Prakriti is a commonly used term in Ayurveda. Prakriti means one’s psychosomatic constitution or mind-body type. In Sanskrit, the word prakriti means nature. Vikriti is synonymous with a disorder, disease, or pathological manifestation.
The concepts of prakriti or psychosomatic constitution and vikriti or disorder are significant in Ayurveda. They are used extensively for examining patients, prescribing Ayurvedic treatments, and helping people maintain overall health and well being.
This article will explain the Ayurvedic terms prakriti and vikriti.
What Is Prakriti?
Ayurveda says that there are pancha mahabhutas or five elements that are the basic building blocks of the body. These five elements are prithvi or earth, vayu or air, jala or water, agni or fire and akasha or ether (space).
Ayurveda believes that both our bodies and the entire universe are made up of these five elements. These five elements when combined form the three doshas of the body which are Vata dosha, Pitta dosha, and Kapha dosha.
Everyone possesses a unique combination of these five elements in varying degrees.
Vata dosha is mainly responsible for movements of the body, whereas the Pitta dosha is responsible for maintaining digestion, metabolism, and body temperature.
The Kapha dosha is mainly responsible for lubrication, cohesiveness, and body structure. Besides these primary functions, the three doshas are also responsible for many other important bodily functions.
These three doshas represent a body’s basic constitution or Prakriti.
According to Ayurveda, your prakriti is what determines your physical and mental characteristics.
A state of complete physical well being is said to be achieved when these three doshas are in equilibrium. Any imbalance in these doshas is considered to be the root cause of diseases and disorders.
An individual’s prakriti is determined based on their pancha mahabhutas and three doshas. This allows Ayurvedic practitioners to prescribe very specific treatment plans according to the individual’s unique constitution.
Identifying an individual’s physical constitution is an important step in devising a lifestyle and diet plan that is tailor-made for their particular constitution.
While a person’s basic prakriti remains the same throughout their life, sometimes, due to drastic changes in physical, emotional, mental, or lifestyle conditions, one’s psychosomatic constitution can change.
Factors That Determine Prakriti
A person’s basic prakriti is established even before birth. The factors that determine a garbha or fetus’ prakriti are the following.
- Constitution of sperm and ovum
- Time of conception
- The health of the uterus
- The mother’s diet and lifestyle (during pregnancy)
- Interaction of mahabhutas
The predominance of any of these factors determines the prakriti of the fetus and is the reason why someone’s prakriti might have a predominance of one dosha while another might have a combination of two or even three doshas.1
Seven types of Doshik Prakriti
Ayurveda describes seven types of doshik prakritis. These seven types of prakriti are Vata prakriti, Pitta prakriti, Kapha prakriti, Vata Pitta prakriti, Vata Kapha prakriti, Pitta Kapha prakriti and Sama Dhatu prakriti. Sama dhatu prakriti is a manifestation of all three dosha.
Characteristics of Vata
The qualities of Vata dosha are ruksha or rough, laghu or light, chala or mobile, bahu or abundant, shighra or swift, sheeta or cold, parusha or coarse and vishada or non-slimy.
The following qualities impart certain characteristics to Vata dominant individuals.
- Rough, lean, thin, and short stature.
- Rough, weak, hoarse, slow, adhered and dilapidated voice.
- Such individuals tend to sleep less than others.
- Light gait.
- Light movements and activities.
- A tendency for eating less.
- A fickle and changeable nature.
- Unstable joints, eyes, eyebrows, jaw, lips, tongue, head, shoulder, hands, and feet.
Bahu Guna or abundance
- Very talkative nature.
- Easily visible veins and tendons.
Shighra Guna or swiftness
- A hasty tendency towards work.
- Irritated very quickly.
- More prone to diseases.
- Scared or startled easily.
- Quick attachment and disenchantment with things.
- Memorize and forget things quickly.
- Intolerance to cold weather.
- Excessive shivering in colder conditions.
- Stiffness of the body.
- Excessively coarse hair all over the body including the head, beard and body hair.
- Coarse nails, teeth, face, hands, and feet.
- Cracked skin
- Joints that make a ‘pop’ during heavy movements.
According to Ayurveda, Vata-dominant individuals may have lesser strength, stamina, life expectancy, children, and wealth due to the aforementioned qualities.2
Characteristics of Pitta
The qualities of a Pitta prakriti are ushna or hot, tikshna or sharp, drava or liquid, vistram or rotten smell, amla rasa or sour taste and katu rasa or pungent.
The following qualities impart certain characteristics to Pitta dominant individuals.
- Intolerance to heat.
- Warm mouth or heat around the face
- Delicate and beautiful body parts
- Small pimples or eruptions over the body
- Plenty of freckles, black-moles, and pimples.
- Excessive hunger and thirst
- Premature greying of hair and early onset of hair loss
- An early appearance of wrinkles
- Soft, scanty, and brown colored hair on the face and scalp.
- Brave and courageous.
- Intense digestive fire.
- Healthy appetite
- Lack of endurance
- A tendency to eat frequently
- Loose or lax and soft joints and muscles.
- Excessive perspiration, urination, and defecation.
Vistram Guna (rotten smell)
- Bad odor in axillary regions
Pungent and Sour Taste
- Less semen, low libido, and fewer children
According to Ayurveda, Pitta-dominant individuals may have moderate strength, lifespan, knowledge, understanding, wealth and means.3
Characteristics of Kapha
The qualities of Kapha dosha are snigdha or oily, shlakshna or smooth, mridu or soft, madhura or sweet, sara or essence, sandra or dense, manda or slow acting, stimita or stable, guru or heavy, sheeta or cold, vijjala or slimy and acchah or clear.
The following qualities impart certain characteristics to Kapha dominant individuals.
- Excess fat around the organs
- Smooth organs
- Pleasing or delicate personality
- Fair complexion
- An abundance of semen, libido and children.
- A strong, compact, and stable body.
- Well developed and healthy organs.
- Dullness or slowness in physical activities.
- Eating food slowly.
- Moving and acting slowly.
- A tendency to delay starting work.
- Does not get irritated easily.
- Less prone to sudden mood swings.
- Slow, deliberate, and careful gait.
- Hard worker.
- Low hunger, thirst, and perspiration.
- Well padded joints and ligaments.
- Clear eyes and face.
- Clear complexion.
- Affectionate and clear voice.
According to Ayurveda, Kapha-dominant individuals may be strong, wealthy, knowledgable, brave, calm and live long.4
Dwandaja Prakriti or Dual Dosha Constitution
When any two doshas are combined together, the prakriti becomes a dwandaja or dual prakriti. This can be a Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha, and Pitta-Kapha prakriti.5
In dwandaja prakrit, characteristics and features of both dosha are present.
Dual prakriti has also been termed as dwi doshaja prakriti by Ayurvedic scholars.
Sama Dhatu Prakriti
When the characteristics of all three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) are found together, it is called sama dhatu prakriti.6
While this is considered the perfect state, it rarely occurs in the majority of individuals.
Sama dhatu prakriti has also been termed as tri-doshaja prakriti or sanni paatik prakriti by Ayurvedic scholars.
Ayurveda mention manas prakriti or mental constitution on the basis of mental characteristics.
There are three types of manas prakriti namely Sattva, Rajo, and Tamo.7 These three manas prakritis are also known as mano gunas.
In the classic Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita, a total of 16 kinds of manas prakriti have been mentioned. Sattvik prakriti is subdivided into seven types, rajsik prakriti is subdivided into six types, and tamsik prakriti is subdivided into three types.
What is a Pancha Bhautik Prakriti?
In Ayurveda, some practitioners treat patients on the basis of their pancha bhautik prakriti. This is often confused with doshik prakriti because the two concepts are quite similar.
The three doshas are made up of the pancha mahabuta or five elements in different proportions. The only difference, however, is how the two concepts are represented in Ayurveda.
The text Sushruta Samhita describes five basic prakritis on the basis of pancha mahabhautik: pavan or air (vayu), dahan or agni (Pitta), toya or water (Kapha), prithvi or earth, and nabhas or ether.8
What is Vikriti?
What Vikriti really means is a disorder or pathological manifestation. A patient’s vikriti is also analyzed alongside their prakriti in Ayurveda.
A patient’s vikriti is examined in terms of the hetu or cause of the disorder, dosha(vitiating factors), dushya(vitiated factors), prakriti or constitution, desha or place, kala or time, bala or strength, and lakshana or symptoms.
These factors help in determining what the Vikriti is.
A disease or disorder is considered severe when it has a common dosha, dushya, constitution, place, and time along with a strong cause and severe symptoms.
A disease or disorder is mild when dosha, dushya, constitution, place, and time are not common andwhen the cause and severity of the symptoms are mild.
A disease or disorder is moderate when the dosha, dushya, constitution, place, and time have some commonalities and the cause and severity of symptoms is moderate.9
- Charak Samhita, Viman sthan,8/75, p.no.643, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Tripathi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017.
- Charak Samhita, Viman sthan,8/98, p.no.644, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Tripathi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017.
- Charak Samhita, Viman sthan,8/97, p.no.644, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Tripathi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017.
- Charak Samhita, Viman sthan,8/96, p.no.643, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017.
- Charak Samhita, Viman sthan,8/99, p.no.645, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Tripathi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017.
- Charak Samhita, Viman sthan,8/100, p.no.645, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Tripathi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017.
- Charak Samhita, Sharir sthan,4/36, p.no.735, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Tripathi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017.
- Sushruta Samhita,part-1, Sharir sthan,4/79, p.no.52, by Kaviraj Ambikadutta Shastri, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Sansthan, 2011.
- Charak Samhita, Viman sthan,8/101, p.no.645, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Tripathi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017.