Episode 5: Why Ayurveda Is a Modern and Accessible Practice for All with Ali Cramer
Ayurveda “is a gentle and loving approach to becoming more yourself, understanding what you need to feel healthy and to feel whole,” says Ali Cramer. The ancient practice is about “having a way of looking at the world with more compassion.” Cramer, who is a yoga and Ayurveda specialist and author of the book Modern Ayurveda, has talent for unlocking the fun in Ayurveda, and for making it utterly accessible for all. That’s the key to her book, which she talks about with guest host, Stacey Lindsay. The two go deep about how Ayurveda is flexible, freeing, and a way to get to know yourself.
Ali Cramer's Website: https://www.alicramer.com/
Episode Transcript:Shrankhla Holecek: [00:00:44] Hi! I am Shrankhla Holecek, the Founder & CEO of UMA, an Ayurvedic beauty and wellness collection. This is the UMA Ayurveda podcast. Each week I’ll be having a conversation with someone I greatly admire on the topics of Ayurveda, holistic healing, spiritual well-being and alternative health. By sharing this wisdom, I hope to share a personal truth and revelation with you. That, as ancient as they are, Ayurveda and other healing modalities are as modern and relevant today, as ever.
Shrankhla Holecek: [00:00:47] This week, Stacey Lindsay takes over as host of UMA Ayurveda podcast. Ali Cramer is the director of the Ayurveda program at Laughing Lotus and a senior teacher in their 200-hour teacher training program. She leads retreats, workshops, and master classes both nationally and internationally. Ali is honored to have led the first yoga teacher training program in Sudan and to be a guest teacher on the faculty of Columbia University’s psychology and spirituality program. Ali has been practicing and teaching Yoga for nearly 20 years and also practices an Ayurvedic lifestyle. She is the author of Modern Ayurveda: Rituals, Recipes, and Remedies for Balance. We’re so thrilled to have Ali on the UMA Elements Podcast today.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:01:41] Ali Cramer, I am so excited to be with you and to share the space with you today. Thank you so much.
Ali Cramer: [00:01:47] Thank you so much for having me on. This is exactly in alignment with everything that I love. So I appreciate it very much.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:01:55] I want to ask you..how are you holding up? How is your heart?
Ali Cramer: [00:02:00] What a beautiful question.
Ali Cramer: [00:02:04] My heart has good days and bad days. My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering. And I am trying to stay in action. That is part of my Vata-Pitta nature to stay in action and to just try to do my part to bring a little bit more positivity into people's lives. If I at all can.
Ali Cramer: [00:02:34] So..what I focus on in any time of challenge is how do I take action and into action and action. And service is always what saved my life.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:02:48] Thank you for sharing that, Ali. And I'd like to unpack that a little bit more, because I know..as you just said, action in service is a huge part of your life through your yoga practice, which I know you've been practicing since 2003, and you're also deeply devoted to Ayurveda. So if you would, would you take me back to the start? When were you first introduced to yoga and Ayurveda? How do they play such a strong role in your life today?
Ali Cramer: [00:03:14] So let's see. I was a professional dancer and moved to New York when I was 16 for my dance career. And I have had a few injuries. And at some point or another, somebody said like, oh, you should try yoga. It would probably help your back. And this was in the '90s. And there was a place right near me where I lived on the Upper West Side of New York City called Integral Yoga. And I started going there and there was a purple carpet on the floor. And we all did yoga on our towels. I think, you know, I think about the difference. Where are yoga? Forget it for better and worse. And so we all did yoga on our towels and it was integral. Yoga was very traditional hot yoga. And you did breastwork in mantra and some poses. And I started there and. Then..I continued with my yoga practice. I moved to California at some point at the end of the 1990s and there was already a very vibrant Vinyasa scene there at the time. So I started doing that and then came back to New York, discovered diva moxie, fell in love, was there every day, all day. And then from there discovered Laughing Lotus walked into Laughing Lotus and said, You know, I thought I'd do my teacher training a million years from now, but I think I'm doing it now. And it's been my home ever since. And so I started practicing somewhere around ninety-five or ninety-four maybe. And did my TUT in two thousand and three with Lotus. And there was a one-day introduction to Ayurveda and I just was like, there's something to this.
Ali Cramer: [00:05:13] Like if I actually. Look at the world through this particular lens. There is a lot more that makes sense.
Ali Cramer: [00:05:23] And..so I went into the little boutique that Lotus had and found this book called The Path of Practice by Maya Tiwari. And I read this book and it's a beautiful, beautiful Ayurveda book and just I became obsessed with this book and I gave copies of it to everyone that I knew and just, you know, followed her. And then I heard that she was doing a six-month training in New York City. I signed up for it right after school ended and not started my Ayurveda practice, and I will say this. I always agreed with the theories. I always agreed with the perspective of life. And it's taken me.
Ali Cramer: [00:06:13] You know, since 2003, too slowly but surely incorporate the practices. It made a difference in my life right away in terms of changing my thinking and in terms of changing my behavior.
Ali Cramer: [00:06:29] Behavior is difficult..and so it did. You know, I always say, like, hey, if I did everything that I'm telling everyone else to do.
Ali Cramer: [00:06:40] If I did everything perfectly. My God, I would feel amazing all the time and..that's not the truth. What I do know is that small daily actions have changed my life. And, you know, I still mess up on a regular basis. And it just..it's a gentle and evolving practice. And for somebody who struggles with. Like, the more is better and impatience in my life. It's been a beautiful journey. It's been a really beautiful journey.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:07:22] You and I have talked about this before, but that's so much of what has drawn me to your work. Is that how you've unveiled that accessibility and particularly your book is entitled Modern Ayurveda and how you really teach people that, Of course, this is an ancient practice, but it's relevant today, perhaps even more relevant now than it ever was. It's even more needed. But it's those small ships that's that really has resonated with me and that resonates with the conversations that I have with people, too, as you say. And you've helped me with that. It's a daily experience. Walk. Walk me through that a little bit more, if you would.
Ali Cramer: [00:08:00] Absolutely. So Ayurveda. It has different practices that you can do on a daily basis. It also has different practices that you can do on a yearly basis. And then it also says adjust to really who you are and what you need on a daily basis. So it's a process of self-discovery and experimentation, you know, and..that's another thing that I..feel is very important is never to speak in absolutes because it's not one size fits all. What what I know for myself is. I wake up early. I scrape my tongue. I brush my teeth. I splash cold water over my eyes. I put a little oil in my ears. Sometimes I do a neti pot. I put a little oil in my nostrils. I bathe. I oil my body. I use essential oils. I mean, it's. Somebody..at one point said, like, my God, like you must do a million things for you later all day long. And I was like, No, I don't. And then I thought about it and I was like, yeah, I kind of do. But like I said, it's been a gentle unfolding, right? It has not. And it's so second nature to me now. And I also realize that it doesn't have to take a long time. I have morning practices that when I do have an hour and a half to do them, then I can do that. And if I have five minutes, there are still little actions that I can take that I find to be very empowering, meaning like, OK, here I am and I'm taking care of myself and I'm doing things to Acknowledge my commitment to daily wellness.
Ali Cramer: [00:09:53] So my practice changes a lot throughout the year. You know, my three basic rules of Ayurveda, are it's not a quick fix. It's not one size fits all and like increases like opposite balances. So..for instance, for today, it's in New York City. It's hot out. It's actually hot. And the sun is shining and the sun is strong. So I know for somebody like myself who does have a lot of fire already in my constitution, going outside and lying in the sun and coming in and eating spicy food is not going to make me feel good. So I'm leaning more towards cooling practices today, as opposed to diving into like, hey, it's sunny out, so let's go. You know, like Central Park for the next three hours. I know that if I do that, it might feel good in the moment. Eventually, though, it's not going to feel great. And another thing that I that I tried to incorporate is the idea and I and I got this from a book and I like to quote the author and I can't remember and I have to look that up, but she was talking about preferences versus priorities. And that was something that that really resonated with me. In other words, like, oh, I would like to stay up late and watch some trash TV. And tomorrow morning, I'm teaching a yoga class. And my priority is to be awake and present and feel responsible about my dedication to what I need to do in the morning. And so the priority outweighs the preference in the moment. And very often that keeps me sticking to my practice.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:11:48] That's beautiful. I can relate to that, too. He's going back to what you said about things becoming second nature and maybe there are many things that you're doing in the morning, but they feel right and they become like second nature. And..it's the positive effects. I agree. That's what keeps me going. Even the simple thing that takes less than a minute to scrape your tongue in the morning, how they have such a profound impact and just how my oral health feels, but how I taste my food that keeps me doing it consistently when I just see that positive effect from it. That's been so amazing for me. And I can see that's just such a motivator.
Ali Cramer: [00:12:26] And it's such a simple thing. And what I find with all these practices is that, as you said, it feels so good. Like you feel you feel the effects instantly that you're like, how did I not do this before? You know, like I always say, that's one of the first things that I say with all of my clients that I do consultation's for. I'm like, dude, scrape your tongue. And they're like, now. And I'm like, get a tongue scraper. And then they come back to me like three weeks later and they're like, How did I ever not use a tongue scraper? So I do think that it's that it's..little changes that become just a part of who we are and what we do in the same way that maybe we were taught to brush our teeth and wash our face and do our laundry and all those things, it's just kind of amplifying that to the next level, especially for those of us that weren't taught a lot of self-care.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:13:16] I certainly wasn't that such a great point, because it's not. It's kind of a generalization. But saying it's not a common thing in the Western culture to be taught, you know, take your mind, take care of your body if you're not taught that primarily.
Ali Cramer: [00:13:29] Yeah. I mean,..I do think that there are some families that have that kind of tradition. That's not what I came from, you know. So, yeah, I've had to kind of learn. And I and I left home quite early because I was a professional dancer. And all this to say, it's really been learning to, in a sense, parent myself, you know, ..and understand and understand myself better. And, you know, my parents didn't have access to the information either. You know, it wasn't thankfully, there's been an explosion of Ayurveda in the West End. And India has been so unbelievably generous about it. You know, I think about when I was a kid, I had eczema. I was covered in rashes, covered in rashes. And. And to the point that, you know, when I was a little kid, I didn't want to wear short sleeve shirts because I was self-conscious and all of that kind of thing. And what was I eating and what was I drinking when I had this weird thing for grapefruit juice? And I would drink a lot of grapefruit juice. And I also had a thing for peanut butter and I would eat a lot of peanut butter. And so now, my Ayurveda education tells me, yeah, you can't have that much sour food and you can't have that much inflammatory food. And my eczema is gone. It's like since I've been practicing Ayurveda I don't struggle with it at all. And if I start to even see a little bit of a flare-up, I know exactly what to do that. And I know that it's my fault.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:15:02] Yeah.
Ali Cramer: [00:15:03] That's one thing that that's so interesting about these practices, is that it gives you enough information so that you can take responsibility for your actions.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:15:12] nice. And just this incredible link linking of everything, as you're saying, to know that if something starts to come up again, it is because maybe you were eating that certain food or you were, you know, doing a certain thing. It's amazing.
Ali Cramer: [00:15:27] your working too hard. or Getting, you know, going out in the sun too much or, you know, generally it's usually for me, it's like..it's the food day because really the know Ayurveda says, like, if your food is not right, then nothing that you do is really going to change that. Like, you can't change it because we are made up of food..and even Yogas talks about the Annamaya Kosha as being the most basic level of who we are and..Anna means food. So the body that is made up of food. Now. Just to say out loud, and this is something that I really stress in my book. I do have a lot of clients who struggle with eating disorders, and it's a part of my story as well. Not for many, many years. And it is a part of my history. So I do try to be sensitive to the fact that a quality, healthy food in this country is extremely expensive and it might not be economically feasible for everyone, for starters. Secondly, some people are very triggered by food talk. So I try not to speak in absolutes or, you know, if somebody I as I said, I work with clients who have eating disorders, who have body dysmorphia, who have all of these different kinds of things. And a lot of what my line of questioning becomes is, well.
Ali Cramer: [00:16:58] How would it feel safe to do this? What it feels safe to change this.
Ali Cramer: [00:17:05] And people will answer yes or no. And I'll say, OK. And if the answer is no, then it might be OK. Well, then let's look at your yoga practice instead. And that's so beautiful about Ayurveda, because it says, oh, well, if this is a non-negotiable right now, then let's look over here at something else that you can do.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:17:26] I'm so glad you brought that up, Ali, because I think when we approach something in a binary way, this or that, it can be really it can be debilitating. It can be really scary. And we can tend to shut down. And so we know, OK, actually, just as you said, OK, maybe we don't have to focus on this right now. We can actually focus on something else or that generosity. Oh, my gosh. That's just so much more. It's just so much more enjoyable, too. And I don't know. I can't speak for everybody actually speak for myself. But it sets me up for success for sure, when I know I have a little bit more room to understand myself and to be generous.
Ali Cramer: [00:18:03] Health care feels loving as opposed to. I have to do this because it's good for me. You know,
Stacey Lindsay: [00:18:09] Exactly.
Ali Cramer: [00:18:11] At some point another we're going to rebel against.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:18:13] That.Oh my gosh. Yeah.
Ali Cramer: [00:18:14] Yeah. That's human nature, isn't it? You've done it, you know.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:18:21] Well, as a fellow Vata-Pitta, I'd love to talk about right now too, because I think it's of course, we are in a time of great uncertainty. Change. It is unique for everybody, of course, but there is a lot of uncertainty out there in potentially a lot of anxiety for a lot of people, if not everyone, but of course,..a lot of excess Vata. What are some things right now, Ali, that you are perhaps telling yourself or telling..your students and your clients? For Extra, perhaps even extra or self-care specific to what we're going through right now.
Ali Cramer: [00:18:56] Yeah. It is..a very uncertain time, as you said. What I have found to be comforting is any type of routine that can be possible is very good for the inconsistency of that thought to energy. So if it's..that every morning you wake up and meditate for five minutes, try to do it at the same time, try to do it every day, because the consistency, that sort of staying with the practice when everything feels like it's so up in the air. I think that can be very grounding.
Ali Cramer: [00:19:47] Other things that I think would be helpful at this time is treating yourself. And I and I say this in my book, like when Vatta is high. The advice that I try to give is think of yourself as you would a baby, meaning that you wouldn't play music too loud in a baby's room. You wouldn't shine bright lights in a baby's face, you wouldn't feed a baby anything that could really upset their stomach. Meaning like food that's too spicy or too much raw food or anything like that. You would feed a baby like warm, soupy things, you know. Are you gonna Khichdi is a great thing to eat right now..There's recipes for it in my book. There's also a ton of recipes online. It's basically a rice and beans combination with digestive spices. It's inexpensive. It's easy to make it quick to make. It's delicious. And you can eat that and still feel like you're doing something like healthy and good for your body. And you might do that. You might eat that for lunch and dinner for three days. And that could be a consistent thing.
Ali Cramer: [00:21:01] And then just. Try to stay with practices that, you know, help because there is when there's trauma, because this is collective trauma, when there's trauma. It's quite easy to abandon everything because..our world has been completely shaken. It's not even something that we can say, oh, it's just the US. It's the world. Sometimes when things really ..go in a direction that we have no experience with. That feels so overwhelming. We can abandon things.
Ali Cramer: [00:21:40] And this is the time where we need to stay with the practices that help. So if you do mantra, stay with mantra. If you meditate, stay with your meditation. If you do physical Ausanna or Pranayama do that. This would be the time where I would not encourage people to be over-exercising to the point where they feel depleted. Nor would this be the time for people to just lie on the couch and completely, you know, try to sleep all day or something like that, which can also happen, you know. Is that depression. I think can creep in. Anxiety, depression. It manifests different ways for different people, some people get mad. Some people cry. There are so many different ways. What I do know is that for me this is the most helpful thing is community. That's above and beyond everything else, because community holds me accountable. And community inspires me. And community makes me still feel connected. At a time where it's very easy to feel very alone.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:22:48] I love the environment. Actually, when I pick up your book, because it actually makes me feel very scene and it makes me feel like I'm part of a community. And I wanted to ask you the way you. It is, again, going back to that world accessible. It is so accessible. It's a resource, too. What was the thought process of..how you created how you put this book together? Because again, going back to that community, as I said, I pick it up sometimes and I'll look at a recipe sometimes. I'll just pick it up and I'll read your intro again. Was that the intention to do? How did..you approach it when you started writing it?
Ali Cramer: [00:23:19] ..This book.So. I've been teaching Ayurveda, You know, I didn't want to teach it for the first. Six or seven years or something like that, because I was trying to just incorporate it in my life and I was and I was teaching so much yoga at the time and I just there wasn't even like room for it. So, I was incorporating the practices into my own life. And I was reading and studying and studying with amazing teachers. You know, I study with I study my primary teacher now, is doctor Vasant Lad who runs the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico. And he is just.
Ali Cramer: [00:24:05] Words fail me of his generosity and his incredible wisdom and his kindness. He's the kindest man that I've ever known in my life.
Ali Cramer: [00:24:18] And so Dr. Lad and Scott Larson and Dr. Scott Larson was out of Colorado now. Dr. Claudia Welch , she's out over months now, Dr. Robert Svoboda, who God only knows where he is. He can be anywhere. But I've had these really, really amazing, amazing teachers. And so I finally started to teach about six or seven years into practicing Ayurveda and I developed various programs for Laughing Lotus. Longer programs, shorter programs. I started doing workshops about it. So there was an approach that. Evolved. Over the years and refined over the years of the way that I wanted to teach it because I was started teaching it for yoga school, I started teaching and these workshops to start teaching in these programs, and I wanted to get people doing it right away. So that they can get justice turned on by it and inspired by it, as I was. So..there was a book that was in the back of my mind. I said, you know, one day I will write a book. Ayurveda Someday. Someday. And let's see last not this past November, but the November before. So November of 2018. I got an email that's Ohh and I. And I had been writing a column for a Website, a weekly column of two hundred and fifty words. Ayurveda tips or Ayurvedic You know, concepts explained in 250 to 500 words or something like that. So I was doing it weekly. So I had hundreds of these columns because I did it for like a couple of years.
Ali Cramer: [00:26:14] And I get this email and it says Hi, were a health and wellness publishing company. We're looking for someone to write a book about a modern approach to Ayurveda, We think you're the person. Are you interested? And I said, yes, I'm absolutely interested. And so, you know, there was a lot of back and forth and they said, well, we have specific requirements for what needs to be included in the book. So I had a lot of content in my head that I'd been teaching for 10 years or so, 12 years, whatever it is, you know, who knows where the time goes. So in January, they said, well,..let's get you a contract. I signed my contract the first week of February and they said, great, you've got six weeks to get the first draft.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:27:09] Oh wow.
Ali Cramer: [00:27:09] yeah, you've got six weeks. That's the first draft. And I had all this traveling and teaching planned. And I was oh my God, oh my God.
Ali Cramer: [00:27:22] And it turned out to be the best thing because what else can you do in airports and on airplane distractions? Right. So I was writing in airports and I was writing on airplanes. You know, there was one time where I called my editor and I was like, this is not Ayurvedic You know, just freaking out. She had to, like, talk me down and whatever.
Ali Cramer: [00:27:45] And I did it. You know, I did it. I got it..in six weeks. And then they took it for a couple weeks and had development editors looking at it and fact-checkers and everything else. And then they brought it back to me. And then I handed it back in and then they kept it for a few days and then handed it back to me. And I did one last check over that I had like maybe 48 hours to do. So, it was kind of like getting hit by a truck..in a really great way because I don't know. You know, it's very easy. I think that a lot of us have a book in us.
Ali Cramer: [00:28:25] And there is something about somebody saying to you, "No, you're going to do this now." Here is an assignment. And not only here's an assignment, but the endless appeals to the Pitta and me. Here's a challenge.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:28:37] A bright. But it also speaks to the fact that this book is bigger than you. This book is such a contribution, it needed to be born because I think it already in many ways that it was living inside you, as you said. So it actually it just was that push to prove when there's a work like this, it needs to be out in the world as a download and as a download. I want to know what's amazing. I want to read something that I love from the book in the intro. Say, Welcome to a lifelong path of shifting into harmony with the conditions of your life. Think of this book as a map to empower you with understanding and tools to take charge of your health and happiness.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:29:15] Let's go. Go on with it. Harmony awakes. Harmony awaits.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:29:22] I'm actually at a loss of words, and I can't be because we're having a conversation. But, you know,..as we start to close. Ali, I want to speak to that harmony awaits for people out there who are maybe they're interested in Ayurveda. Maybe they're not. But they're interested. They're not sure yet. They're nervous. You know, they're reticent. Whatever it may be, we're all on our own journeys. What do you say? What do you say to them?
Ali Cramer: [00:29:49] Ayurveda will help you to know yourself a bit better. Ayurveda will empower you with lifelong skills that create a life of more harmony and more happiness. And that is something that I think can be left out. Not always can be left out of what we've been taught is, "good for us". And by that, I mean that it is a gentle and loving approach to becoming more yourself. Understanding what you need to feel healthy and to feel whole.
Ali Cramer: [00:30:43] And having a way of looking at the world with more compassion and with end by the world, I mean ourselves as well, because once we go through sort of the paradigm that Ayurveda gives us. Our own behavior and other people's behavior can be explained in such a beautiful way. It has made my relationships so much easier.
Ali Cramer: [00:31:18] You know,..when my when I get triggered by something that my father says and we're talking on the phone. And then I realized. And then I say to him, Dad, have you eaten the nieces? No. And I say, Will call me back after dinner. Because I know he's hungry and I'm triggered by that, you know. And so there's things like that. Or when my mother forgets this and forgets that and she's like, oh, I don't remember it. And I say.
Ali Cramer: [00:31:50] I don't think to myself, well, that's my mother. I think my mother's Vata is really high. So let's see if we can do something that's going to help her to feel more grounded.
Ali Cramer: [00:32:05] And Ayurveda gives us the tools to adapt and adjust and constantly be finding our way back to balance, because balance is our birthright.
Ali Cramer: [00:32:21] It is our birthright. And there are little things that we can do. little gentle, loving things you can do to help ourselves get back there, it's a dynamic state. It's ever-changing. And it can become second nature. It does not have to be a big deal or some sort of like overhaul of our lives. It's consistently evolving.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:32:52] Ali, thank you so very much, and again wisdom in your book, Modern Ayurveda Rituals, Recipes and Remedies for Balance. And we can learn more about you. Ali Cramer, dot com. Ali, thank you for holding space with me today. Thank you so much.
Ali Cramer: [00:33:07] Thank you so much for your beautiful questions and for letting me just talk on and on about my passion.
Stacey Lindsay: [00:33:13] More to come. Thank you, Ali.
Shrankhla Holecek: [00:33:41] Thank you so much for listening. If you like more information on our guest and the additional references during our conversation, please visit us at UMAOils.com. See you next time!