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Kalari, Yoga, and Ayurveda: What's the Difference?

Kalari, Yoga, and Ayurveda are practices that originate from India. While Kalari and Yoga are movement traditions, Ayurveda is a system of ancient medicine. These systems of culture and tradition were birthed from the same mother, yet while they originate from the same location, the three practices are wholly unique. Like siblings, they share some similarities, but each pulls from other ancestries and has developed branching roots.

Yoga and Kalari

In the same way that Brazil has Jiu-jitsu and Capoeira, India has Yoga and Kalari.

Both Yoga and Kalari are body, breath and mind practices, traditionally used for cultivating spiritual character and healing. The main difference is that Kalari has an essential martial arts element.

There are 2 parts to Kalari:

  • Kalari Chikitza is a treatment for preparing the fighter for and recovering from battle.

  • Kalari Payattu is the fighting discipline, the actual movement practice.

On the other hand, yoga takes two elements and creates a union of soul and body:

  • Mind

  • Body

While Yoga is concerned with mind and soul and Ayurveda vibrant aging healthy habits and food choices. Kalari is conditioning and optimum performance for the human animal.

Treatment & Healing

Kalari Chikitza, the healing treatment portion addresses many body systems.Nerves, skin, lymph- immune, resetting bones and ligaments and fascia. It both treats after battle and prepares the soldier mentally, emotionally & physically for battle.

In the Payatu portion: the fight training uses animal flow power like many martial arts. It also trains the mind and emotion. It becomes a spiritual practice as well. One hand offers peace and the other defense as necessary.

I am new to Kalari, but having been a yoga instructor for over 10 years I , its felt fairly smooth. I crave the training to the subtle energies and the discipline of complete attention and focus.


Martial Art

Kalarippayatu is a wholistic workout. It uses the less common ballistic movements with kicks and swings. As in yoga, isometric strength is needed. Anti rotation, muscle balance, fascial integrity, kinetic chain stability + mobility=which is to say posture/structure from feet to head are all foundational. As a student moves into intermediate capacity with an ability for speed these foundations become more crucial for performance and preventing injuries.

Kalarippayatu requires both flexibility and endurance. The stealth of movements are from slow to fast and fast to slow again. And of course there is power and agility as is necessary for all martial arts.


The system of Ayurveda is a completely seperate system. Ayurveda is an ancient and modern system. Ayurveda is Yoga and Kalari's sister science of health and longevity. Ayurveda concerns more with diet, daily habits/ circadian rhythm routine, seasonal eating, synching body's rhythms to natures. While also recognizing that everybody has unique constitutions and circumstances.

All three, Kalari, Ayurveda and Yoga take subtle energy into account. Yoga is conditioning for the sake of prayer or emotional regulation for service. Ayurveda health and diet for vitality and balance. Kalari: prime movement for stamina endurance & honor.

Though each intersect and crossover in many areas, if I had to sum

it to 3 simple distinctions I could say Kalari-optimize stamina , Yoga -optimize mind , Ayurveda- optimize balance body with nature.

I incorporate these elements into the Adventure Wellness program that I run.

Cultivation of attention and focus are necessary. In this day and age of distractions and immediate gratification we need it more than ever. And its fun to be in a group learning, getting stronger and improving skills together. With commitment and discipline children and parents can improve capacity to withstand the ups and downs and unknowns. We can build vitality by being proactive so we can do the work that life demands of us. Physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually. We set an example as community leaders and are better able to help others in need. Mind and body are not seperate and we need to train that way.

I will tell you more about Ayurveda the science of longevity in the next blog.

Adventure Wellness

The pillars that we practice are: 1. Functional Fitness & Pain-Free Movement. 2. Plants, Rhythm & Energy-Synching with Nature 3. Lifestyle Medicine. 4. Traditional Martial, Survival & Healing Arts. 5.Science of Changing Habits and Achieving Goals. Each of these pillars integrate daily routines from Ayurveda and movement skills from Yoga and Kalari.

If you would like to integrate pain free movement while building energy and stamina, schedule a free session and see if the program is a good fit for you now. Click the button below to schedule a call.


Key elements of Kalarippayattu from my teacher Adam Phillips, (

  • Grounding warm-up exercises: Cheru thozhil.

  • Ground exercises for upper body strengthening and stabilization

  • Balance power & release (Pila Tangi and Arrapukai forms of Northern style).

  • Postures and their transformative and shamanic elements : Vadivu principle

  • Kicks to improve flexibility

  • Stick rolling: improves proprioception and shoulder strength

  • Aligning the spine and readying the body for practice though

Vandanam prayer form (Northern style)

  • Vannakam forms (Northern style) to develop devotion, body control and sensitivity

  • Empty-Hands forms (Southern style) to develop balance, agility, speed, effortlessness

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