Ayurveda is an ancient holistic science that originated in India thousands of years ago. “Ayur” means life and “Veda” means science. Simply put, Ayurveda is a precise science, which teaches us how to live life in a way that maintains health and balance. It is holistic because Ayu is further defined as the mind, body, senses and soul. Thus, this science takes all aspects of the person in consideration when evaluating his/her health. The unique gift of Ayurveda is the application of the tri-dosha theory. Ayurveda states the human being is made up of the 3 Doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vata is composed of ether and air. Pitta is composed of fire and water, and Kapha is composed of water and earth. Each Dosha has a particular “home” or location(s) in the body and has certain functions to maintain. If our Doshas are in balance, we will experience health. It is the imbalance of the Doshas that leads to Disease.
Although each person has all 3 Doshas present in the body, Ayurveda states each one of us is a unique and individual combination of the Doshas that determines our Constitution(Prakruti). This Constitution is determined at conception and is set for life. A person can be a combination of one or two Doshas, for example, one could be a Pitta/Kapha or a Vata/Pitta Constitution. The Doshas present in our Constitution will not only govern our physical body (large, small, thin, average) but also our mental and emotional tendencies and even our metabolism. This is why Ayurveda is so unique because within its system it believes every person is an individual and their Constitution is as distinct as their fingerprint. Thus, one’s individuality has to be considered in order to truly treat the person. There is no room for blanket health recommendations in Ayurveda.
Each one of us reacts/responds to life differently and our reactions to stress, work, relationships, family can lead to the disturbance of the Doshas. This disturbance if left untreated can lead to formation of Vikruti, or imbalance. Vikruti covers or blinds us to our natural state (Prakruti) and we no longer feel, think, or behave like ourselves. We no longer know ourselves if a Vikruti has formed. Ayurveda’s beautiful gift to us is its ability to remove the covering that is blocking us from truly knowing ourselves. Many people are so used to imbalance, they think that’s “just the way I am” . When what has truly happened is they have begun to identify with their Vikruti(covering) instead of their true nature, their Prakruti. Ayurveda provides us with the means to begin to remove our covering and once again experience our own inherent joy, strength, beauty, enthusiasm, and passion. The tools that Ayurveda uses to do this include one-to-one consultations, treatments, oils, yoga, lifestyle and diet guidelines.
Ayurveda and Yoga are two of the many branches of the ancient Vedic tree. Both systems originate from the Vedas, however even though they are intimately related they are different in their application. Yoga as defined by the Sutras deals primarily with sadhana, spiritual practice aimed at developing self-realization. The Yoga Sutras primarily deal with how to eliminate mental suffering and explore the different states of mind, knowledge, cognition and awareness. Yoga is not originally or inherently a medical system, it does not address disease. According to the Vedic scheme of knowledge, Ayurveda is the complete medical system including diagnosis and treatment for body and mind. Yoga provides us with the philosophy to address our suffering, but it is Ayurveda that is designed to treat and heal the physical body. As health is the basis for all our endeavors, one would not seek to still the mind without first stilling the body. Thus, Ayurveda’s application to Yoga can not be overlooked and indeed should be applied to all Yoga’s practices.
Yoga has grown incredibly popular in the West. However, due to the closing of many Ayurvedic schools and hospitals in the colonization period of India, Ayurveda remained hidden and did not spread with Yoga into the West. What we have in the modern age is the idea that Yoga and Ayurveda are separate and different. This is largely due to Yoga’s massive growth and popularity but without the knowledge of its ties to Ayurveda. Due to growth of Yoga without the proper understanding of Ayurveda, the health benefits of yoga asana(postures) have been largely focused on as an isolated therapy. There are physical benefits to an asana practice, however asana itself is not a medical system. Asana is part of an Ayurvedic lifestyle, and is often recommended as part of Ayurvedic routine. For Yoga to be truly therapeutic, it needs to be applied in conjunction with its medical system, Ayurveda.
“While the practice of asana alone is a good beginning it must be accompanied by the other aspects of yoga to really have an affect on people. Many practitioners of yoga are tense, stressed, or have health problems. This indicates the failure of modern man to embrace a more comprehensive understanding of Yoga and the branch of yoga that fully understands the physical body: Ayurveda.” Vaidya Atreya Smith. Asana practice has become mainstream and very popular, but it must be remembered that asana (postures) is only one eighth of Yoga Sutras. To focus entirely on asana (postures) is missing the point of Yoga, and to practice Yoga without Ayurveda limits the growth of the practitioner