Following on from Part 1 in this series, “5 Elements & 3 Doshas”, the term Dosha is also commonly used in Ayurveda to describe the different constitutions or body types e.g. I am Vata, Pitta or Kapha. While this is only a partial understanding of the Doshas, it does provide a useful way of understanding our own unique relationship with Nature, and a practical framework for applying the principle, ‘like increases like’, in day to day life.
Just as we are a unique combination of the elements we are also a unique combination of the three Doshas. At a physical level this combination determines our physical, emotional and mental characteristics. Generally, we will experience one as being more dominate, another will be secondary and the third may seem to have a minimal role to play. This provides a range of possible combinations such as:
Pitta/Vata or Vata/Pitta,
Vata/Kapha or Kapha/Vata,
Pitta/Kapha or Kapha/Pitta,
An equal blend of Vata/Pitta/Kapha is rarely seen today although it could be seen to be a highly desirable state.
Prakruti & Vikruti
Our unique blend of the Doshas is our basic constitution or Prakruti. Our Prakruti is an outcome of the unique combination of the elements that make us who we are, and just like our fingerprints, it is unlike anyone else’s. I like to refer to it as our unique elemental cocktail. Largely determined at the time of conception, our Prakruti is predominately influenced by the constitutions of our parents and their state of balance or health at that time. In the same way that the basic nature of a parent/child relationship remains fixed throughout life, our Prakruti remains constant throughout our life.
Our basic constitution however, is influenced by everything that is happening both around and within us. In the same way that a parent /child relationship is influenced and changes over time. The seasons, our lifestyle and diet, mental and emotional stress, life stages, basically everything we experience on a day to day basis, affects the Doshas. This fluctuation in the Doshas, or our state of balance at any point in time, is known as our Vikruti.
The concepts of Prakruti and Vikruti are a way of understanding our relationship with nature and the basic premise of Ayurveda – that is ‘like increases like’.
For example, a person who is generally very slim with dryish skin, tends to sleep lightly, feels the cold, and is prone to bloating and constipation is strongly influenced by Vata energy – the qualities of Vata being dry, light and cold. Based on the concept of ‘like increases like’, giving this person food with those same qualities such as dry crackers, cold drinks and salads will further increase this Vata energy and exacerbate the symptoms. Instead, to help balance and pacify Vata they would benefit most from foods with the opposite qualities of warmth, moistness and heaviness such as grains, stews, porridge and soups.
Our unique blend of the Doshas are the qualities through which we interact with the world. Predominately Vata types tend to believe that it is normal to always be on the move and that to be any other way is just odd. For forward looking Pitta types, strong determination and ambition are part of the usual mode of existence and they find someone who lacks these qualities difficult to understand. Kaphas can experience love, serenity and contentment by staying right where they are. Taking things slow and steady is normal for them, so they might not understand the ambition of Pitta or the way Vatas are forever in transit and looking for new projects.
Just where a healthy balance lies is different for each person. Each person achieves their own beauty when they take advantage of their unique qualities and find good balance with the others. While Pitta traits of ambition and drive are considered admirable in our society, they are not so attractive when they turn into ruthlessness and hardness because of a lack of Kapha compassion and serenity. Vata types are vivacious, quick-witted and charming, but without the caring, openheartedness of Kapha, gossipy jokes can turn ugly. Although brimming with new ideas, a Vata may never turn a single one into reality without some of the stability of Kapha and the drive of Pitta. Kapha with its solid foundation may never get started without some of Vata’s enthusiasm and Pitta’s determination.
Understanding your special Dosha mix is a fantastic tool to getting to know you better. Self- knowledge fosters self-acceptance. Knowledge of the Doshas helps you identify and appreciate your positive traits and take responsibility for your less desirable ones. Accepting your fundamental nature gives you a realistic base to work from and supports you as you grow. The aim is not to create a new you but to become the best possible you – your version of happy, joyful and vibrant.
A basic understanding of the Doshas also allows your compassion towards others to grow. When a Vata finds out that her couch potato house-mate is predominately Kapha, she understands why he chooses to stay in every night. When a Pitta realises that his colleague is strongly Vata, it’s easier for him to understand why she lacks the follow through to close a deal. When a Kapha grasps that her Pitta husband has hardly any Kapha, it’s easier for her to understand his lack of patience in listening to her troubles and desire to ‘fix’ her.
Next in the series, Understanding Ayurveda: Part 3 – Vata/Pitta/Kapha Unveiled plus a constitution assessment you can download to understand your Doshic blend