Understanding Prakruti – Vata, Pitta and Kapha
WHO (World Health Organisation) recognises Ayurveda as an ancient and holistic system of health care with texts said to be about 6000 years old. Ayurveda is said to be in existence in oral form for about 40,000 years. Suppressed during years of foreign occupation, Ayurveda has been enjoying renaissance in both in India and in the world. Ayurveda has greatly inﬂuenced health care practices in the East and the West in past and again doing it recently. Tibetan medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine both have their roots in Ayurveda. Early Greek medicine also incorporated many concepts originally described in the classical Ayurvedic medical texts dating back thousands of years. The philosophy of Ayurveda teaches that disease/health results from the interconnectedness between the self, personality, and everything that occurs in the mental, emotional, and spiritual level. Understanding Prakruti helps in understanding people at home.Ayurveda, (meaning Science of Life) deals with what is good and bad, happiness and misery, that which supports, or destroys, and the measurements of life. It works to heal the sick, to maintain health in the healthy, and to prevent disease in order to promote a long and good quality life. To be healthy, harmony must exist between the purpose for healing, thoughts, feelings and physical action.
Focus on Prevention in West
According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a fundamental aim of any health system is to prevent disease and reduce ill health, so that people remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible. In Australia, prevention as part of advocacy and action in public health has long been a core focus of health authorities (Gruszin et al. 2012). The ongoing need for prevention has also been brought into sharp focus by the increase in chronic diseases, with the large associated health, social and economic burdens. Chronic disease is a global concern, with prevention of chronic diseases considered to be a key approach that will ensure that future generations are not at risk of premature death from these diseases (Beaglehole et al. 2011). In Australia and globally there is a need to ‘treat preventative healthcare as a first order economic challenge because failure to do so results in a long-term negative impact on workforce participation, productivity growth and the impact on the overall health budget.
While accepting modern tools and technologies, it is equally important to respect epistemological value of knowledge system like Ayurveda. The epistemology of Ayurveda is based on the relation between microcosm and macrocosm involving five basic elements (Mahabhoota), three dynamic principles similar to humors (dosha), seven types of tissues (dhatus) and many other unique concepts. In general, Ayurveda is experiential, intuitive and holistic, whereas that of the modern medicine is based more on experimental, analytical and reductive reasoning. It has passed the test of time, proving its usefulness and robustness in its ability to provide health and wellness.
Ayurveda is uniquely patient oriented where the Ayurvedic physician diagnoses, treats and dispenses medicine to every individual patient. This important principle can form the basis for a form of personalized medicine which will give maximum therapeutic effectiveness and high safety to a particular person with a particular disorder, under specified conditions depending on individual constitution, and properties of materials.
Specific prescription may include supportive therapies, diet and life-style advice so as to regain physiological balance, finally resulting in the removal of the disorder. A number of research groups are now investigating the correlation between Ayurvedic phenotypes and individual human genotypes. A pioneering study showed significant correlation between HLA alleles and Ayurvedic Prakruti type. The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system or complex is a gene complex encoding the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins in humans. These cell-surface proteins are responsible for the regulation of the immune system in humans.
Understanding Prakruti – Vata, Pitta and Kapha
If you are a parent, understanding mind-body type or prakruti will help you understand why your children behave the way they do. You will benefit from understanding yourself and your spouse better. You will understand and appreciate their mental processes and attitudes. Often, having a deeper understanding of their body types will bring compassion for them and often we therefore find better ways of dealing with them in those “sticky” situations.
As you learn and understand who you are, you can also understand your own potential, your own internal challenges, and also how you can overcome them. e.g. if you have a lot of Vata in your body type, it may give you creativity but it may also give you challenge of going into fear and anxiety in times of challenge.
In relation to diet and nutrition, you will know what food will work for individuals and what will not work. For example, a person with a dominating vata dosha in her/his body will experience more anxiety or agitation from eating salads. So what is best food for him/her? They will typically benefit from foods that are warm, moist and slightly oily. Understanding mindbody type will help you prepare more suitable meals that will promote balance and wellness to your loved ones. For people with dominating Vata Dosha in their bodies, their key issues are dryness, stiffness, lack of ﬂexibility, ﬂuctuations of the mind and lack of stillness in body. Because they usually suffer from stiffness, they are prone to injury and joint ailments, hence they need a very gentle way of doing exercise.
To stay in “balance” they need activities that are calm, slow, steady, grounding, strengthening, and consistent – consistent – thus creating / delivering the calm stillness and ﬂexibility. Vata people should consciously restrict movement to counter Vata’s tendency of too much activity.
People who have more Pitta in their bodies are intense and competitive. When in balance, they are a realist, a leader, a planner, a decision maker. But if out of balance, they can become aggressive and self-promoting; chances are, they’ll eventually overheat (both physically and mentally). This shows up emotionally as anger, irritation, frustration and resentment. Pitta dosha is like fre: hot, intense, penetrating, radiant, bright, mobile, expansive, and light. Pitta dominant minds are fundamentally motivated by the need to have a goal, a challenge, something to do and get engaged with, to digest, to understand and assimilate deeply. Pitta types need their work to be going somewhere; it needs to be goal oriented, clearly structured. There can be a preference for moderate to high levels of pressure and intensity. People with a lot of pitta in their body type may fnd success in elite level sports, law, finance or politics and any other place where they are leaders in their own right.
For Pitta, their key issues are internal heat, liver, and aggression. Hence, their appropriate yoga postures can be cooling, relaxing, surrendering, forgiving, and gentle. For example, they need to do yoga postures that bring coolness and relaxation such as relaxing breath and quiet sitting between strong asanas. Strong workouts are not recommended for Pitta as this creates more heat to their body. For example, veerasana may not be a good one for pitta people or when pitta is aggravated.
Consequently, shitali pranayama, shoulder stand and plough pose, spinal twists are excellent yoga postures for Pitta. Also, postures that release tension from midabdomen, liver and small intestine e.g cobra, bow, boat and fsh pose are also great. Forward bends are good but back bends are heating. Seated twists help clear the liver. Pittas need to feel cool, relaxed and stress free, with no feeling of competition and aggression and sharpness with their yoga practice
Those who have more Kapha Dosha in their bodies are people who are slow but steady, reliable, and compassionate in nature. Heavy, immobile, dense, solid, smooth and moist, cool are some other words that are used with Kapha. When they are in balance, they have a lot of stamina, endurance, and strength. Kapha people often use these qualities to make a business or operation run smoothly. But if their job is sedentary, then they can slip into complacency, inertia, possessiveness, and collecting or hoarding. They may not like change and avoid it even when it may be beneficial. Kapha dominant minds are fundamentally motivated by the need to create security and stability, comfort and cohesion.
Our Ayurvedic recommendation for Kapha types is for them to bring variation in their routine to get over their tendency to get stuck in a rut. Creating challenges for themselves is highly recommended. For example, sign up for a class in something that sparks their interest. Kapha body type people may find satisfaction and excellence in caring professions like medicine, or horticulture where they are nourishing plants, in manual labour jobs or where they are managing or creating structures or where structure and repetition is required. For people who have dominating Kapha Dosha, their key issues are stagnation. They are prone to overweight and they may likely have metabolism issues in their bodies. Hence, they must do things that are stimulating, moving, warming, lightening, releasing and energising, at home, at work or exercise.
This Article Was First published in ANTA’s TNT magazine.