Have you ever thought about the importance of understanding Prakriti or body constitution?

Ayurveda attributes the constitutional characteristics of an individual to the preponderance of certain “doshas”. Three main doshas are described, viz. Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The combination of these doshas in each person will be different and this unique combination of doshas in a person is described as “Prakriti”. So how exactly does understanding Prakriti helps? The concept of Prakriti is claimed to be useful in predicting an individual’s susceptibility to a disease, prognosis of that illness and selection of therapy.  Let us look at the details of doshas and Prakriti in this article.

Dosha and Prakriti

Let us look at the basic functions of each dosha.

Vata responsible for movement (muscular, nervous energy etc.)
Pitta responsible for metabolism, including digestion in the gut, and cellular or sub-cellular metabolism.
Kapha responsible for growth and maintenance of structure

 

Based on the predominance of individual doshas, there are three major types of Prakriti named after predominant dosha, viz., Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The Prakriti is believed to be determined at the time of conception and is influenced by the dietary habits and lifestyle of the mother. These prakritis exhibit attributes of the dominant Dosha in physical, physiological and psychological characteristics.

Things to remember while understanding Prakriti

  • The disturbance in equilibrium of these doshas can lead to disease according to the Prakriti of the person for example; a Pitta Prakriti person is described to be more prone to peptic ulcers, hypertension, and skin diseases, a Vata Prakriti person to backache, joint aches and crackling joints while individuals with kapha prakriti are prone to obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. 1
  • Personal characteristics are manifested due to particular properties of the dosha which is involved predominantly in the formation of Prakriti. For example, individuals with Kaphaj constitution have the smoothness of organs and joints, clarity of complexion, firmness, compactness, and stability of the body, are slow in action and movement, have a stable gait, excellent strength, patience, peacefulness, longevity, etc.2
  • Ayurveda body types or Prakriti is more valid in healthy individuals. Ina diseased condition the dosha predominance is more important than the Prakriti.

 

Benefits of understanding your Prakriti/Constitution

Understanding Prakriti can benefit you in so may ways.

  1. Personalized Diet & Lifestyle – Since Prakriti is related to certain physical and mental tendencies that determine susceptibility to diseases, the ancient texts of Ayurveda also provide guidelines for maintaining lifestyles in accordance with one’s Prakriti for continued healthy living in a personalized manner.
  2. Early diagnosis – Your Ayurvedic doctor can know about the diseases you are prone to get.
  3. Judging the prognosis – Knowing Prakriti also helps in understanding the prognosis of a disease. For example, for a Vata predominant person, curing osteoarthritis will be comparatively difficult.

Can Prakriti or Constitution be changed?

No, Prakriti is determined at the time of birth itself. It cannot be changed. Having said that, the effect of doshas in each body type can be manipulated. There are certain factors that affect the doshas. By understanding those factors, the effects of Prakriti on our body can be tweaked.

Factors affecting Doshas

  • Taste
Dosha Increased by Decreased by
Vata Bitter, Astringent, Pungent Sweet, Salty, Sour
Pitta Sour, Salty, Pungent Sweet, Astringent, Bitter
Kapha Sweet, Salty, Sour Bitter, Astringent, Pungent

 

  • Age Factors – In the young age Kapha predominance will be there, middle age will be dominant of Pitta and Old age will be dominant of Vata.
  • Place
Vata Arid
Pitta Normal, Sunny
Kapha Moist
  • Time of the day & night – In the first 1/3 of the day and night, Kapha dosha will be predominant. In the middle 1/3 Pitta and the last 1/3 Vata dosha would be dominant.
  • Seasonal Factors
Season Mild increase Increase Decrease
Vata Summer Rainy Autumn
Pitta Rainy Autumn Early winter
Kapha Winter Spring summer

The ancient texts of Ayurveda mention numerous properties of doshas and how they affect a human being’s physiology or Prakriti based on the dominance of one or more doshas. The Prakriti of a person is quite capable of providing a fair indication of physiological strengths and weaknesses, mental tendencies, and susceptibility to illnesses of various types.

There exist several tools, mainly questionnaires, for ascertaining the Prakriti of an individual. At the moment, questionnaires for determining one’s dosha exist online as well and can be readily used by people to determine their own Prakriti. There also exists the age-old method of Nadi Vigyan or pulse diagnosis, through which a skilled Ayurvedic physician can determine Prakriti among other things.

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References –

  1. Bhalerao, S., Deshpande, T., & Thatte, U. (2012). Prakriti (Ayurvedic concept of constitution) and variations in platelet aggregation. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 12, 248. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-12-248
  2. Purvya, M. C., & Meena, M. S. (2011). A review on role of prakriti in aging. Ayu, 32(1), 20–24. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.85719

Photo by Mariam Soliman on Unsplash

Article by Arya Krishna