By Gayatri Puranik
“Yoga and Ayurveda are like two siblings of the same family, complementing each other, sometimes in complete agreement with one another, but oftentimes also of different opinions. In the end however they remain siblings of a family, stronger together and eternally bound to one another”
With true Italian diplomacy, Giorgio Barabino, Director of Villa Era School of Ayurveda (Italy), thus described the relationship between Yoga and Ayurveda, while giving a lecture about Yoga one evening in India. It was in this Ayurvedic Pharmacy that evening that the words of his lecture rang true with everyone in the audience; and, with a smile, they all tacitly decided to agree with one another for the evening!
However, Giorgio´s words are stimulus for deeper thought and reflection:
In India, as elsewhere, Yoga and Ayurveda coexist in parallel worlds. The followers of both, learned and beginners alike, respect their sister science; partaking of the other as much as they feel is required, yet mostly remaining staunchly faithful to their own path.
Both sciences strive towards achieving a balanced life, as well as a state of happy equilibrium; both propagate daily routines, as well as healing and deep cleansing practices; and, a goal common to both, is the maintenance of optimal health and a life free of disease.
That said, vast differences do exist between these two Indian sciences.
Ayurveda utilizes the full richness of nature and a luxurious dose of external applications meant to influence and modulate the inner functioning of the body. As such, in Ayurveda, the aim is perhaps more about bio-chemistry.
Yoga, by contrast, enlists minimal methods and techniques toward moulding the inner life of a person. In such cases of asanas, there tends to be more of a bio-physics element to it.
Ayurveda accepts the faultiness of human nature and offers corrective measures at every stage of weakness. It is all-encompassing and embraces all of life in a neutral manner, seeming to seldom pass absolute judgement of “good” or “bad”. Ayurveda accepts the full breadth and depth of all lifestyles and their inherent shortfalls. It takes in to account that life is as it is, and thus, is chalk full of imperfections. Meat will be eaten, wine will be drunk and many other excesses will be enjoyed.
Is such imperfect behaviour bad? Can there be anything good in this? Ayurveda would have a dispassionate view: there may be stages, circumstances and human constitutions that can tolerate such excesses with a lesser disturbance in overall equilibrium. At the same time, there are situations where the same excesses will cause massive negative health effects. Ayurveda therefore, strives to clarify and to ensure increased awareness of such influences, so that they can be kept in check. Ultimately, it states that the root of all disease is “pradnya-aparadh”, or, the misuse of the intellect.
Yoga on the other hand, is more demanding in terms of discipline, requiring practitioners to be stringently steadfast. Yoga is not only more uni-directional and focussed in its approach, it is also less inclined to tolerate faults and weaknesses. Yogic science does not mince words; and it states that the root cause of disease is through distressed states of mind, and emotions that lead to anger, fear, intense desire and/or jealousy.
Between Yoga and Ayurveda, any number of similarities and differences can be compared and contrasted. This could however, turn out to be a theoretical exercise that’s not really relevant to the true goal of either science.
To put it simply, One could say that Ayurveda keeps the material body and mind in equilibrium throughout the stages of One’s life journey. Whereas Yoga, with all its joint subtleties of Asana, Pranayam, and Meditation, will take a person further along life’s spiritual path as it aims toward its ultimate goal, and towards truth, freedom and union with the Divine.
Alas, Giorgio Barabino was quite right in his observations: Yes, Yoga and Ayurveda are “same same but different”.
Author: Gayatri Puranik; Managing Directress of OM Vital Vertriebs GmbH; Founding Board Member Ayurveda Umbrella Association Germany – ADAVED (Ayurveda Dachverband Deutschland)
Gayatri Puranik – comes from a traditional Indian family steeped in the practice of Ayurvedic manufacturing. She has been living in Germany since 1989 and importing Ayurvedic Products since the last 20 years. Her continuing Indo-European intercontinental experience is the source for insights in the commonalities and differences between the eastern and western sciences and their practice. This proves to be very useful for practical application of the holistic sciences in a down-to-earth manner all over the world.