“To thine own self be true”, is one of Shakespeare’s famous quotes. Not only is it poetic, but it’s also Ayurvedic. To know one’s true nature – their true Self, allows one to best maintain health. It also provides valuable knowledge when health becomes imbalanced and healing remedies are needed.
Man is a microcosm of the Universe; both consist of the five elements. The basic building blocks of Ayurveda begin with the five elements. They are ether, air, fire, water and earth. The elements are then grouped into the three doshas – the bodily humors. These are vata, pitta and kapha. Every dosha has all five elements, but two are more prevalent. The doshas manifest in all creation and they are:
Vata: Ether and Air
Pitta: Fire and Water
Kapha: Water and Earth
Prakruti is one’s constitution which is made up of the three doshas. According to Dr. Vasant Lad of The Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, it is “the unique psychophysical makeup and functional habits of a person.” Prakruti is set at conception and influenced by things like the genetic makeup of the parents, age of the parents, the doshic state of the parents at conception, and the season and time of day at conception. Prakruti does not change during one’s lifetime. It is our true nature in body, mind, personality and spirit.
Knowing one’s prakruti helps maintain health by understanding the relationship between one’s self and their environment. Life is a state of constant change, so the doshas are constantly being exposed to changes through lifestyle, diet, environmental and relationship factors. Knowing prakruti helps one better understand which organs and bodily systems are more susceptible to certain imbalances and diseases.
There are seven possible types of prakruti, each one expressing the uniqueness of each person. They are: Vata; Pitta; Kapha; Vata Pitta; Pitta Kapha; Vata Kapha; and Vata Pitta Kapha, also known as Tridoshic.
Vikruti is the current state of the doshas. It is influenced by the daily choices we make regarding food, lifestyle and relationships. External factors such as the stage of life, season, time of day, where one lives, weather patterns and environmental circumstances also affect the doshas.
Learning to keep the doshas balanced requires awareness and a desire to honor the body by making daily choices which best support prakruti and vikruti. By not listening to the body’s innate intelligence, order quickly becomes disorder. This is the beginning of imbalance…the onset of disease. Health is order; disease is disorder. Ayurveda can help people regain and maintain balance in the doshas. Balance helps promote health and happiness.
When determining a client’s prakruti and vikruti, an Ayurvedic Consultant is looking first at what dosha(s) is predominant and second what dosha(s) are out of balance. This is done primarily through pulse analysis. When one understands prakruti and vikruti, a disease process is better understood and the proper course of treatment is best determined. Ayurveda is a holistic and natural approach to health. By helping the doshas return to their natural state, balanced is achieved and a client’s health is improved.
The Three Doshas and Twenty Gunas
Another diagnostic tool, which helps determine imbalances in the body, is the twenty gunas. Guna means quality or attribute. The gunas describe the inherent qualities in the doshas, in a physical and energetic sense. The twenty gunas are present in Nature, our bodies, our food and even in our relationships with people. The twenty gunas relate to the three doshas. Knowing which gunas are present in a chronic health condition helps an Ayurvedic Consultant provide the proper course of treatment of diet and lifestyle suggestions. Here are the gunas of each dosha:
For therapeutic purposes, by understanding the qualities of a dosha, the proper remedy can be applied, by using the principle of like increases like and the opposite will pacify. This will bring the dosha back to a balanced state. For example, if a person is experiencing chronic constipation, a condition which has the qualities of dry and rough, the pacifying treatment would be to introduce warm water in the morning and warm soft soupy foods for meals
A Balanced Approach to Health.
By understanding prakruti/vikruti, the doshas and the gunas, we are better able to maintain balanced relationships with the seasons, foods, people, and lifestyle activities. Life is relationship. Ayurveda provides a simple and profound way to learn about the cause and effect of all our relationships, whether it pertains to the lunch we are eating, the company we are keeping, or the exercise we are doing. Life is a constant practice of balancing prakruti- our natural balanced state which helps maintain health, and vikruti – the unbalanced state which eventually leads to disease. Through diet, lifestyle, yoga, pranayama, herbs and essential oils, Ayurveda is the bridge which offers simple and effective ways to reach our natural balanced state on a daily basis.