Yoga and Ayurveda – science & technology of self-realisation & wellbeing

To truly understand yoga and its ultimate goal of self-realisation would require at the very least a rudimentary understanding of Ayurveda and the Samkhya, or spiritual science and technology of well-being. It will teach us our original nature and how yoga is the way home to the Divine Source. 

Our body is more than you think
The Cosmology of Man explained in the Samkhya. Microcosm of the Macrocosm.

A seminal text on how to achieve total well-being

The Charaka Suthrasthana is a compulsory textbook for any beginning Ayurvedic student. Chiefly, it was written with longevity in mind and its origin includes reference to the Lord Brahma who recollected the knowledge and passed it on to the sages. Its concepts and principles of healing are as relevant today as it was then.

yoga and ayurveda

Life (Ayu) is the combination (samyoga) of body, senses, mind and reincarnating soul. Ayurveda is the most sacred science of life, beneficial to humans both in this world and the world beyond.

CHARAKA SAMHITA, SUTRASTHANA, I.42 – 43

It is important for the basic reason that Ayurveda is the other arm of self-realisation. It is from the principles of Ayurveda that we, the yoga student, can learn how to maintain optimum health and well-being of a ‘vehicle’ i.e. our body + mind + soul, that can aid us on our journey towards union with the Godhead.

The three – body, mind and soul – are like a tripod. The world stands by their combination; in them everything abides. This combination exists for the sake of the Purusha or conscious being. It is the subject matter of Ayurveda for which the teachings of Ayurveda have been revealed.

CHARAKA SAMHITA, SUTHRASTHANA I.46 – 47

If, on the contrary, we have a weak and feeble vehicle, this would mean the same journey would be almost impossible in this lifetime, if not twice or thrice as difficult. In this case, it becomes an issue of karma where the causes of karma from previous lives have ripened in this lifetime to create the effects of obstacles and challenges that can either prevent or postpone fulfilment of the spiritual journey in this lifetime.

The Charaka Suthrasthana is but one of the many texts on Ayurveda but it stands out as an important text to help the beginning yoga sadhaka to understand why our teachers keep saying we are more than just this physical body and chattering mind. We are not the body, we are not the mind. We are spirit. We are the soul. Because of its status as an important text, you will find many commentaries and pdf translations in English available on the internet for free.  The yoga sadhaka ought to take advantage of this, read up and approach his sadhana with wisdom and prudence.

Yoga practice and the Ayurvedic constitution type

To take the discussion a little further, let’s take a look at how Ayurveda looks at the components of our bodies and its importance in the context of a yoga practice. According to Ayurveda, we are predominantly one or a combination of the gunas and doshas. These can be broadly defined as principles that govern our bodily as well as mental and spiritual constitution. An understanding of how we are ‘constructed’ in terms of these two concepts of gunas and doshas can lead to a better understanding of why we are who we are. And how we can construct a yoga sadhana that helps rather than hinder our progress on the spiritual path.

To put it at its most simple, for instance, are we the more excitable type? Then perhaps more calming asanas would be more conducive to help us work towards a greater ability to center ourselves. Or, are we tending towards the lethargic and overweight? Then surely, a different set of asanas that are energising would be a better prescription. Wise is the yoga teacher who understands this. Prudent is the student who can tell the difference.

Diet is the other key component of a yoga sadhana

By now, you must be wondering if diet plays an important part because we are what we eat. For the more excitable type mentioned earlier, there are foods that must be eliminated and replaced for more calm. Now you know why our meditation teachers always say no onion, garlic, or green chilli. No asafoetida. And no meat.

A discerning yoga student who wishes to pursue the true goal of yoga would know that a sattvic diet and lifestyle is most conducive for the journey. He or she would make every effort to ensure sattva or the quality of light, love and life in every thought, speech and action, and not just the diet. Why? Because God is of the quality of light, love and life. So, like I wrote here, the moment you have just a teeny, weeny taste of God, it becomes unthinkable to do anything else other than to be on your best always.

We are much more than what we think

The basic concepts of the human body, mind and soul as laid out in this seminal Ayurvedic text is the first step for a non-Ayurvedic student like us, the yogi-in-the-making, to understand how to ensure that we, this vehicle and temple, is found fitting for self-realisation. There is no other reason. We need to know how to work this raw material that is essentially carbon into a diamond.

You are the ancient born Rishi, the one ruler of the universe through the power of the Ojas.

RIG VEDA VIII.6.41

So what is this raw material made of? To start with there is pakriti the primordial nature of all things, purusha or pure consciousness, Ishvara or God, ahamkara the I-identity or ego, manas or outer mind, and buddhi or intelligence. These concepts usually form the beginning of yoga dharma aka yoga philosophy.

Samkhya

Followed by the more subtle realms of the 3 bodies of gross, causal and subtle, the 5 koshas or sheaths, of annamaya kosha, pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha, and anandamaya kosha. And more as we drill down deeper – 3 doshas, 3 gunas, 5 elements, 5 sense organs, 5 motor organs, 5 pranas, 7 chakras, tejas, ojas, and so much more. The point I want to make here is that what we do in our sadhana impacts every single one of these components. Think of them as the clay that we mould to make ourselves into a thing of brilliant light, love and life.

The culmination of yoga and ayurveda

Eventually, every bit of our sadhana culminates in just one thing which is to become that diamond. And that requires us to be able to sit and to sit deeply. Meditation forms the essential inner aspect of the final 3 limbs of Raja Yoga – Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. It’s like someone finally taking to the cushion after cleaning up one’s act with the external aspects of the first 5 limbs – Yama, Niyama for right conduct, Asana and Pranayama for an optimum body and mind, and Pratyahara for control over our senses. Finally, we are ready to do some serious sitting. It is said that meditation is the pinnacle of the pyramid of Vedic knowledge. It culminates in a sharp point reaching into the realms of the divine Godhead while the broad base anchors us on this Earth. In this world and yet not of this world becomes a new way of existing then.

Related reading: True goal of yoga – transcend, transform, and transmute.

Related reading: Pranas, tejas, and ojas – these matter the most to the yogi.

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