June 08, 2014

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Introduction to the Two Complete Healing Sciences – Ayurveda and Yoga






The beginning of the 21st century marks the importance of holistic health like never before. It has seen the intensification of global crises impacting personal to global wellness, and a search for its long lasting solutions. The psycho-somatic dimensions of most of ailments are now well proven. The modern era is of life-style disorders which requires solutions in terms of leading a healthy and holistic life. Any system which is limited only to physical aspects is not likely to lead to sustainable outcome. The modern medicine has its own importance but it is inadequate till it is not interwoven with the ancient healing methods which are wholesome and all inclusive.

Ayurveda and Yoga are two sister sciences of the same great Vedic knowledge that address such problems and also has methods to tackle the existing crisis. It is important to understand the respective roles of Ayurveda and Yoga in well-being and healing. Though Yoga and Ayurveda are two separate entities but they are well connected ancient healing disciplines. Each has its unique place and function yet overlaps in a way to perfectly balance each other. As per classical Vedic study, Ayurveda is the Vedic system developed specifically for healing purposes. Yoga is the Vedic system of spiritual practices. All Vedic spiritual practice involves some form of Yoga practice.


Ayurvedawhich translates as "knowledge of life," dates back 5,000 years to the ancient Sanskrit texts, the Vedas. It's a system of healing that examines physical constitution, mental disposition, and spiritual outlook in the context of the whole existence.The term Yoga itself means to unite, combine, harmonize or integrate. There are seven level of this human existence namely; body, breath (prana), mind, intellect, memory, ego and self (spirit). A true yogic approach comprises of the blend of all the above mentioned levels.

A truly yogic approach is inherently an integrative approach harmonizing all the seven levels. That is why classical Yoga has an eightfold approach which also guides into life-style practices and values:

  1. Yama (ethical and moral codes)
  2. Niyama  (respect for the self)
  3. Asana (physical postures)

  4. Pranayama (breathing techniques)

  5. Pratyahara (sensory discipline)

  6. Dharana (concentration)

  7. Dhyana (meditation), and

  8. Samadhi (ultimate bliss and self-realization).

Yoga thus is the way of living. It is when we practice these eight limbs of yoga together that we derive its whole benefit for self-transformation. If we limit Yoga practice to asana or physical postures alone, it is not whole and we might still be having the tendencies of focusing on the outer material reality and losing track on the inner reality of prana, mind and consciousness. It will be similar to playing on the shore of the vastly deep ocean. In the west, yoga has almost taken the form of fitness regimen. Yet it heartwarming that there are many yoga teachers in the west who have realized the importance of going beyond the physical level.

Though both the sciences are complete by themselves but when we integrate both together, we go to the real depth and potential of each for complete healing. Without such integration, both may be reduced to physical model of modern system of healing. Ayurveda provides the appropriate life-style recommendations for Yoga practice, as well as the background to unfold the full healing potential of all aspects of Yoga. Yoga provides the physical, spiritual and psychological basis for Ayurveda and its higher applications.

Combining Yoga and Ayurveda offers a complete system of well-being for body, mind and consciousness, which perhaps has no parallel anywhere else in the world. It can become the prime force of universal healing that is so much needed today. It can add a spiritual and preventative aspect to modern medicine as well as deeper dimensions for the understanding of disease and for practicing natural therapies that can be extremely cost effective and long lasting in contrast to high tech modern medicine.

Article submitted to Sewanti Ayurvedic Series by

Dr Sejal Shah, Art of Living Faculty [Happiness Program and Sri Sri Yoga]