The Synergy of Yoga & Ayurveda
For thousands of years*, Yoga and Ayurveda have been used to heal, transform and balance the human body, mind, and thus, Spirit. Through globalization, both have spread worldwide assisting people in reclaiming their health and well-being by promoting daily practices to create health, rather than relying on a magic pill. Both systems were suppressed in India during the British occupation but continued to live-on behind closed doors within households and particular spiritual leaders. The reemergence of both practices is growing at a rapid rate worldwide.
Yoga and Ayurveda are intimately connected via the Vedic wisdom and often hard to separate (although somehow this has happened in the United States). Ayurveda is the healing and therapeutic branch of yoga, also known as Yoga Chikitsa, or the "Yoga of Healing" (Frawley, 1999). Yoga is the path of self-realization or the path of spiritual awakening. Yoga as a dedicated spiritual practice is known as Yoga Sadhana. When we use yoga as a medical therapy (i.e. when students come to yoga studios because they've been advised by a doctor or because of their own volition to find relief from stress, pain in the body, chronic backache, etc) this is considered Ayurveda therapy. Ayurveda are the healing and preparatory practices for the body, mind, and senses to prepare an individual for the path of Yoga. In addition, the Ayurveda view of the mind and psychology stems from Yoga philosophy, thus making the practices and exercises for the mind the same.
I truly believe when most people in the United States who seek out "Yoga" are actually seeking Ayurveda.
While "yoga" has become a more integrated part of the western lexicon, Ayurveda still is yet to be discovered, or used, in the same way. Ayurveda practitioners like myself, this is both a blessing and a challenge. A blessing because it means the competition is low and the potential number of people to educate is massive. The challenge is...the same thing. That is why I'm so passionate about educating as many people, especially Yoga Teachers, as possible about Ayurveda.
The Similarities between Yoga and Ayurveda:
Life sciences: both use practices with repeatable outcomes to the human body, mind, and spirit.
Acknowledges humans are part of Nature.
Humans, as part of nature, are all connected and are endowed with life through a force and source of energy called Prana.
Wisdom designed to help people stay vital while realizing their full human potential.
Providing guidelines on ideal daily practices, behaviors, exercises, proper use of the senses, that can heal, reduce suffering, and bring balance to body, mind, and spirit.
Health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.
Mantra, or sound, are used to balance the mind.
When the whole body is balanced (body and mind), we become more at peace with ourselves (spirit) and the world around us. From this state of internal well-being, you will naturally begin to make wiser choices for your livelihood.
There are four main goals of every human's life: Dharma (purpose, duty), Artha (wealth, prosperity), Kama (desires) and Moksha (liberation).
Ayurveda provides guidelines on an ideal diet per individual constitution and health conditions. Yoga has general sweeping recommendations based on the principle observances (eight limbs) of yoga.
Ayurveda uses specific asana (postures) as therapy for illness and dis-ease, called yoga chikitsa. Yoga sadhana, uses asana to redirect energy in our bodies for spiritual awakening or self-realization.
Ayurveda outlines a variety of aromatherapy, gem therapy and herbal remedies for illness and dis-ease. Yoga does not.
Ayurveda is a complete system of medicine (refer to What is Ayurveda? blog). Yoga is a path of spiritual awakening.
In short, Ayurveda provides us daily, seasonal and age-specific guidelines on how to best live in accordance to our Nature, or constitution. Ayurveda's main focus is balancing the physical body and mind. Yoga's main focus is on balancing the mind and expanding the mind to discover deeper truths about one's self and connection to everything. When practiced together, they create a whole system of life science medicine which is practical for anyone, at any stage of health or life.
Examples of conditions transformed through the integration of Yoga and Ayurveda: Emotional conditions, chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, irritable bowel syndrome, acid-reflux disorder/GERD, headaches, migraine headaches, menstrual problems or irregularities, low energy, stress, hypertension, anger, anxiety, neuropathy, lifestyle diseases (diabetes type II, hypertension, obesity), dis-empowering life patterns and habits, underweight, joint pain, post-surgery care, poor concentration and depression.
Benefits of Yoga and Ayurveda:
Reduced stress & tension
Increased self-esteem & confidence
Stronger bones and toned muscles
Overcoming limiting patterns in your life
Breaking habits that do not serve you in your Highest
Balance to your overall Life Knowing your inner Self more intimately
Becoming more connected with Nature and its cycles
Deeper understanding and living your Dharma (life's purpose...again, an individual discovery only YOU can uncover)
Deeper understanding and integration of the four human goals: Dharma (purpose, duty), Artha (wealth, prosperity), Kama (desires) and Moksha (liberation).
*The first written records of Ayurveda and Yoga date back to 3,000 BCE
Frawley, David. Yoga & Ayurveda, Self-Healing and Self-Realization. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 1999. Print.
Frawley, David. Ayurveda and the Mind, The Healing of Consciousness. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 1996. Print.
Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This is a reference work. It is not meant for diagnosis or treatment and it is not substitute for consultation with a licensed health care professional.
Originally published September 24, 2012.