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Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy is the application of Raja yoga – composed of the traditional eight limbs of yoga as defined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras – to the healing process.
While most forms of yoga therapy have focused on a model based on Western physical therapy, Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy follows a more traditional model based upon the flow of prana (life energy) in the body. Disease occurs as a result of disturbances in the flow of prana and healing occurs as flow returns to normal.
There are five forms of pranic flow in the body known as vayus. These form the basis for understanding Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy.
1. Prana is drawn to the body by prana vayu.
2. It is absorbed into the body by samana vayu.
3. It is distributed by vyana vayu.
4. It is put to work by udana vayu.
5. And the waste product of that work is removed by apana vayu.
These energies move in different directions within the body.
• Prana vayu moves from the outside in.
• Samana vayu moves toward the center.
• Vyana vayu moves away from the center.
• Udana vayu moves upward and apana vayu moves downward.
Disturbances in the flow of these vayus disturb the balance of the three doshas (Ayurvedic mind/body types). Health is established and doshic balance (prakruti) is restored when there is a natural balance in the flow of each of these energies. When there is, prana is distributed throughout the body and each tissue and organ system receives its full quotient of life potential. Disease occurs and doshas are disturbed when one or more of these five vayus is disturbed.
Each of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga (traditional Raja yoga) affects the flow of prana in the body, the mind and consciousness. Yoga (union with the divine or Self-realization) occurs when the prana of the mind and consciousness becomes still. Healing also occurs as a result of this process. The path to Self-realization parallels the path to optimum health. When stillness impacts the mind, physical prana is able to permeate every cell of the body and there are no obstructions to its flow. The body reaches its full potential and where healing is possible, healing takes place.
Most of the focus of Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy is on the asana (yogic postures) and pranayama (yogic breathing) practices. Knowledge of Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy is the knowledge of how the physical postures and breathing practices affect the flow of prana in the body and structuring a personal practice that supports healing. Ayurveda teaches that there is no single therapy that is right for everyone. Each person must be treated individually.
This is why applying one style of yoga asana to everyone is not appropriate. During individualized yoga sessions, Ayurvedic Yoga therapists design a yoga program that fits the needs of the client/student. Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy can be applied within any context of yoga asana. Its principles are universal and, as such, any practice style can be modified for the purpose of balancing the vayus, and in doing so balancing the three doshas.
Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy is a supportive therapy to other healing disciplines. It is not a complete system of healing by itself. It can be safely used in conjunction with Western medical treatments, acupuncture or chiropractic care, but is really designed to complement the work of the clinical Ayurvedic specialist. When Ayurveda and yoga are integrated, the patient receives the maximum benefits of the traditional Indian system of healing.
Through the proper use of the five senses (use of diet, aromas, colors, sounds and self- massage), the proper application of purification and rejuvenating therapies, the normalization of digestion and the cultivation of peace of mind, Ayurveda and yoga promise humanity that it will reach its full potential physically, emotionally and spiritually. Today we are seeing a re-emergence of this knowledge and it is growing rapidly in the West.
At clinics throughout the country, healing is taking place without the use of drugs and surgery. While these methods are necessary in extreme situations, Ayurveda and yoga offer a natural and safe alternative that goes deeper than medicine (pharmaceutical or herbal) alone. Ayurvedic and yogic healing truly address the root cause of disease and remove the disturbance of consciousness that generate the suffering of humanity.