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The Delight of Being Wrong by Alison Cramer

March 5, 2014

Alison Cramer I have a confession to make, Family. You heard it here first. For the past ten years, I have had Kapha Envy. There. I said it. The truth will set you free. Let me explain…
Back in 2003, when I was in Yoga School, we had, as we do now, an Ayurveda day. Even the little bit of theory that I learned on that day blew my mind! It made SO much sense. I was already on board with the Chakras and the Elements, and this was a way of explaining so much about my behavior, my thoughts, my body, and the way I could make some simple changes to my Life to be healthier and happier. AMAZING! Knowledge IS Power.

See, the Ayurvedic system broke down everything that was manifest, including us, into three basic doshas, or constitutions: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata was related to the elements of Air and Space, Pitta to Water and Fire, and Kapha to Earth and Water. I read through all of the physical and mental qualities that went with each dosha and answered a couple of those Ayurveda quizzes I found online. I came to the conclusion that I was Vata/Pitta. Joints crack a lot? Yes. Tendency towards dry skin? That’s an understatement. Creative, check, I was a professional dancer. Spiritual? Yes, I devoured yoga books and chanted my mantra and went to yoga class or did home practice every day. Olive skin, dark eyes and hair? Yes, yes and yes. So there’s the Vata. Easy. On the Pitta side, I was an athletic dancer and had a muscular body with broad shoulders. I had terrible heat rash/eczema from childhood through my late teens, and I broke out in hives if my skin came in contact with certain hair gels, detergents or fabrics. I had a super strong work ethic and discipline, did well in school (mostly in the subjects I liked, there’s the Vata rearing up again) and from a very young age made strong decisions about about my Life and could not be talked or reasoned away from them. No fear when I moved to New York at 16. No fear taking dance jobs in other countries for months at a time. No fear going to extremely loud (and occasionally dangerous) hip hop and house clubs from age 15 to about 25.

There was one other Dosha, however. Kapha. Oh, glorious Kapha. Kapha women were curvy, sensual Goddesses. They had thick gorgeous hair and soft smooth skin. They were feminine and gentle and generous and everyone loved them. Who would NOT want to be Kapha? I searched in vain for SOMETHING about my current self I could call Kapha…sigh…dark, dry, aggressive little me circa 2004 could find no signs. My fate was sealed. So I thought.

As soon as school was over, I went searching for more information about my new Passion. In the Lotus bookshop, I came across books written by a woman named Maya Tiwari. I read them, MEMORIZED them (Pitta) and gave them as gifts to everyone I knew. As luck or Dharma would have it, I saw an announcement on her website that one of Maya’s courses, Wise Earth Ayurveda Sadhaka Teacher Training Level One, was being offered in New York City, starting in a month. BINGO! I signed up right away.

My conclusions about myself were reinforced from the first day of the training. Maya asked us to look at our parents, and get information about our Prakriti, or birth Doshas, from them. I looked in vain for SOME sign of Kapha in my parents as I knew them in 2004, and came up short. My mother-come on, she was small boned and slight, always had problems with her joints, loved going to the symphony and museums, and could get spacey and indecisive, especially if she didn’t eat lunch. There goes that. Almost pure Vata. My father-hmm, strong personality, extremely decisive, great in a crisis. Gray and bald by the time he was out of LAW SCHOOL. I mean, really! Was there a picture of Allan Cramer in the Charaka Samhita under “textbook Pitta”? No dice. I had major Kapha Envy, and my parents were no help. So I thought.

Fast forward through ten years or so, and along the way, I was given the honor of teaching Yoga and Ayurveda at Laughing Lotus. I still admired the Kapha qualities of women in my classes (such grace, such ease, such open hips!) but resigned myself to being a black clothes wearing, Massive Attack listening, eczema prone Vata/Pitta for the rest of my life. So I thought…

Because by this time, Ayurveda had become more than my Passion, it had become my Guide (and also my excuse) for just about every action, every decision, every corner of my life. And you couldn’t argue with a system that was close to five thousand years old! I was Vata, so I knew I needed a plan for teaching my classes, I couldn’t just wing it or I’d get completely flustered. What should I eat for lunch? In the summer and early fall, ANYTHING involving God’s perfect foods, avocado and hummus (Vata and Pitta), and in late fall and winter, sweet potatoes with hummus or soup (ditto). I blamed my spaciness, occasionally messy apartment, slight social awkwardness and struggles with winter on my Vata. I blamed my work it to the bone, “more is better” mentality on my Pitta. I mean, I had continued my studies, put in the hours with such great teachers as Scott Blossom, Robert Svoboda, Hilary Garivaltis, Sarah Tomlinson, and many others. I knew what was what. I had the habit of going online to Amazon used books when I couldn’t sleep (Vata AND Pitta) and ordering yet another Ayurveda book for my overflowing library. I was teaching Ayurveda for our beloved 200 hour Teacher Training, and Dana knew I loved it so much that she suggested I lead up an advanced Ayurveda and Healing Training Course at Laughing Lotus. It was a dream come true! I felt more and more capable of introducing the Lotus family to this ancient Art. I had put in the time and done the work and memorized vocabulary and concepts and traced the physical and emotional qualities of everyone I knew and put them neatly in their categories.

And then last summer came along. The one Teacher I had never had an opportunity to study with came to Ananda Ashram for a week long intensive that worked with my schedule. Dr. Vasant Lad. This man is a Legend in Ayurveda World. He has written countless incredible books (I owned them all) and articles, he had been the head of the Ayurvedic Hospital and University in Pune, and then he came to the United States and opened the Ayurvedic Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. People in the Ayurveda world spoke of him reverently, and I was so excited for the week I signed up months in advance.

Needless to say, when the week finally arrived it was sheer Heaven for me. I learned a TON, not just in the information Dr. Lad conveyed, but also the WAY he taught it. Far from being dry and scholarly, he used story telling and drawings and humor and discussion to introduce each new concept. That was what I had always tried to do-and I hope to one day be a fraction of the Teacher and Healer he is. This work should be accessible and friendly to all people, however much they know or are willing to try. Ayurveda should (and can) meet them where they are. I absolutely fell in love with this funny, gentle, humble, gracious Genius. I could not believe the week was flying by. I filled my journal with notes and pictures and hung on his every word. He introduced such a mind blowing perspective on the chakras one afternoon that, without thinking, I blurted out that I loved him, loudly, in front of a room full of people. (That’s a whole other story, ask me about what he said to get this reaction, and his sweet reply to my completely uncensored admittance).

All too soon, the last day arrived. And, as was his nature, Dr. Lad generously offered to read the Seventh Level Pulse of everyone in the room. It wasn’t mandatory, but the offer was there. The Seventh Level pulse is the deepest and truest way to get to someone’s Prakriti, or the percentage of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha each person had at birth, as opposed to their Vikruti, or current state of balance or imbalance, which is where most pulse readings stopped. Who wouldn’t want that? I had never had my Seventh Level Pulse read by someone like Dr. Lad. I took my place in the Darshan line, and it slowly advanced as he took each person by the wrist and placed his fingers just so. My turn! Yay! I knew what my Prakriti was, but I still just wanted to have a personal moment with this great man, (beyond my declaration in the heat of chakra discovery!) and have my knowledge validated.

And you will never believe what happened. Dr. Lad told me that I had some Kapha when I was born. HUH????!!!!!! Yes, the Vata was there. Pitta, yup, it showed up too. But there was some Kapha in there too, shy and sweet on the sidelines, as usual. HOLY DANVANTRE! I stumbled away from the line, and sleep walked my way back to my chair. I HAD BEEN WRONG FOR TEN YEARS!!!

I couldn’t believe it! All this time! And I had studied the Yoga Sutras so much, the Sutras that told me all I had to do was scrape away what wasn’t me (too much Vata/Pitta lifestyle, living in New York for twenty plus years, most of it working too much, traveling a lot, living in cold drafty apartments and let’s not even talk about the number of years that my breakfast was black coffee, a cigarette, and a banana) and I could find that softer, sweeter childhood Ali, the one who hmm, now that I look back on it, loved to build blanket forts in the living room in order to crawl into warm little nests, the round cheeked girl who cooked breakfast for my Grandfather from the time I was five and HAD LONG DARK HAIR TO MY WAIST UNTIL AGE 14. And if I looked back even further, my father would sleep until eleven just about every sunday morning, and when he did wake up, his favorite breakfast was a giant lemon pancake thing coated with powdered sugar. Looking deeper, my paternal Grandparents, God bless them, gave great dinner parties and had a house OVERFLOWING with furniture, books, mementoes, souvenirs, candy jars, and a whole separate room for my brother and I with special sheets in our favorite colors and a FIVE FOOT TEDDY BEAR. OMFG.

When I got home, I told everyone I knew of my error. I BRAGGED about my H.K. (HIdden Kapha). I gave myself permission to slather hot sauce on my avocados without guilt. I went down to Chinatown and bought chitrak, purnarnava, and pippali. (don’t know what those are? Come to my workshop March 15th and you’ll find out). And yes, I had a celebratory bowl (or two, blame the Kapha haha) of popcorn. Perhaps all that cooking I always did and quitting performing to teach Yoga in such a warm loving place like Lotus was not just medicine for my Vata/Pitta, but my H.K. quietly gravitating towards my birthright.

And now we come to the point of the whole story. Thank you, dear Reader, for your Patience. Because here’s the thing. If I was wrong about that, I could be wrong about other things. And so can you. Isn’t that freeing? Isn’t that just glorious? Think about it, perhaps you have always thought of yourself as Someone With A Temper. What if you were wrong? Or perhaps you just gave in and said, “I’m a Smoker”. Maybe, just maybe, you aren’t. Perhaps, just perhaps, you thought you knew everything about yourself and your Limits in this go-round. WHAT IF YOU ARE WRONG?

Jai to the Delight of Being Wrong about ourselves and the Possibility that we just haven’t discovered or found the right Teacher and/or Practice to help us discover all that We are…Jai to these Practices themselves, that encourage us to keep searching, to excavate and explore and stay curious and open about ALL aspects of ourselves. The Truth is that we are all so much more than Vata, Pitta, Kapha, or any combination of them. Throw the Ayurvedic quizzes out the window, and seek out childhood photos, hidden talents and your own heart. All of the Ayurveda and Yoga in the World is there to help us go BEYOND all the Ayurveda and Yoga.

So here’s to Spring 2014, with all of its newness and freshness and potential. Let’s all dive a little deeper, look a little harder, and above all, know that We are beyond labels, definitions or explanation. Nothing in our manifest world is fixed. And my being so wrong for so long about my H.K. gives ME the permission to lead one heck of a Kapha Busting Workshop on March 15th, from 2:30-7:30. We will chant, move, breathe, sweat and pound some spicy masala, and in true Kapha fashion at the end of all of that, sit together to share food and laughter and Love, the best medicine for us all.

Namaste, Ali

Come learn how to shake off the winter sluggishness at Ali’s Kapha Busting Workshop on Saturday, March 15, at 2:30-7:30pm! $88 per yogi / $78 for Unlimited Members $65 for Lotus Grads. (Register Here)

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. stephlandance permalink
    March 5, 2014 8:36 am

    I f***in love you and the way you share your passion. So fresh and captivating, taking me from laughter to tears to learning mode…
    YOU are our V. Lad; YOU are such a Teacher and Healer.
    As I told you many times, maybe we/I cannot see your H.K. but we/I can feel it, big time.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story and for planting these seeds in me that I know are life long growing gifts.

  2. March 6, 2014 12:46 am

    Oh what lovely sharing. I totally relate as I am a Pitta/Vata, but my ayurvedic practitioner told me that there is definitely Kapha in there, I am working on nurturing it so that it comes out more 🙂

  3. March 12, 2014 11:13 am

    I LOVE YOU, ALI CRAMER!!! …and hang on you every word… * v

  4. Esther permalink
    March 19, 2014 2:41 pm

    Hey Ali, thanks for sharing this. I was bummed that I couldn’t make it to your workshop on Saturday, but Ayurveda was one of my favorite parts of yoga school. This was a good read while sitting on the beach in Jamaica.

  5. Josie Smith permalink
    March 21, 2014 9:09 am

    I love you Allison Cramer! This was great. It made me giggle 🙂 you are such an inspiration. I miss you madly!

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