Prakriti – Balancing by Ayurveda
Posted on March 21 2018
Prakriti literally means – ‘The first creation’.
Prakriti is our basic constitution – a unique blend of universal energies that came together to give us both your body type and temperament. It is determined at the moment of conception and relates to our genetically inherited physical and emotional qualities. Prakriti specifies the qualities, characteristics and tendencies that are stable. Prakriti is described by three Doshas – vata, pitta and kapha which are vaguely comparable with air, fire and earth element of the universe. Our Prakriti is determined by the balance of Doshas with which we are born. Mostly it is the blend of our parents’ doshic constitutions at the time of conception. This specific doshic balance defines our interactions with the world. The proportion of doshas decides our greatest strengths and talents, and when we know our Prakruti, we can take maximum advantage of them. There are seven main Prakritis mentioned in Ayurveda:
Before talking further it is important to know what are the Panch mahabhutas and its relation with Doshas. The doshas are themselves combination of energies present in the universe. It is very well said that ‘as the universe is, so we are’. An embodied living entity is like a Microcosmos in a Macrocosmos (the Universe). All manifestations in the universe are a combination of the five elements. (Panchmahabhutas).
Earth – Solid state of matter
Water – Fluid state of matter
Fire – Energy to transform matter from one state to another.
Air – Gaseous state of matter
Ether – Space in which matter can exist and is contained.
Vata is a combination of air and ether. It is responsible for all movements of the body, mind, and senses and process of elimination. Pitta is combination of fire and water. It is responsible for heat, metabolism, energy production and digestive functions of the body. Kapha is a combination of earth and water. It is responsible for physical stability, proper body structure and fluid balance. Our Prakriti does not change; it remains constant throughout life. The state of the doshas can change. This changed pattern is called Vikriti or conditional state, as it does not match the original pattern. It causes disruptions that eventually result in some kind of disorder. The attributes given to vata, pitta and kapha exist all around us. They manifest in the climate, living conditions, emotional atmosphere and in the foods we eat. These qualities from our environment act on our bodies by bringing to it their qualities. The outer elements directly change the balance of inner elements. For example, Wind is dry in nature. It increases vata, causing the skin to become dry and cracked. Spicy and pungent foods increase pitta which leads to inflammation. Greasy and oily food, excessive sleep increases kapha dosha. This inertia also contributes to weight gain. So, it is very clear that like increases like. By the same logic, influences of opposite qualities to the doshas will help to maintain balance. This is the fundamental principle of healing in Ayurveda and key to making correct choices to support the health and beauty of the body. So, when we live according to our innate constitution, our individual nature is perfectly attuned to that of Mother Nature and ideal health results. We excel in our dharma and achieve maximum happiness and satisfaction in life with minimum efforts. The attention given to treating people as individuals is one of the greatest gifts of the Ayurvedic approach to health and beauty. Restoring the balance (getting back into your nature) can be done with the following:
Ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy is the oldest scientific system for detoxification and re energising the body. The programme is planned to improve health of a healthy person, enhance natural good looks or to cure a disease. Traditionally undertaken as a preventive therapy at the change of seasons, both winter to spring and summer to fall, the aim of Panchkarma is to cleanse the ama (toxins) and excess of subtle energies or doshas, from the body, thereby promoting health and longevity. Ayurveda has planned five Panchakarma procedures for 3 doshas:
- Vaman – for kapha dosha
- Virechana – for pitta dosha
- Basti – for vata dosha
- Nasaya – can be selected for either of vata, pitta or kapha.
- RaktaMokshana – Blood Letting for blood and Pitta disorders
Once the Panchkarma procedures have been completed, the channels in the body are properly cleansed and the body and mind have free flow of prana – then it becomes more important to follow diet and lifestyle according to one’s Prakriti.
An Ayurvedic diet is based more upon the intuitive sense of what is attractive to the individual by color, smell, temperature, taste and texture. This works very well when we are healthy. When our body is in balance it is attracted to foods by its own innate intelligence. But in today’s world we are so much influenced from our surroundings which throw us out of balance. Foods are known by their qualities or gunas and taste or rasa.
There are six main Gunas:
And there are six Rasas:
The qualities and taste of the food best for a particular dosha are those which help to counteract the qualities of the dosha. Food for a particular dosha helps balancing its tendencies with opposite qualities and resulting tendencies. For example Kapha is heavy, oily and cold; to balance it, we need light, dry and hot attributes. It is also mentioned that our each meal should have all the six tastes, the portion of each varying to balance the dominant dosha of the individual. This gives complete satisfaction and curbs cravings for eating and snacking. The meals for the particular constitution should be made by considering Rasa and Gunas. This will help planning a perfect meal as the foods healthy for Vata person may not be good for Kapha. For example, Vata people feel grounded and energetic after having a healthy bowl of grain cereal and milk. On other side Kapha people feel heavy and probably fall asleep after having such a meal.
General considerations of diet for vata constitution
Vata dosha person have very unpredictable appetite so they should choose warm foods especially stews and simple one dish meals. Use mild spices and little salt to help prime digestion. And try to avoid wind and cold, junk food; homemade foods are the best for them. Avoid eating when anxious, nervous, afraid, deep in thought or worried. Vata people should pay attention to eating and should not eat while watching TV, listening to music, reading, and using mobile phones. They should eat little at one time but skipping meals is not good. Eat with people who take pleasure in a calm, tidy, clean and spacious feeling atmosphere. Vata gets increased by age, autumn season, afternoon time, travel, loud noise, cold and wind. Be careful with diets at this time. Sweet, heavy, sour, salty oily and warm foods balance Vata. Take relatively more of such food. Qualities of food that imbalance vata are pungent, bitter, astringent, light, dry, cold. Take lesser of these foods.
General considerations of diet for pitta constitution
Pitta people have strong appetite. Unsatisfied appetite leads to intense hunger, irritation and anger. Pitta person should take cool, slightly dry and little heavy food. Avoid salt. Midday meal should be the largest meal of the day. Avoid eating late at night. Fresh fruits or vegetables are the best evening snack if appetite demands. Avoid eating when angry, irritated, or in competitive situations. Pitta’s strong digestion can lead to the development of abusive habits that cause problems eventually i.e. Over eating, excessively oily, Overcooked, or excessively rich or hot spicy food, caffeine, red meat, eggs, alcohol and sugar. Pitta is increased by summer season, at midday and midnight, intense heat, excessive sunlight etc. Qualities of food that balance Pitta are sweet, astringent, bitter, cool, heavy and dry. Take relatively more of such food. Qualities of food that im- balance Pitta are pungent, hot, sour, light, salty, oily. Take less of these and less frequently.
General consideration of diet for Kapha constitution
Eating less in quantity and frequency but maintaining a high quality of foods is the key for balancing Kapha dosha. Take low salt, low fat, high fiber, lightly cooked foods. Kapha people can skip breakfast. Take a gentle walk after eating. Avoid sleeping after meals as this adds to heaviness in the body. Fasting once in a week is good. Food should not be taken as an emotional support by Kapha persons. Kapha is increased in early morning, later in the evening and during the spring season. Be most careful with your diet at these times, avoiding heavy breakfast or late night eating. Qualities of food that balance Kapha are pungent, light, dry , astringent, bitter and hot. Take more of these and more often. Qualities of food that imbalance Kapha are sweet, heavy, sour, oily, salty and cold. These should be consumed very less.
Yoga and Meditation
Along with the cleansing procedures and following the particular life style one has to keep oneself mentally and physically strong. Yoga and Ayurveda are closely related sciences derived from the same root that complement each other to achieve perfection in life. It is very important to understand the respective roles of Ayurveda and Yoga in the Vedic system. Yoga and Ayurveda are related healing disciplines. Each has its unique place and function but each overlaps the other on various levels.
It is very beautifully prescribed in Yoga and Ayurveda that different asanas and pranayamas are conducted to balance the different doshas. For vata imbalance and vata constitution personal asanas which add the qualities of warmth, stability, grounding should be practiced to re-establish the natural state of health and well-being.
Basic guidelines to be followed by Vata people during Yoga practice:
Massage before you start
Feet & Ankle Warm Up
Practice at a slow, smooth and steady pace.
Very light and gentle movements such as rotation in the joints, counter-poses, and flexion and extension.
Each posture should be done for short time.
Try creating stability in your poses.
Focus on lengthening your inhalation.
Stay grounded. Ground down through your big toes.
Engage your entire body with care and don’t overexert.
Be present in your practice.
Conclude your practice with a long relaxation.
Pitta individual should encourage compassion, acceptance, relaxed effort and be cooling in nature in their yogic exercises
Basic guidelines to be followed by Pitta people during practice:
Try enjoying each movement in your poses.
Be slow and steady. The asanas should be cooling, nurturing and restoring.
Perform cooling postures and pranayama.
Practice should lay emphasis on the middle abdomen, small intestine and liver – the main sites for pitta accumulation.
Bring creativity in your practice.
Focus on the yoga experience in your body, not your brain.
Work at 80% efficiency.
Focus on your exhalation.
Use the exhalation to let go and release any built up anger, frustration, stress, etc.
Keep check on your breath.
Notice the position of your ribs; draw them back into your body.
Benefit from practicing at a moderate pace.
Don’t over utilize your energy. Never convert your practice into strong workout which makes you sweat and raising your body
Kapha individual should create space, stimulation, warmth and buoyancy in their practice.
Basic guidelines to be followed by kapha people during practice:
Practice in a warm space.
Use a strong forceful breath like bhastrika, kapalbhati except in few diseased states
Keep your chest and shoulders open and lifted as you practice.
Have a sharp upward gaze.
Feel a sense of lightness in your poses.
Pause for a moment between your inhalations and exhalations.
Keep moving. Have short resting periods between poses.
Enjoy a restorative pose for final relaxation.
Practice at a vigorous pace and intensity.
Author: Vivek Mohindra
Practitioner and teacher of Ayurveda & Yoga philosophy at EISRA (European Institute of Scientific Research on Ayurveda)