The Yoga-Ayurveda Connection

The Yoga-Ayurveda Connection

Yoga has truly taken America by storm. With the amount of yoga studios and teacher trainings, the demand keeps growing. Numbers indicate that north Americans who practice some form of yoga has doubled in the last five years . . . and is now estimated at fifteen million people.  

Did you know that three-fourths of fitness clubs offer yoga classes, and yoga was named one of the two fastest-growing segments of the exercise industry by Trendwatch 2000 (an annual report on fitness trends)? While a lot of people (including those running the media) view yoga as a gentler way to exercise, most long-time yogis realize that yoga is not just for the physical body  it creates a balance of mind, emotion, and consciousness as well. What many are starting to realize too is that yoga shares the same origin and goal as Ayurveda, the ancient Indian (Vedic) system of healthcare. You see both have the same origin. And both share the same goal to obtain better health. I remember chanting a verse from the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali during my own yoga teacher training: yogas chitta vritti nirodhaha. It's a verse that describes yoga as the settled state of the mind. It is compared it to the verse from Ayurvedic texts, svasmin dishati iti svasthah, which states that one who always remains united with the Self is a healthy person. The goal from these verses: attaining union with the Self, the most settled state of the mind. A verse from the Sushruta Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text, says, "He (she) whose doshas are in balance, whose appetite is good, whose dhatus are functioning normally, whose malas are in balance and whose Self, mind and senses remain full of bliss, is called a healthy person." Yoga literally means "union" or "to join together" in Sanskrit. It has the same root that gives rise to the English word "yoke," as in "to yoke together," and refers to the union of body, mind and soul. Yoga helps the mind become stronger by connecting the mind with the Self, or referred to as the Atma. The word Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit word ayu. While one common meaning of ayu is "life" or "lifespan," and therefore Ayurveda is "the science of life knowledge," since Veda is life knowledge or science. Another meaning of ayu is mentioned in Charaka Samhita (another famous ancient Ayurvedic text): sharirendriya sattvatma sanyogo. . . ayu. This verse defines ayu as the state where the physical body, senses, mind, and soul are integrated. So you see that whether you are talking about yoga or ayu, it is this state of unity or complete integration of mind, body, and consciousness that one is wanting to achieve. Yoga is also mentioned in Ayurvedic texts such as the Charaka Samhita. Yoga is important for dissolving physical stress and calming the mind before meditation, and is central to dinacharya, which is the Ayurvedic routine. It is truly the ideal Ayurvedic exercise, because it rejuvenates the body, improves digestion, and removes stress. Yoga balances all three doshas, and different poses have different effects. Forward bending postures cool the Pitta dosha. Twists are good for the Kapha person because they stimulate digestion. Backward bends are heating, and thus balancing to Vata types. Yoga postures tone every area of the body, and cleanse the internal organs of toxins, which is one of the true goals of Ayurveda. At the same time, yoga practitioners can benefit from the Ayurvedic daily routine as part of their yoga practice. For instance, abhyanga (Ayurvedic massage) helps remove toxins from the body and relaxes the muscles for yoga practice. Here, we describe how to perform this massage.

Yoga aims to cleanse the nadis, or channels, with different postures and asanas. But trying to do that without using the Ayurvedic principles for removing ama (the digestive impurities) is like an uneven seesaw. That's why traditional yoga schools have always taught Ayurvedic principles as well as yoga asanas, because the two are so interdependent, they go hand in hand.

If someone is attending a class on a regular basis, he or she is starting to dislodge ama in the body, which is excellent. But if they are still maintaining a lifestyle and diet that creates ama, all they are really doing is moving their sludge around which is not productive. The true practitioner needs to know how to detoxify through the dietary, lifestyle, and purification practices of Ayurveda.

This is the true Yoga-Ayurveda connection, one that is total for mind, body, and consciousness.