Ayurveda is the medical side of yoga. Yoga and Ayurveda were inspired and developed by the great sages of ancient India, over 5000 years ago. Both were created to keep the body and mind strong, allowing people to focus on the really important job of finding their true purpose. Though both sciences are very old, neither are ‘primitive’. Much of their advice is founded on common sense, and has much to teach us about finding balance in today’s busy world.
Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences. Both have inseparable relationships. Yoga clubbed together with Ayurveda will produce positive effects on health. Both belong to the ancient Indian tradition. Both comprehensively illuminate the basic laws and principles governing life on earth. To understand both is to understand the forces that engender our well-being, as well as those that lie at the root of existence.
Ayurveda encompasses not only science but religion and philosophy as well. In Ayurveda the whole of life-journey is considered to be sacred. Ayurveda is a science of truth as it is expressed in life. All Ayurvedic science and literature is based on the Sankhya philosophy of creation. This system was evolved from the Rishis who perceived that there is a close relationship between man and the universe. According to them the source of all existence is cosmic consciousness, which manifests as male and female energy-Shiva and Shakti-like Yin and Yang in Chinese philosophy. The Rishi Kapila discovered twenty-four principles or elements of the universe, of which Prakriti or creativity is the most basic. Purusha is the male energy while Prakriti is the female energy. Purusha is formless, colourless and beyond attributes and takes no active part in the manifestation of the universe. Prakriti has form, colour and attributes. It is awareness with choice. It is divine will. Prakriti creates all forms in the universe, while Purusha is the witness to this creation. It is primordial physical energy containing the three attributes or guĂ«as: sattva (essence), rajas (movement) and tamas (inertia), which are the foundation for all existence.
‘Yoga’ is derived through the Sanskrit word for ‘union’ and represents the union of the individual soul with the universal soul, and of the body with the mind. The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. His Yoga Sutras serve as a guide for yoga that is practiced today, outlining the eight limbs of yoga: yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), & samadhi (liberation).
Some of the benefits of Yoga:
- Enhanced intellect, increased efficiency and reduced stress levels
- Greater contentment, concentration and mental steadiness
- Enhanced feelings of well-being and general vitality
- Improved circulation and hence detoxification
- A greater connection with the body’s and mind’s genuine needs
- Living a life with a deeper consciousness, integrity and joy
- Help with chronic illness eg: asthma, diabetes, arthritis (through tailored Yoga Therapy)
Today most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation. The fourth limb, pranayama (breath control) is also practiced in the West. ‘Hatha’ yoga is used to describe these practices, and is translated as ha ( “sun”) and tha (“moon”). This refers to the balance of masculine aspects (active, hot, sun) and feminine aspects (receptive, cool, moon) within. Yoga is a powerful tool for personal development, creating balance, strength and flexibility of body and mind. It also teaches us how to balance effort with knowing when to accept and surrender to current circumstances.
It’s important to remember yoga is not just theory, nor physical postures to practice on your mat, but is a practical way of life to help you find inner peace. Yoga is also about a life of compassionate self-discipline, both on and off your yoga mat, with the aim of ‘simple living and high thinking.’ This real goal of Yoga is to understand that true happiness comes from within, when the mind is free from endless thoughts. As such, Yoga is universal in nature, and is for everybody regardless of age, gender, physical ability, or religion. Yoga is not a religion, but is a framework for spiritual growth and the integration of body, mind and spirit. Yoga hasn’t survived so many thousands of years because ‘it is good for you’ but because ‘it makes you feel good’. The only way to test this is to try it out for yourself. If you’ve been put off in the past, try a different teacher or style of yoga.
A well-rounded Yoga practice should be tridoshic by nature (balancing for all Ayurvedic types) and can accommodate any constitution or imbalance. For example:
- Vata types should focus on slow Sun Salutes; leg lifting; Camel; Cobra; and Cat. Alternate nostril breathing can help balance Vata. Beyond Yoga, slow, gentle exercise such as Tai Qi, QiGong, swimming, and walking are recommended rather than active sports such as jogging.
- Pitta types benefit from cooling Moon Salutes; Fish; Boat; and Bow. Cooling shitali breaths can help with heat, irritation, inflammation and anger. Calming exercise, Tai Qi, Aikido, hiking or swimming are all recommended, avoiding intense competitive sports and hot mid-day exercise.
- Kapha types need fast Sun Salutes and postures such as Bridge; Peacock; Tree; and Lion. Bhastrika pranayama and Kappalabhati are good. Any vigorous hot exercise, especially early morning is excellent.
Come to Rishikesh, located on the banks of the holy Ganges and stay in the various Yoga ashrams to experience the classic Indian Yoga which since ancient time have been known as the key to a healthy and prosperous life. Besides being a part of the Yoga sessions, tourists can also study this art at the Yoga Study Center and the Yoga Niketan Ashrams. Celebrated Yoga gurus conduct these courses which can last from days to weeks or even months. The best time to be a part of the yoga training classes is during the annual International Yoga festival held in the month of March every year. Ayurveda and Yoga in India are one of the most popular facets that draw great numbers of international tourists to the country. However, there are many diet restrictions and activity routines that tourists need to adhere to, so it is advisable that tourists come mentally prepared to follow the prescribed way of lifestyle in order to enjoy the full benefits of these alternate medicinal miracles.