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Yoga, Ayurveda and Lung Health

By Samantha Case

Yoga as the Sister Science of Ayurveda; Kapha Series for Lung Health

Yoga and Ayurveda can be thought of as two branches that are connected to the same tree of Vedic knowledge, formed from the Vedas of ancient India. In Western society, Yoga has gained tremendous momentum while Ayurveda is not as well known. Yet despite their separation in the West, Yoga and Ayurveda are inseparable sisters that have existed in a symbiotic relationship since their inception at least 5,000 years ago. When Yoga and Ayurveda are practiced together, the healing and spiritual potential of each is maximized. Before diving into each one and their interdependent relationship, it’s helpful to first establish a basic awareness of the foundation that supports them both: the Vedas.

Vedas 101

Let’s reach back many thousands of years ago and begin with the Vedas, or Vedic scriptures, which translates from Sanskrit as “knowledge.” The Vedas are the original scriptures of Hinduism and represent the most sacred book in India, where the texts first originated. The Vedas form the foundation of knowledge from which Ayurveda and Yoga developed. As the oldest Sanskrit texts (and one of the oldest sacred texts in general), The Vedas can be understood as a body of spiritual knowledge that encompasses all aspects of life. It is, in short, a deeply respected source of wisdom.

Furthermore, the texts are a collection of four primary Vedas:

  1. Rigveda

  2. Yajurveda

  3. Samaveda

  4. Atharvaveda

The sciences of both Yoga and Ayurveda have developed and expanded over time, but the initial mention of them was within these four primary Vedas. Yoga was first discussed in the Rigveda and Ayurveda was developed out of Atharvaveda, though Ayurvedic teachings can be found within all Vedas.

Yoga, Ayurveda, and Their Relationship

Both Yoga and Ayurveda date back to around 3,000 BCE. As two sciences that are braided together around Vedic knowledge, they each stand alone as separate healing disciplines but overlap each other in significant ways. Both disciplines offer ways to heal and unify the mind, body, and spirit, and their teachings compliment each other. For example, knowing your Ayurvedic dosha can help you personalize your yoga practice depending on your body’s needs, which will then help you receive the greatest benefit from your practice. Also, having a regular yoga practice will contribute to balanced doshas and, in combination with other practices, may prevent disease and ill health in the long run.

In Western society, Yoga is often associated primarily with asana (physical postures) and Ayurveda with herbs. But like Vedic philosophy itself, Yoga and Ayurveda are far more comprehensive than what one’s initial perception of them may be.

The best known of the two sciences is Yoga. Meaning “union” or “to yoke,” Yoga is the self-discipline for self-realization. It’s one of the Six Systems of Vedic Philosophy (different schools of thought that grew out of the Vedic scriptures) and is used to unite the mind, body, and spirit.

Yoga is the actual work or practice of integrating prana (the breath or primary force of life) through philosophy, breath work, consciousness, mind, and physical movement. Yoga’s primary focus is on the spiritual self, particularly through awareness and liberation of the soul, and does not address physical and psychological diseases or treatment. That’s where Ayurveda comes into play.

Ayurveda is a system of health science developed specifically in the Vedic tradition for healing purposes. In essence, Ayurveda seeks to prevent and heal disease by harmonizing the body and one’s lifestyle with the rhythms of nature. Its primary methods of doing so are through diet, exercise, herbs, lifestyle, body cleansing, and the practice of yoga (see how they connect?). Ayurveda offers an explanation for how the body functions through the doshas and how food and medicine can be integrated with them to experience optimal health.

While Ayurveda provides the medical foundation of Vedic philosophy, yoga provides the spiritual foundation and practices. Together, the two form a complete system of health and well-being for mind, body, soul.

How Ayurveda and Yoga Support Kapha Dosha

Spring, the season of Kapha, draws our attention to the back, chest, and heart where Kapha primarily resides in the body. This dosha governs lubrication of the heart and lungs, which is especially critical during this season of nature and period of humanity as we face a virus that manifests in that area of the body. In this time, Kapha needs extra attention to maintain balance.

Using the wisdom of Ayurveda and Yoga, we can integrate specific herbs, foods, asanas, and breathing exercises into our daily lives that may have a therapeutic effect for upper respiratory health.

Breathing exercises that focus on opening the rib cage, like diaphragmatic breathing, help us deepen our relationship with our ribs and chest. This style of breathing helps to aerate all parts of the lungs. During focused breathing and movement, we’re able to ride the breath into areas of the body that may be in need of attention. Certain yoga postures that expand the chest area are particularly beneficial for the lungs as well, like bridge pose, cat pose, cobra pose, wheel, and more.

Spices and herbs such as tulsi, peppercorns, clove, licorice root, slippery elm, turmeric, and guduchi can support the proper function of the lungs, relax the bronchial system, and reduce the accumulation of mucus in the upper region of the body. Herbal body oils like ZVEDA’s zLIFT, which is formulated to restore balance to Kapha constitutions, are also excellent to use on the body during this time. The lungs can also be supported through a Kapha-pacifying diet that reduces dairy, meat, and fried or fatty foods, and increases foods that are light, dry, and warming.

With the guidance of Ayurveda and Yoga, we can support our mind, body, and spirit during this time by adjusting our diet, and incorporating breathing exercises, and asanas, that expand the chest and lungs.

Yoga and Ayurveda are two threads in a large, complex fabric of Vedic knowledge. Ayurveda’s approach to prevention and treatment of disease, and Yoga’s approach to spiritual and physical wellbeing, both reflect Vedic values and wisdom, working in tandem for the benefit of one’s health of mind, body, and soul. These sisters form a blueprint to a way of life that is available to everyone, especially those who are ready to take an inquisitive journey into the patterns of their lives. This deeply individualized healing practice invites you to remember, learn and follow your personal needs according to the wisdom of Yoga and Ayurveda. This wisdom is deeply profound, and the season of Kapha offers a perfect time for self care, self healing, and self love.

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