Yoga literally means "union" or "to join together" in Sanskrit. It is evidenced back to nearly 5,000 years (the Vedas). Vedas/Vedic knowledge is the ancient science of the seers and yogis of India which illuminates the inner workings of the universe and of our own consciousness, leading us ultimately to the state of Self-realization and liberation from the cycle of birth and death. The Vedic wisdom is broad with application to spiritual disciplines which touch aspects of healing, science, art, and culture.
From archeological findings in the Indus valley civilizations and to being mentioned in the Vedas, Yoga started as an inner spiritual practice with the ultimate goal of attaining moksha or liberation. Yoga uses movements of the body (asana), control of breath (pranayama) and other techniques to make the practitioner aware and connected with his/her own inner consciousness.
Yoga has taken the west by storm. The number of Americans who practice some form of yoga has doubled in the last five years and is now estimated at fifteen million. Three-fourths of fitness clubs offer yoga classes, and yoga was named one of the two fastest-growing segments of the exercise industry by Trend watch, an annual report on fitness trends.
While many view yoga as a gentler way to exercise, most long-time practitioners realize that yoga is not just physical — it creates balance in mind, emotions, and consciousness as well. And they are starting to realize that yoga shares the same origin and goal as Ayurveda, the traditional Vedic system of health care.
Ayurveda – meaning Science/Knowledge of Life, in Sanskrit, is a 5000+ years old science that originated in India. It is one of the oldest, complete systems of medicine and healing in practice today and is often considered as the Mother of all healing. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease.
The monks studying at Nalanda university (the oldest known university to man) first took Ayurveda to Tibet, China and the far east and interestingly, even today the core philosophy and practice of Ayurveda remains almost the same as it was centuries ago.
“Swasthyas swathya rakshanam” – To protect and prolong life.
“Aturasya vikar prashmanamcha” – To eliminate dysfunctions of the body.
Ayurveda focusses on bringing the body in tune with nature so as to preserve life and prevent sickness. It is a core belief in Ayurveda that when the body is not in tune with nature that illness and disease occur.
In the United States, Ayurveda is considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). According to the Ayurvedic approach, your physical and mental harmony should match nature’s rhythm; meaning, the rhythm that the sun and moon create should be in tandem to your lifestyle if you want to attain a level of holistic living.
Yoga and Ayurveda are inseparable sisters. Same origin and goal. Both Yoga and Ayurveda have their origin in the Vedic tradition of India, and both are a means to gain better health. Both Yoga and Ayurveda are related healing disciplines. Each has its unique place and function, but each overlap into the other on various levels.
To state the relationship in one simple line: Ayurveda is the science and yoga is the practice of the science. Ayurveda is a science of wellness for one’s health – both physical and mental – while yoga is the tool that people use to reach enlightenment and free their minds.
Hence if you look closely at various world-renowned yoga retreats in Rishikesh, their programs pair yoga and Ayurveda together because they share the same principles of being in attune with individuals’ bodies and other natural things to promote healing. Both the discipline of yoga and Ayurveda when combine help in curing numerous body disorders and also help in rejuvenating your body. Hence if we integrate the ayurvedic principles with your yoga practice, the benefits are paramount.
When it comes to Ayurveda it all about knowing your body constitution, your doshas and then make some lifestyles changes according to it. Nobody is the same that means each and every one of us has a unique constitution that is governed by our physical and emotional makeup as well as our lifestyles patterns. Hence Ayurveda resorts to make changes and practice certain treatments that help in achieving harmony between your doshas and with nature.
Similarly, yoga includes various methods like the practice of yoga asana with various breathing exercises and pranayama that helps in quietening of the mind and yet the same time put us in unison with the nature to achieve the healing of the body and mind. In yoga different yoga poses serves different purposes in the body and help to maintain a balanced in the doshas such as forward bending yoga poses helps in pacifying pitta dosha. Yoga poses that involve twisting yoga pose helps in balancing Kapha doshas and backward bending pose help in maintaining Vata doshas.
Both the discipline of yoga and Ayurveda focuses on being in tune with their bodies and utilizing the healing power of nature to get the best result.
The ultimate goal of both yoga and Ayurveda is to help you in becoming your healthier and balanced version of yourself. You are healthy when your mind, body and soul are in unison and you are in perfect harmony with your environment and the practice of yoga and Ayurveda help you to attain that. The certain practice of Ayurveda is abhyanga to get rid of body toxins and relax your muscles before your yoga practice and make them easier to practice. Hence combining both the discipline will enhance your sense of wellbeing to another level.
Both the discipline believes that your physical wellbeing resorts to your emotional wellbeing. Both the discipline of yoga and Ayurveda are all about embracing your life and helps in maintaining a balance in your mind, body, and your inner consciousness for a healthy
Yoga is mentioned in Ayurvedic texts and is an important practice to reduce physical stress and calm the mind. Its practice is central the Ayurvedic wellness routine and is an ideal Ayurvedic exercise because it rejuvenates the body, improves digestion, and removes stress.
Yoga postures tone every area of the body, and cleanse the internal organs of toxins, which is one of the goals of Ayurveda. In fact, yoga balances all three doshas (Vata, Pitta & Kapha – refer here for more info on Dosha’s) with different poses having different effects on the body.
Forward bending postures cool Pitta dosha. Twists are good for Kapha because they stimulate digestion. Backward bends are heating, and thus balancing to Vata types, as long as the person has the strength to do them.
At the same time, yoga practitioners can benefit from the Ayurvedic daily routine as part of their yoga practice. For instance, abhyanga (Ayurvedic massage) helps remove toxins from the body and relaxes the muscles for yoga practice.
Without a foundation in Ayurvedic knowledge, hatha yoga runs the risk of becoming just pure physical exercise. Yoga aims to cleanse the nadis, or channels through different postures. But trying to do that without using the Ayurvedic principles for removing ama (digestive impurities) is like hoping on one leg.
And it is this unique relationship that is the reason that most traditional yoga schools teach Yoga + Ayurvedic philosophy and principles.
The term for therapy in Sanskrit is Chikitsa. The Ayurvedic view of our embodied nature (body, mind and soul) and how it works, the causes of disease and the treatment of disease are all connected together in a beautiful, clear, and wonderful system of optimal health and total well-being.
Ayurveda addresses all aspects of medicine including diet, herbs, drugs, surgery, bodywork, and its own special clinical procedures like panchakarma. It brings in ritual, mantra, and meditation for healing the mind. In addition, it provides life-style recommendations for health, longevity, and disease prevention as well as special methods for rejuvenation of body and mind. It includes the practices of Yoga from asana and pranayama to mantra and meditation as part of its healing tools.
Yogic texts contain discussions of meditation, concentration, mantra, ritual, pranayama, asana, and related factors but as part of spiritual practice, not as a therapy.
We do not find any therapy sections in the usual Yoga texts. The term Chikitsa/therapy does not occur in Yoga texts and is not a major topic of concern in Yoga philosophy. This is because the concern of classical Yoga is Sadhana/practice, not Chikitsa, which was regarded as the field of Ayurveda. Most importantly, we do not find in Yoga texts a discussion of disease, pathology, diagnosis, or treatment strategies apart from the approach of Ayurveda. There is no Yoga system of medicine in terms of diagnosis, pathology, and treatment, apart from Ayurveda.
What we do find commonly in Yoga texts are discussions of the pranas, senses, mind, nadis, and chakras, worship of deities, discussion of the inner Self and nature of consciousness, as well as the types of samadhi or inner absorption. Disease is addressed briefly in some Yoga texts as it is regarded as one of the main obstacles to Yoga practice. But when this does occur, the language of Ayurveda is usually employed.
Modern Yoga has defined itself primarily in terms of asanas or physical postures. These are usually taught in exercise classes for people primarily seeking physical well-being. We commonly identify Yoga teachers as those who conduct asana classes. Some of these Yoga teachers may have some knowledge of the greater system of classical Yoga. This situation impacts what is popularly regarded as Yoga therapy, which is colored by the Yoga as asana emphasis.
Yoga therapy or Yoga Chikitsa is a new, popular, and powerful movement in Yoga today that is still trying to define itself and its scope of application. However, for the most part, modern Yoga therapy, following the asana as Yoga model, consists primarily of an adaptation of asanas or asana styles to treat disease and improve health. This view of Yoga is different from and a reduced version of classical Yoga that is defined primarily in terms of spiritual practice and deep meditation (Sadhana and Samadhi).
Any therapy must rest upon a system of medicine for diagnosis and overall treatment strategies. A therapeutic method—whether herbs, drugs, asana, or pranayama—cannot be applied independently of a medical orientation and an examination of the patient as a whole. So, if one is practicing Yoga therapy, the question arises as to what system of medicine that therapy is being applied.
Modern Yoga therapy largely consists of the application of Yoga asanas as an adjunct physical therapy for the treatment of diseases as primarily diagnosed and treated by modern medicine. Modern Yoga therapists aim at working with doctors, nurses, and other biomedically trained professionals in hospitals, and rehabilitation settings. Such a Yoga therapist, we should note, is not himself or herself necessarily a doctor or primary health care provider but functions more like a technician, applying the techniques of asanas as guided by a doctor or nurse. While there is nothing wrong with this approach and much benefit can be derived from it, Yoga therapy as asana therapy does not unfold the full healing potential of classical Yoga and its many methods. It keeps Yoga subordinate in a secondary role, reduced primarily to a physical application.
It is important to reintegrate Yoga and Ayurveda in order to bring out the full healing and spiritual potential of each. Bringing Ayurveda into Yoga provides a yogic and Vedic system of medicine to allow for the full healing application of all aspects of Yoga. It provides a diagnosis and treatment in harmony with Yoga philosophy, as well as a diet and herbal treatment that follows the spiritual approach of Yoga.
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In essence, combining Yoga and Ayurveda in their full applications offers a complete system of well-being for body, mind, and consciousness, such as perhaps has no parallel anywhere else in the world. It can become the prime force of planetary healing that is so desperately needed today. It can add a spiritual and preventative dimension to modern medicine as well as adding important new keys for the understanding of disease and for applying natural therapies that can reduce the growing cost of high-tech medicine.
Go ahead and give Yoga and Ayurveda a try. It will most definitely be worth your time!
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