Ayurveda and Yoga   

Ayurveda for Natural Healing and Self-care

Ed Zadlo D.Ay 

 

 

Yoga and Ayurveda originated as parts of the broader system of Vedic science passed on from the ancient Rishis.  Both Ayurveda and Yoga evolved from the same philosophy, time period, culture and country.  Both accept common principles from the Sankhya system of philosophy, which deals with examining the process of creation or the descent of spirit into matter.   Both are based on the principles of the three Gunas and the theory of the five elements.  Both share the same principles of anatomy and physiology.  They are both special sciences that see the human being from the same holistic angle.  Anyone attempting to study either one of them would do well to study the other also.

Yoga and Ayurveda develop Vedic knowledge to promote the health and longevity required to experience liberation of consciousness. Their aim is to bring us back to Self-realization, Self-knowledge.  Health is a part of right action. Apart from the Self, all is disturbance or disease. The real cure for disease is Self-knowledge.

 

There is no fine line between matter and spirit, no cliff with matter on this side and spirit on the other.  The universe is not formed of “unconscious Matter”.  Spirit is everywhere, permeating and sustaining creation as well as being the substance of creation.

The Vedic view of life is that we are pure consciousness, or spirit, working through mind and body. What we are includes the physical body, senses, breath, emotions, thoughts and consciousness.  Vedic science deals with these in an integrated way.  Both Yoga and Ayurveda explore the links between matter and spirit, from solid matter through its finer and finer layers to the energy patterns of thought and consciousness that produce it. 

Ayurveda is the science of life and longevity.  Yoga is the science of integrating the individual and universal selves, of rightly coordinating all factors of our nature.  Both Yoga and Ayurveda aim at the development of the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of our being.

Yoga is more than just exercise.  It may start there, for many people, but it primarily deals with the mind and how to slow it down, with understanding how it works and how to get beyond it and be our natural Self.  

Yogic method involves stilling the mind, making it quiet enough to allow inspiration and direct perception to occur.  Ayurveda is also based on Yogic method and aims to develop direct perception in its practitioners and patients.  To approach healing it is first necessary to learn the Yogic art of  emptying and silencing the mind.

The mind is very significant in Ayurveda.  As well as distinguishing the constitution from a mind/body perspective, Ayurveda also acknowledges psychosomatic disease causes.  It sees a prime causative factor to be a failure of intelligence or not living from the spiritual perspective.  This is seeing oneself in limited terms as ego, mind, personality and body and being driven by the senses and desires of the mind. 

 The human being is a complex of spirit, mind and body.  Ayurveda considers the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of life and aims at maintaining health and ending suffering so we can achieve the four goals of lifeprosperity, enjoyment, right vocation and liberation (Artha, Kama, Dharma, Moksha.)  The aim of Yoga is more toward achieving liberation,  the spiritual goal of life, but it also emphasizes the importance of maintaining health in that pursuit.

Yoga and Ayurveda are allied as sister sciences.  In view of their fundamental unity, it will be useful for us to develop them together to construct a total and holistic health science.

Aspects of our nature and Yoga

The  system of Yoga involves all the aspects of our human nature.   It includes the physical body, the breath and senses as well as subtler facets of our makeup such as mind, emotions, self- image, reason, and feelings.   These are addressed by paying conscious attention to the basic areas of everyday life such as diet, exercise, breathing, relaxation, and the mental process. 

Because impurities of the body also affect the mind,  Yogic therapies stress exercise, diet and herbs as well as other  practices which purify both body and mind and reveal the spirit as well.

We  purify the physical body by our working in harmony with nature through body cleansing, good hygiene, proper diet, fresh air, sunshine and exercise. The mind can be purified through surrender, self-study and practices like mantra and meditation.  The subtle body can be purified by one’s practicing patience, even mindedness and being settled, calm and serene at all times.

Types of Yoga

Because all people don’t have the same temperament or approach to life, Yoga is divided into four main forms:  Raja Yoga, the science of mental control and meditation, Bhakti Yoga, the path of Love and devotion, Karma Yoga, the path of selfless action and Jnana Yoga, the path of wisdom, discernment and Knowledge.  They are not completely separate Yogas, they are only different avenues of approach to accommodate the varying requirements of the growth process.

 The most visible aspect of Yoga in the West is called Hatha Yoga Many people are familiar with the form of exercise  often referred to as “doing Yoga”.  This is the physical culture portion of Yoga which is just the foundation for the broader science called Raja Yoga.

Body and Breath

Physical exercise is accomplished through the practice of Hatha Yoga postures called Asanas which stretch the spine and tone the muscles and ligaments of the body.  Relaxation exercises release tension and rest the body and the mind.

Yogic breathing is breathing consciously, fully, and diaphragmatically; using all of the lungs. Conscious breathing leads to realizing the link between breathing patterns and mental activity.

Another portion of  Raja Yoga is called Pranayama, the science of breath and energy control. Pranayama works with the life-force, Prana, that energizes the body and also links us with the mind.  Pranayama, therefore, works between medicine and psychology.  Through the conscious movement of prana we can establish the proper harmony between the body and the mind. 

The Sattvic diet,  eating what is light, nourishing, well balanced and natural, is a  part of Ayurvedic Dietary therapy developed primarily for the practice of Yoga.

Senses

We nourish the mind through the senses which are the receivers of impressions from the world in which we live.  “Junk impressions are worse than junk foods”.   By our being out in nature or through ritual and devotional practices such as chanting, visualization and meditation we can help create positive impressions that clear the sensory field. 

 Reason

Our capacity to make value  judgments is called reason .  The function of reason is always based on our perceptions and from assuming data based on some belief or idea we have.  Much of the time we don’t reason, we rationalize based upon the ego, our sense of separate self or self-image. 

 There are two ways to employ reason; outwardly and inwardly.  When used inwardly it becomes intelligence.  When used outwardly, it becomes intellect.  By turning our minds outward, we use reason to distinguish or separate things of the world, one from another.   By turning inward we canemploy the higher function of reason to discriminate the real from the unreal. 

The most basic problem, at the root of the mind, is duality, or seeing the universe as separate  from ourselves.   Jnana Yoga  emphasizes the right use of reason for the processes of inquiry and discrimination.

 Emotions

As emotions can be a greater source of pain than physical pain, we must learn to distinguish between emotion and feeling.  Emotion is considered to be a disturbed state of mind.  If  we have equanimity then the waves of emotion are minimized.  Developing devotion and compassion help us transform the emotions

Bhakti Yoga, the devotional path of Yoga, utilizes such practices as  prayer, worship, ritual and devotional chanting.   Mantra  and devotional chanting are a practical way of dealing with the emotional field.  Through the use of mantra we can change the vibratory structure of the mind and bring it to a sattvic state from which meditation can be possible. 

 Meditation is the key to self-observation, self-awareness and Self-knowledge.

Body, Breath and Senses:

 

Raja Yoga

Asana, Pranayama, Satvic Diet –   Being out in nature – ritual and

devotional practices; chanting, visualization – meditation 

Emotions: 

Bhakti Yoga

Devotional Chanting, Mantra, Meditation 

  Kirtan is “emotional Triphala” 

Selfless Action:

Karma Yoga

Excellence in action.

Reason:

Janna Yoga

Self-inquiry and discrimination –

Intelligence vs. intellect – Atman vs. ego. 

Raja Yoga Treatment Modalities

Raja Yoga is the science of mental control.  It offers eight limbs of practice and, thus, is also called Ashtanga Yoga.  These eight  stages of practice which help in the understanding of our nature and the development of consciousness are: right attitude, right action, physical postures, breath control, control of the senses, control of the mind, meditation and absorption. Yogic healing modalities embody all these classic limbs of Raja Yoga as well as all the other traditional branches of Yoga. 

 The first two limbs of Raja Yoga are called Yama and Niyama.  They are ten factors of right attitude and right conduct which are the foundation for all Yoga and are sometimes given as prerequisites to practice. 

 The five Yamas are non-violence, truthfulness, control of sexual energy, non-stealing and non-receivingNiyamas include self-study, purity, contentment, self-discipline and surrender to the Divine.  These parallel the Ayurvedic principles of Sattvic living; physical purity, purity of mind and purity of life-style.

 The next three limbs, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara, make up the outer process of Yoga.  They harmonize our outer nature and allow us to open up to our inner being.  Asana, which means posture, is the physical exercises usually associated with Hatha Yoga.  It gives physical peace

 Pranayama is harmonizing and expanding the life force, Prana. 

We usually relate to this as breathing exercises.  Pranayama gives emotional peace.  Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses from their outward flow,

drawing the attention inward.  This gives peace to the mind.

 

The last three; Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, the inner processes of  Yoga, are its essence.  They can be done either with form or without form; on a particular object or on pure consciousness itself.  Meditating without form is considered to be the higher practice, as meditation on an object still involves the outer processes of Yoga.

 Dharana is attention.  It is interiorization of the senses and concentration without distraction. Dhyana is meditation, fully directing the attention to one point. 

Developing these two allows our intelligence to function.

 The functioning of intelligence helps to erase the ego.

 Samadhi is absorption of the consciousness into the object of meditation. 

This allows direct perception to occur. 

In order for these modalities to work, one must also develop Viveka and  Vairagya, discrimination and detachment.

  “ Viveka is the ability to discern the difference between truth and falsehood, reality and unreality, the Self and not-Self, happiness and sorrow, the inner and the outer.  Detachment is the ability to release the mind from its mental and emotional biases that serve to color our perception”.                                                                                                               David Frawley

 Detachment leads to renunciation.  True renunciation is not just giving up the things of the world but no longer needing external things for support.

 From these comes Abhyasa, our continual practice, the practice of who we are in daily action.

 Eightfold Path of Raja Yoga                                                                        

                 Yama – Right Attitude:

 Non-Violence

Truthfulness

 Control of  (sexual) energy

Non-stealing

 Non – clinging

Yama & Niyama parallel Ayurveda’s principles of Sattvic Living:                                                               Physical purity                Mental purity                Purity of life-style                               

                 Niyama – Right Conduct:

 Self-study

Purity

Contentment

 Self-discipline

 Surrender to God

The Outer processes of Yoga
Body Breath Senses

                Asana           Physical Peace

                Pranayama          Emotional Peace

                Pratyahara                  Mental Peace

 
The Inner processes of Yoga

     Ego Emotions Reason 

 

 

               Dharana                  Concentration

               Dhyana                     Meditation

From these comes Abhyasa – our continual practice – the practice of who we are in daily life.
To make these work –we need Viveka -  DiscriminationVairagya – Non-Attachment
Developing these allows our Intelligence to function –which helps erase ego and allow Direct Perception to occur.

             Samadhi              Absorption

Abhyasa is constant repetition… continual practice…  consistency of thought during steady meditation -   

Abhyasa  Yoga – is the Yoga of Constant Practice -    … the art of dedicating ourselves totally in and through all our daily activities and contacts with the outer world…   per Swami Chinmayananda in his Gita commentary.

 

General Yogic Treatment by Dosha

Vata Constitution:

Yoga practices and Meditation:   Calming and grounding asanas such as sitting and lying postures and inverted postures such as backward bends.

Asanas that apply pressure on the pelvic and colon areas.  Meditative asanas that put pressure on the lower abdomen and ground the body. Also concentrate on strengthening the back muscles. 

Balancing asanas that increase concentration, done with slow, regular, silent breathing.

 Asana:  Easy posture – Lotus (full and half lotus) – Backward Bend -  Head knee – Plough – Locust  – Cobra – Knee-chest – shoulder stand, corpse and Head Stand (if done without stress).

 Pranayama: Silent breathing.

Calm deep breathing practices like alternate nostril breathing and So-hum pranayama.  Soft, soothing, calming and fear-dispelling mantras like Ram, Hamsa, Sham, Hrim, and Shrim are good. – Excess loud chanting should be avoided.

Raja Yoga meditation, integral yoga combining aspects of knowledge, devotion and psychophysical techniques.  The right attitude for meditation involves giving up worry, fear, anxiety for results, lack of faith and negativity.  Peace is the prime goal.  Practice should be long term and aimed at developing a deeper calm avoiding the seeking of sensation and experiences.

 

Pitta Constitution:

Yoga practices and Meditation:  Cooling, calming postures such as most sitting or lying asanas.  Asanas that put pressure on  the navel area and solar plexus area and that give slow “massage” and open energy in the liver, spleen and small intestine and relieve heat.  Postures should be done while doing deep, quiet breathing.  The eyes should remain quiet and soft, as should the mind also.

 Asana: Cobra – Hidden lotus – Ear knee – Bow -  Fish – Shoulder stand – Plow – Half wheel

 Pranayama: Shitali, Lunar breathing  (in left nostril and out the right)   Cooling pranayama; Cooling, soothing, calming mantras like  Om, Aim, Shrim, and Sham are good.

 Jnana Yoga, the Yoga of Knowledge, to direct the power of discrimination inwardly instead of outwardly or against oneself. 

Self-inquiry, Vedanta, Vipassana or Zen.  Giving up of anger, hostility, argument and an overly critical nature.

 

Kapha Constitution:  

Yoga practices and Meditation:   Kaphas need less of Hatha Yoga and sitting postures and more action and stimulation.  Sun Salutation, done rapidly.  Aerobics good.  Need to stimulate the digestive capacity because of Kapha’s low Agni. Lots of singing and chanting is good; need effort, energy and movement.

Asana:  Spinal twist – Boat – Head knee – Palm tree – Half Wheel – Sun Salutation  aschimottasana, Yoga mudra. 

Asanas that work to bring energy to the chest, head and stomach and help reduce fat.  Postures that act on the navel region; forward bends,  Vigorous and strengthening asanas.  Postures should be done while doing deep, quiet breathing with emphasis on opening the chest to increase breathing capacity and bring energy into the stomach area.

 Pranayama:  Solar breathing (in right nostril – out left nostril), Bhastrika 

 Kaphas need service and Karma Yoga.  Kapha people need an Ishta Deva, worship of the divine as a particular deity or incarnation like Ram, Krishna or Christ. Warm, stimulating activating mantras like Hum, Aim and Om.  Need to eliminate desire, greed, sentimentality and attachment for clearing the mind.

 

 Asanas for Various Ailments     (Per Dr. Lad)

Vata:

Asthma – Backward bend, Plough, Knee to chest, Corpse

Backache – Knee to chest, Plough, Half wheel, Backward bend

 Constipation – Backward bend, Yoga Mudra, Knee to chest, Shoulder stand,   Corpse (all done with belly drawn in while doing posture)

Depression – Yoga Mudra, Plough, Corpse, Palm Tree,  Lotus

Sciatica -  Knee to chest, Backward Bend, Plough, Yoga Mudra, Half wheel

Sexual Debility – Backward bend, Plough, Shoulder stand, Elevated Lotus

Varicose Veins – Head Stand, Backward bend, Corpse

Wrinkles – Yoga Mudra, Backward bend, Head Stand, Plough

Rheumatoid Arthritis – Half wheel, Bow, Head Stand, Plough

Headache – Plough, Yoga Mudra, Head Stand

Insomnia - Corpse, Cobra, Backward bend

Menstrual Disorders – Plough, Cobra, Backward bend

 

Pitta:

Peptic Ulcer – Hidden Lotus, Sheetali

Hyperthyroidism -  Shoulder stand, Ear Knee

Malabsorption -  Knee to Chest, Fish, Locust

Hypertension -   Shoulder stand, Cobra, Half Bow, Quiet Breathing

Anger or Hate – Half Bow, Shoulder stand, Hidden Lotus, Corpse

Migraine Headache – Sheetali, Shoulder stand, Fish

Colitis – Fish, Ear Knee, Boat, Bow

Liver Disorder – Fish, Shoulder Stand, Ear Knee, Hidden Lotus

Hemorrhoids -  Fish, Shoulder Stand, Bow

Stomatitis – (Inflammation of Tongue) Sheetali

 

    Kapha:

Emphysema – Half Wheel, Shoulder Stand

Sinus Congestion - Fish, Boat, Plough, Bhastrika

Diabetes – Boat, Fish, Half Wheel, Forward Bend, Backward Bend

Chronic Gastro-Intestinal Disorders -  Fish, Locust, Cobra

Sore Throat – Lion, Shoulder Stand, Fish, Locust

Asthma -  Half Wheel, Boat, Bow, Shoulder Stand, Palm Tree, Fish, Cobra

Bronchitis - Head Stand, Plough, Fwd. Bend, Backward Bend, Half Wheel, Fish

 

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