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Prakriti in Ayurveda

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Sangeetha Rajah

Ayurveda accepts the view of Saankhya with regard to Srshti and Laya and Pramaanas. Purusha (chetana), along with Prakrti (sakti) is responsible for the natural disposition of everything in the universe. Prakrti manifests itself in individuals differently, depending on the proportions of the three gunas, viz. Satva, Rajas and Tamas, which are but transformations of prakrti.

In Ayurveda, this prakrti represents the physical and mental constitution of an individual. A state of disease occurs whenever there is a deviation from the normal physical or mental constitution of a human being. Prakrti is employed to understand the nature of an individual and recognize the changes that occur due to disease, when there is a deviation from prakrti.

Formation of Prakrti[edit]

Ayurveda believes that the temperament of a human being is genetic in origin. Prakriti, or constitution, is formed at the time of union of sperm and ovum inside the womb. Predominance of the three doshas, the five elements and the three gunas at the time of fertilization determines our physical and mental traits. Different individuals have different combinations of these doshas and gunas and hence each individual will have a unique prakrti, just like each of us has a unique finger print.

Once formed, prakrti remains constant for every individual for his or her lifetime. This prakrti also decides the disease tendency of an individual. Every individual is subjected to a constant interaction with his or her environment, which will affect the person's constitution at any time. The body will try to maintain a dynamic equilibrium or balance with the environment. Although it reflects our ability to adjust to life's influences and is always changing, it should match our Prakrti or inborn constitution, as closely as possible.

Prakrti and Vikrti[edit]

If the current proportion of our doshas differs significantly from our constitutional proportion, it indicates imbalances, which in turn can lead to illness. This deviation from prakrti is called Vikrti. The farther a person's vikrti is from his or her prakrti, the more prone to illness they are.

The concept of prakrti and vikrti can be illustrated with reference to the body's temperature. When healthy, we maintain an average body temperature of about 98* F. Although different persons can have different base temperatures, it does not change much so long as the person is healthy. When we go outside on a winter day, our body temperature may go down slightly but will pick right back up to the normal if we are healthy. Similarly, jogging on a hot day can temporarily raise our body temperature. When we are sick, or catch a cold, our body temperature will go up. This indicates that we are sick or outside our normal base condition. Our present temperature may be considered as Vikrti and the difference between the Prakrti (our normal temperature) and Vikrti (our present temperature) can determine whether any medical intervention is required.

Prakrti, the Three Doshas and The Three Gunas[edit]

The three doshas, Vaata, Pitta and Kapha are composed of the five basic elements. On the other hand, the five elements possess one or more of the three gunas, namely Satva, Rajas and Tamas.

According to Susruta Samhita, Aakaasa is predominant of Satva guna while Vaayu is predominant of Rajas. Agni is predominant of Satva and Rajas while Jala is predominant of Satva and Tamas. Prthvi is predominantly Taamasic.

Dosha Basic Elements Predominant Guna
VAATA Vaayu, Aakaasa Rajas
PITTA Agni, Jala Satva
KAPHA Prthvi, Jala Tamas

As the entire universe is paancabhautika (comprised of five elements) in nature, the food one eats and the activities one performs have a profound impact on the proportions of the three doshas, and hence the five elements in the body. To put it more simply: “You are what you eat .“

Types of Prakrti[edit]

Basically, Prakrti has been classified into two as

  1. Saareerika - bodily and
  2. Maanaseeka – mental

Based on the three doshas and their physical and physiological qualities, the Saaeerika Prakrti has been classified into seven namely

  1. Vaata
  2. Pitta
  3. Kapha
  4. Vaata – Pitta
  5. Pitta – Kapha
  6. Kapha – Vaata and
  7. Tridoshaja or Sannipaata

Based on the three gunas and their emotional, behavioral, cognitive and mental abilities and qualities, the Maanaseeka Prakrti has been classified into three namely

  1. Saatvika
  2. Rajasiaka and
  3. taamasika

In order to understand a person, it is necessary to first determine his or her prakrti. By understanding the prakrti of a person, a vaidya, or doctor, is able to detect the changes in the prakrti of the person. Using prakrti as the base, he then diagnoses the disease. Irrespective of whether a person is healthy or ill, knowing one's prakrti helps one to know oneself better and live a healthy and peaceful life.

The following table contains the characteristics of the different types of prakrtis.

Physical Traits[edit]

Body frame thin medium hefty
Finger nails cracking and thin pink and soft wide, white and thick
Hair thin and dry grey and bald silky, curly and dense
Resting pulse (early morning or before breakfast) 80 - 100 70 - 80 60 - 70
Weight low and bony medium and muscular often overweight
Bowel movements small, hard, with gas, frequently constipated loose and burning moderate and solid
Forehead size small medium, large
Appetite irregular strong and sharp constant and poor
Eyes small and unsteady reddish and cat eyed wide with large white part (sclera)
Lips thin and crackin medium and soft large and smooth
Skin Dry cherished and wrinkles oily and smooth
Voice stammering and weak commanding and sharp soft, sweet and resonating
Which most bothers you ? cold and dry heat and sun cold and damp

Mental Traits[edit]

Temperament nervous or fearful irritable or impatient easygoing
Speech quick or talkative moderate or argues slow or silent
Sleep pattern less and disturbed moderate sleepy and lazy
Habit travel sports or politics enjoying water and flowers
Memory quickly grasps, soon forgets sharp and clear slow to learn, never to forget
Beliefs radical or changing leader and goal oriented loyal and constant
Dream flying and anxious fighting and colourful few and romantic
Emotion enthusiastic but full of worries warm and angry calm and attached
Mind quick and adaptable penetrating and critical slow and lethargic

It is very rare to find an Eka prakrti – person predominant of only one dosha like kevala vaata prakrti. Most of us are Dvandva or Dvidoshaja or dual prakrtis like Vaata – pitta, Pitta – kapha or Vaata – kapha. A person with all the three doshas in equal proportion is called Samadosha or tridoshaja prakrti.

The type of food one eats increases or decreases the corresponding type of dosha in the body. One's activities also have a similar effect. For instance, vaata prakrti persons intaking more vaata predominant foods are likely to suffer disorders of vaata origin. By making eating choices in harmony with one's Prakrti needs, one can lead a healthy life.