Have you wondered what the relationship between Yoga and Ayurveda is?
Yoga and Ayurveda are both branches from the same tree of ancient Vedic philosophy that encompasses all human life. The Vedic wisdom engages with the internal workings of human consciousness in relation to nature and touched all aspects of healing, science, art and culture. Yoga and Ayurveda are healing disciplines of this Vedic tree of knowledge that are closely interrelated. Ayurveda combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life or longevity) and veda (science or knowledge) – in short, Ayurveda is the science of a healthy life. Through nutrition and purification of the body, Ayurvedic wisdom is the science of healing the body. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means union. On a physical level, the asanas strengthen muscles, glands are pressurised and organs detoxified. This allows prana to circulate and create the internal union of mind, body and spirit through conscious breathing. Yoga uses the relationship of body and mind to harmonise with spirit - whilst Ayurveda uses the body as a vessel to harmonise mind and consciousness. Both disciplines aim at creating the foundation for the realisation of human potential.
In order to achieve the union of body, mind and spirit, a healthy body is necessary. We need to nourish ourselves with the right nutrition, stay active and detoxify our internal organs. This is how Yoga and Ayurveda perfectly complement each other in order to live a balanced and empowered life. The goal of Yoga depends on the health of the body and thus depends on the knowledge of Ayurveda. In today’s world our physical bodies are exposed to toxins as never before in the history of mankind. Most chronic diseases are related to the accumulation of toxins within the body and of course - to stress. Ayurvedic knowledge can help us to stay healthy whilst Yoga teaches us a successful stress-management.
The Vedic tradition sees all human life as interconnected and Ayurveda believes that life force manifests in three energies; the three doshas vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth). The doshas are present in every individual as energies that perform different physiological functions in the body. Usually one or two are dominant according to the personal constitution. When in harmony, vata is associated with creativity and vitality; pitta with intelligence and kapha with love and forgiveness. When out of balance, vata can lead to anxiety; pitta to anger and an imbalanced kapha constitution to envy. Moreover, the doshas are associated with specific ailments when in imbalance, for instance vata relates to insomnia, chronic fatigue or lower back pain. A pitta constitution that is off balance can cause dizziness, insomnia, herpes flare-ups or painful menstrual bleeding. Long-standing pitta disturbance can lead to poor vision, chronic hypertension, adrenal exhaustion or migraines. Lastly, examples for diseases associated with imbalanced kapha are allergies, asthma, high cholesterol and obesity. Based on the individual constitution practitioners are able to personalise a treatment to bring the energies within the body in harmony again. Such treatments can include massages, detoxification with herbs, lifestyle changes and also asanas.
Besides the dependency of yoga on a healthy human body, there are more interrelations between Yoga and Ayurveda. Yoga teachers are able to create sequences to balance a particular ayurvedic dosha. And, specific asanas are known to be beneficial for a dominant dosha. For instance, child pose or forward bending is vata-balancing and headstand has a harmonising effect for pitta. Furthermore, the nasal wash is another example of the interconnection between Ayurveda and Yoga. In order to combat colds or allergies, Ayurvedic doctors recommend regular nasal wash with the neti pot. Also, famous yoga teachers as for instance Swami Rama (Founder of the Himalayan Institute) required their students to use the neti pot as a preparation for their pranayama practice (breathing techniques).
In short, Ayurveda keeps us healthy in order to thrive with and through our Yoga practice. Are you now curious about your dosha constitution? Here is a introductory test to determine your dominant dosha.