BY LINDA EGENES
If you practice yoga, you’re working with the mind-body connection every day. You know first-hand how your yoga practice affects not only your energy levels, your strength and your flexibility—but your ability to focus and stay calm under pressure. In the same way that the mind and body are connected, yoga and Maharishi Ayurveda are connected.
Both yoga and ayurveda help prevent disease. Yoga does this by purifying and balancing the organs and systems in the body. In the same way, Maharishi Ayurveda brings balance through daily and seasonal routines and identifying food that is suitable for keeping the three mind-body principles, or doshas, in balance. Yoga and Ayurveda complement each other—eating pure foods can only increase your strength and flexibility, and in turn, yoga tones the digestion and purifies the organs.
Just as specific yoga postures are known to cure disease, ayurvedic therapies correct mental, physical and emotional imbalances. These natural therapies include internal cleansing and rejuvenation (panchakarma), holistic herbal compounds, and modalities that use the five senses, including sound therapy, light and gem therapy, massage, aroma therapy, and healing tastes. Like yoga, these ayurvedic therapies heal the whole mind and body in a way that does not cause harmful side effects.
A Common Tradition of Knowledge
Yoga is part of ayurveda, mentioned in the ayurvedic texts as the ideal ayurvedic exercise, because it rejuvenates the body, improves digestion, and removes stress.
Yoga balances all three doshas, and different poses have different effects. Forward bending postures cool the hot Pitta dosha. Twists are good for the slow-moving Kapha dosha because they stimulate digestion. Backward bends are heating, and thus balancing to the cool and delicate Vata dosha, as long as the person has the strength to do them. Yoga postures tone every area of the body and cleanse the internal organs of toxins, which is one of the goals of ayurveda.
At the same time, yoga practitioners have traditionally benefited from the ayurvedic daily routine as part of their yoga practice. For instance, ayurvedic daily massage helps remove toxins from the body and relaxes the muscles for yoga practice. Traditional yoga schools have always taught ayurvedic principles as well as yoga asanas, because the two are so interdependent. The yoga practitioner can benefit from detoxifying the body through the dietary, lifestyle, and purification practices of Maharishi Ayurveda.
Both yoga and Maharishi Ayurveda are based in the wisdom of the Vedic tradition of ancient India. They both aim to develop higher states of consciousness. Yoga literally means “union,” and in its highest sense means to join the mind with the transcendental self in meditation. The ayurvedic texts of Charaka speak of this same integration of mind, body and consciousness—and development of consciousness is the goal.
Linda Egenes is the co-author of three books on ayurvedic health care, including Super Healthy Kids: Happy and Healthy Children with Maharishi Ayurveda, due out in spring 2010.