Yoga and Ayurveda: Embracing these ancient principles for better health

Over the past several years, I’ve deepened my studies of both Yoga and Ayurveda, incorporating aspects of each within my daily life. Doing so has afforded opportunities for restoration of wholeness in several aspects of my physical body, my mind, and my spirit. I’m still learning as I travel along this path of discovery, but what I do know is that these practices can be truly transformative. Ayurveda takes a whole human approach to health and healing, addressing not only body, but mind and soul as well. Herein lies an introduction to this ancient yet practical science for those unfamiliar with its roots and benefits.


Closely related to Yoga, Ayurveda is also a spiritual or sacred science for healing the mind and body. Both sciences developed together, however, in Western texts, the focus tends to be more on Yoga with little mention of Ayurveda. The sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda encompass the whole human being to include mind, body, and soul. Just as Yoga has a long history going back to the teachings of the Himalayan sages, Ayurveda too has a lengthy history dating back to early Vedic tradition. The two are commonly referred to as ”sister sciences“ having influenced each other over the years. Ayurveda is a holistic medical system encompassing all aspects of human health to include physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.(1)


Yoga is a science of Self-realization, rooted in the practice of spirituality through meditation and physical practice (known as ”asana”). It helps us move inward from our outer beings associated with our “ego” to discover all that dwells within our heart.(1)


Ayurveda is a science of Self-healing, specifically targeting relief of diseases associated with the body and mind in order to restore our wholeness. Its aim is to alleviate physical and mental obstacles, thus promoting overall well-being. Its ultimate goal is to help us attain optimal health to set the foundation allowing us to pursue Self-realization and restoration of wholeness through Yoga.(1)


For many, medical treatment begins when there is already illness, whether physical or mental, with an aim is to “fix” something that’s “broken.” In other words, we go to the doctor when we’re sick or not feeling well, or when we sense something’s wrong (which we should, if it’s come to that point). But, if medicine starts here, the methods of treatment may already require medication or sometimes even surgery, both of which come with potential risks and/or side effects. What if we were to take a more intentional approach to our health, keeping our lifestyle, environment, food intake, work, and our emotional well-being at the forefront of our consciousness always? Could we not often prevent illness or disease before it manifests to the point of needing intervention? Could we not intentionally act on those subtle messages we “hear” our bodies telling us sooner, before they are “yelling” at us to notice them, and thus begin our journey of healing sooner? Yes, we can, and we should, and we must stay on top of it! The thing to know about our health is that an optimal state of well-being, that of being free of illness and disease, cannot be achieved and then put aside, allowing us to fall back into poor habits. It’s something we must consciously be aware of and continually take care of. So, just how do we do that?


According to Ayurveda, every part of your life contributes to your overall health. (2) Some factors, such as diet, are easily modifiable. Other factors, such as those relating to one’s environment, like weather, are not as easily controlled. But, Ayurveda teaches us ways to help mitigate those imbalances caused by our environments. As a self-healing science, Ayurveda employs diet, lifestyle, exercise, rest, breath exercises, and meditation, to name a few, to help create, maintain, or restore optimal health and balance. (3) Ayurveda asks us to individually take responsibility for our daily living such as to create a life of healthy, conscious, balanced living in the present moment. It is through our daily activities, the food we eat, to work we do, and the relationships we engage in that we must take actions which lead to wholeness, self-healing, and growth towards fulfillment. (3) Our simple lifestyle choices can directly affect our ability to heal or may even be the cause of our illness or disease. So, in the event illness occurs, we must use it as an opportunity to change our way of living (eating, thinking, feeling, our daily routine) to help get ourselves back on the path of restoration.


There are so many layers to uncover in the science of healing through the practice of Ayurveda. Together, we’ll peel back these layers and discover how this ancient practice can be employed in this modern day to help us not only feel better, but to follow our own unique path towards self-healing, improved health, and ultimately fulfillment in life. Be sure to follow along in future posts for more information on this global system of mind-body medicine and how it can help you achieve optimal health and well-being. In the meantime, be sure to check out some of my favorite references on Ayurveda!


References:

(1) Frawley, D (1999). Yoga and Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self-Realization. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

(2) Lad, V (2002). Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda, Volume One. Albuquerque, NM: The Ayurvedic Press.

3) Lad, V (1998). The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. New York, NY: Harmony Books.