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Ayurveda helps us understand that “all life is yoga”
Ayurveda and Yoga are more than sister sciences. They are part of the same greater Integral Vedic path that involves spirituality and psychology, represented by Yoga and Vedanta and also lifestyle and diet, represented by Ayurveda. This is part of what we may also call the Rishi Patha or the Path of the Rishi or Seer.
The modern Rishi of India, Sri Aurobindo, stated that “all life is yoga”, referring to every action that we do and surrendering that activity to the Divine, or to The Mother. In Tantric Hinduism, a similar goal was sought traditionally, by adepts offering and seeing all acts they did as by the hand of the Divine Mother herself–she being physical manifestation (prakriti) and thus acting alone, ourselves being Shiva, the silent witness and Self.
This becomes very easy with Ayurveda, if we start viewing our body as our temple, the physical manifestation of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and gross matter) and projection of the divine Shakti or cosmic power, we ourselves as noted, being the witness alone as the inner Self, Lord Shiva, the spouse of Shakti and the “deity” inside the temple.
Ayurveda helps us bring in various “Yogas” :
-Prakriti-Yoga: It helps us understand our own unique constitution (prakriti) according to the combination of elements (mahabhutas) and thereby understand ourselves as a reflection of these cosmic principles and their own respective gunas (qualities)
-Ahara-Yoga: The Yoga of impressions or intake. Here, it helps us regulate what foods and substances or impressions, physical and mental that may disturb the balance of the elemental forces and qualities within us and help regulate them via proper (agreeable) dietary regimes and positive mental impressions, such as sattvic (pure) practices as mantra, meditation, yoga, charity and spiritual offerings etc. This also falls under the Yogic limb of “pratyahara” or withdrawal of the senses and impressions, helping us avoid foods and environments that may be “toxic” to our constitutions and psychology
-Vihara-Yoga: This is the Yoga of lifestyle, which, along with ahara forms the basis of Ayurvedic treatment. Here, specific meditations, specific mantras, spiritual practices for our own karmas, psychology and biology are noted, along with specific Yoga techniques such aspranayamas (breathing practices) and asanas (postures) and how we perform them, as well as general lifestyle regimes, specific climates and seasons to avoid and work with, for us individually
-Vikara-Yoga: This is the Yoga of imbalances or disease (roga), when the state of equilibrium of the qualities and elements inherit within us become increased or decreased. This Yoga implements the integral approach of ahara (herbs, formulas, diets and positive impressions) and also vihara (lifestyle regimes) that help restore our doshas back to their normal state.
-Agni-Yoga: The Yoga of the fire of digestion. Here, jatharagi or the digestive fire is most important to be functioning correctly for our metabolism to be operating well. In deficiency, it can cause Ama or toxins in the body due to undigested food mass and in excess, can cause excess bile and Pitta (bilious)-type Ama in the body. Variable, it can cause periods of constipation and irregular bowel habits, leading also to accumulation of Ama or toxins in the system, which can lead to health issues, when relocated in the body. Cultivating Agni by corrective spices, specific Ayurvedic formulas and long-term, dietary regimes is hence a special Yoga in itself. Various herbs also have their specific agnis or fires for the bodily tissues (dhatus), channel systems (srotas) and the correct functioning of our intellectual fire that represents our mental metabolism (buddhyagni) and discrimination (vivekagni).
This all helps us care for our “bodily temple” as it were, the manifestation of the Goddess. Daily regimes as hair, tooth and general bodily care in Ayurveda is also a part of this and can be seen as various offerings of practices of pooja, divine offerings to the deities, especially the Divine Mother on a daily basis. This helps also develop vairagya (detachment) from the body as a merely physical burden.
If we do not care for the body in this manner, we violate dehika-ahimsa, or the sub-yama in Yoga of non-injury to the body. If we take in impressions, foods etc. harmful to the body’s constitution or ignore lifestyle regimes, diseases or the state of our digestive fire and how it is functioning, we are causing injury to our own bodies. We cannot really understand or say we have adhered to ‘ahimsa’, the first tenant in Yoga then, unless we first adopt an Ayurvedic lifestyle regime along with Yoga for our own bodies, and stop injuring it.
This also means adopting appropriate foods and practices of cooking suitable to our type. While Yoga sees various foods as meats, hing and garlic as dulling to the mind for example, some constitutions such as Vata types can benefit from these, as Vata is racey and fast and often requires some quietening, taming or slowing-down temporarily, as also the fatty foods and minerals contains in certain meats and other substances. Hing is a chief spice for Vata for example and we must classify such foods as “sattvic” (pure and agreeable), rajasic(agitating and aggravating) or tamasic (dulling and disease-causing) as per the dosha-types, not simply in general or mentally.
As an example, raw food diets and dairy is useful for awakening sattvas in the mind in Yoga, but suits more militant Hatha-Yoga warriors who were traditionally more martian and Pitta in mind and body and were able to digest these. For Kapha types for example, such foods can become “tamasic” or disease-forming, especially dairy, due to their heavy nature andKapha and Vata types, by their own cooler potencies (sita virya), need cooked foods with spices to digest them, not raw foods and salads, especially in cooler seasons and climates.
Thus, the corrective union or “yoga” of foods, spices and impressions must be noted and is how, at a primal level, we can begin to see, by working with our own bodies first, that “all life is yoga.”