Ayurveda teaches that we are all born with a set constitution called prakriti (means nature or first creation in Sanskrit) which is determined at the moment of conception. Determining factors are:
- The constitution of both parents (genetics)
- The state of health of the mother throughout her pregnancy
- Environmental factors such as the season and even time of day when conception occurred
- Our karmic memory (what we carry over from past lives)
Just like we cannot change the color of our eyes or how tall we are, our prakriti never changes.
It is from the three doshas (forces or bodily humours) known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha that seven body types (emotional, physical and spiritual) are formed. Our individual combination of the doshas create our unique prakriti.
“Being at the very core of our numinous nature, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are essentially the motion, dream, and food of being. Patterned within the physical body, the doshas are the organising forces that maintain health and eliminate bodily waste.”
–Maya Tiwari, “Ayurveda: A Life of Balance”
These three doshas are combinations of the five elements found in all of nature: air, ether (space), fire, water and earth. We all have each of the doshas present in our constitution, just in varying, unique combinations and degrees.
Recognising this uniqueness, and treating each person differently according to the needs of their prakriti, is what sets Ayurveda apart from the Western medicine approach of treating every person the same for certain conditions/diseases.
The seven combinations, according to the ancient Ayurvedic texts are:
- V (Vata) – Air/Ether
- P (Pitta) – Fire/Water
- K (Kapha) – Water/Earth
- VP (Vata-Pitta) – or PV (Pitta-Vata) – Air/Ether/Fire/Water
- PK (Pitta-Kapha) or KP (Kapha-Pitta) – Fire/Water/Earth
- VK (Vata-Kapha) or KV (Kapha-Vata) – Air/Ether/Water/Earth
- VPK (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) – referred to as Tridoshic – Air/Ether/Fire/Water/Earth
While our original nature or constitution is set and unchanging, our present state, referred to asvikriti is constantly changing – from season to season, day to day, even minute to minute.
Someone who is predominantly Kapha, for example, can have a Vata imbalance, resulting in high anxiety, fear or nervousness (traits of unbalanced Vata).
On the flip side, someone who is predominantly Vata can have a Kapha imbalance. This was the case with myself (a VP type) after my partner died. For a couple of years I experienced a great deal of Kapha-type imbalances – weight gain, mild depression, lethargy.
In some ways, I think my body’s innate wisdom knew that I needed grounding (a Kapha trait that Vata-types are sorely lacking in). Being educated in Ayurveda helped me recognise what was going on and take the steps to bring myself back towards balance.
So, why is it so important to know your Ayurvedic constitution? I can’t begin to tell you how much it has changed my life to be able to recognise my own true nature, as well as those of the people closest to me in my life.
And even encountering strangers in my everyday life – I am more understanding of, and more compassionate for people who are different from me in so many ways.
Imagine truly understanding why you (or your partner or child) is so quick to anger (Pitta), or so easily becomes distracted, anxious or fearful (Vata). Or perhaps you are someone prone to depression or you can’t let go of the past, or you just can’t seem to make changes in your life (Kapha).
Living with someone who is the complete opposite of you in terms of constitution can be a challenge indeed. But it can also be a blessing (opposites attract!) because one of the keys to living a balanced life in Ayurveda is thinking in terms of opposites.
I am mostly Vata-Pitta, so my natural state is constant movement – both physically, mentally and emotionally.
Everything in our world – including our cities, the plants, the animals and the ground we walk on – has the same principles. Think hummingbird (Vata) versus elephant (Kapha) versus lion (Pitta). You get the picture!
Perhaps you’re always on the go but your partner likes to chill. Or your super-organised partner wonders why you’re so scattered and disorganised.
Maybe you have one child who can’t sit still, with the appetite of a church mouse, and another who you can’t get moving but loves food.
If you are the complete opposite of your child or your partner in terms of doshas, you need to truly understand what benefits them, on an emotional, physical and spiritual level.
Knowledge is power and knowing the constitution of your family members can completely change the energy in your home.
Here is a quiz that you can take to help determine your prakriti. And for more information about each dosha, check out these articles:
Vata: “The Arrival of Vata Season (Anxiety Alert!)”
Pitta: “Pitta Season: How to Keep Your Cool”
Kapha: “Are You Ready For Kapha Season?”
If you are still confused and feeling a little overwhelmed by these ancient concepts and want to know more about how to determine your prakriti as well as the prakriti of your partner and/or children, I would LOVE to help you!
My absolute favourite thing to do is simplifying Ayurveda for people and gently guiding them towards their true nature. Contact us and we can get started!
In fact, I’m a little obsessed with these concepts! I remember looking through the lens as I was photographing the above birthday party and recognising all of the different doshas of the children. I could tell by how they were handling the heat, their hunger level, their enthusiasm as well as their physical traits.
Have you discerned your prakriti? What are your thoughts on Ayurveda? I’d love for you to share them here with me!
“Not only was it “Vata Season” when I called Barbara, but I also have the propensity of allowing Vata to take over my life: I get hyper and anxious easily. I called Barbara for a consult, and she offered me much good advice which made a huge difference in my temperament and disposition.” – Gina Walker, Orchard Lake, MI
Some helpful resources:
“Ayurveda: A Life of Balance” by Maya Tiwari
“Perfect Health for Kids: Ten Ayurvedic Health Secrets Every Parent Must Know” by John Douillard