The term “yoga” brings to the mind images of sages practicing meditation techniques and postures designed to bring spiritual awakening and inner peace. Yet Yoga is closely connected with Ayurveda, the 5000 year old science of life that is the world’s oldest system of holistic healing. They are both branches of the great tree of Vedic knowledge that embraces the entire universe. It is true that Yoga is not a medical system in that it does not deal with physical or psychological problems or their treatment in a primary manner while Ayurveda deals with every facet of medicine. Ayurveda also includes rituals, mantra and meditation for healing the mind and soothing the spirit- and this is the meeting point of Ayurveda and Yoga. Yoga for healing should be applied according to Ayurvedic guidelines of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.
The Healing Tools
The healing tools of Yoga Therapy or Yoga Chikitsa include postures known as asanas, various forms of breathing techniques known as pranayamas, relaxation techniques which are called Pratyaharas, sound therapy or mantras, kriyas or purifying processes, bandhas and mudras which bring conscious control over involuntary muscles, marma that manipulates the body’s energy points and dhyana or the art of stilling the body. The asanas are considered the ‘external’ tools of yoga and are used primarily for treating musculo-skeletal disorders. Asanas are used to indirectly treat many other conditions, and are in fact, an ideal form of exercise for everyone. Asanas work best along with an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle.
Pranayama is considered an ‘internal’ tool of Ayurveda that deals with Prana or vital energy. It is used to treat conditions of the respiratory, circulatory and nervous systems. It has a powerful impact on all physical and psychological condition. The purifying process called kriyas are classified into six divisions and each of these is again subdivided. Bandhas and mudras, by controlling the semi voluntary and involuntary muscles, influence the activity of the nervous system as a whole, and help to tone internal organs, decongest them, and stimulate healing. Pratyahara internalizes the energy needed for deep healing and true meditation. Dhyana is reflective meditation that allows the mind to heal itself.
Yoga can be of immense value in many situations from child birth to preventing athletic injuries. The practice of yogic exercises helps to preserve and improve movements in joints. Backache and muscle spasms, different forms of arthritis, spondylitis and scoliosis can all be treated with Yoga Chikitsa. Paranyama can be of great benefit to asthma patients and other respiratory conditions, and has a positive effect on the cardio- vascular system as well.
There are many experts in Yoga Chikitsa in Kerala, the state in South India which has a tradition of Ayurveda that is as old as Ayurveda itself. Their personal experiences can help you work out a system of yogic exercises that will not only build up resistance to disease, but improve your recuperative powers. Yoga adds a spiritual and psychological dimension to Ayurvedic treatment, and Ayurveda brings to Yoga a time tested system of diagnosis and treatment that is in harmony with Nature. Thus both Yoga and Ayurveda are necessary for the total well being of the individual.