The powerful connection of Yoga and Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a holistic health system originating in India, which aims to create balance in body, mind and soul. The Ayurvedic system of medicine is considered one of the world’s oldest and is based on 100% natural methods to promote health and prevent disease.
How are yoga and Ayurveda related?
In everyday speech yoga and Ayurveda are called “sister sciences” and Ayurveda is considered to be the health tradition of yoga. Both have their origins in the ancient Indian scriptures, the Vedas, just as they also have the same goal; healing the body and soul, spiritual development and freedom from suffering. In the ancient time of the old schools of yoga, in India, Ayurveda formed the dominant medical direction. That is why yoga is also quite naturally mentioned in the oldest Ayurvedic texts and is part of the Ayurvedic healing methods. When yoga is mentioned in the old Ayurvedic texts, it is important to understand that they do not refer to the physical yoga exercises, or asanas, but instead refer to a higher spiritual consciousness.
What happened to the close connection between yoga and Ayurveda?
As mentioned above yoga and Ayurveda are not two separate disciplines, but rather closely connected and related, and overlap each other on many different levels. What became of this original, natural connection between yoga and Ayurveda? During the British colonial period in India, Ayurveda was heavily suppressed and its schools closed. This meant that when yoga first came to the West, it did so without its Vedic “sister” and natural connection to Ayurveda.
Yoga for your Ayurvedic body type
In Ayurveda we work with different body types, the so-called doshas. Many have heard of the three doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which are best described as life energies that are present in all of us in every cell, organ and tissue. The doshas occur in different constellations from person to person, and this unique composition of doshas that we each possess gives us our specific physical, mental and emotional characteristics and attributes. When unbalanced, they give rise to special physical and mental symptoms and disorders. Typically, you will be dominated by one or two of the doshas, which determine your unique Ayurvedic body type. That is why we are all different, according to Ayurveda, and should not eat the same kind of food or practice the same lifestyle. Instead, we must adapt our diet, exercise, daily routines and lifestyle to our unique Ayurvedic digestive type and body type. In the same way, we don’t all have to practice the same kind of yoga. Depending on which dosha is your dominant one, different forms of yoga are preferable. Also, the best time to practice yoga varies from person to person, just as the duration of your daily practice is also an important factor.
Yoga for Vata
Vata dosha contains the elements air and ether (space) and is characterized by movement, changeability and irregularity. Vata is light, dry, cold, fast and it is said that Vata changes as the wind blows. Vata people usually have limited amounts of energy, and the energy can vary greatly from day to day. For this reason, if you are dominated by Vata dosha, Ayurveda recommends gentle yoga with long, calm stretches such as yin yoga. In general, it is important in yoga, and in the lifestyle in general, that you do not overexert yourself and calibrate your energy. 20 – 30 minutes of yoga per day is typically adequate. In order to balance the changeable, cool Vata energy, as well as the air and ether element, it is also important that you focus on grounding in your yoga practice and ensure that you stay warm. In addition, avoid flow yoga as far as possible so as not to push further to the moving “wind” energy of Vata. In the body, Vata is particularly located in the large intestine, the lower back and the lower extremities. It can therefore be beneficial to have a special focus on these areas in your yoga practice.
Yoga for Kapha
Kapha dosha contains the elements earth and water and is characterized by heaviness, stability and solidity. Kapha is heavy, moist, cold and cohesive. When Kapha is out of balance, it can manifest as heaviness, laziness, stagnation and lack of initiative. Although Kapha people can be slow starters, they are very persistent once they get going. If you are dominated by Kapha dosha, Ayurveda therefore recommends more dynamic forms of yoga with higher intensity, such as flow-based vinyasa yoga, hot yoga, ashtanga yoga and quick sun salutations. Yoga of longer duration than the other doshas is also preferable. A minimum of 1 hour of daily yoga practice at a high pace and sweat on the forehead will do good for Kapha. In the body, Kapha is particularly located in the stomach, chest and head. It can therefore be beneficial to have a special focus on these areas in your yoga practice.
Yoga for Pitta
Pitta dosha contains the elements of fire and water and is characterized by transformation and heat. Pitta is intense, sharp and hot. Pitta people are typically fiery souls with a lot of energy, and out of balance Pitta can show up as irritation, anger and excessively competitive behavior. To balance the hot and burning Pitta fire, Ayurveda recommends cooling yoga forms and postures without high intensity and too much sweat on the forehead. Gentle yoga with moderate sun salutations preferably 30 – 60 minutes daily. If you are dominated by Pitta dosha, it is especially important to remove the focus from external goals in your practice and avoid a competitive approach to yoga. Also preferably avoid practicing yoga outdoors in the sun, as it inflames the hot Pitta fire. Instead, prefer indoor yoga in a cool environment. In the body, Pitta is particularly located in the small intestine, liver and spleen. It can therefore be beneficial to have a special focus on these areas in your yoga practice.
Let’s restore the strong connection between yoga and Ayurveda
Although yoga came to the West without its Vedic “sister” Ayurveda, this original and natural connection between yoga and Ayurveda is fortunately once again spreading globally. But it still needs a boost and some loving attention to become a trend. Let us anchor our consciousness to bring these two “sister sciences” and important Vedic disciplines together again. So that they once again will go hand in hand, flourish and complement each other in the most beautiful way. In the goal of a healthy body, a flexible mind and a free and eternal soul.
Love & light
Charaka Samhita. Vol II kap. I.
Frawley D: Ayurvedic Implications of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
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Hetal D. A. et.al.: Philosophical and Applied Vistas of Yoga in Charaka Samhita. Annals Ayurvedic Med. 3 (1-2) 48 – 51. 2014.
Who is Mette?
Mette Westerholt is the founder of the Ayurvedic online universe www.AYUS.dk. She is an educated Ayurvedic health counselor, writer of Ayurveda and has a Master degree in human biology from the University of Copenhagen with experience in health science research. Follow her on Instagram.