Ayurveda now forms an integral part of global yoga movement and an essential component of yogic healing and yoga therapy.
Many yoga centers offer ayurvedic recommendations, treatments and products. Ayurvedic guidelines for yoga practices of asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation are becoming widely adopted for their efficacy in improving our lives. This is changing the face of Yoga into a complete wellness discipline for body and mind, connected to a full range of Vedic disciplines and teachings.
Certainly the most visible manifestation of yoga and ayurveda in India is Patanjali Ayurveda of Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishna, which has grown remarkably into the largest corporation in the country over the last fifteen years. This has brought yoga practices and Ayurveda products throughout India and advertised regularly in the mass media. Wherever one travels in India, one finds Patanjali stores and the images of Ramdev in almost every village.
Yet this movement towards yoga and ayurveda started much earlier. It has a traditional basis in ancient yoga and ayurveda. Ayurveda arose as the Vedic healing system for body and mind. It was rooted in the same Samkhya-Vedanta philosophy as Yoga, shared the same dharmic values, and was taught by the same group of rishis, including Patanjali who was credited with work in both Yoga and Ayurveda. Yoga arose as the sadhana or spiritual practice tradition aimed at Moksha or the liberation of consciousness. Yet in terms of its healing applications traditional Yoga has always used the theory and practices of Ayurveda.
Yoga was introduced into the modern world starting with Swami Vivekananda in 1893, becoming prominent when there was little emphasis on ayurveda, as the British had previously closed the ayurvedic schools in India. Yoga practitioners did not know of this yoga-ayurvedic connection, particularly in the western world. With the independence of India in 1947, ayurveda was gradually revived and new schools formed. But it was not until the work of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, that a new emphasis on ayurveda along with Yoga and Vedic sciences arose and was promoted globally.
Today most prominent yoga gurus and movements in India offer ayurvedic study, treatment or products, including Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Jaggi Vasudev, Mata Amritanandamayi and Swaminarayan BAPS.
SVYASA, the only deemed yoga university in India guided by Dr HR Nagendra, has training programs in yoga and in ayurveda. The ministry of AYUSH, which includes both yoga and ayurveda among its indigenous healing systems, is doing more to combine and promote these two disciplines as well.
Yoga training worldwide is embracing ayurveda in its study and training.
Ayurvedic programs similarly include yoga as part of their courses. Ayurvedic massage and Pancha Karma, ayurveda’s special detox therapies, are now widely available along with yoga, from India to the United States and Europe. Yoga and ayurveda are also part of various rejuvenation programs and retreats throughout the world.
Recently the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) in the United States has introduced an entire training in the ayurvedic application of yoga. This includes examining all eight limbs of traditional yoga according to ayurvedic guidelines, not just asana. Yoga Aktuell, perhaps the most important yoga magazine for Germany, has extensive sections on ayurveda, as do many other yoga publications. Dr Jose Rugue has introduced extensive Yoga and Ayurveda training in Brazil and in Europe. Yoga and Ayurveda are also becoming popular in Russia. Many more such examples could be given.
Ayurvedic yoga begins with ayurvedic guidelines for a yogic lifestyle, starting with diet, daily and seasonal regimens, and stage of life considerations. It extends to ayurvedic guidelines for asana practice and pranayama according Ayurvedic mind-body types, the three doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. It includes ayurveda and yoga psychology through the right use of the senses (pratyahara), developing mental strength and attention (dharana) and, above all, the transformative power of meditation to heal the mind and emotions.
Relative to deeper yoga practices, ayurveda helps us understand how the subtle body works and its chakra and nadi systems that Yoga emphasises, and has a science of Ojas for developing physical and psychological immunity.
Yoga practitioners now take special ayurvedic herbs for body and mind, like tulsi, brahmi, ashwagandha and shilajit to more complex preparations like chyavan prash or brahma rasayana. Special ayurvedic massage oils are very helpful for Yoga from giving flexibility to the body to calming the mind.
Indeed yoga and ayurveda are becoming the ultimate healing and wellness combination for body and mind for all humanity today. They provide us the tools for self-healing as well as self-realisation. This is particularly important today in which medicine is becoming more expensive, more drug-based and has more side effects.
On the fourth International Yoga Day let us not forget ayurveda and its connection to yoga as a complete healing system and way of both right living and higher awareness. It is bound to continue as one of the most powerful and innovative aspects of all healing and spiritual practices.