Overview of Yoga and Ayurveda
Most people don't know what is yoga or ayurveda, or rather what is the core concept of both these terms. Yoga and Ayurveda are the pillars of Indian alternative therapies for better health and wellness. These sacred arts owe their origins to the Vedas—ancient sacrosanct texts written in early Sanskrit language in India. The Rig Veda and the Atharva Veda are the origins of Ayurveda whereas Yoga has its roots within the Yajur Veda. Vedic scholar Dr. David Frawley defines Ayurveda as the “healing side” and Yoga as the “practical side” of Vedic teaching.
The healing aspects of Ayurveda and Yoga have gained popularity and repute in western countries. It was Swami Vivekananda who first bought the core concepts of Yoga to the West in 1893. However, Ayurveda took a little time to gain recognition. Today, both ancient arts hold a special space in alternative healing, natural medicine and spirituality in western countries. Most practitioners combine Ayurveda and Yoga to prevent numerous common and uncommon diseases.
Understanding the Basic Principles of Yoga
Most people think that Yoga is a special type of physical exercise, but the actual definition goes much deeper than the popular belief. It is actually a blend of various easy and intricate postures, contemplation and breathing techniques. The word “Yoga” owes its origin to the Sanskrit root “yuj”, which means “to unite”. Yoga may also be derived from the Sanskrit “yujir samadahu”, which means meditation or contemplation. The main objective of this ancient science is to create proper synchronization between the mind, body and soul. A Yoga and Ayurveda expert will combine both to ensure a healthy lifestyle and well-being.
Yoga is further divided into five branches, including:
- Bhakti Yoga (“devotional” yoga)
- Karma Yoga (“path of union through action”)
- Jnana Yoga (“path of knowledge”)
- Hatha Yoga (physical exercises and meditation)
- Raja Yoga (meditation/contemplation)
Of these five important branches, the Hatha Yoga is mainly practiced all over the world. To the western world, Hatha Yoga is always correlated with Yoga and focus mainly on different postures (asanas) and exercises. Raja Yoga, or more popularly called Patanjali Yoga, is another great form that’s practiced in India and Western countries. This branch of Yoga combines contemplation and breathing exercises, most notably Pranayama.
The “physical” yoga is divided into several types, including
- Iyengar Yoga (founded by B.K.S. Iyengar, this form of Yoga deals with various forms of intricate physical exercises for good health)
- Ashtanga Yoga (mainly for persons with a strong back and those who want to strengthen their body)
- Bikram Yoga (a type of Yoga founded by Yoga Guru Bikram Choudhury which focuses on different exercises done in heated rooms to increase body suppleness)
The “mental-focused” Yoga is also divided into several kinds, such as:
- Bhakti Yoga
- Mantra Yoga (mental repetition of numerous potent sounds, such as “aum” and “ram”)
- Raja Yoga
- Viniyoga (different breathing exercises that are helpful for patients suffering from back problems)
Understanding the Basic Principles of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is an ancient therapy that focuses on natural healing by the application of various massage techniques, herbs and essential oils. This core concept of this ancient holistic approach is to treat and prevent different common and uncommon conditions by maintaining a balance between mind and body through proper diet, lifestyle, liquids and herbal therapies.
To understand what is ayurveda, you need to divide the word "ayurveda" into two words. It is actually derived from the Sanskrit words “ayus” meaning "life" and “veda” meaning “science” or “body of knowledge.” It is categorized into two major types: Traditional and Maharishi. While both types focus mainly on herbs and imbalance of various elements inside the body, the Maharishi Ayurveda also revolves around transcendental meditation.
Ayurveda has been in practice for around 5,000 years in the Indian subcontinent. An Ayurvedic practitioner prescribes different herbal remedies and diet control measures to rebalance “doshas” (energy types), namely vata, pitta and kapha. A patient needs to consult an expert Ayurvedic practitioner to check his doshas and suggest the best diet as well as herbal medicine to cure any illnesses. Ayurveda also believes in preventing the disease. In fact, both Yoga and Ayurveda focus on preventing any illness rather than treating them. However, there are several Yoga exercises and Ayurvedic herbal medicines that have proved to cure stress and other common ailments.
By now you may have understood what is yoga and ayurveda. Both these terms focus on natural healing and strengthening of our mental, physical and spiritual body.
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"Yoga and Ayurveda" Dr. Marc Halpern, https://www.yoga.com/ydc/enlighten/enlighten_document.asp?ID=357§ion=9&cat=203
"Eight Kinds of Yoga" https://www.yogaworld.org/yogas.htm
“What is Ayurveda” https://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/ayurveda-000348.htm
The Lotus Position in Yoga: Picture courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tanum%C3%A2nas%C3%AE_en_Meditacion_Loto_Padmasana.JPG (Public Domain)