The practice of yoga can be a little bit like peeling an onion (tears included...for some of us). We often start on the outside, and through dedication and pure enthusiasm and focus, we gain access to its deeper layers.
In this process, we get closer and closer to ourselves, until at some point, it becomes almost inevitable that we will arrive at Ayurveda.
We Are Fa-mi-ly
Yoga and Ayurveda are very closely related, and in fact, are referred to as sister sciences. They come from the same traditions and work together beautifully, each supporting the other to create a health and happiness “dream team."
This is because yoga is all about self-awareness and self realization (yep, not just killer arms and abs) and having a healthy body and mind is in many ways necessary for that. Ayurveda on the other hand is dedicated to the health and vitality of the body and mind (with self-awareness as both input and outcome).
So I'll let you in on a little secret...
When you practice them together you enhance them both.
So how are you using Ayurveda in your yoga practice? Oh..wait...you're not?
Well even if you are, a little, it's definitely worth getting a clearer sense for how you can deepen (and expand) your yoga by consciously choosing to use some of the tools of Ayurveda on your mat, and off.
Practice Balance, Balance Practice
We all come to our mats for different reasons and with different intentions, but Ayurveda suggests that there should only be one...balance.
According to Ayurveda, everything we come into contact with has the potential to create balance or cause imbalance, and our yoga practice is no exception. Regardless of what brings us to the mat, and who we are when we get there, underlying our practice of yoga (and of living, really) should be an awareness of our ability to create or maintain harmony inside and out.
Truth is, there are as many ways to practice for balance as there are yogis and yoga mats put together. The trick is to find yours (that's totally Ayurveda). And it starts with understanding what balance looks and feels like for you. This understanding makes it possible to apply the simple principles of Ayurveda to all aspects of your yoga practice, to find what it is that's seeking you...that would be balance.
Principles for practice: Remember that your practice is for you. I don't know many yoga teachers who believe their role is cattle wrangling, so don't feel like you must follow the pack at every step. Take time in your practice to notice the shifts in your energy and thinking.
Make adjustments as you practice, towards something that feels more like balance. Remember that our yoga should empower us to experience what it feels like to choose ourselves.
The Yoga Of Herbs
Herbs are used in Ayurveda as a powerful compliment to diet and lifestyle in order to create balance. They can also be used very specifically in ways that enhance and support your yoga. Ayurvedic herbs and herbal preparations are a beautiful and natural way to promote strength, flexibility and endurance in the body, as well as increase focus, perception and calm in the mind.
Your yoga practice...on herbs: Looking to increase flexibility and reduce inflammation in the joints? Herbs like turmeric, ginger and guggul deliver those benefits as well as promoting circulation and the movement of energy through the body. Herbs like shatavari, ashwagandha, and amla can improve immunity and vitality (Ojas) and increase stamina (power yogis take note!).
Ayurvedic herbs like jatamansi, ashwagandha, nutmeg, and shatavari are often recommended to improve the function of the mind and increase perception, focus and serenity.
Discover Yourself, Express Yourself
The practice of Ayurveda begins with each one of us individually. It gives insights into who we are physically, mentally and emotionally and asks us to embrace what makes us unique. Yoga asks us to take everything we know about ourselves and express it -- physically, mentally and emotionally -- right there on the mat so that we can learn even more.
My understanding of who I am from an Ayurvedic perspective gives me the ability to see the ways that I hide or express my “vata-pitta-ness” out in the open. It also gives me a deeper understanding of the impacts of how I choose to express myself (on my mat and off) to my health and happiness.
But more than anything, it helps me absorb and embody the purpose of yoga, which is to reconcile my physical, mental and spiritual experiences of vata wanting to be pitta, and kapha wanting to be vata, into a relaxed, aware and authentic expression of the vata-pitta that I am.
Do YOU On the Mat
Discover your dosha and use that knowledge to expand self-discovery and acceptance on the mat. Are there poses or pranayama you hate and don't know why? Does Savasana drive you nuts? Your dosha might give you some answers and allow you to fully embrace your yoga practice as a true expression of you -- allowing you to BE authentically you both on the mat and off.
So...how do you find balance on the mat? Ever thought of taking herbs and improving your yoga with ayurveda? How are you doing you on the mat these days? Please share and inspire in the comments below!