The word ‘prakriti’ literally means ‘nature’. In Ayurveda, the oldest system of health care in the world, prakriti refers to the nature or constitution of an individual. The core concept of health in Ayurveda is built around the prakriti of a person. So how would you determine what your prakriti is? Well, an Ayurvedic physician or vaidyar, will tell you that every individual has three vital energies in his or her body known as vata, pitta and kapha. These vital energies have their own unique characteristics, depending on which of the five elements in the universe – earth, fire, water, air and space- is predominant in them. The three doshas are not present in equal proportions in your body, but in a unique and finely balanced ratio. One or two of them, the primary doshas, will determine your prakriti. But there is more. The five elements that make up the doshas, in turn, possess one or more of the three characteristics known as gunas. The three gunas are tamas, rajas and sattva. Tamas is density, rajas is movement and sattva is light. So your prakriti is influenced not only by your predominant doshas , but the three gunas or psychic energies prevalent in the doshas as well.
The importance of prakriti
Your prakriti is determined right from the moment of your conception, and is moulded by the characteristics passed on to you by your parents. There are other factors that have had an effect on your prakriti. These include the conditions inside your mother’s uterus, the food and lifestyle of your mother during her pregnancy, and the season during which you were conceived. According to Ayurveda, your well being depends on recognizing and understanding your prakriti, and moulding your diet, life styleand even your occupation to suit it. If you deviate from your prakriti, the balance of doshas is upset, and this imbalance causes illness. More than calories, Ayurveda pays attention to the qualities in the food – hot or cold, heavy or light, moist or dry. It is these qualities that make all the difference. The right touches of sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter flavours help to make food Prakriti specific. For example those who have the vata dosha prominent in their prakriti should avoid eating bitter greens, because it aggravates Vata, while people with a prakriti dominated by pitta thrive on those greens, because it cools down the heat. Ginger, garlic, jalapenos and chilies are suitable for some types of Prakriti, because they reduce congestion and help to lose weight, but these same foods may cause ulcers or irritability in someone whose prakriti is different. In Kerala, where the purest form of Ayurveda has been practiced for more than 5000 years, there are skilled practitioners of Ayurveda who can help you understand what your prakriti is. They can prescribe the correct hebs, diet and yoga for your prakriti, and these will both prevent disease and treat it. In short, a knowledge and understanding of one’s prakriti is the key to a healthy body, a healthy mind, and ultimately, self – realization.