Don’t you sometimes wonder why some people have a short temper while some stay cool even in the toughest of times? Why some catch a cold just after an ice cream while others don’t? Why we all have different shapes & sizes in spite of the basic similarities in humankind?
Ayurveda, the ancient science has answers to all these questions. The science of life understands that every person is unique, and hence, it introduced the concept of Prakriti (body constitution/ body type). The literal meaning of Prakriti is nature or original form.
So, what is Prakriti?
Ayurveda defines Prakriti as the natural physical, mental, immunological & behavioral characteristics of an individual. Concisely speaking Prakriti is the nature of your body and mind.
Prakriti is explained in terms of Tridoshas. Each person has a unique combination of the three doshas which decides our features and temperament.
We inherit all the features from our parents because the body constitution is formed at the time of conception, which stays the same lifelong. However, with time, some changes do occur in our nature due to several factors. But the dosha combination of our body never changes.
Prakriti indicates our natural health. So, knowing Prakriti guides us to choose a healthy lifestyle and diet. Not only this, but it also helps us to prevent as well as cure the illness with treatment as per the needs of our body.
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Any deviation in your Prakriti means disorder. So, to avoid future disease and to stay healthy, you must know your Prakriti.
How many Body Types are there?
Tridoshas are the prime elements of our body. Among three, one or the other dosha is predominant, and that particular dosha decides our Prakriti. The dominance of doshas is qualitative, not quantitative.
Doshas could be dominant either in single or in a combination of any two or all three doshas. On this basis, Prakriti is said to be of seven types. They are of:
- Three types – single dosha is dominant, i.e., Vata / Pitta / Kapha Prakriti
- Three types – two doshas are dominant, i.e., Vata-Pitta / Pitta-Kapha / Vata-Kapha Prakriti
- One type – some have all three doshas balanced state, i.e., Vata-Pitta-Kapha Prakriti
People having Prakriti with single dominant dosha and with all three dosha dominant are quite rare. Usually, people have mixed dosha body types.
Out of these categories, people having all doshas in equal proportions by nature maintain normal health. Those belonging to the first category always suffer from one or the other illness, although they might apparently be having normal health.
People having dual dosha body type are lesser prone to diseases than those of single dosha type. This is because the two dominant doshas nullify each other’s qualities. The overall effect of two doshas makes such person makes lesser susceptible to diseases.
What decides your Prakriti?
Our body nature gets determined from the very beginning of our life, i.e., since our conception. The egg cells of parents, i.e., sperm & ova, are having life. They carry the genetic traits of the individual conceived through genes.
Likewise, the state of doshas existing in these cells during their union produces certain characteristic features in a person known as Prakriti. There are other factors which decide the ultimate body type,
- Time of conception
- Condition of the uterus of the mother
- Her diet and activities
- Nature of dominant mahabhutas at the time of pregnancy
Prakriti is ascertained based on dominant doshas in the above factors when they initially unite to form the fetus. Therefore, the physical constitution of some is dominated by kapha, of some others by Pitta, of others by Vata and of some others by the combination of two doshas. In some other cases, however, the balance of doshas is well maintained.
Each dosha imbibes its qualities into our body and mind, thus making up our Prakriti. So, let’s see what the characteristic features of each type of Prakriti are.
Person of Vata body type shows the following features:
- Weak, Lean and short-statured body
- Dry skin; low, broken, obstructed & hoarse voice
- Light and inconsistent gait, action, movement
- Weak joints, an abundance of veins
- Quickly initiates work, gets irritated easily, quickly gets scared
- Makes choices quickly, quick in understanding and forgetting things
- Likes to eat light food, dislikes cold things and places
- Often catches a cold, shivering and stiffness
- Rough hair, skin, nails, teeth
- Cracks in skin, cracking sound can be heard in joints on moving
- Impulsive and energetic
- Less sleep, life span & procreation
Features of Pitta Prakriti person are
- Tender and moderate body built
- Soft skin with acne, freckles, black moles
- Soft and brown hair
- The tendency to have wrinkles, greying of hair and baldness
- Strong digestive power, intake of food and drink in large quantity
- Dislikes hot things and places
- Unable to face difficult situations
- Loose and soft joints & muscles
- Excessive sweating, voiding urine and feces in a large amount
- Extreme body odor
- Passionate, aggressive, critical, judgemental, intelligent and excellent memory
- Moderate strength, life span, procreation, spiritual and worldly knowledge
Various features of kapha Prakriti person are:
- Heavy, robust, round and plump body, tendency to gain weight
- Pleasing appearance, tender, and bright complexion
- Smooth and soft skin
- Thick & voluminous hair
- Likes hot and spicy foods, eats slowly
- Slow in initiating work, making a decision, learning and movement, procrastinates
- Sleeps excessively
- Calm, relaxed, slow to anger
- Non-slippery and stable gait
- Lack of intensity in hunger, thirst, heat, and sweating
- Firm and compact joints
- Cheerful face & voice
- Patient, loyal and brilliant memory
- Excellent strength, knowledge, energy, procreation, peace, and longevity
Individuals having dual body constitution are characterized by the combination of the features of respective dosha body type.
A person of Prakriti having all three doshas in balance is endowed with good qualities of all three body types described above.
Why it’s good to know your Prakriti?
Now that you know your body type, you might question the use of knowing your nature. There are lots of benefits if you know your body type. Knowledge of your Prakriti helps you to choose the right kind of diet and habits that suits your body.
It helps your doctor to foretell the kind of illnesses you are prone to get. So, to avoid such diseases, you can be aware of do’s & don’ts for daily routine and can change your lifestyle accordingly.
Prakriti gives an idea about the strength and immunity of the person. If you are ill, then your doctor can judge the seriousness and nature of the disease. He can frame the right treatment plan suitable to the body.
Since Prakriti is related to certain physical and mental attitude that influences the occurrence of diseases, ancient Ayurvedic texts provide guidelines for maintaining a lifestyle as per one’s Prakriti for healthy living in a personalized manner.
Can we change our Prakriti?
As Prakriti of a person is set up during conception, the fundamental nature of that person always remains the same. But the effect of doshas on our Prakriti can be manipulated by certain factors.
Though the entire Prakriti cannot be changed, these factors will bring about some natural changes for some time. Such factors include:
- Diet & Herbs – Foods of particular rasa (taste) increases or decreases the effect of respective doshas in the body.
- Place – Vata increases at dry places such as desert, humid & wet places like beaches & seas increases Kapha while areas with hot climate increase Pitta.
- Time – Vata increases in the rainy season, Pitta in autumn and kapha in the spring season. So, at such times these doshas could be eliminated easily with Panchakarma procedures to balance doshas.
- Age – Up to youth Vata is highly dominant in our body. In middle age, pitta increases and in old age vata is dominant.
- Activities & Eating habits – Actions having similar qualities of dosha tends to aggravate that particular dosha such as sedentary lifestyle increases Kapha while excessive movement increases Vata.
Importance of Prakriti
It is our Prakriti that decides our likes and dislikes. It plays a vital role in our decision making and choices. It builds our mindset.
Prakriti forms the whole concept of personalized medicine in Ayurveda. Analysis of Prakriti is one among the several steps of patient investigation done through a multiple choice questionnaire.
Remember, Prakriti means the original form, i.e., which reflects correctly a healthy person. But for a diseased person where doshas are imbalanced, this will be disordered which is called Vikriti (nature of disorder).
If Prakriti is known then diet, daily regimens and yogic postures can be advised correctly both for disease treatment and to promote longevity. As the strength and nature of each person are different, some therapy or medicines could suit one person but not to others.
Prakriti is necessary to personalize treatment according to the basic principles of Ayurvedic therapeutics. This is what distinguishes Ayurveda from other medical sciences.