Ayurveda is an ancient system of healing originating in India over 5000 years ago. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda translates to “Knowledge of Life”. It is based on the underlying principle that we are one with nature, and that we are made of the elements of nature - Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Ether. The qualities and actions of these elements work together in ways that are known as doshas - Vata being composed of Ether and Air, Pitta composed of Fire and Water, and Kapha composed of Earth and water.
Are Ayurveda and Yoga separate, or sister sciences?
Ayurveda encompasses Yoga, it is a complete way of living in caring for the body, mind and spirit. Ayurveda has 8 branches of study which range from prenatal care to restorative health for aging, and includes surgery and many other specialties. It incorporates living with the laws of nature including helping people make daily and seasonal adjustments, even adjustments for the stage of life we are in, to always maintain balance. Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit and its goal is to help us unify and align ourselves. Within Ayurveda, the diet, lifestyle and practice of yoga were necessary for both stamina and wellbeing as well as supporting the enlightenment through Yoga.
Once Yoga came to the west, it became very popular but in a way, separated from its context of teachings in Ayurveda as a whole. There are now many styles of yoga and while some embrace Ayurvedic principles, others have become associated more with fitness and athletic activities. While yoga does offer strength building and flexibility, in its origins, these were aligned with the goal of bringing our mind and body into harmony (yoga means “to yoke”).
Thus, at this time especially in the West, we often hear the phrase “Sister Sciences” to help align and bring together the practices of Ayurveda and Yoga.
How we use Ayurveda in practice
Food is one of the main pillars of health in Ayurveda. It literally builds our bodies. Once we have eaten nourishing food, it moves through our body, nourishing our systems. But for this to happen, it is essential to have balanced digestion. It’s so easy for our digestion to get thrown off in our modern life - with stress, irregular meals and sleep schedules, and processed food. While in the West we say “ You are what you eat”, in Ayurveda we say “You are what you digest.” So how does ghee impact this? While ghee is a very nutritious energy rich food, iit is an essential part of an Ayurvedic diet because it is balancing for “agni,” which encompasses digestion and transformation of food into the most nourishing essence known as “ojas”, which promotes immunity, strength and resilience. Ghee is also known as a carrier for nutrients, making it an essential part of the diet. Also because of this property, it is often used to make Ayurvedic medicines, used for skin care and other formulations. In Ayurveda the concept of digestion encompasses not only the transformation of food but all that we take into our body and minds, including the transformation of our experiences into lessons, understanding and personal growth. When ghee is used to make lamps for meditation and ceremonies, it acknowledges this aspect of our lives.
We invite you to explore Ayurveda and incorporate any aspects that you find helpful in your life!