Yoga and Ayurveda

Yoga is one among the sad-darshana (six-views or six insights) which are at the core of Indian philosophy. Others in the list are nyaya, vaisheshika, sankhya, mimamsa and vedanta. Concepts of yoga are found scattered in the four vedas, and it is Patanjali who compiled this information in the form of yoga sutras. He came up with concise and terse aphorisms (sutras), 196 in number, expounding the path of yoga.

Over a period of time several commentaries were written on these sutras. Till date a significant number of texts have been written on yoga, but authority remains with the yoga sutra of Patanjali.

Aim of yoga is to develop mastery over the mind. Yoga targets control over all the possible manifestations of the mind. And for achievement of this goal, Patanjali emphasizes on the importance of abhyasa and vairagya. Further, Patanjali outlines eight limbs of yoga (Ashtanga yoga) - yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Out of these eight limbs, Patanjali’s yoga sutra seems to be focusing more on the last three. Later texts provide more details on the rest of the limbs of yoga along with their implications on the health of an individual. So, texts like hatha yoga pradipika, gheranda samhita, hatha ratnavali provide inputs regarding health benefits of certain yoga practices along with their possible side-effects in case of wrong practice.

On the other hand, ayurveda is considered to be a complete healthcare system of Indian origin with branches like kaya-chikitsa (medicine), shalya-tantra (surgery), bala-roga (pediatrics), shalakya-tantra (Eye, ENT and dentistry), bhuta-vidya (psychiatry) etc. Ayurveda texts are classified in two categories: bruhad-trayi (the big three) and laghu-trayi (the small three). Apart from these six major texts, various additions have been done in the due course of time in the form of commentaries, compilations as well as addition of new texts.

Aim of ayurveda is to preserve the health of the healthy and to treat the disease of the patient. Hence the texts of ayurveda deal with the basics of health, definition of health, dinacharya (daily regimen), ritucharya (seasonal regimen), etiology, development, prevention and treatment of diseases. Apart from the details related to diseases, ayurveda also emphasizes two unique concepts of rasayana (rejuvenators and tonic) and vajikarana (science of aphrodisiacs and virility). With this basic understanding, it is easy to identify that these two subjects focus on the two unique domains. But that appears to be far from the truth.

There are several similarities in the two subjects. Both the subjects have their roots in the samkhya philosophy. Yoga has the mind (though panchakosa concept of Taittriya Upanishad is largely utilized in yoga, and rightly so) at center stage whereas the ayurveda focuses on the both: body as well as mind. Understanding of concepts like panchabhuta, triguna and tridosha is mandatory for clarity of both the subjects. Apart from this ancient conceptual connection, emerging research evidence is highlighting the health benefits of yoga, strengthening the connection between the yoga and ayurveda from the therapeutic perspective. Pubmed alone shows more than 7000 yoga research articles (as on September 5, 2022) with exponential growth in the number of articles in the last 15 years.

Every year since 2016, more than 500 yoga research articles are getting published and many of them are in the field of yoga therapy. Researchers are already looking at the combined use of yoga and ayurveda for the management of various health issues. It was particularly observed in the recent COVID-19 pandemic as depicted by the available review articles on the topic. Keeping this ancient connection and modern research in mind, we at propose a combined approach while dealing with the health concerns being faced by humanity.