Yoga and Ayurveda are two disciplines or sciences that stem from the same root i.e. the Vedas, the earliest available scriptures for mankind, the source of all orthodox Indian philosophy and knowledge that encompass comprehensively the human life as also the entire universe. The two therefore are inter-related. Simply speaking, Ayurveda is the science of healing, enhancing thereby the life-span while Yoga is pre-eminently a moksha-shastra, a science of salvation or liberation or ultimate freedom from miseries and sufferings of human life. Ayurveda may be considered as the foundation on which Yoga rests.
Yoga is one of the six orthodox or astika systems (shad darsana) of Indian philosophy having Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as its basic text. To a great extent, Yoga pervades all the other Indian philosophies by its emphasis on practices leading to meditation, the basic tool for translating all Vedic knowledge into reality.
In the framework of the Vedas, Ayurveda is the only Vedic system developed specifically for healing purposes whereas Yoga is intended as a spiritual practice or sadhana. Yoga is thus not originally or inherently meant as a medical system. Patanjala Yoga makes neither any mention of specific physical or mental ailment nor of any specific treatment. Yoga and its practices were originally meant as a preventive discipline rather than a therapy. The therapeutic aspects of yogic practices are seen in Hatha Yoga texts, which came much later than Patanjali’s Yoga. Thus, we can say that the primary intent or orientation of Vedic Yoga is not therapy though we can make use of Yogic practices therapeutically. In Yoga texts, there is no elaborate discussion of disease, diagnosis or treatment procedures. Most importantly, there is no Yoga system of diagnosis based on which Yogic treatment can be given independently of other therapies. That is why, it is suggested that a Yoga therapist should work hand in hand with a medical doctor.
Thus, if Yoga is to be kept within the framework of Vedic knowledge (i.e., if its traditional and pristine purity is to be maintained and not lost) and its practices are to be used for restoring health and healing, then it is advantageous for Yoga and Ayurveda to align to each other and provide the best as regards health and ‘beyond health’ for human beings.
Both, Yoga and Ayurveda are holistic sciences and not reductionist in their approach. Both cater more to the person than to the problem of the person. (The problem belongs to the person and not vice versa. There is no disembodied problem. Hence, the person is bigger than his / her problem!). When the person is put in proper perspective, the problem gets diluted and dissolved. Ayurveda and Yoga both, focus upon the root cause of the problem / ailment rather than emphasizing upon the symptoms as done by some other therapies. Yogic practices thus can be advantageously included in Ayurvedic treatment.
Today, the soaring popularity of Yoga is mainly due to its perceived therapeutic value. Yoga is seen as a refuge of last resort for people who have tried other therapies and not obtained expected results. Yogic practices cater to all dimensions of human personality. The Ashtangas of Patanjali’s Yoga cater to the social, the personal, the physical, the physiological, the mental, the psychological, the intellectual and the spiritual aspects of human personality! Accordingly, Yogic practices can lead to reduced personal and inter-personal conflicts, beautiful appearance, healthy physiological systems, calm and peaceful stress-free mind, freedom from conditioning of the past, positive outlook, sharp concentrated intellect and fulfillment of spiritual aspirations. Suffice it to say that there are varieties of practices in Yoga and not only the most popular practices of physical postures (asanas) and breathing practices (pranayama) when it comes to deriving health and healing benefits.
Two points should be borne in mind as regards Yoga practices:
- The significance of learning and doing the Yogic practices under proper guidance cannot be over-emphasized. Improperly done, they can be harmful.
- Further, it becomes absolutely crucial to understand the limitations and contra-indications of Yogic practices before doing them.
Come! Let us appreciate the Yogic practices in the right way!