Sister Sciences

Yoga and Ayurveda Compared

Yoga and Ayurveda Compared

Julie Neiman

(Track B- Level 1 Student)

Ayurveda is a holistic health modality which originated in Indian and has been practiced for thousands of years. The goal of Ayurveda is to maintain an optimal healthy balance in the mind and body, according to each individual’s unique constitution, or inherent nature. The word Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words: “Ayu” meaning “life” and “Veda” meaning “knowledge”.

I had my first experience with Ayurveda when I was in the middle of my 200 hour Yoga teacher training. It was October, and my studio was organizing a fall Ayurveda cleanse, which lasted for one week. It was at this time that my yoga practice changed dramatically. Yoga and Ayurveda are often referred to as “sister sciences” as their teachings go hand in hand, complementing one another. From my personal experience I will say that yoga introduced me to Ayurveda, and Ayurveda took my yoga practice to a completely new level.

Not surprisingly, there are many similarities between Ayurveda and Yoga, as the two are deeply rooted in various ancient Indian philosophies and texts, and are created from many of the same, or similar, concepts.

Yoga, like Ayurveda, is a way of life; both philosophies have the potential to become integrated into many aspects of the practitioner’s daily routine, as they focus on caring for the whole, multi-dimensional person. They both acknowledge the five sheaths of being, or the five koshas. It is understood that each of the five koshas (physical body, energetic body, mental body, intellectual body, and spiritual body) must be in balance for a person to be considered truly healthy. Caring for all sheaths of being means that instead of just focusing on the body, as we commonly do in Western culture, the mind and spirit must also be nurtured equally in order to achieve this optimal health and wellbeing.

Additionally, Ayurveda uses many concepts from the Yogic eight-limbed path (the guideline for Ashtanga Yoga, outlined in the Yoga Sutras) in order to balance the body and the mind. These concepts include: asana (physical practice), pranayama (breath work), pratyahara (sensory control), dharana (concentration), and dhyana (meditation). The Yogic yamas (external ethical disciplines) and niyamas (internal ethical observances) relate to the Ayurvedic concepts of Hit-ayu (righteous living), and karma, respectively. Furthermore, the ultimate goal of both philosophies is spiritual liberation, which is Moksa in Ayurveda, and Samadhi in Yoga.

Both Yoga and Ayurveda work to prevent disease and injury by creating an optimal, harmonious balance within the body. There are specific Yoga asanas, or poses, that help to balance the three Ayurvedic doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). Meanwhile, when the doshas are balanced, the practitioner is able to delve even deeper into their personal Yogic journey, as a body free of disease and imbalance is more receptive to a deeper spiritual experience.

The focus on achieving individual balance, rather than striving toward a specific, pre-defined outcome, means that both Yoga and Ayurveda are relevant to all people, and not just those with a certain body type or particular condition. Each practice encourages individuals to connect in with their own deeper self to identify what they truly need to heal and improve their own personal situation.

In summary, Yoga and Ayurveda are both ancient Indian philosophies of self-care, which focus on optimizing and maintaining total health on an individual level. Each philosophy is incredibly effective when practiced on its own, and even more astonishing when practiced together.

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