There are two very important concepts in Ayurveda. These two concepts are the key to Ayurvedic diagnostics and to determining the course of Ayurvedic treatments, as well as to making recommendations related to one's diet and lifestyle. They are called prakruti and vikruti.
Prakruti represents our basic constitution, the one that we were born with and that we keep for the rest of our lives. Prakruti is expressed through three doshas. Each individual is a unique combination of these three principles, or three doshas, always manifesting themselves in specific ratios and in specific ways. Constitutional types usually consist of two doshas, e.g. vata – pitta (bidoshic types). Mono-doshic types, e.g. kapha, are rare and tridoshic types, e.g. vata – pitta – kapha are very rare.
It is important to emphasize that each constitution is unique. Permutations and combinations of doshas and their particular qualities account for numerous different combinations which result in individual constitutions, physical, mental and emotional. We can say that although we are all made of the same elements, doshas and their qualities, they always manifest themselves in unique combinations.
In contrast to prakruti, which represents our inborn constitution, vikruti represents our current state of doshas, or, in other words, a deviation from our inborn constitution. The deviation indicates imbalance. The most dominant dosha is the one which tends to be thrown out of balance and therefore should be paid most attention. In order to keep it in balance, it is necessary to make changes in one's lifestyle and diet, which is often done by means of different herbal and other substances.
Since individuals are constantly influenced by external factors such as climate, food, lifestyle, habits, environment etc., particular doshas can be unbalanced and consequently unbalance the whole system and start creating preconditions for an illness to develop. Such changed state of doshas is called vikruti. When doshas within one's body are unbalanced it does not necessarily result in illness. However, if the balance of vikruti is not restored, it provides fertile ground for illness and different kinds of imbalance.
Regardless of the fact that each constitution is unique we can say that most people have one or two doshas that are dominant. In order to spot the differences among different constitutional types more easily, we will provide descriptions of typical vata, pitta and kapha constitutions.
People with dominant vata in their constitution or with high vata dosha are people who tend to be thin and may have difficulties with gaining weight. These people have narrow shoulders and their joints often crack. Their skin is usually dry, chapped and cold to touch, and their hair is coarse, dry and curly. Weak circulation in arms and legs is also very common. They sweat a little (unless sweating is caused by some excitation of their nervous system), they like being in the sun that they find beneficial to their cold and stiff limbs. They get tan very fast.
Their appetite is irregular. There are times when they have to eat all the time, and, on the other hand, sometimes they have no appetite for days. They get excited quickly and adopt irregular lifestyle, which only makes their condition worse. Their digestion is slow and they tend to be constipated. The level of energy often varies and therefore vata types are either hyperactive or completely 'squeezed'. There are problems with sleeping which tends to be interrupted and restless. It is typical for them to feel pain rather intensely and they can be sensitive to loud noise.
One of the main characteristics of vata is constant change.
Vata types are recommended to regularly apply sesame oil over their bodies, to eat cooked, warm and easily digestible food, not to expose themselves to coldness and other kinds of sudden changes and to live a regular life.
These types are usually very temperamental, obtrusive and dominant. They are people of average build, height and stamina. Their skin is usually pale or reddish, they easily get burnt in the sun or become irritated. Their faces get red easily and their skin is covered by spots and moles. They usually have straight and fair hair. They sweat a lot, their appetite and digestion are strong, so they are tolerant to all kinds of food. Due to strong fire and higher body temperature, their stool tends to be loose so they rarely suffer from indigestion.
Pitta types are very sharp, they tend to be impatient and like to lead. They often pursue careers in jobs demanding leadership skills, precision and discipline. They usually sleep well unless preoccupied with work, career or other goals.
Pitta types are recommended to do things slowly, avoid being exposed to the sun or other sources which heat the body, such as alcohol, nicotine or strong emotions. They should eat more raw food and choose tastes which cool. Relaxation and quiet time spent with no activities are very important.
They are people of a large build and they easily gain weight. If they exercise and do sports, their bodies are healthy and well-formed. Although their appetite is not too strong, they often develop an attachment to food and use it as emotional fulfilment. Their sleep is good and they tend to stay in bed for too long. They are very stable and satisfied, but it often leads to passivity. Kapha types easily become possessive, stubborn and resistant to change. Their digestion is usually good and regular although its characteristic can be slow elimination. Kaphas are very emotional and sentimental.
Recommendations for kapha types include lots of physical and mental activity. Their life should include challenge, stimulation and motivation as much as possible. In every respect, activity is the best medicine for kapha types. They should avoid heavy, greasy and sweet foods, get up early in the morning and include a lot of activity in their lives in order to defy their inborn stagnation.
In case of constitutions with two dominant doshas, we should take into consideration the above mentioned combinations of dosha characteristics. In case of tridoshic types, which are very rare, qualities of all three doshas are equally present.
To sum up, prakruti and vikruti are the key to understanding and maintaining health and striking imbalance at its root. By knowing one’s constitution it is possible to prevent illness or minimize the chances of its appearance. Ayurvedic diagnostics has developed tools for recognizing even minimal deviations from proper functioning of doshas and therefore it can easily help us prevent the development of illness. In case the imbalance is serious, the approach will demand more than prevention and it will include a comprehensive Ayurvedic treatment.