How to Actually Practice Āyurvedic Yoga?!

Yoga + Āyurveda

There is a particular angle to this course that I wanted to share here. One of the reasons we began yesterday studying the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali is to ensure this is a Yoga Course. To do this, we have to remember the darśan (the philosophy) that is supporting us via Yoga.

We are not using Yoga to practice Āyurveda, we are using Āyurveda to understand and increase the accessibility of Yoga.

What is the difference?

Āyurveda and Yoga support each other until a point. The ultimate goal of Āyurveda is for the person to find Svastha (health) which a person demonstrates by living 100 years. However, the goal of Yoga is Mokṣa, which includes death. And, the goal of Yoga is to achieve Mokṣa as quickly as possible relative to Dhārma. Thus, there are some practices in the Yoga Darśan that make a person less of a svasthi, but potentially closer to enlightenment. They do not always glide together.

For example, the 6 Kriyas (6 Purifications) discussed in the Haṭha Yoga Pradipika. These are mostly Kaphagna – meaning they reduce Kapha. This is so that during intense Prāṇāyama and Āsana practices, the person has an empty body to avoid moving āma around and also to avoid mental heaviness. However, doing these 6 Kriyas at time when a person is losing muscle mass (bala), or while they are experiencing a disturbed digestive fire, or while they are experiencing a Vāta imbalance might be supportive to Yoga, but it is not supportive to Svastha and thus not supportive to Āyurveda.

Tricky huh?!

Āsanas Can’t Regulate Doṣa

We are not asking Yoga āsanas to balance doṣa because we are aware now that doṣa accumulates internally and it is unlikely that a single yoga practice will do much other than regulate Prāṇa. This is helpful only to a point. Since Vāta is the King of Disease, keeping it happy will prevent further Roga manifestation, but it cannot compete with the change of seasons, erratic eating and lifestyle patterns, or incomplete sleep to name a few.

Instead, we can use the principles of Āyurveda and the understanding of how we are affected by the environment, to be more conscious people in our actions in general. We do this by awakening to the concept of the 20 guṇas and see how they are present in our world, our bodies, our actions, our preferences etc. We use the awareness of guṇa, of elements (Pañca Mahā Bhūta), of doṣa to make us more sensitive to Prāṇa and the innate presence of cause and effect in our lives. We use Āyurveda to make wiser choices that allow us to move both toward Svastha and Mokṣa.

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