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Ali Cramer: Discovering Balance through Ayurveda

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We sat down with Ayurvedic Counselor and author of Modern Ayurveda: Rituals, Recipes, and Remedies for Balance, Ali Cramer, to talk about living life with more intention through Ayurvedic practices. 

Ayurveda is about being in a relationship and working to stay in harmony with the conditions that we find ourselves in. It asks that we examine our raw materials and how they interact with others’ raw materials and the environment. 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.

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 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. 

VataPitta, 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—contribute to our overall constitution and lifestyle. 

Please read the full post to get the highlights from our talk; watch or listen to the full episode. 

Interview with Ali Cramer

How do we prepare for Vata season and Yama Dramstra? 

ACYama 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. 

In this season, the veil is very thin. So this is the time for creativity and spirituality. This is a time to journal, to 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 port of the day where you want to create. It’s magical, and it is a time where keeping a meditation practice will help ground. When we ritualize a practice, it has a grounding effect. The yoga practice, or whatever it is you decide to do, is meant to keep us connected, to keep us grounded in something consistent.  

What are simple practices to start living with Ayurveda?

ACThis is what I try to get across to my clients:

  1. Right sleep, 
  2. Right nutrition, 
  3. Right Hydration, 
  4. Right movement. 

Movement should be something that feels healthy and enjoyable. One of the things I usually ask my clients is, does your current lifestyle make you happy? 

How do you nourish the doshas?  

ACIn 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, then we need to move a little bit 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.

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. 

CROThe center’s always moving; our point of reference is always shifting, which is so fun and overwhelming all at the same time. 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. 

What’s the difference between Vrikriti and Prakriti? 

CRO— Prakriti is what you are born with; it’s shaped by your parents’ constitutions and what happened when you were conceived in utero and the first two years of being on earth. Vikruti is where you are right now, what you deal with each and every day. Sometimes our Prakriti and Vrikriti are the same, and yet they don’t have to be. 

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 of the elements and energies are more dominant than others, based on what we’re feeling on any given day. 

Age and what we’re experiencing profoundly 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. 

Why are we drawn to things that throw us out of balance?

ACI’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 are we drawn to the things that we know throw us out of balance? For myself, 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 or the air we breathe, or even the toxins that 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: when you take care of yourself, you’re better able to take care of the people around you.

Try these Cleansing Recipes by Ali for each dosha, including Tridoshic recipes if you’re cooking for multiple people!

 

 
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What’s your superpower? 

AC— 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? 

ACI 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? 

ACMarty, 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. 

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Your Ayurveda Playlist

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

Join me for an experiencial practice!

My favourite thing about yoga is getting to watch people have a connection with themselves.

 

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Read our post on how to set up a home yoga studio and the benefits of joining the Class of the Day.

 

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we also have the Prenatal Collections with classes from the 1st – 4th trimesters that I created when I was pregnant with my daughter. 

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