Yoga and Ayurveda: the dynamic duo of spiritual, physical and mental wellbeing

Author: Indu Sandhu, Yoga and Ayurveda Practitioner

The ancient teaching of Ayurveda, as well as Yoga, are an indispensable part of the Vedic tradition. Accordingly, while Ayurveda’s philosophy is to heal mind and body, Yoga unleashes ones’ superior mental faculties. The link between these two sciences is the vital energy called Prana. Yoga is the prana’s mind that seeks higher evolutionary transformations, whereas Ayurveda is its healing power. Together they form a common system of self-improvement, self-control and self-rejuvenation.

Both Yoga and Ayurveda are based on the principles of Trigunas ( Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) and the Panchamahabhuthas (earth, air, fire, water, space).They both encompass an understanding of how the body works (Doshas -Dhatu-Mala / humor-tissue-waste material theory) and the effect that food and medicine have on the body. Both recognize that a healthy body is vital for fulfilling the four aims of life: dharma (duty), artha (wealth), kama (desire) and moksha (liberation).

Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali date from the 2nd century BCE, and gained prominence in the west in the 20th century after being first introduced by Swami Vivekananda.  The term Yoga in the Western world often denotes a modern form of hatha yoga and yoga as exercise, consisting largely of the asanas or a posture-based physical fitness, stress-relief and relaxation technique.

The practice of yoga has been thought to date back to pre-Vedic period.  It is regarded as a divine science of life, revealed to the ancient sages and is more than physical exercise; it has a meditative and spiritual core. The oldest archaeological evidence is provided by stone seals showing figures in yogic postures excavated from the Indus Valley, around 3000 BCE. Yoga is mentioned in the vast collection of scriptures called the Vedas (around 2500 BCE) but it is the Upanishads that provide the main foundations of Yogic teaching and the philosophy of Vedanta. Central to this teaching is the idea of one absolute reality or consciousness, Brahman, that underlines the universe.

The basic purpose of Yoga (to join) is to reunite the individual self (jiva) with the Absolute or pure consciousness (Brahman). The human spirit invariably perceives a sense of lacking or a vacuum in life that no amount of worldly success can fill, a subliminal awareness of a reality that can be sensed but cannot be grasped. The yoga (union) with the unchanging reality liberates the spirit from this feeling of separateness.

According to the Yogic Traditions, reality is unchanging and unmoving; whereas the world, the manifest universe, is in a perpetual state of flux and is therefore an illusion (Maya). Without this fundamental understanding we project our own illusions on the real world. This illusory nature of temporal reality has been corroborated by modern science with the realization that matter and energy are interchangeable and the semblance of solidity perceived in matter is created by movement or vibration.

To a yogi, body and mind are part of the illusory world of matter with a limited time span, but the spirit is eternal. Central to the yogic thought process is the Law of Karma – of cause and effect, action and reaction. Every action and thought bear fruit. We reap what we sow, molding our future by what we do and think today.

It is important to integrate Yoga and Ayurveda to bring out the full healing and spiritual potential of every being. Bringing Yoga into Ayurveda adds a spiritual and psychological dimension to Ayurvedic treatment without which full Vedic healing powers cannot be truly realized.