Honest, Accessible, and Incredibly Freeing Wellness Advice from an Ayurveda and Yoga Specialist
In our world today there are countless diets, protocols, and exercises that promise seemingly endless results. A routine to shave-off years. A fast to boost clarity. But within the abundance of methods to make us younger, thinner, healthier (enter your own modifier here) there is a schism: Some may feel these options are exciting and enticing. And some may feel completely overwhelmed.
Wherever you may fall, one thing is certain: Only you knows what is best for you. This counsel, originally bestowed upon us thousands of years ago by the Vedic texts, recently fell upon our open ears thanks to our correspondence with Ali Cramer. "Take all the rules with a grain of salt, and do your best to listen to how your body and mind respond to things—food, exercise, climate, et cetera," Cramer tells us. A Yoga and Ayurveda specialist and author of Modern Ayurveda, Cramer offers insight into true wellness that is uplifting and encouraging. She helps us realize that living optimally, and practicing Ayurveda—which she describes as a slow, gradual ever-evolving process—is accessible to us all. And the key is to be generous with ourselves. "I really do believe we are our own best judge of what works for us," she says.
We asked Cramer to share how the ancient science first came into her life, the ways in which it continues to guide her, and how she honors her wellbeing day-to-day, minute-to-minute. "Try not to make big, unwieldy changes that are unsustainable," Cramer says. "Stick with the little changes that are doable and congratulate yourself for any small shifts."
What drew you to Ayurveda? And how has it impacted your life?
I was introduced to Ayurveda in Yoga school at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, NYC by an amazing teacher named Sarah Tomlinson, who was a student of Harish Johari, a renowned Ayurvedic Doctor, scholar and teacher. We had just five hours of teaching, and my interest was piqued enough to pick up an Ayurveda book called The Path of Practice by Maya Tiwari. That book changed my life. Everything in it made so much sense to me. It became a lens that I could look through to find more health and peace with my relationships—with those around me and with myself. My first Ayurvedic training was with Maya, and she always said that Ayurveda was the art of living in harmony with your surroundings. I have found that to be incredibly accurate.
How would you describe your yoga and Ayurvedic practice today?
Both my Ayurveda and Yoga practices change daily, weekly, seasonally, yearly according to what's going on in my life. For right now, my life looks a certain way. I live in New York City, which I love for its creativity and energy and diversity. But I struggle with its noise, dirt, financial requirements, et cetera. All this to say, I work a lot and I also have a family that is very important to me. So, some days my practice is cooking a lovely dinner for me and my father. Some days my Yoga Practice is getting to take a class, and sometimes it's taking my dog for a walk and doing my mantra as we go. To me, Yoga and Ayurveda are interchangeable. It's anything I do to create more harmony, health, and peace in my life, my community, and my world.
What are some common misconceptions about Ayurveda that you've come across in your practice?
I'm so happy that it has become more well known, and that it can present certain problems. Just because some celebrity takes Ashwagandha, for instance, doesn't mean it is the correct herb for everyone. The other issue is one that I believe is not just unique to Ayurveda: That people think they can do a "detox" or "cleanse" and still stay in their normal, everyday lives. A true Ayurvedic (or otherwise) detox/cleanse plan is not just what you're eating (or not eating), or taking some herbs. A true Ayurvedic (or otherwise) detox/cleanse requires the planning and time to also refrain from electronics, work, social commitments, and more. I do think any small steps we take on a daily basis make a huge difference over the long term. But to expect to feel cured from a condition mentally, physically, emotionally after one week of taking some supplements or drinking some juice is not giving holistic health the chance it deserves.
Would you share some advice for staying healthy during Kapha season?
I think the thing to remember is that like increases like, opposite balances. Kapha season, which we are in right now, is associated with the elements of earth and water. If we put earth and water together, we get mud. Kapha season can make us feel a bit muddy-stuck, sticky, cold, heavy. So, to balance that out, we need warming food that doesn't feel too heavy. We need to make sure we exercise to get some circulation and endorphins going.