Constitution or Prakriti
The people that developed the ancient system of Ayurveda observed nature closely for hundreds of years. The outcome of their observations was as follows: the physical universe is composed of four primary states of matter – a solid state of matter; a liquid state of matter; matter in a state of transformation; and matter in movement. These four states of matter exist in a fifth state, a field or space. This is called the Pancha Mahabhutani, or five great states of matter. The ancients also observed that some principle controls these five different states of matter and how they blend together. According to this vision it is the three principles, Tri-Dosha, which govern nature as we know it. These principles can either be seen, or their actions observed, by anyone. The three Doshas, or Tri-Dosha, are the intelligent managers of matter, specifically living biological organisms.
In Ayurveda three Doshas are recognized. These three Dosha are used to understand individual people by their dominating activity. Hence, there are three ‘pure’ constitutional types that combine to make seven total possible constitutional types. These seven constitutions have many possible combinations giving an infinite number of individuals. When we speak of a constitutional type in Ayurveda we are only speaking of the predominate Dosha. Everyone has all three of these Dosha as they manage the functioning of the body – constitution is determined by the principle that is strongest and therefore controlling the metabolic function.
It is said that our constitution (Prakriti) is fixed at the moment of conception. Both the Dosha of the moment (i.e., time of day and season) and the Dosha that is predominating in each parent determine the individual’s constitution. The physical constitution remains fixed for life. The Dosha type, constitution (Prakriti), is not genetics or hereditary.
The best way to view the different Doshas is by seeing each of them as an intelligent principal that help to create an internal environment by managing functions within the body. These three intelligences are in a constant play with each other. The balance of that interaction determines our basic hemostasis and health. Our ability to maintain that hemostasis determines the length of our life. In Sanskrit, these intelligent principals have names which imply a multitude of meanings. Thus, it is important to recognize the terms as indicating a principal of intelligent functions and not to take them as literal translations of air, fire and water.
Traditionally the names of these principles (the Tri-Dosha) are:
VATA, PITTA, and KAPHA.
Vata = that which moves
Pitta = that which burns
Kapha = that which holds and binds
These three Doshas combine to make the seven constitutional types as mentioned above. They are:
These are called either pure types (V, P, K) or mixed types (VP, VK, PK), or an equal type (VPK).
The purpose of the seven types, V, P, K, VP, VK, PK and VPK, is not to classify people. Rather, it is a way to understand how the metabolism functions and hemostasis. In Ayurveda, they do not compare one type to another type. Actually, it is against the precepts of Ayurveda to compare people in any way shape or form. No constitution (Prakriti) is better or worse than any other. Nor, is any one mix or combination better than any other. Each type or combined type has its pros and cons. Actually, everyone has all three intelligent principles, or Doshas – this is just a distinction of which one is dominating the metabolic functions. In the descriptions below the healthy (Prakriti) and unhealthy (Vikriti) traits are indicated. Remember that these descriptions show tendencies and are not fixed for everyone.
Prakriti Profiles of Each Type –
This person tends toward a variable metabolism; in other words, there is no daily consistency in digestion. One day the Vata person will digest a pizza easily and the next day not at all. On still yet another day the same pizza will cause minor indigestion. This shows an inconsistency in metabolism, and as digestive function is one of the main indications of the overall metabolism we can judge that Vata people will not consistently digest the same food or dish the same way.
These people tend to digest quickly when they do digest and tend to get gas when they do not digest well. When this type is disturbed they can become constipated, or bloated, or just ‘gassy’. These people will tend to have dry skin, dry hair and it is this same internal dryness that may cause constipation.
This type will generally have a smaller bone structure – their skeletal frame. The bones themselves will be thinner rather than thicker. They will tend to be tall and thin or short and thin. However, when this type is disturbed or agitated they can become fat. This is truer in adulthood after the age of thirty. These people are usually thin by the time they enter adolescence, if not for their whole life.
This type has difficulty to gain weight. No matter how much they eat they rarely seem to gain any weight. In general, they are not big eaters, but prefer to eat smaller amounts more frequently. They are the least interested in food of the seven types and will very often settle for poor quality foods like fast foods, junk foods or snacking, just because of a lack of interest.
Even though their metabolism is variable they will tend to be cool or cold most of the time. Their blood circulation is not strong and they generally have cold hands and feet because of this. They do not like cold weather much and need to cover themselves from the elements more than the other types.
The Vata person has the weakest immune system of all the types and will often come down with allergies, a cold or the flu. Yet, they usually have abundant energy, though not necessarily the stamina to keep up with it. They very often will be quite talkative, or even chaotic in a scattered sort of way. They are known to be good at starting things and not at finishing them. They can easily be disturbed from computers or other electronic devices, as they are the most physically sensitive of the three types.
The Pitta person has a very strong metabolism. They digest quickly and have the strongest power of digestion; they can eat anything. Their metabolism runs on the hot side and they tend to be ‘hot blooded’ in all senses of the meaning. They have warm skin, hands and feet. Their blood circulation is the strongest of the three types and they can be prone to heart or blood problems later in life.
Their metabolism is not only strong, but also consistent. Up until about Thirty-Eight years of age they will hardly notice the process of digestion unless it is heart burn or acidity. After forty they suddenly begin to notice that a few pounds arrived uninvited. Then they tend to become more aware of problematic foods like tomatoes or acidic citrus fruits.
When they do have problems digestively it reveals itself in the form of loose stools or diarrhea. Fried foods especially can trigger this kind of response. This is extremely true for fast foods or restaurant foods that are prepared in old or poor quality oils. The excess consumption of fried foods can also make them obese. Generally, they are neither thin nor overweight unless they eat too many fried and fatty foods. They will be the most regular in bowel movements of the three types.
Pitta types tend to suffer from skin problems due to the acidic nature of their blood and body fluids in general. They can also have liver problems even if they do not drink alcohol. Their eyesight may be poor or they may have trouble with their eyes at some point in their life. Generally, they will tend to have red eyes or be sensitive to the sunlight more than the other types. They often wear glasses.
They tend to be medium in build and bone structure. They are the most ‘average’ in size of the three types. However, do not be deceived by this distinction. Any of the types can have an ‘average’ build. They fall in-between the other types in both size and weight. They have an average level of endurance and stamina. Nonetheless, they have the strongest minds and so they can achieve actions beyond their normal strength or stamina through will power alone.
They have a good immune system and do not generally fall sick – unless they work too much! They tend to suffer more from frustration or over work than from physical illness. They are prone to exhaustion and burn out which leaves them open to infectious diseases. They suffer from inflammatory problems when they do fall ill.
This person has the slowest metabolism but the greatest consistency. Their digestive capacity is very regular and consistent. They can easily become congested or overloaded as their metabolism functions slowly. Of the three types these people take the longest to process what they eat. They will respond regularly to the same kinds of foods or meals.
When they have digestive disturbances, they will get bloated or have a subjectively heavy feeling in the stomach or abdomen area. As their digestion reflects their slow metabolic function they can easily over eat or eat too much of heavy, slow to digest foods. Disturbances tend to be reflected in accumulation of mucus or fat as when the intake of food is greater than the metabolic ability of processing and assimilation.
These people have the least resistance to sweets. Yet, they may be the most attracted to eating them of all the types. This attraction can put an extra strain on the adrenal – pancreas function that regulates blood sugar and the processing of fats and cholesterol among other things. Their kidney function can also become weak from any excess fat that is accumulated. Of the three types, they will hold more weight in fluids because of the inherent weakness in the water metabolism – i.e., kidney function. This can give a ‘puffy’ look to the skin and edema in general.
Kapha people have the strongest body and the greatest level of endurance of the three types. While somewhat prone to becoming over weight, it is by no means mandatory. They can achieve great feats of strength in certain sports and types of professions. They are the most physically orientated of the types and so have the greatest attraction for food. They have the largest bone structure of the types yet do not tend to be tall. Rather they tend to be strong, of medium height, and stocky.
Along with their physical strength they have the strongest immune function. Their resistance to disease is much greater than the other types and Kapha people will generally not become sick. When they do become ill it usually reflects poor nutritional or lifestyle habits. This includes drinking alcohol and smoking both of which cause problems for all the types. The Kapha type is prone to all kinds of accumulation in the body. This can manifest as tumors and other internal growths – of a benign nature. They can also be prone to lung problems or problems of the respiratory system in general.
The Kapha type generally enjoys the greatest level of physical health. Provided they do not indulge in extremes these people can live the longest and healthiest of the types. However, if they indulge in poor habits and nutrition they can fall ill and die from the many diseases of an affluent society.
This type is a mix of both Vata and Pitta. These mixes are called dual types as they reflect a combination of both principles. Usually, a dual type is pretty equal in displaying the traits of their type. However, one of the types can dominate in either the body or the psychology giving a person who looks like one type but behaves like another type. This is not the typical scenario however.
Physically these types are in-between the Vata and Pitta types or following either the Vata or the Pitta type. Generally, they are thinner rather than thicker and can exhibit either the dry, nervous qualities of the Vata type or the hot, dynamic qualities of the Pitta type. As nature is infinite in her combinations so are the possible mixes of these two principles. Physical structure is less a means of determining a dual type than observing your metabolism. This kind of mix will tend to have a strong digestion but be occasionally troubled by gas, malabsorption of nutrients, or diarrhea. They will normally be free from disease and are stronger than the pure Vata type. Yet, they are not as resistant to illness as the Pitta type and can – when unbalanced – fall prey to the problems of both Vata and Pitta.
On the same tract, this mix can also exhibit the best attributes of the two types. This combination can make good athletes like track and field, skiing, racing or any sort, or swimming. They like to move and compete in events or activities and are perhaps more social than the pure Pitta type. They are also easier going than the pure Pitta type, yet more practical and persistent than the pure Vata type.
As the Vata person is the most innovative and creative and the Pitta person is the most practical and dynamic, this type is revered in our present society. The more developed side of this mix is a person who can achieve many things that are creative and innovative. They communicate well and are full of energy. They have the ability to actualize their ideas and dreams in concrete forms and can make good leaders in business. This is also an excellent mix for teaching in general and the pursuit of knowledge. The Pitta qualities add a good determination to the Vata qualities for the pursuit of studies and the ability to focus on one subject at a time in order to fully explore it.
In less developed types this mix can lead to intellectual indecisiveness, insecurity and frustration. They can become over mental but with a frustration or sense of irritability that can be difficult to live with. This mix can also lead to irrational kinds of behavior with a violent or aggressive flavor.
The Vata/Kapha mix is an interesting mixture that can offer great qualities or conflicts. The physical nature of this type will tend to reflect the Kapha type more than the Vata type of body; i.e., stronger and well-formed rather than thin. In a smaller percentage of people, the Vata type can dominate physically, but if this is the case, the mental disposition will exhibit more Kapha type qualities.
Physically this type can suffer from some of the traits of the Vata type like constipation and colic pain. Generally speaking, this type has a strong constitution and does not become ill very easily. They do, however, tend to be troubled by many small, nagging problems in their health. These problems are usually related to the Vata principle and reflect either migrating pains, nervous problems or irregularities in the metabolism. The Vata side of the constitution can aggravate the Vata side quite effortlessly and cause bloating, distention, and edema. The lungs can also suffer from allergies or congestion.
The easiest qualities of this combination are the intuitive, quick mental attributes of the Vata type together with the stability and persistence of the Kapha type. The farsighted Kapha type counteracts the usual short sightedness of the Vata type – this combination gives many qualities for artistic endeavors. This type can be very socially oriented and can work well with people in a caring, motherly capacity. They make good service oriented people and are good at communicating and relating with others.
When afflicted they can suffer from the worst of both principles. This can be hard to deal with, as qualitatively the two are opposites. This means that the Vata side likes to move and change while the Kapha side hates change and movement. The Vata type likes all kinds of irregularity – staying up late, eating at strange hours – and the Kapha type likes regularity – eating and sleeping at the same time every day. The physical problems that can result from this are reflected in a confused metabolism. The slowness of the Kapha side is quite disturbed by the erratic behavior of the Vata side. The spontaneity of the Vata side is aggravated by the rigidity of the Vata side.
Understanding the two sides is critical for this combination or mental and physical unhappiness results. Working with the dual aspect of your constitution brings harmony and peaceful metabolic function. Ignoring one or the other of your two sides will bring digestive, nervous disorders and mental problems – usually poor self-esteem and self-negating attitudes. This can be one of the most interesting and happy of the types when both sides of the nature are well understood.
This type is very good for competitive sports and physically demanding activities. The strong will of the Pitta type combines with the strong body of the Kapha type and gives a powerful combination. Most of our sports heroes in football and basketball are of this type. The mental discipline needed to routinely exercise and practice is a quality of the Kapha type and the competitive, fighting quality reflects the Pitta type.
These types physically are quite strong – the strongest in many ways – as they not as prone to become congested by the accumulation of the Kapha principle. Their metabolism runs hotter and stronger than the Kapha type, yet not too hot or acidic as the pure Pitta type. This is a good combination for physical activities. The problem can be if the people become sedimentary and stagnant in the life. This will tend to aggravate both sides of the constitution. The Pitta side will become congested by the Kapha qualities as they always increase in dormancy. The more inactive this type is the more problems they will have.
Mentally this type needs challenge or they become unhappy and discontented. However, they are not risk takers generally, but rather they plan. The Kapha type is conscious and careful, combined with the Pitta type the person can act when needed – though rarely without planning. These people prefer to work or be active in defined areas, such as their home town or neighborhood. They may travel some or go to the same place for vacation regularly. They are more habitual than the other mixed types. This type can also make a CEO executive type of person. While the Kapha type is good with people and management the Pitta type is generally aggressive and seeks power. To run a business, the two qualities are often needed or the person may not be motivated enough, strong enough, or not be able to work well with subordinates sufficiently. Their willingness to fight over long periods of time for a goal gives them a powerful presence even if their physical body is not developed.
These two principles tend to work well together. The physical problems that can arrive are heart problems – especially congestion of the arteries and blood vessels. They are also prone to problems of the pancreas and the gall bladder – both tend to become congested or blocked from poor nutrition and eating habits. These people do have large strong appetites so it is important that they eat foods that they are capable of completely digesting. They are prone to eat overly rich and fried foods that – while young – they may be able to digest easily. Although, once in the mid-thirties they can balloon out with sudden weight gain.
This person has a balanced physical and mental disposition. Traditionally these people are the least likely to become ill or disturbed. If they do become ill, it can be from any of the three principles. In our modern culture Vata is the most likely to become unbalanced and disturb the other aspects of the constitution. This is also a traditional understanding of Ayurveda. The Vata is the most irregular and unstable by its nature of movement. As our society loves movement and is less and less attracted to tradition and regularity this increases the tendency even more.
This type of person will tend to have a Pitta/Kapha type of body, stronger rather than thinner. Although thinness is attractive in our culture of top models and our worship of adolescent youth, it is not always conducive to good health. The body needs some fat and good muscle tone. Hence, the equal type, VPK, reflects a stronger frame and tissue make-up than most of the other types. This person is said to be free of disease and unhappiness. They are said to live long and enjoy life. They are also said to be the rarest. Once again it is good to remember that one type is not better than another. Any of the types can be thrown into a state of unbalance by bad habits and poor nutrition, even the equal type. Generally, this type will have the greatest capacity to withstand disease and bad habits provided they are temporary and not part of lifetime habits.
This is due to the equilibrium that is present in the combination of the three together. It is the combination of the three that gives strength and freedom from disease, not because one is better than another is or stronger.