Ayurveda and Yoga are both a part of the great Indian treasure house of Vedic knowledge. Yoga originates in the Yajur Veda, while Ayurveda goes back to the Atharva Veda and Rig Veda. Yoga and Ayurveda therefore share the same roots, and both maintain that for healing to be complete it must happen at several levels- physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social. So how are they different?
To begin Ayurveda deals chiefly with the health of the body and mind, while Yoga deals with spiritual health. The power of Ayurveda lies in its ability to remove toxins from the body. It addresses all aspects of medicine including diet, herbs, drugs, surgery, and its own special clinical procedures like Panchakarma. In addition, it provides life-style recommendations for health, longevity and disease prevention as well as special methods for rejuvenation of body and mind. In Kerala where Ayurveda has been practiced in its purest form for thousands of years, traditional families of Ayurvedic physicians are skilled in the practice of treatments like Uzhichil, Pizhichil, Dhaara, Njavarakkizhi, Thalapothichil and Ilakizhi which can effectively cure a number of diseases, including skin problems, neuro-muscular disorders, gynecological and respiratory problems . On the other hand, Yoga is not originally or inherently a medical system. It does not address either physical or psychological disease or their treatment in a primary manner. Yoga is perhaps the world’s first system to recognize the connection and interaction between body and mind. It aims at relieving spiritual suffering, and is an inner spiritual practice or ‘Sadhana’ as it is called in Sanskrit.
Integral to Each Other
However, an integral part of classical Ayurvedic medicine is the practice of yoga. Generally, a person undergoing Ayurvedic treatments is advised to practice Yoga and meditation since it helps isolate the mind from all thoughts, worries and anxieties. Both Yoga and Ayurveda advocate that every living and non-living being has five basic elements – the Pancha Maha Bhoothas- in them. The Pancha Maha Boothas are earth, water, fire, air and ether and they are manifested in the human body as Vatha, Pitta and Kapha or the Tridoshas. While air and ether form the Vatha dosha, fire forms the Pitta dosha, and earth and water are the Kapha dosha. Every human being has his Prakruti or Constitutional Nature determined by the dominance of Vatha, Pitha or Kapha or their combinations in a unique balance. Harmony in Prakruthi is achieved when this balance is maintained and this harmony indicates good health. Both of Yoga and Ayurveda have eight branches- Ashtanga yoga and Ashtanga ayurveda.
Yoga and Ayurveda also encompass an understanding of how the body works and the effect that food and medicines have on the body. In treatment, both Yoga and Ayurveda advocate the regular practice of pranayama and meditation as well as the use of herbs, body purification procedures, food and chanting of mantras for physical and mental health. In Yoga, the body purification procedures have been explained as ‘Satkriyas’ whereas in Ayurveda they are known as ‘Panchakarma.’
There is no Yoga system of medicine in terms of diagnosis, pathology and treatment, apart from Ayurveda. Modern Yoga is defined primarily in terms of asanas or physical postures. It consists primarily of an adaptation of asanas or asana styles to treat disease and improve health. Different Yoga techniques are recommended to benefit different doshas. For example as the pelvis and the colon are the base of Vata Dosha, seated poses will affect Vata. Likewise, the abdomen and the small intestine are the seat of Pitta so twisting and backward bending poses affect Pitta Dosha. In the case of Kapha, the chest and the stomach are the seat of kapha. Hence poses such as bridge pose or Sethu Bandhasana and the Shoulder stand or Sarvangasana affect Kapha Dosha.
To sum up, Ayurveda is the Vedic system developed specifically for healing purposes. It brings in ritual, mantra and meditation for healing the mind and includes the practices of Yoga from asana and pranayama to mantra and meditation as part of its healing tools.