The mention of yoga brings to mind a set of physical exercises with a flavor of India. However, yoga can be much more than a regular workout routine. Yoga may also involve mental and spiritual disciplines to encourage an overall sense of wellbeing.
Yoga is often practiced hand in hand with Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of health that deals with physical and mental health as they relate to one’s spiritual wellness. Each of these holistic approaches offers unique views on personal health and wholeness:
Ayurveda is a system that makes use of certain inherent principles of nature to ensure good health. The basic surmise is that all human beings contain the same five elements that the universe is made of – air, fire, water, earth and ether.
These elements are evident in the human body in the form of life-forces or doshas, classified as vata, pitta and kapha. The body remains healthy as long as the three remain in balance. Ill health of any kind is caused by an imbalance in these doshas and the treatment aims to correct the balance.
Yoga is widely recognized as an effective method of enhancing physical, mental and emotional health, rendering a person holistically fit. The science of yoga treatment is based on five core principles meant to keep the balance that is so essential in Ayurveda. These principles are:
- Proper relaxation, Proper exercise, Proper breathing, Suitable diet, Positive thinking
Both Ayurveda and yoga emphasize that exercise, breathing and diet can affect the life-forces or dosha that impact overall health. Depending upon the age and physical condition of a person, the dosha or life-force balance varies. Appropriate exercises or asana as they are called in yoga, suitable pranayama –breathing exercises, and a proper diet differs according to the dosha balance in a person. It is possible that an asana or breathing technique that benefits someone else might actually cause you discomfort.
As holistic medicine increases its hold in the Western world, Yoga therapy (with ayurveda as a key component) as well as ayurvedic treatment (that prescribes yoga) are now recognized as complete systems of medicine for a variety of conditions and illness.