Yoga has taken America by storm. Between 2010 and 2021, yoga grew in popularity by 64%. Today, there are over 7,000 yoga studios in the United States, and growing. Yoga is an important branch of Ayurveda, and the two are inextricably linked.
Yoga and Ayurveda share the same origin and goals
While many view yoga as a gentler way to exercise, long-time practitioners know that yoga is not just physical—it creates balance in mind, emotions, and consciousness as well.
Yoga shares the same origin and goal as Ayurveda, the traditional Vedic system of health care. Both are a means to gain better balance in mind, body, and spirit for optimal health.
A verse from the Yoga Sutra, yogas chitta vritti nirodhaha, describes yoga as the settled state of the mind. He compares it to a verse from Ayurvedic texts, svasmin dishati iti svasthah, which states that one who always remains united with the Self is a healthy person. These verses show that both yoga and Ayurveda have the same goal, which is attaining union with the Self, the most settled state of the mind.
Other verses from the Ayurvedic texts point to this self-referral state of the mind as the basis of health. A verse from the Sushruta Samhita, for instance, says, "He (she) whose doshas are in balance, whose appetite is good, whose dhatus (tissues) are functioning normally, whose malas are in balance and whose Self, mind and senses remain full of bliss, is called a healthy person.”
The aim of Ayurveda and yoga is to unify mind, body and consciousness
Yoga literally means "union" or "to join together" in Sanskrit. It refers to the union of body, mind and soul. Yoga helps the mind become stronger by connecting the mind with the Self, the Atma.
This experience of unity is also the aim of Maharishi AyurVeda. For instance, the word Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit word ayu. While one common meaning of ayu is "life" or "lifespan," and thus Ayurveda is "the science of life and longevity," another meaning of ayu is mentioned in Charaka Samhita (an ancient Ayurvedic text)—sharirendriya sattvatma sanyogo. . . ayu.
This verse defines ayu as the state where the physical body, senses, mind, and soul are integrated. Whether you are talking about yoga or ayu, it is a state of unity—or a complete integration of mind, body, and consciousness—that is the goal.
Yoga is central to the Ayurvedic daily routine
Yoga is mentioned in Ayurvedic texts such as the Charaka Samhita. Yoga is important for dissolving physical stress and calming the mind before meditation like Transcendental Meditation®, and is central to dinacharya, the Ayurvedic routine. It is the ideal Ayurvedic exercise, because it rejuvenates the body, improves digestion, and removes stress.
Yoga balances all three doshas, and different poses have different effects:
- Forward bending postures cool Pitta dosha.
- Twists are good for Kapha because they stimulate digestion.
- Backward bends are heating, and thus balancing to Vata types, as long as the person has the strength to do them.
Yoga postures tone every area of the body, and cleanse the internal organs of toxins—one of the goals of Ayurveda.
Ayurvedic routines benefit yoga practice
At the same time, yoga practitioners can benefit from the Ayurvedic daily routine as part of their yoga practice. For instance, abhyanga (Ayurvedic massage) helps remove toxins from the body and relaxes the muscles for yoga practice.
The knowledge of Maharishi AyurVeda provides tremendous support to yoga practice. Without a foundation in Ayurvedic knowledge, hatha yoga runs the risk of becoming just pure physical exercise.
Yoga aims to cleanse the nadis, or channels, with different postures. But trying to do that without using the Ayurvedic principles for removing ama (digestive impurities) is like hopping on one leg. That's why traditional yoga schools have always taught Ayurvedic principles as well as yoga asanas, because the two are so interdependent.
If someone is practising yoga regularly, they will start to dislodge ama in the body. But if they maintain a lifestyle and diet that creates ama, all they are doing is moving their sludge around. The yoga practitioner needs to know how to detoxify through the dietary, lifestyle, and purification practices of Maharishi AyurVeda for total health and wellbeing.
Watch our webinar to dive deeper into the connection between yoga and Ayurveda, and learn how to apply these routines to your life for better health and happiness.
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