Connecting Yoga through Breath

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A proper understanding of the connections between yoga and Ayurveda are essential for the effective treatment of illness. Classical texts on yoga such as the Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika describes several asanas and enumerates their benefits on the basis of Ayurveda. Ayurvedic practitioners developed yoga as a form of physical exercise that would support the diseased internal organs and structural imbalances. Using the concepts of doshas, the same terminology for disease, and the same lists of body qualities and functions, asanas where created.

Most yoga practitioner restrict themselves by stating that an asana can help restore balance among all three doshas or some diseases that are explained in Ayurveda.  Ayurveda mentions that all forms of therapy or treatments can be classified under two broad headings: Those that nourish the body, brmhana, and those that remove from the body, langhana. Most methods of therapy suggested in Ayurveda fall under langhana, including both palliative and eliminative methods, because, in both, we are mostly reducing some body quality that is out of balance. 

One reason for is, most treatments in Ayurveda starts with the reduction or removal of imbalances is that balance in the being is a natural consequence of this process. Another reason is that treatment is basically dependent on the status of agni or digestive fire. The importance of agni is acknowledged in both yoga and Ayureda. The primary purpose of all treatment and important goal of practicing asanas, is to keep the agni functioning well. 

Through both movements are breathing are integral to the practice of asanas, breathing is of greater importance than movement in addressing many disorders of the body function such as hypertension or diabetes, or psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. Therefore, we need to choose a body position in which the person is able to breathe freely, emphasizing the appropriate component of the breathing cycle.  

Breathing is one of most important aspects in yoga that is directly related to agni rather than specific types of movements. Inhalation helps to increase agni and activates metabolism, similar to that of fanning the flames of a fire. Exhalation, being a natural process of elimination, helps remove toxins and waste that dull the agni, enabling the function of agni to work better. In many functional disorders, it is important to ensure that exhalation is proper, even if inhalation is the component of breathing to be emphasized.

For brahma, the nourishing aspect of Ayurvedic therapy to be effective, the agni has to be functioning properly. Otherwise, even if we consume nourishing foods, herbs etc, they will not be of use to our body, because agni is what allows the food to transform into body tissues. In many disease states, langhana is usually required first to remove the blockages in the functioning agni. Only then will brhama be possible at all. This is why Ayurvedic texs suggest that even in a situation where brmhana is necessary, its may be good to start with mild langhana first. How ever the opposite does not apply: brmhana is not to be done for a person who requires lanaghana.

Classical yoga texts explain the connection between the various types of pranayama (breathing exercises) and the three doshas and various other body qualities and functions. Specific types of pranayama can be used in decreasing the qualities of particular doshas when they are out of balance. Also, these texts related to breathing to the qualities of heat and cold in the body. They classify the types of pranayama as heating and cooling and also suggest that inhalation through the right nostril is heating, while inhalation through the left nostril is cooling. These specific connections between breathing, and the body qualities is one of the most important reason why breath is more important to the management of health, then asanas. 

What ever classification of yoga we adopt, a clear understanding of the relationship between body and mind and their relationship between body and mind and their relationship with breathing and food is essential in order to apply yoga and Ayurveda effectively in the treatment of any illness.