by Ed ZadloD.Ay
Integrating Ayurveda’s outer factors of diet, exercise, health and wellness
with Yoga’s inner factors of breath, senses, heart, mind and consciousness
Yoga and Ayurveda, as parts of the broader system of Vedic science passed on from the ancient Rishis, both evolved from the same philosophy, the same time period, culture and country.
Both accept common principles of Sankhya 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 practice either one of them would benefit by practice of 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.
“When we are doing Yoga practices for healing purposes we are practicing Ayurveda – therefore we should understand the Ayurvedic applications of yogic practices.”
An Integral Ayurveda-Yoga Therapy applies Ayurveda and Yoga as parts of an integrated healing therapy based in physical, psychological and spiritual diagnosis.
Healing best occurs in stillness.
Stillness of the body heals the body.
Stillness of the mind heals the mind.
Balance is Dynamic Stillness –
not enforced quietude,
but calm awareness.
Yoga Old and New
Thousands of years ago Yoga was a secret tradition whose disciplined students often developed supernormal abilities after practicing deep meditation in the quest for enlightenment. Along the way they also learned how to cleanse and strengthen the body and how to stay healthy, centered and grounded in every aspect of life. Yogic disciplines led to experiential knowledge of life’s most profound secrets.
Today Yoga has gained unprecedented popularity. Even so, there still seems to be some confusion about its full scope and true purpose. Today’s Yoga has a business aspect that requires that most studios or teachers offer their own name brand for the ‘Yoga style’ they teach and practice. This makes it easy to confuse these brand names with different types of or approaches to Yoga, with most being only variations on ways to practice Asana, which is the mostly physical aspect of Yoga practice.
Asana is most often how people first discover Yoga and can be done either in a more vigorous mat exercise format, as with most power or hot Yoga styles, or in a more serene, flowing, introspective or meditative style. But Asana is only the tip of the Yogic iceberg. In our contemporary haste to market or rework this venerable tradition we must be careful not lo loose out on Yoga’s most powerful benefits. To approach Yoga in its full scope, we need to have an overview of its many time honored branches. It is important for a beginning student to look for a strong connection to the tradition behind the brand name.
Yoga is an experiential science rather than a belief system. There is no pressure for someone to follow one system or another and even within a particular system there is freedom to modify the approach according to one’s own needs and level of progress. This is the reason that it has survived the centuries and is as valid today as when discovered by the ancient seers. The validly of any particular Yoga path has always been its continuity over time, the authority of a long, continuous line of sages who practiced it and left their teachings to follow and adapt to one’s individual requirements.
Yoga is primarily an energetic and psychological system, rather than a physical one. Classical Yogic method involves focusing the mind, making it quiet enough to allow inspiration and direct perception of Truth 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.
Psychology is also a very significant part of Ayurveda. As well as distinguishing the constitution from a mind/body perspective, Ayurveda also recognizes the psychosomatic origins of 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 Vedic goals of life – prosperity, enjoyment, right vocation and liberation (Artha, Kama, Dharma, Moksha.) Yoga’s aim to eliminate all suffering points us more toward Sadhana or achieving the Spiritual goal of life, not simply as exercise but as the Yoga practices you do to experience liberation of consciousness.
Yoga and Ayurveda
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.
Yoga has been available outside of its native country, India, for over 100 years and has developed a modern public identity. With the more recent availability of Ayurveda, there is a growing interest in the therapeutic usage of yoga practices for healing purposes, and as healing therapy within an Ayurveda practice.
This introduction of Ayurveda into the west is causing us to take a deeper look at how we define Yoga and how to best diagnose the scope of conditions it can address therapeutically. Traditionally defined, Yoga means integration – integration of many factors; physical, psychological and spiritual, only its popular use today has reduced it to a type of physical exercise or physical therapy.
The most popular form of Yoga in practice today is as Hatha Yoga poses or Asana which are mainly physical in nature and exercise based. Even though this is only a portion of what Yoga is about, asana itself has come to define Yoga in the 21st century USA. Actually, there is no place in traditional Yogic literature where Yoga is defined simply in terms of Asana.
In its popular use today, Yoga is identified by yoga classes which are a group effort in which everyone in the class practices a particular “Yoga style” as directed by the Yoga teacher who is defined by being the one who leads the class. This concept of group practice is a relatively new phenomenon in Yoga’s history and such classes are merely the current public face of Yoga. Traditional Yoga has a much deeper, inner meaning which is more vast and which encompasses the full range of all the Vedic sciences.
Asana is not the goal of Yoga, it is but one of its means. If our approach to Yoga is only through Asana and we are “doing Yoga” as physical exercise, then our Yoga Therapy will mainly express as a physical therapy.
This type of Yoga Therapy is gaining popularity with its usage mainly in the form of ‘which asanas do I do to fix my bad back…?” a type of physical symptom based Yoga chiropractic at which it has proven to be quite effective.
Also becoming popular today is an awareness of Ayurveda’s constitutional mind/body types and group classes are being developed which are tailored to balancing the constitutional factors of Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Both of these approaches express positive ways of linking Ayurveda and Yoga. Even so, they still may not be utilizing Yoga or Ayurveda to their fullest healing potential.
In its broader, traditional sense, Yoga is Yoga Dharma or Yoga as a Spiritual path; the practical system to unfold our highest potential as human beings. Traditional Yoga is more a psychological and energetic system than simply a physical one. To most completely apply it for healing purposes will require a psychological and energetic system of diagnosis and application, one that can fully utilize both the outer practices and the inner dimensions of Yoga. Ayurveda naturally provides that system.