Ayurveda and Yoga are sister sciences. They both have roots in Vedic philosophy and developed side-by-side through the last several thousand years.
“The link between yoga and Ayurveda is prana, or the life force. Yoga is the intelligence of prana seeking greater evolutionary transformations, while Ayurveda is its healing power…” ~ Dr. David Frawley
“Yoga is a work-in, not a work-out.” ~Dr. Indu Arora
Ayurveda uses yoga as a therapeutic modality, especially to calm and focus the mind and to move prana through the body (similar to tai chi and qi gong). Traditional 8-Limbs yoga was also historically used as a method to purify and prepare the mind to receive information through insight meditation, communion with the Divine and teachings from a guru or mentor.
Ayurvedic yoga focuses on creating a practice that is appropriate for one’s Constitution and Imbalances. For example, vigorous yoga heats us up and gets us moving, which may be what is needed on a cold, cloudy day or if we are feeling heavy, slow and cold. But too much heat can be aggravating to Pitta and too much movement can be aggravating to Vata dosha. Furthermore, vigorous yoga practices during the hot summer/midday can also aggravate pitta, leading to inflammation of both the body and mind.
In our culture, yoga has been relegated to the role of “exercise” but yoga does not mean exercise -it means “union” -with the divine in ourselves and the universe, seeing all things as One or Unified, the core of Advaita Vedanta or Non-Dual philosophy. The physical practice (asana/vinyasa) of yoga is a wonderful tool for keeping us limber and building strength, but if done without regard for the spiritual aspects or the the particularities of each individual, it can be of only limited service. It can also injure us or further aggravate our doshic imbalances.
Yogini extraordinaire Shiva Rea wrote a great article for prAna about how Ayurveda informs her yoga practice and how she practices yoga in a way that preserves and enhances health and well-being rather than squanders it.