Yoga and Ayurveda are two paths intertwined in such a close relationship that it is hard to imagine traveling down one of these paths without knowledge of the other. The study of Ayurveda presents significant barriers for the common man. A lot of Ayurvedic knowledge is gleaned from the Vedas, however, a lot of it has been passed down in oral traditions. If that were not enough, there are many words that lack English counterparts and the original Sanskrit words are used. We are going to present a basic overview of Ayurveda in relation to Yoga and cover concepts such as Kosha, Dosha and other possibly unfamiliar but basic concepts.
“Ayur” translates to “life” and “Veda” is “knowledge”. Ayurveda (the knowledge of life) is an ancient art and science of keeping the body and mind balanced and healthy. Yoga is the ancient art and science of preparing the body and mind for the eventual liberation and enlightenment of the soul.
Fundamentals of Ayurveda
- Ayurveda considers the Body and the Mind to be the physical manifestation of the Soul.
- Your Soul is your true self appearing through 5 different layers.
- Your Body and Mind are held together in balance of energies associated with the 5 great elements. Diseases are caused by imbalance.
- The ideal balance of energies constituting your particular body/self was set at the time of your birth. Ayurveda aims to maintain it.
Remembering these points makes understanding Ayurveda easier. It is a form of holistic treatment that takes into the account the spiritual makeup of the human as well as physical.
Dosha is a Sanskrit word that means “fault”. It is used to determine the imbalance in a person. As per Ayurveda, there are 3 energies (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) believed to circulate in the body to govern physiological activity. The ideal balance between them was set at your birth. Diseases can happen when they are imbalanced. A healthy constitution that fights off infections with ease is one that is in balance. The 3 energies are associated with mixtures of the five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and space (the subtle energy that connects all things).
Vata (Air & Space) Energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.
Pitta (fire & Water) Energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition and your body’s temperature.
Kapha (Water & Earth) Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin and maintains the immune system.
Their differing proportions determine individual temperament and physical constitution. In simple words, doshas are these three attributes or energies that make up every individual. Most people have one dominant form and aspects of the other two. Your dosha is associated with the balance of the energies in your physical body and affected by what you ingest. It is used to diagnose physical faults. There are numerous quizzes available online, or you can can consult the chart below to see which dosha blend is yours. Remember, you are are looking for dominant traits. You will have aspects of at least 2 if not all 3 types. The best way to find out your dosha, is to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner.
Dosha by itself is a huge topic, and here’s a study done on the different brain patterns according to dosha type. We are showing you 2 tables from that article to give you an idea of how in depth it goes.
Guna is the state of your mind which is affected by your physical diet and makeup. It is used to diagnose mental imbalance. The ideal state is Sattva(pure), which is reached by adjusting the diet and cleaning and restoring Prana(energy) through breathing exercises. The two extreme states are Tamas(lethargy) and Rajas(passion). Food is classified as Sattvic , Tamasic or Rajasic depending on which quality they influence. Check out our Yogic diet articles for sattvic recipes and more info.
Koshas are 5 sheaths for the soul and allow the soul to manifest differently. Koshas cannot be directly manipulated and are affected indirectly by balancing your doshas and gunas to attain a perfect healthy balance. Which allows the soul to be free for introspection while attaining peak connection to the selves.
These are the 5 Koshas from innermost to outermost.
- Anandmaya Kosha or the Blissful self (where the consciousness is most free and happy)
- Vijnanamaya Kosha or the Intellectual self (objective consciousness like good/bad, right/wrong)
- Manomaya Kohsa or the Egotistic self (subjective consciousness like preferences or dislikes)
- Pranamaya Kosha or the Energetic self (the vitality of the consciousness)
- Annamaya Kosha or the Physical Self (the physical form of the consciousness)
If the soul does not have to worry about the physical self or the energetic self, then it can spend more time in the egotistical self (learning about itself), or the intellectual self (absolutely essential for further evolution) or the blissful self (finding that perfect joy in a sunrise)
How is Yoga connected
In the modern times, Yoga has come to mean many things to many people. Some treat it as a weight loss routine, some do it for flexibility, some choose the meditation aspect as their focus.
However, the true meaning of Yoga is simply best translated as “yoke”. It was always meant as a way to connect the soul to your body. The physical moves and breathing patterns are born out of necessity. How else would you gain command over every little muscle except for moving your body in a way that stresses that muscle? How would u influence involuntarily body functions except by changing breath which changes brain signals and blood flow rates?
Advanced practitioners of yoga are able to move internal organs on command, they are able to change their metabolism, they generate different brain waves. True mastery of asanas and Pranayama will connect your soul to your physical self and energetic self giving you a great amount of control over your body. Meditation, which is part and parcel of Yoga and Ayurveda, will allow your soul to contemplate the egotistical, intellectual and blissful selves.
Yoga and Ayurveda are two sides of the same coin, both aimed at attaining mastery over yourself.
It is important to reintegrate Yoga and Ayurveda in order to bring out the full healing and spiritual potential of each. Bringing Ayurveda into Yoga provides a yogic and Vedic system of medicine to allow for the full healing application of all aspects of Yoga.
Yoga, practiced in harmony with each person’s unique nature, is part of the Ayurvedic path toward balancing the doshas and enhancing Sattva. Through this path, each of us can reach our full potential.