What exactly does “being sick” mean? From the point of view of Yoga and Ayurveda, maintaining the balance of one’s energies and elements is the keystone of good health. On the opposite, an imbalance (too much or not enough energy, too much or not enough fire, air, water etc. in us) inevitably leads to a “manifestation” also called “disease or illness”. Reading “diseases” or “manifestations” from this standpoint allows us to seek their source for a complete and definitive cure.
The Yoga & Health teachings have literally changed my life. Why not yours?
I am currently working on the theme of “balance” with my students. Balancing your energies, connecting with the elements within us (doshas), understanding our dominant and weaker elements, and doing your best to keep them in balance. From their feedback on the practices and the questions asked, I realised to what extent the teachings of Yoga and Ayurveda on the notion of balance are still unknown. Yet they are so rich. This is why I wanted to write this article which I hope will make you want to know more and take action to stay or come back in balance and therefore healthy!
Yoga and Health: Balancing Prāna and the Elements in us is a pillar of good health
Balance is a fundamental theme in Yogic and Ayurvedic teachings. Indeed, under their prism, health simply goes hand in hand with Balance (with a capital E!). Be patient and read to the end. I cannot avoid a passage that is a little more theoretical.
The balance of our vital energy (prāna) to begin with.
We must have enough prāna in us, but not too much either. It must be well distributed in the 7 energy centers of our body (chakras). Vital energy manifests itself in 5 forms (the 5 vāyus) which correspond to different regions and functions of the body. If there is an energy imbalance, it is a function of the body that will be affected. We will not go into detail today, however, the study of vāyus (udāna, prāna, samāna, apāna and vyāna) and their experimentation through certain practices are fascinating!
The balance of the elements within us (the balance of the doshas).
We are made, just like the universe in which we evolve of 5 elements: the ether which creates the space for the other elements to exist, the air which is associated with the movement, the water with the fluids, the fire with transformation and earth to the concept of density and grounding. We are all a unique combination of these elements. They exist in us in proportions that vary with each other and also evolve over time. They define us physically and are also found in our character. For example a person who has a lot of fire in himself (dominant Pitta Dosha) will often be very willful and will also tend to get angry more easily while a person with a strongly present Air element (dominant Vata Dosha) will often show up. funny and “easy going”, gifted in creative and interpersonal skills, but will also tend to be unreliable and less loyal than a person with Earth dominance for example (dominant Kapha Dosha). This is a vast subject again and the idea here is not to be exhaustive but to give you the angle from the point of view of Yoga and Ayurveda:
The more you adjust your lifestyle to your basic constitution, the more you will be able to live in harmony (and therefore in health) and to avoid imbalances as much as possible.
What “disease or illness” means through the lens of Yoga and Ayurveda?
Too much, not enough, in short an imbalance (of prāna or of the elements in us) inevitably leads to a “manifestation” also called “illness”. This manifestation can be mild or more serious but it always indicates an imbalance. It is also good to know, and this is important, that the “manifestations” are generally going crescendo. The body sends us a first signal. If we don’t pick up he sends a stronger one etc.
For example, 1st sign, you are short of breath, feeling oppressed / restricted into the chest. This is a first sign of imbalance because the breath is a reflection of our physical and / or mental state. Fluid, long and powerful, it indicates good health. Jerky, irregular, short, it sends us signals. You do nothing. Second sign, sleep is light, does not allow you to recharge your batteries. You wake up tired. You still don’t do anything. Then it might be a more serious injury. Something that forces you to consult, to take care of yourself, or that put you to bed. And sometimes it’s even more serious. I’m sure you all see what I’m talking about. You may also have once found yourself in a similar situation saying to yourself “I should have seen and listened to the signs before”!
Good news! In the language of “Yoga & Ayurveda”, if imbalance = illness, balance = good health. In other words, it is up to us to take charge of ourselves and act on our daily life, our diet, our relationships etc. to stay in balance and therefore in good health. And Yoga and Ayurveda provide us with a wide range of proposals adapted to the specific needs of each. To your mats!
January 2021 Workshop: Yoga & Ayurveda
- Le Yoga des éléments de Florence Dugowson
- Patañjali Yoga-Sūtra I Traduction et commentaire de Frans Moors
- Yoga & Ayurveda – Self-Healing and Self-Realization from David Frawley
- The Yogasūtra of Patañjali I Liberating Isolation from Frans Moor
- The heart of Yoga from TKV Desikachar