Yoga in America has grown exponentially over the last several decades. As popularity continues to increase, many practitioners have started to realize that Yoga is not just a physical exercise — it creates balance of body and mind, emotions and consciousness. Many people practicing Yoga begin to feel increased happiness, decreased stress and overall vibrancy in their lives.
What some may not know is that Yoga (asanas or postures, in Ayurveda) is a branch of Ayurveda, the traditional Vedic system of health care. Like all aspects of Ayurveda, the goal of any of its practices is to create balance and allow one to experience more refined perception and heightened emotions. Yoga, as it is known in the West, and Ayurveda have a synergistic relationship — they build upon and support each other.
Yoga And Ayurveda
In Vedic literature, Yoga is the holistic science of union, knowledge of one’s True Self. Ayurveda is the science of living, of daily life. Western Yoga and Ayurveda support each other for a powerful outcome: balance.
Rooted in the Vedic tradition of India, both Yoga and Ayurveda are ancient knowledge, said to be over 5,000 years old.
When we practice Yoga, we are practicing Ayurveda! The ancient sages of India cognized in their deep meditative state the ever-present knowledge of the Vedas, containing the knowledge of Ayurveda. The concept that we are a continuation of everything around us — ever-present consciousness underlying all creation — lies at the heart of both Ayurveda and its practice of the Yoga asanas. When through our practice of Yoga asanas and meditation we experience this underlying field of silent awareness, we can begin to understand what is happening within and around us, as well as how to manage it… we become more integrated with our world.
Both Yoga and Ayurveda are systems of wellness that aim to cultivate higher states of health and ultimately awareness. In Sanskrit, the word Yoga translates to “union,” and refers to the union of body, mind and soul. Physically moving through asanas, stilling the mind with breath work (pranayama), and meditation bring about a connection with the higher self. This connection is the intention of Yoga: union with the True Self, the Atma.
Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit word ayu, and means “life” or “life span.” Yet another meaning of ayu is the state in which the physical body, mind and soul become integrated. Veda means “knowledge.” So Ayurveda brings the true knowledge of life. Correct diet, healthy lifestyle and routine, and herbal formulations for balanced appetite and elimination all work towards this integration.
Whether we are talking about Yoga or Ayurveda, the goal is not just good health; it is an elevated state of awareness or unity — complete connection and integration of mind, body and consciousness. That is our goal.
Yoga and Ayurveda are interdependent. Without the foundation of Ayurveda, Yoga runs the risk of being just pure physical exercise. Yoga is the ideal non-strenuous Ayurvedic exercise. Through its many styles, it is accessible to a wide variety of practitioners, no matter their age or physical limitation.
Many key principles are present within the Yoga asanas and Ayurveda:
Discipline — Practitioners of both Yoga asanas and Ayurveda might agree that with time each practice becomes an integrated lifestyle choice. Following a balanced diet, going to bed early, waking with the sun, and practicing asanas daily may be a challenging routine to sink into. However, with proper intention, over time these practices become priority.
Detox & Digest — Yoga practitioners can greatly benefit from a daily Ayurvedic routine, which aids in purifying the body (sauca). Ayurvedic self-massage (abhyanga) increases circulation, clears toxins and digestive impurities (ama) from the tissues, calms the mind and relaxes the muscles. Yoga asanas and relaxation practices increase blood flow to the vital organs and activate the relaxation response, which is beneficial to the digestive system and all the systems of the body essential for good health.
Healthy digestion is the cornerstone of Ayurvedic health, as digestion converts food into energy-producing nutrients and vital energy, or prana.
Dissolve — Stress or anxiety is often the result of the challenging times we live in. Over time, stress takes a toll on the mind and body. Ayurveda recommends meditation, daily exercise, and a healthy balance between work and relaxation. Yoga asanas are the preferred Ayurvedic way to exercise, because practiced properly they do not put undue strain on any one part of the physiology.
In Ayurveda, the underlying unique combination of the three doshas is known as our Prakriti. The state of our doshas at any given time, whether in balance or out of balance, is known as Vikriti. The real concern is with our Vikriti. When we know the state of our doshas, we can then use Yoga asanas and Ayurvedic daily practices, including herbal formulations, to correct the underlying imbalance.
In Western medicine, we are primarily concerned with treating symptoms whereas in Ayurveda, we are primarily concerned with addressing the underlying imbalance of which disease is a symptom. Address the imbalance and the symptom, disease, will fall away. This is true healing.
When in equilibrium, the doshas maintain the body in good health; when out of balance, they manifest as disturbances and disease in the body. Yoga asanas and Ayurveda heal, calm and balance all three doshas.
These practices, of the same origin and goal, combine together in a unique and individual way to rejuvenate, balance and calm the practitioner, ultimately allowing for the authentic life that nature intended.