Time for me to start studying the principles of Ayurveda

I decided that during my free time at Mountain Top Clinic I would begin to study the basic Ayurvedic Principles that Dr Sundara has been trying to explain to me. I need to get my head around all the Ayurvedic concepts. There seems to be so much to understand that my brain is swimming. I can see why it’s important to find a good Ayurvedic doctor.

This blog is, therefore, just my own simple interpretation of what I understand so far, about some of the foundational Ayurvedic principles relating to my treatment. (Which, unfortunately, is not a lot!).

Even though this is just the basics of Ayurveda, this study should keep me busy for my three week stay. It will also give me a little more understanding of the benefits of my Ayurvedic Panchakarma treatments. Ayurveda is so interesting and it also relates in a lot of ways to my yoga studies.

Our Ayurvedic Constitution | Principles of Ayurveda

During my initial consultation with Dr Sundara, he took the time to explain again to me, how Ayurveda works in healing and rejuvenation of the system. He reminded me that Ayurveda is the science of life, and works on the principle of standardising people into groups to promote health and prevent diseases. Traditional medicine tries to standardise drugs, but this doesn’t always work as everyone has different constitutions and lifestyles etc. However, in Ayurveda, by first standardising people, it makes it easier to work out what diseases people are prone to and what is needed to prevent them, and therefore, what food and lifestyle habits are needed to promote good health for the individual.

Our Prakruti (body type)

Dr Sundara explained about the five elements which are present in everything (earth, fire, water, air, ether) and how the combination of these elements make up our personal constitutions when we are conceived. Using these elements is how Ayurveda standardises people. The mix of the elements in each of us is what is known as our “Prakruti”. Our Prakruti is not changeable. Prakruti translates from sanskrit as “made in the beginning” and is our body type, our natural state of being, the seed of our creation at the time of our conception.

When we know our Prakruti we can know how to sustain our life in terms of eating habits and lifestyle and hopefully prevent most of the diseases from occurring. When we know our constitution, we know our tendencies. If we know our tendencies we can then take actions to keep these tendencies in check. This then empowers us with the knowledge needed to help create balance in our life.

Dr Sundara reminds me again that my Prakruti is Pitta (60%)/Kapha (40%). Pitta mainly physically and Kapha emotionally, I think!

The Doshas

In the West, the word Dosha is commonly used as the word to explain our body type, but the actual name for our constitution is our Prakruti, which is, in fact, one of the three functions of the Doshas. Prakruti is when our doshas are in balance for our body type.

There are three Doshas and these are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These Doshas are the functional forces of the body, three different types of energy – Vata produces movement, Pitta transforms and Kapha acts as the grounding base for all functions. They are physical expressions of the five elements.

The 20 Dosha attribute descriptions

There are 20 attributes used to describe the Doshas. These are described in ten antagonistic pairs:

  1. heavy/light
  2. slow/sharp
  3. cold/hot
  4. oily/dry
  5. slimy/rough
  6. dense/liquid
  7. soft/hard
  8. static/mobile
  9. subtle/gross and
  10. cloudy/clear.

Characteristics of Each Dosha

Each Dosha has a different mix of the attribute characteristics:

  • Vata is dry, light, cold, unstable, rough, subtle, clear and mobile.
  • Pita is oily, sharp/acute/intense, hot, light, strong smelling, flowing, liquid.
  • Kapha is oily, heavy, cold, slow, mild, slimy/sticky, stable, smooth, soft, solid

Three functions of the Doshas

The Doshas function in 3 ways in the body:

  1. Prakruti – is when all our Doshas are in balance for our body type, as determined at our time of conception
  2. Prakruti Vikruti – this is where the Doshas will undergo increases within the normal limits of a persons lifespan or the time of day etc. For example, age 0-2yrs is kapha, or 6am-10pm is kapha, 10-2pm is Pitta etc
  3. Vikruti – this is where the Dosha increases beyond the normal limits, causing imbalance and creating disease etc. It is the current state or present condition of the Doshas. Vikruti is changeable. It is the nature of the imbalance.

According to the Caraka Samhita (the ultimate, ancient, classic reference on Ayurveda), there are three things that must be taken into consideration in order for a treatment to be considered Ayurvedic: The ayurvedic physician must know the nature of the patient (prakruti), the nature of the imbalance or disease (vikruti) and also the nature of the remedies (dravya guna – the qualities of a substance). With this knowledge, an ayurvedic practitioner can prescribe a program of care to guide the patient back to health. 

Ayurvedic Body types – Prakruti and the Doshas

Our constitution, Prakruti, is therefore a unique combination of the three Doshas.

In Ayurveda there are seven Prakruti, body type combinations, depending on the predominance of the Doshas at the time of birth:

Type 1 | single type (where just one of the doshas is dominant):

Vata = energy responsible for movement | air and ether elements)