hatha Yoga
- Mudra Meditation
Classes to soothe the intensity of Pitta while gently stimulating the inner fire.
- Beauty Within & Without – Vinyasa
- Ocean Meditation
- Fluid Power – Vinyasa
- Creative Flow.- Vinyasa
- Saraswati Mantra
- Go with the Flow – Vinyasa
- Keep it Moving – Vinyasa
Classes to stimulate the inner flame and digestive fires to clear stagnant energy and lethargy.
- Ignite – Vinyasa
- Fire Flow – Vinyasa
- Shiva Mantra
- Space through Strength – Slow Flow
- Super Duper Power – Vinyasa
- Pranayama Meditation
- Unfurl Your Peacock Tail – Vinyasa