Ayurveda and Yogic Practices
January 15th, 2012 by Aldouspi

Ayurveda and Yogic Practices

Enhance your Yogic Practices with Ayurveda
Ayurveda and Yoga
by Hari Prasad Nadig under CC BY-SA  with wpseopix.com
Ayurveda and Yoga

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Both Ayurveda and yoga have the common goal to heal the body, mind, and consciousness. While both sciences can be studies seperately, combined they have a synergistic effect on reaching reaching greater longevity and physical and spiritual health.

Here are a some specific ways that Ayurveda connects with Yoga in the areas of the Asanas, Meditation, Breathing and diet.

The Ayurvedic approach to asana practice.

The use of asana, pranayama, and meditation for healing is known as Yoga Chikitsa, or Yoga Therapy. This has been used for thousands of years by Ayurvedic and yogic adepts.

In Yoga Chikitsa, a group of yogic exercises are chosen that will best support the individual and are practiced daily. This regime is done over an extended period of time in conjunction with an Ayurvedic regime and herbal and dietary therapies. Yoga Chikitsa also plays an integral role in the Ayurvedic cleansing and rejuvenation process known as panchakarma.

For a well balanced personal yoga practice, it is important to take into consideration the individual's body structure, prakruti (original constitution), and vikruti (present constitutional imbalance). The following are general recommendations according to the predominant dosha:

  • Vata predominant individuals should remember to focus on calming, grounding, stillness, strengthening, and balancing while doing their practice.

    Precautions for vata:  Vinyasa or flow styles of yoga tend to move too quickly from one pose to the next and can aggravate the hyper-mobile quality of vata over time. Flow sequences should be made to be more vata pacifying. If a pose is not excessively long, the length of time poses are held is extended, and transitions are done more slowly and consciously.

    SPECIAL NOTES: Those with lower back problems may find that bending their knees in standing forward bends can prevent discomfort. AND back bends should be done slowly, carefully and within one's own limits.

  • Pitta individuals should maintain a calm, cool, and relaxed intention while doing asanas Pitta types may benefit from trying to cultivate an attitude of forgiveness, and of surrendering or offering the fruits of their practice to the divine or to those in need of positive healing energy.

    Because asana practice tends to generate heat in the body, it is best to do them at cooling times of the day, such as dawn or dusk. Also, it is useful to place some emphasis on poses that help to release excess heat from the body, such as poses that compress the solar plexus and poses that open the chest like.

  • Kapha types tend to be sedentary and often dislike vigorous exercise. For this reason, their practice should be energetic, warming, lightening, and stimulating, provided they are physically capable. Vinyasa or flow style yoga is good for kapha because it is dynamic. It moves quickly from one pose to the next. It induces sweating and gets the heart pumping.

Yoga poses that address specific doshic problems can be easily added to an Ayurvedic regime and integrated into an existing yoga routine. They can be organized as a small session with the help of an Ayurvedic clinician who knows each individual case well. The goal is to set up a well balanced program according to the needs of each client.

Ayurveda also offers Yoga Chikitsa, or Yoga Therapy, for specific doshic disorders. It is advised to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner for an individualized regime.

Ayurvedic Approach to Pranayama (breathing techniques).

The ultimate goal of pranayama is to calm the mind and prepare it for meditation. There are therapeutic effects on the physical body as well. It is not essential to do a pranayama practice according to one's dosha, but knowing its effects on the body is a valuable tool for management of the doshas. Below is a general list of pranayama and bandha exercises according to dosha.

  • Vata:  Nadi Shodhana, Kapala Bhati, Agnisara Dhauti, Ujjayi, Tri Bandha, Maha Mudra.

  • Pitta:  Sheetali or Sitkari, Nadi shodhana.

  • Kapha:  Bastrika, Agnisara Dhauti, Kapala Bhati, Ashvini Mudra (contracting and releasing Mula Bandha), Ashvini Mudra, Ujjayi, Tri Bandha, Maha Mudra.

Meditation According to Dosha.

These spiritual paths and their meditation techniques can be practiced by anyone, regardless of their prakruti. This list is only intended to give an idea on how dosha can support or influence one's spiritual practice. Many traditions of yoga blend various aspects of the paths listed here.

  • Vata: Kriya Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga and other structured techniques help to keep vata stabilized and focused.

  • Pitta: Jnana Yoga and Vedanta are good for pitta types because they often have sharp intellects and have a keen interest in self-study (Atma-vichara).

  • Kapha: Bhakti yoga is natural for kapha types because they are often loving and devotional by nature.

Ayurvedic and Yogic Diet.

Ayurveda is more concerned with food being constitutionally balanced, while Yoga promotes a diet that is sattwic (light and pure). A combination of both aspects is the best choice for a yogi or anyone wanting to make real progress on a spiritual path.

Ayurvedic diet: 

  • Meals are made According to dosha.

  • Primarily vegetarian - meat is used as medicine, mainly for extreme deficiencies.

  • Food is primarily cooked - raw food is eaten in moderation, especially for vata types.
  • Daily meals Contain six tastes.

Yogic diet:

  • Sattwic vegetarian diet.
  • Easy to digest.
  • Simple meals (to limit desire).
  • Both cooked and raw.
  • Foods recommended in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika consist of rejuvenating substances such as:  Wheat, whole grain, white basmati, corn, raw milk, raw sugar, butter, ghee, honey, dried ginger, mung beans, pure water, vegetables.
  • Fruits, roots and nuts.
  • Avoid excessive hot, sour, salty, fermented, and fried foods.
  • Avoid tamasic or dulling foods like meat, onions, garlic and mushrooms as a regular part of your daily diet.

Cleansing in Yoga and Ayurveda.

Ayurveda and Yoga both emphasize cleansing of the body for health and support of spiritual practices. Their methods are similar and work by expelling excess dosha and ama, or toxins, using the body's natural routes of elimination.

The yogic method is known in the Ashtanga tradition as Shat Karma, or six cleansing measures.

These are:

    1. Neti (nasal cleansing) - Jala neti (salt water flushing of the sinuses). And Sutra neti (nasal cleaning with string).

    2. Dhauti (washing the GI tract).

    • Teeth, tongue, eyes, ears and forehead.

    • Agnisara Dhauti.

    • Vamana Dhauti (vomiting salt water).

    • Vastra Dhauti (washing with a cloth).

    • Varisara Dhauti (washing with water for purgation).

    3. Basti (enema).

    4. Trataka (forehead wash, gazing into a candle flame).

    5. Nauli (intestinal washing, abdominal rolling).

    6. Kapala Bhati (skull shining).

The Ayurvedic method for cleansing and rejuvenation is known as panchakarma (pancha karma), or five cleansing actions. This program is usually done for a week or two, but can also be done for longer periods depending on the case. The five actions of this method are:

    1. Basti (Enema).

    2. Nasya (Nasal application of herbs and herbal oils).

    3. Vamana (Therapeutic vomiting).

    4. Virechana (Purgation).

    5. Rakta Moksha (Blood letting).

It is obvious that Ayurveda and yoga not only complement each other. Both sciences actually embrace each other as they share similarities and fundamental principles on many levels. Ayurveda and yoga should go hand in hand if we want to achieve optimal health, peace, and longevity.

About the author:   Vishnu Dass, NTS, LMT, CAyu, is an Ayurvedic practitioner and educator and the Director of the Blue Lotus Ayurveda Center - Ayurvedic Clinic and School, in Asheville, NC, where he offers health consultations, panchakarma, rejuvenating therapies, diet and lifestyle counseling, yoga and yoga therapy, therapeutic massage, educational programs and workshops, and more. For more information, visit: www.bluelotusayurveda.com


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