ayurveda and yoga

Since time immemorial man has been on a quest of true knowledge and seeking the purpose of his existence. Knowledge of self-awareness is the key to this quest and also to the ultimate happiness and peace of mind.

Yoga & Ayurveda are such two branches which aim at attaining salvation by detaching from all the mental as well as physical connection. The practice of Yoga is as old as Ayurveda, and both are believed to be contemporary sciences.

Both the sciences share a similar goal of developing the full potential for self-development and self-realization. Any individual can adopt these sciences at any time and under any circumstances.

Vedas, the most ancient Indian scriptures answers to all these questions of man’s curiosity.

These Vedas has bestowed upon us Yoga and Ayurveda, the ultimate guide to real knowledge. Both of these sciences teach us the means of getting relieved of all the worldly miseries and develop an ideal personality.

Let us dig deeper into the connection between Yoga and Ayurveda.

Yoga – A Path to Self-realisation

Most of the people now have some idea about Yoga. In recent years, Yoga has become very popular, and people are eager to learn this technique of self-development. People understand Yoga as a popular exercise trend and alternative medical therapy. But is Yoga just an exercise?

The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word root ‘Yuj’ which means union. Here, the union is of the individual soul (Jivatma) with the universal soul (Paramatma) for secure liberation.

The word Yoga has appeared in many ancient texts of Indian philosophy. Each treatise defines Yoga differently and reveals various facets of Yoga.

Patanjali, the sage who systematized the science of Yoga, says that it is the suppression of the fluctuations of consciousness.

Utility of Yoga

In ancient times the science of Yoga was developed as a method of uplifting one’s mental capacities to the highest power. Service of Yoga lies in personal development and expansion of one’s consciousness.

Use of Yoga is multidimensional. There has been a significant change in the outlook of Yoga over the years. Yoga nowadays is looked like an exercise system to keep the body fit and also as a treatment modality for diseases.

Nowadays, Yoga classes are available everywhere and are no longer limited to one country or religion. Yoga, as it is available today, seems to be gradually losing its spiritual links and seems to become more of physical activity.

Yoga is much more than an excellent exercise system. It is an extensive system with detailed lessons for all aspects of human development ranging from psychology to sociology.

Yoga is conceived today as a combination of some physical postures and breathing exercises. These are only two out of eight steps of Yoga explained by Patanjali.

Ashtanga Yoga – Eight Limbs of Yoga

Patanjali outlines an eightfold Yoga called Ashtanga Yoga. It deals with all the aspects of our living. It is also called as Raja Yoga because of its high levels of practices. These eight stages are:

  1. Yama – Behaviour
  2. Niyama – Lifestyle development
  3. Asana – Yoga Postures
  4. Pranayama – Rhythmic breathing
  5. Pratyahara – Control of senses
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – Self-realisation

These eight limbs of Yoga reflects on the natural structure of life and guide us towards a healthy lifestyle. All the parts of Yoga are indirectly related to asana (yoga postures), as it has therapeutic effects both physically and psychologically.

Yoga addresses not only structural disorders like bone and joint problems but also internal organ dysfunctions, including hormonal and immune disorders. Yoga also treats nervous diseases, stress, psychosis, etc.

For its healing purposes, Yoga is closely related to Ayurveda. In Yoga, like Ayurveda nature of an individual is of prime importance. Thus, Yoga can be adjusted to the unique nature of every person.

Yoga & Ayurveda – Are they sister science?

The rising popularity of Yoga has led the world to focus its attention on the other gift of ancient Vedic wisdom, Ayurveda. Today the science of Ayurveda and Yoga has become the centers of attraction.

Grossly, Ayurveda & Yoga are known for their therapeutic values and as a positive health measure. This is partly true, but to be more precise, these two are not merely pure medical sciences. Therapeutic aspect is only one part of these systems more so for Yoga than Ayurveda.

Yoga was developed to help humans attain inner peace and happiness, while Ayurveda is more of a science of life rather than the science of medicine.

People practicing Yoga are naturally drawn towards Ayurveda because of their same origin. Both these sciences are derived out of Vedas. In fact, some say that Yoga has its roots in Ayurveda.

Ayurveda principles define health as proper organization of body, mind, senses, and soul, whereas Yoga helps in the proper understanding of mind and soul. It concentrates on the body as well but through the medium of mind and hence, it remains a part of Ayurveda.

It is believed that the same sage Patanjali wrote the primary texts of Ayurveda, Yoga, and Sanskrit. Maybe it is a fact or some misunderstanding, but it is a reality that Ayurveda describes Yoga as the promoter of salvation – the ultimate goal of one’s life.

The Ayurvedic text defines Yoga as the state where the sensation of happiness and miseries disappear. This definition is very much similar to that of given by Patanjali, the authority of Yoga.

Ayurveda advocates Yoga to promote mental health and cure physical as well as psychological disorders while Yoga rests on Ayurvedic methods to acquire healthy physique. Ayurvedic texts say that Yoga is the only means for the attainment of salvation.

Inherent relation of Yoga & Ayurveda

Yoga traditionally has been taught using the terminology of Ayurveda, especially for explaining the physical impact and health benefits of various asana (yoga postures). Similarly, Ayurveda uses the teachings of Yoga for the understanding of the mind.

Also, psychological and spiritual healing practices of Yoga are applied in Ayurveda.In brief, Yoga depends on Ayurveda for explaining its therapeutic effects. Ayurveda rests upon Yoga for its mental and spiritual dimensions.

Yoga and Ayurveda share the same concept of the unique nature of every individual. According to Ayurveda, each person possesses a different body and mind constitution called Prakriti. The requirements of food, exercise, medicines, and lifestyle of one person will be different from another.

Similarly, Yoga should be done as per one’s constitution and capacity. Yoga regimens benefit better if designed according to one’s needs and Ayurvedic constitution. Therefore, the utility of yoga changes from person to person. It can be practiced for different purposes such as,

  • Exercise – for a healthy body
  • Therapy – to treat specific ailments of body and mind
  • Spiritual practice – for self-knowledge and self-development

Yoga as Ayurvedic therapy

Ayurvedic treatment includes asana as the complete and ideal exercise system to maintain health and treat specific illnesses.

Yoga describes asana with regard to Ayurvedic terms and principles. The practice of yoga asana keeps doshas in a balanced state and prevents their accumulation from starting a disease.

Yoga maintains the body in two ways which could be explained in Ayurvedic language. First, maintaining mental and spiritual health. The second, by balancing the Tridoshas Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

Yoga for Mind

Yoga and Ayurveda define psychology according to the three qualities (guna) of the psyche – Sattva, Rajas & Tamas.

Our mental status is a combination of our states of balance & clarity (Sattva), agitation & aggression (Rajas) and resistance or dullness (Tamas). Yoga helps the mind in returning to its original state i.e., Sattva, so that self-awareness could be achieved.

Rajas and Tamas qualities of mind create and sustain the diseases. By Sattvic psyche, we can develop a state of freedom from disease.

According to the classical texts of Yoga, asana is the key to create calmness and peace in the body and mind. For this, we need to move from a sedentary lifestyle, faulty dietary habits, and disturbing physical activities to a state of relaxation.

Yoga for Doshas

Each asana has a specific effect on all three doshas (tridoshas). This is similar to Ayurveda, which classifies food and activities according to their impact on doshas.

For the asana to be useful, dosha of the person should be considered before practicing Yoga. An asana should be done differently relative to whether the person is of Vata, Pitta or Kapha Prakriti. For this, a person should know his Prakriti and then as per his strength should start practicing Yoga.

The practice of asana according to Ayurvedic view benefits us in four ways,

  1. Balances doshas
  2. Improves physical strength
  3. Purifies breath and facilitates its proper movement
  4. Calms mind

Practicing asana, according to doshas, doesn’t mean to perform only a few types of asana ideal to the body while ignoring others. As we focus on a balanced diet the same way, we need to do all kinds of asana to some extent. It is the degree of effort in an asana that varies with the type of doshas.

Ashtanga Yoga in Ayurveda

Apart from asana, the mention of other parts of Ashtanga Yoga could be found in Ayurvedic texts. Though the exact terms have not been used, there are many references related to ethical practices of Yama (behaviour), Niyama (lifestyle), Pratyahara (control on senses) and Dharana (concentration).

Pranayama (rhythmic breathing) is closely related to the Prana (breath or vital energy) mentioned in Ayurveda. The usage of control of respiration is available in various Ayurvedic texts and is said to be the cure of many diseases.

Meditative practices of Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (self-realization) are similar to the procedures suggested by Ayurveda for the management of mental disorders.

Shatkarma: Panchakarma of Yoga

Ayurveda & Yoga both necessitate the purification of the body at regular intervals. Here, Yoga incorporates the concept of ‘Mala’ in Ayurveda. It stresses on the expulsion of mala (waste products) from the body.

For this, Yoga offers the idea of Shatkarma (six elimination procedures) similar to the Ayurvedic eliminatory process of Panchakarma. These purificatory procedures of Yoga have to be performed before we begin the practice of asana.

Ayurveda – Key to Advanced Yoga Practices

There are specific Ayurvedic procedures which could be used to improve the practice of Yoga like,

  • Ayurvedic oil massage protects the skin, muscles, joints, and bones against injury.
  • Ayurvedic herbs like Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Amla, Ginger, Basil, Turmeric, Guggul, etc. helps in detoxification and acts as catalysts for advancing yogic practices.
  • Ayurvedic Nasya (nasal oil) & Neti (pouring water through nostrils) are excellent for improving the functioning of the brain and helps in Pranayama.
  • Panchakarma could be employed to eliminate disease-causing doshas

Why practice Ayurveda if you do Yoga?

Ayurveda is for the health of body and mind while Yoga is its corresponding system of spiritual practice. But as a therapy to treat specific disorders, Yoga also falls within the field of Ayurveda.

As a lifestyle regimen, yoga could be incorporated in your daily life but considering the ayurvedic body constitution of the person will make it more effective.

Those who want to practice Yoga as either exercise or as therapy should consider integrating it with Ayurveda for the best possible results. Similarly, those looking for spiritual benefits of Ayurveda should look to Yoga in the broader sense as a path of self-knowledge.