It has been said that while yoga is an ancient science devoted to balancing the mind for self-realization and awareness, Ayurveda is its inseparable sister science, devoted to balancing the mind in relation to the body.
Ayurveda has been practiced for centuries now, along with yoga, and is based on the vedas. Yoga has its origins in ‘Yajur veda’, while Ayurveda originates in ‘Atharva Veda and Rig Veda’. Ayurveda focuses on the individual balance and the balance between the individual and the laws of nature.
Ayurveda’s methods have been based on the principles of the five elements, and when they are balanced, the individual is healthy, and when one of them is out of order, it manifests as illness. Most yogis are aware of this concept of Ayurveda and doshas (vata, pitta and kapha). Both yoga and Ayurveda are based on the principles of trigunas (sattva, rajas and tamas), and the panchamahabhutas or the five elements (earth, fire, air, space and water). Yoga and Ayurveda encompass an understanding of how the body works, and the impact that food and medicines have on the body.
Balance, prevention and self-care is the key in Ayurveda, and for this, several simple practices that are particularly beneficial for our body can be incorporated into our daily routine easily. In fact, Ayurveda and yoga are inter-dependent on each other. For instance, Abhyanga (daily massage with warm oil) helps prepare the muscles and joints to do asana. Simple cleansing procedures like Nasya (nasal irrigation using neti pot) helps in breathing and meditation during yoga. Following a diet based on one’s dosha, can actually help improve digestion and increase energy.
Yoga ultimately focuses on self-realization, and Ayurveda helps in building a foundation for self-realization by rendering a practical means by helping us understand how our body works.
Both Ayurveda and yoga have eight branches, and hence the term ‘Ashtanga yoga’ and ‘Ashtanga ayurveda’. They share a common understanding of a healthy body being dependent on physical and mental balance. They share the same metaphysical anatomy and physiology.
Both Ayurveda and yoga promote sattvic diet (light and pure) in nature, i.e, foods that are in balance to one’s constitution (based on doshas) and categories of food – sour, salty, sweet, bitter, pungent and astringent. Yoga believes that we are what we eat.
Yoga postures can also be used as a form of therapy to resolve bodily complaints. This is why, when viewing from an Ayurvedic perspective, yogic postures are recommended for several bodily complaints, along with herbs and ayurvedic therapies. For instance, indigestion is considered to be due to excessive amount of pitta energy in Ayurveda, while a common cold is due to excessive amount of kapha, and constipation due to excessive amount of vata. Hence, for each such condition, along with managing diet and herbal remedies, the disease is resolved by practice of specific yoga postures.
Every imbalance of the doshas are related to certain postures, and the sequences of these postures help create better harmony in the body. For example, a pitta-based sequence will help cool off the excess heat in the body, when calming and restorative postures are practiced.
Both Yoga and Ayurveda recommend regular practice of pranayama, meditation, yoga poses, mantra chanting, and use of herbs.
On the whole, just as an ayurvedic doctor has put it, “Ayurveda is the science and yoga is the practice of science”. Hence, Ayurveda and Yoga are inseparable and continue to remain relevant in modern day, offering insights about inner human nature and our relationship with the natural world around us.