Integrative practice of Yoga in Ayurveda

Dr.KV Dilipkumar,

Professor, Department of Ayurveda, Peoples Friendship University of Russia, Moscow

Ayurveda and Yoga are ancient sciences having great popularity in modern era. Both have a common philosophical platform. Both sciences serve the humanity for the same purpose at different dimensions. Here, Dr. Dilip, discusses how both these sciences are interlinked and how the two are essential for human development.

Ayurveda has recognized Yoga as the preventive and curative modality which can complement it in managing stress. Yoga is a practical science which can teach us how to control the mind and emotions. Ayurveda recognizes Yoga as its psychotherapy. Yoga helps to minimize rajas and tamas that cause psychological and psychosomatic diseases by uplifting the satva that ensures mental health. Jnana (knowledge), Vijnana (analytical knowledge), Dhairya (Courage for sensory control) Smriti (memory) and Samadhi (Meditation) are the key approaches in Satvavajaya treatment to resolve psychological problems. They are closely related to jnana yoga and raja yoga practices.

Similarly, hathayoga works as an effective practice to provide adequate exercise and to expand the awareness of the body. Ayurveda makes the body conducive to practice mind control. Yoga prepares the mind to transcend to the higher state of being. Hence, ancient seers considered both Ayurveda and Yoga as integral parts of human development.

Vata and Prana

The description of vata of Ayurveda and the prana of Yoga gives an impression that both are same. Both vata and prana have same classification viz., prana, udana, samana, vyana and apana. Yoga approaches human being from the dimension of consciousness, whereas Ayurveda perceive from the dimension of gross body. Hence prana has more subtle features than Vata.

Ayurveda deals with the imbalance of vata from more gross level with oleation, sudation and purification. In Yoga, pranayama is the major tool to regulate prana. Certain practices in asanas are also useful in facilitating the flow of prana through its channels. Vata controls all functions of the body. An excessive flow of Vata provokes hyperactivity and diminished flow causes hypoactivity. Tremor and epilepsy, spasm, hypertension and tachycardia are examples of hyperactivity. Paralysis, dystonia, lethargy and bradycardia are examples of hypoactivity. A judicious application of yoga practices like pranayama and asana have significant role in prevention and cure of many ailments due to the imbalance of vata.

Yoga practices for Vata

  1. Sookshmavyayama: This is a set of exercises developed on principles of yogic practices like mudra and bandha. The term sookshma means subtle and vyayama means exercise. Hence this exercise intends to correct the subtle prana or vata. In practice, it is a set of asanas to mobilize small and big joints. Slow and rhythmic movements with subtle awareness relieve the blockage of prana movements through the joints. Sookshmavyayama prevents degenerative changes and arthritic pain of joints.
  2. Yoga breathing practices: This is a set of breath facilitating exercise that is stretching different respiratory muscles and lobes of lungs. Through this practice muscle spasm releases and bronchial muscles dilate. Therefore oxygen consumption increases. This helps to regulate quality and quantity of air element which is a component of vata. Yoga breathing practices function as a preparatory practice for pranayama. During the practice, blockages of flow of vata at gross level get relieved, to facilitate subtler pranayama practices easier.
  3. Pranayama: Breathing exercise improves the quality of gross aspect of vata, pranayama improves subtle aspect of vata. Difference between breathing practice and pranayama is that in pranayama consciousness descends to the energy layer (pranamaya kosha) whereas, in breathing exercise, consciousness is at physical layer (annamayakosha). It is very important to regulate vata flow in an optimal level, to prevent hyperactivity and hypo activity.
  4. Nadisuddhi pranayama:- While breathing through alternative nostrils deeply and rhythmically, flow of prana balances in the left (chandra) and right (surya) prana
  5. Ujjayi pranayama:- In this pranayama during inhalation trachea is partially constricted by locking the chin on the chest to make a whistling sound. This practice provides better voluntary control of the bronchial muscles. This ensures unobstructed flow of air in to and out of the body. This is quite important for the proper function of
  6. Bhramari pranayama:- Bhramari is performed by placing the folded tongue on the upper palate and by creating a soft sound of bee while exhaling. This practice generates lot of resonance inside the head which stimulates sensory nerves which in turn causes an expansion of a 3-dimensional awareness. This improves the sense clarity which is a responsibility of vata.
  7. Asana: People of vata constitution should perform asana slowly and calmly. Same is the situation with vata aggravated conditions. The purpose should be stretching of each and every muscle, vessels and release of vata Each asana should be practiced statically with an extended stay at the final position. Dynamic practices and jerking movements should be avoided.

Pitta

Pitta and kapha cannot function, if vata is not supporting. Vata plays a role of carrier and controller of pitta and kapha. Hence balancing of vata helps the functional correction of pitta and kapha too. The functions of pitta can be modified through yogasana practice. Yogasana promotes all metabolic functions which involve the digestive fire (jadharagni), tissue fire (dhatvagni) and Elemental fire (bhutvagni).

  1. Pranyama:
  2. Chandranuloma Pranayama:- Left nostril represents chandranadi (moon channel). Breathing through left nostril increases cooling effect in the body. Slow and deep respiration through left nostril helps to calm down the aggravated
  3. Sitali Pranayama:- In sitali, air is sucked in through folded tongue (beak shaped) and exhaled through the nostril. As cool air enters person experiences a cooling effect internally.
  4. Sitkari Pranayama:- Sitkari is almost similar to that of sitali. Here tongue is fixed behind the clinched teeth and air is inhaled through the teeth. Both sitali and sitkari is recommended to be practiced during summer.
  5. Asana: Asanas should be performed with moderate speed and strength. Practice should limit just within sweat generation.

Kapha

In similar lines with purification (panchakarma) in Ayurveda, Hathayoga also suggests purification (shatkriya) techniques. But in yoga, the main goal of purification is cleansing of channels, thereby eliminating excess kapha and fat. This facilitates uninterrupted flow of prana. This can be ensured during pranayama.  Kapalabhati, vamanadhauti, vasti, neti and tradaka eliminate excess kapha from the body. All the dynamic yogasanas including suryanamaskara alleviate excess kapha from channels. All asanas are recommended to be performed faster and repeatedly. 

Pranayama                                                            

Suryanuloma: In contrast to chandranadi, right nostril represents suryanadi (sun channel). Breathing through surya nadi increases hotness in the body that reduces kapha.

Bhastrika: This active and deep respiration opens up minute respiratory channels. This helps to expel excessive Kapha and eliminates depressive moods.

Kapalabhati:- Repeated and rapid exhalation with flapping of abdomen cleanses respiratory channels and expectorate accumulated phlegm from lungs.

Vamanadhauti:- Vamanadhauthi is a cleansing procedure in Yoga. The practitioner should drink stomach full of salted lukewarm water. Then vomiting is induced by stimulating the throat mechanically. This helps to cleanse the excess kapha from the stomach and respiratory tract.

Neti :- Neti is a cleansing procedure for the upper respiratory tract with the help of a pot with a nozzle. Approximately 500 ml of lukewarm salt water is taken in the pot and pour the water through one nostril and allow to flow through the other. Same is repeated in the opposite nostril. This procedure clears the excess kapha from the upper respiratory tract and sinuses.

Ayurveda and Yoga proclaims that Samadhi is the state of absolute health. In Sanskrit term for health is swastha, means soul is in its own place. When soul is been dragged by sense faculties to sensory objects tissues loose there integrity and behave disharmoniously. Ayurveda considers this state as aswastha or ill-health. Samadhi is a practice to bring back the soul to its place through meditation.

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