There are many ancient traditions that we Indians can rightly be proud of. Our ancient civilization was not only highly developed and advanced, our scriptures encompass the collective wisdom of humanity that helps each person live a healthy, full life even today. In fact we are still to plumb the depths of the wisdom that our ancestors handed down for future generations …wisdom that encompasses the arts (such as music or Gandharva Veda), science and the martial arts (such as Dhanur Veda).
Though you could describe Yoga as an ancient physical regimen prescribed for a healthy body and mind and Ayurveda as a system of ancient medicine, there are several commonalities between the two. While yoga is a mind-body practice aimed at physical and spiritual wellbeing and ayurveda is a medical system aimed at healing, there are several aspects that overlap; where the two systems complement each other.
The Vedic connection
The ancient Vedas prescribed an ideal way of life; not only in terms of how to exercise, what to eat and what medicines to take, but also how to behave with others; prescribing the path to righteousness and advancement and ultimate liberation of the soul. Yoga and ayurveda are two facets of a complete prescription for living the ideal life.
While yoga is a way to keep the body and mind healthy to keep disease and infirmity at bay, ayurveda is the holistic medical intervention to heal the body and improve health if ill health and infection occur. Both disciplines are the means to maintain good health and to achieve overall wellbeing; so in a sense both have the same ultimate goal – that of a healthy, disease free body.
Both yoga and ayurveda are natural ways to keep the body healthy and fit; ways that can help to minimize the need for pharmacological interventions of western medicines. Another commonality between ayurveda and yoga is the fact that both disciplines can be tailored to fit each individual. They are not the one-size-fits-all types of therapies that medical doctors prescribe; rather they are therapies that dovetail to fit individual requirements and each person’s unique physiology.
Yogic practice is central to ayurveda
One could say that yoga is a part of the ayurvedic tradition. Since yoga helps in lowering stress, enhancing immunity and improving digestion, it is easy to see that yoga is an important constituent of preventive health care (system of health care that seeks to prevent illness rather than treat it retrospectively), which is itself an important pillar of ayurveda. Since yoga strengthens the body and helps to remove toxins, this has a direct beneficial impact on the body’s health; reducing chances of illness and lowering the need for corrective medication.
Ayurveda envisages various ‘doshas’ within the body – Kapha, Pitta, and Vata – which are thought to govern the various functions of the body. A proper balance of these doshas helps maintain good health. When this balance is disturbed, illness and infections occur. Yoga also helps to maintain the proper balance of these doshas. Since yoga helps in lowering stress, this has a direct beneficial impact on health: helping the body sleep better and fall ill less often.
Ayurveda can also be a part of the yogic lifestyle
Looking at yoga and ayurveda from a different perspective, one can also say that ayurveda is a part of yoga. Certain ayurvedic dos and don’ts as well as ayurvedic tonics help to strengthen the body from within and aid in the practice of yoga. Ayurvedic massage is another important constituent for good health. Not only does massage aid in relaxation and lowering of stress; it also helps invigorate and energize the body for effective yoga practice. Ayurvedic concoctions can help to improve digestion and to clear the nadis (channels in the body); further assisting in the practice of certain yoga aasans.