Yoga and Ayurveda: Exploring Two Transformative Practices
Yoga and Ayurveda are two inseparable sister sciences that stem from the Vedas. While the former leads us towards optimal physical health, the latter nourishes our spiritual connection. While both are incredibly helpful on their own, their true potential is only realized when they are combined.
For example, an Ayurvedic lifestyle without a yoga practice can give us great well-being and extensive stores of energy, but no sense of purpose regarding how to use this energy. Similarly, if we practice yoga without Ayurveda, our bodies will be too sluggish and inflexible, and our minds too clouded and restless to obtain the self-realization we strive for. For that reason, everybody on the path to self-healing should be aware of how these time-honored modalities intersect.
Yoga and Ayurveda: a shared ancient origin
Anybody who studies both systems will instantly recognize the compatibility that lies in the terminology and concepts used by each; both work with factors such as gunas, koshas, elements, doshas, and more.
The reason for this shared approach is that these two sciences have their roots in the vedic texts, which originated in ancient India and are some of humanity’s oldest surviving documents, with stories dating back over 10,000 years ago. In those ancient times, these two sciences were always practiced in tandem; it wasn’t until more recently that their bond was broken.
However, as an increasing number of people begin to find faults in the modern healthcare system, these beautiful approaches devised by ancient Rishis are being restored. Because yoga and meditation already blazed a trail worldwide, systems such as Ayurveda now have a clear road to walk into our lives.
Understanding each practice
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning the knowledge of life. Rather than prescribing drugs to treat the symptoms of a disease like modern medicine does, Ayurvedic medicine takes a preventative approach by recommending diets, herbs, and exercises based on each individual’s physical constitution. This approach keeps the body in a robust condition so that it remains resistant to diseases. This ensures that we’re far less likely to fall sick in the first place.
Unlike modern nutrition, Ayurveda recognizes that different foods suit different people. Ayurvedic science does this by dividing people generally into three categories based on the elements that dominate their body types. These categories are called the three doshas; kapha, vata, and pitta. Those with a primarily earth-and-water-based body are kapha, those with an airy constitution are vata, and those who are dominated by fire are pitta.
Ayurveda constantly seeks to put these three doshas into balance. In Ayurvedic philosophy, balancing the doshas is what brings optimal health. For example, apples are primarily vata. Therefore they will be beneficial for those with a predominance of kapha dosha or pitta dosha, and they will aggravate people with a vata-based constitution.
The modern word yoga stems from the Sanskrit word yog, which means union; specifically, it implies union with the divine, or samadhi. Although most of us only think of yoga as a series of stretching and breathing exercises, the practice actually goes far deeper than that, helping us achieve transcendent states of consciousness by taking absolute control over our bodies through self-discipline.
Most of us have had the experience of sitting down to meditate or laying in savasana after a long yoga session with the expectation of achieving a perfect connection to our subtle-body, only to to be met with the same mental chatter that plagues us in everyday life. The main reason for this is that we did not first lay a strong foundation by observing ayurvedic principles. Without this foundation, many of us will remain unbalanced, never able to reap the full fruits of our yoga practices.
Recombining Ayurveda and yoga
Whether you’re an experienced or beginner yogi, working with an Ayurvedic physician will help you dive far deeper in your practice. With the demand for alternative forms of medicine on the rise, we can definitely expect Ayurvedic practitioners to become more widespread in the future. In fact, more and more insurance programs are covering yogic and Ayurvedic healing modalities. As this mainstream adoption continues in our modern western world, these ancient eastern sciences are on a fast track to being fully reunited. Until then, we encourage you to adopt a yogic and Ayurvedic lifestyle to enhance your personal practice of self-care.
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