Ayurveda & Yoga Therapy: Sisters in Health & Healing
While Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda each have a particular emphasis—Ayurveda is primarily a means to heal and treat disease while yoga seeks to reduce suffering in the physical body as well as the mind—the overarching focus is on the betterment of the individual and sustaining a balanced and healthy life. Both Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda consider each person to be an integrated whole; seeking to create balance in the body and mind rather than myopically treating a specific symptom or achieving a predetermined result. Personality, physical traits, abilities and strengths or weaknesses, mental / emotional tendencies, as well as occupation, life-stage, state of health, eating habits and energy levels are among the multivarious factors and influences taken into consideration.
Ayurveda & Yoga Cikitsa
When the principles of Ayurveda are put into practice in conjunction with Yoga Cikitsa (Yoga Therapy) each supports the other in bringing about Svastha, a complete state of balance—being oneself or in one's natural state, and healthy in body and mind.
In Sanskrit, Āyu means “life” and Veda means “to know.” Ayurveda notes that we often create our own ill-health by not learning from our experiences / behaviors, not adapting to change when necessary and beneficial, and unwise choices based in lack of wisdom or understanding. This requires self-control in the form of control of the senses and is the foundation of all balance in body and mind. "If our senses pull our behavior here and there, we will have neither routine nor restraint. It is a foundation for both instability and addiction, and it will lead us to ill-health and chronic diseases," according to Dr. Ganesh Mohan, doctor of Ayurveda, medical doctor (MD), and yoga therapist.
Yoga refers to a harnessing or yoking (yuj) of the mind and thought processes. These directly affect speech and actions, our day-to-day choices and decisions (lifestyle, habits, nutrition) and consequently contribute to our mental and physical wellbeing or dis-ease. As Indra Mohan says, "When we face problems in the world, we use all our external resources to try and fix it. That is good. But we should also remember to cultivate our inner resource: steady, clear, and positive mind. Yoga gives us timeless guidance on the pathway to inner strength."
(Not) Ignoring the Nature of Things
Modern society as a whole tends to negate or ignore Nature and our inherent connection to it... And yet, what is in Nature and our environment is reflected in us, from the seasons (stages of life and aging); to the food we ingest and metabolize for energy and life processes (although most foods are super-processed and packaged, bearing little resemblance to the nourishing and wholesome abundance provided by nature); as well as the qualities reflected in nature (air, such as in the lungs; water, such as in the blood; earth, such as the minerals in bone; fire, such as the energy produced during metabolism; space, such as that found within the organs). These five qualities, or bhutas, are also expressed in terms of mental and emotional states or tendencies.
Moden lifestyle and societal expectations contribute significantly to this disconnection from Nature—and our own nature as human beings. Consider these examples:
Ignoring the body (I have a cold and a fever, but I will go to work anyway and get through that important meeting).
Dismissing our emotional state (Grief, expressing deep sadness, or being introverted are seen as depression and antisocial behavior—to be avoided or to be treated as "chin up" and "get over it").
Leading a chaotic, disjointed lifestyle (Going to bed very late and rising early on weekdays, then sleeping in all weekend; eating on-the-fly or only what we crave due to stress or anxiety; short-term relationships without commitment or depth; living in different locations).
Women, in particular, may find that their health and emotions are subject to the conflicting demands of the various roles they take up during the course of their life: working professional, mother, wife, caregiver. As an individualized, therapeutic practice, yoga therapy for women helps to ground and stabilize the mind, while also addressing the very real and tangible physical imbalances brought about by a fragmented and often stress-inducing lifestyle. Similarly, Ayurvedic principles provide a framework and reference for support through an understanding of prakrti (constitution), personality traits and tendencies, diet, and lifestyle as well as life-stage.
As a member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, and as a C-IAYT yoga therapist providing yoga therapy under the comprehensive standards set by the International Association of Yoga Therapists, we respect and uphold the foundations of Hatha yoga while integrating them into customized yoga therapy programs.