LISA AKESSON STRYKER
"I wish that more people were ready to educate themselves about what works for them and take charge of their own lives. We’re not all the same, so we shouldn’t all work the same way, eat the same foods or exercise the same way. One person's medicine is an other's poison."
Lisa Åkesson Stryker grew up in Sweden and started a career as a fashion model in her late teens. In 2015, she completed her 200-hour Raja yoga training at Halepule in Hawaii and her Ayurvedic Health Consultant training in Sweden. In the summer of 2016, she certified as an Ayurvedic chef with Halepule, and immediately completed a residency thereafter. Since then she’s been teaching yoga and Ayurveda in the USA, Europe, and Africa. She’s currently based in Hamburg, Germany, where she regularly offers cooking classes, yoga classes, various workshops, Ayurvedic treatments and consultations.
"AYURVEDA a wonderful toolbox to have at hand, so invest in yourself and spend some time figuring out what works for you."
What does Ayurveda mean to you?
Ayurveda is my guide to a long, healthy and balanced life. "Ayur" means life and "Veda" science; it’s the science of life. Without it, I would be much less grounded, have upset skin, imbalanced digestion, be bloated most of the time, and unconsciously doing and eating things that are unhealthy for my constitution. It’s a holistic way of looking at the whole being, not only the physical body and the mind, but also the spirit. Everything is considered and tailored to suit me and my clients' personal needs. That’s what makes it so unique, not one-size-fits-all.
When did you discover it? How long have you been practising it?
I was studying dietetics in Sweden in 2013 when a friend told me about a woman who later became my teacher in Hawaii. As Ayurveda places a lot of weight on strong digestion, and what and how we eat, my friend thought it might be interesting to me. Intimidated, I glanced at my teacher's homepage for weeks before I decided to book my first consultation. Today, I’m very glad I did! In 2014, I completed my first education with another school in my hometown in Sweden. All this time I had been travelling far and wide across the world to find my purpose, and there it was right under my nose, in the town I was born. It felt very natural to start integrating it immediately, and I have practised and continued to learn through my own experiences, and through different teachers, friends and clients ever since.
What drew you to Ayurveda?
My teacher emanated such calm. She seemed to have found balance in a way I hadn’t experienced many people had before. I picked up on the concepts right away and it all came naturally to me. I don’t think this is the first lifetime I have practised Ayurveda. I like that it’s simple, logical and based in nature. It is holistic and places the responsibility back in the hands of the individual. The concept that we are all able to self-heal, if we just get out of the way and let the body do its thing, really resonates with me. Obviously, I’m not discounting anyone’s experience with a serious illness, but I do really believe we can prevent a lot suffering if we we’re just taught how to listen to ourselves from a young age.
Has it helped you with anything major?
Yes, skin problems. I used to have terrible acne and it created a lot of insecurities for me. I tried everything that was suggested to me, one invasive treatment after another. When the problems came back a year after I finished an Accutane treatment, I knew it was time to start looking into alternative solutions. The right foods, right amounts, other daily practices and routines together with herbs have pretty much cleared up my skin. If I break out now, I look at it as a gentle reminder to do some self-care. I can usually identify why it happens and take appropriate action.
Is Ayurveda part of your everyday life or just for your medicine cabinet or fall-back routine?
Yes, I integrate it as much as I can. It is hard when I travel a lot, but on the other hand it’s also what keeps me grounded and sane in times of stress. I have learned that preventive practices are key for me to stay healthy and content.
What are your top 3 Ayurvedic tips that have worked for you?
Oh, there are so many to choose from!
Abhyanga, self oil massage, is a powerful one. It can sound messy and complicated at first but once you find a routine it is wonderful. It calms my mind and helps me prepare and recover from trips. Sometimes I only oil up my feet before sleep, it works magic!
Oil pulling is another one, I’m all about the oils. It is easy, quick, effective. It actually helps soothe my skin and breakouts related to hormonal imbalance, by drawing out toxins from the mouth and teeth. I use cold-pressed sesame oil (not the toasted one), which has a stronger taste than coconut oil. I’ve both studied and found in my own experience that the sesame oil is more effective.
Sattwa Herbs herb blends are also incredible. In 3 months, my Agni (digestive strength) was balanced and skin cleared up. I use Pitta Agni and Support skin as prevention or when I feel I need some extra support now and then.
What surprised you most about Ayurveda?
That it’s actually really simple if you stay with the principles, and let go of the pressure and guilt of not doing it perfectly. I’ve gotten much better results, I’m happier and more relaxed since I stopped taking myself so seriously. At first it felt like a lot of rules, now I’m grateful that I can make educated choices. If I take a side step, I don’t beat myself up about it anymore, but enjoy my choices fully and then get back to my routine the day after. I don’t fall off the wagon completely.
Did you integrate it gradually or overnight for any particular reason?
Gradually. I tend to take on too much, get overwhelmed and end up not doing anything at all. This time I tried something different, I started with two changes. When they felt manageable, I added a few new ones, then a few more, and so on. Before I knew it I had changed my life dramatically.
Do your children/family eat an Ayurvedic diet? And if they do, do they know it’s Ayurveda or do they just think of it as home cooking?
Yes, I live with my husband and he’s been very curious to learn about it and he also cooks a lot of Ayurvedic meals himself. My family love the Ayurvedic food, but often want a little bit something more on the side, like hot sauce, a slice of meat or a chunk of cheese.
What is your favourite Ayurvedic recipe or go-to ingredient?
Whole mung beans. They are nutritious, don’t cause gas, and make me feel satiated just on their own in a stew. Kitchari with split mung beans and rice is also one of my go-tos, or cheese-filled chapattis.
How does Ayurveda fit into your day-to-day routines?
It requires a bit of planning and organising for sure, but it is absolutely possible to have an active life and practise Ayurveda. I often prepare my food the night before by adding spices to a pot, soaking legumes and measuring up grains. In the morning, I can then swiftly cook my food while I get ready, pop it into a food thermos and have fresh warm meals for breakfast and lunch. My morning Dinacharya (self-care routine) only takes me an extra 20-30 minutes. When I have more time available, I extend my pranayama, meditation and asana practice. I now know what choices to make throughout the day to feel good, and it usually doesn’t require much extra time. I drink warm water instead of cold for example and it makes a big difference!
What do you wish was easier in our society to make an Ayurvedic lifestyle more accessible?
I wish we were more open-minded and understanding of the fact that, just because you can’t see something or scientifically prove it in a modern way, it doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. I wish that more people were ready to educate themselves about what works for them and take charge of their own lives. We’re not all the same, so we shouldn’t all work the same way, eat the same foods or exercise the same way. One person's medicine is an other's poison.
Do people around you/in your circle of friends know about Ayurveda?
Yes, by now they do. I haven’t been able to stop myself from blabbering about it. I learned to avoid giving unsolicited advice, though, as it is never received well. More and more people I come in contact with have heard about it, but for many, it’s still something foreign.
What’s the one thing you would encourage everyone to try or you think would benefit the majority of people’s health for the better?
Take a break from raw and heavily processed food and notice how you feel. The raw food was what made me constantly bloated and gassy. I had no idea I couldn’t digest it. I learned early on that cold salads are healthy, so I just went with it without questioning it at all. My life changed dramatically when I stopped having them and I could never go back to eating the same way again.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t be hard on yourself, but have fun with Ayurveda. I observe myself as my own little experiment and I’m in awe every day of how much I’m learning. It’s a wonderful toolbox to have at hand, so invest in yourself and spend some time figuring out what works for you. You will be grateful that you did!