Charaka says of all the treatments in Ayurveda Basti comprises the main component. By cleansing the colon and then applying herbal medicines there that nourish and heal the colon and improve its absorptive power we nourish the entire body. Charaka gives the analogy of nourishing a tree by its roots to get good flower, leaves and fruit.
[Note: Before you read the following article "Your Constitution" it may be found helpful to read ‘Basic Explanations of Ayurvedic Terms’ by Dr. Vasant Lad. Dr. Robert E. Svoboda was a student of Dr.Vasant Lad at the Tilak Ayurveda Medical college, Poona, India.]
Basic Explanations of Ayurvedic Terms
The vibration of pure universal consciousness produces the soundless sound ‘OM’. From this sound the five basic elements are produced, i.e. Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Furthermore, these five basic elements are manifested into the three biological organizations known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. In every organization these three govern all physio-pathological changes.
At the time of fertilization, Vata, Pitta and Kapha determine by their permutations and combinations the constitution of an individual, which is called "Prakruti." The ‘Prakruti’ means the first creation. Every human being is the first creation of the cosmos, and that is why every human being is a separate entity, a unique phenomenon. To understand this uniqueness of every individual is the study of ‘Prakruti.’ Ayurveda gives us a direct approach to this study.
The healing science of Ayurveda is totally based upon the knowledge of ‘Prakruti’, the individual constitution. If every individual knows his own constitution, then one can understand, for instance, what is a good diet and style of life for oneself. One man’s food is another man’s poison. Therefore, to make one’s life healthy, happy and balanced, the knowledge of constitution is absolutely necessary.
Your Ayurvedic Constitution
By Dr. Robert E. Svoboda
There are eight possible constitutional types: V, P, K, VP, PK, VK, VPK, and Balanced.
The small numbers of VPK individuals who have all three energies imbalanced are rarely healthy and must live a very disciplined life to remain disease free. Also, the small numbers of individuals who are almost perfectly balanced are usually healthy since they must be severely stressed before an imbalance develops. We will concentrate on the other six types, the great majority of people. For convenience, Vata has been abbreviated to V, Pitta to P and Kapha to K.
To determine your own individual constitution, evaluate yourself as accurately and as honestly as you can. Avoid the temptation to see yourself as you would like to be rather than as you are. It is best to have a friend or family member evaluate you as well and then compare the two evaluations to ensure clarity. There is no right or wrong, and no better or worse, in this examination. There is only the reality of your personal constitution. Everyone passes who answers this exam honestly, and everyone fails who doctors their answers to make them conform more closely to their perceived self-image. Although you may not like your constitutional proclivities they are yours, and like mooching kinfolk they will stick with you as long as you live. You may as well learn to live with them, and learn how to change your life so you can be as healthy as you possibly can.
Please respond below according to how you have reacted in general throughout your entire lifetime, not how you react at present. Select the description which fits you most perfectly overall. If in any category there have been great changes at various times in your life, please select Vata as your answer even if the Vata description in that category does not accurately describe you as you are today. For example, if you have had wide fluctuations in your weight all during your life, so that you were significantly overweight at certain periods and almost underweight at others, you should answer "Vata" for your weight even if you are overweight at present.
Most people are not purely Vata or Pitta or Kapha in nature: most fit predominantly into one category and secondarily into another, because your constitution is derived from the conditions of the bodies of both your parents at the time of your conception. Unless they were both very close to one another in body type and health, the variation between them at that moment shows up as a variation in your constitution. If in any one category you feel that you belong partly in one constitution and partly in another, write down both. If in any one category you feel you might fit into all three constitutions select the two which best characterize you. Whenever there is significant doubt or confusion, select "Vata."
While evaluating yourself, keep in mind that:
Vata is cold, dry and irregular.
Pitta is hot, oily and irritable.
Kapha is cold, wet and stable.
Each constitutional type has its own inborn approach to the management of physical and mental energies, which it applies to any variety of energy it encounters.
Vata is governed by kinetic energy, the energy of action, and therefore V people make active use of their energy. They spend freely and frequently waste their energies because of this predilection for kinesis.
K types are governed by the potential energy of Kapha and have a decided tendency to store energy within themselves. They have a genetic disposition to save and steward energy well.
Pitta is in charge of balancing and managing Vata and Kapha, and P people are born experts in managing and using efficiently energies of all sorts. Whether it be activity, money, speech, sex, or even sleeping and dreaming, an individual’s innate pattern of energy utilization depends upon his or her prakruti (constitution).
Vata exerts a cold, dry, irregular influence on the system because as soon as energy enters the organism it is expended, leaving emptiness behind. Kapha has a cold, wet, stable influence and a K-type person is rarely empty because most of the energy which enters the individual remains stored within. Pitta’s effect is hot, oily and irritable because Pitta must maintain a high level of reactivity in order to manipulate energy effectively.
Bear in mind that most people have a dual personality, and it will not always be easy to know which force predominates in you. If you feel confused, ignore the difficult categories and pay more attention to the easier ones. Narrow shoulders and/or hips almost always occur in V people; broad shoulders and/or hips are characteristic of Kapha. People whose skins are dark or who tan easily have a lot of Vata, while those who cannot tan at all or tan very little are very Pitta, especially if their hair is fine. The criteria listed for evaluation may seem complex because of the difficulty in describing in words concepts which are easy to see but hard to explain. Remember that Ayurveda is based in common sense, and rely on your own common sense to understand and use it. Each of the categories below will help illustrate to you the approach, which your system follows in its own energy utilization.
V people tend to be either unusually tall or unusually short. Because they grow like weeds, they are most often slender or rangy, with a thin body frame and narrow shoulders and/or hips. Frequently their arms or legs seem unusually short or, more often, unusually long. They tend to have long, tapering fingers and toes. Any significant departure from any body proportion is usually due to Vata’s quality of irregularity.
V people may have very light, small bones, or heavy bones with joints, which are prominent or protrude. Their joints often make cracking noises when they move. If you show most of these characteristics you are V, even if you are overweight. Most structural abnormalities, like deviated nasal septum, scoliosis, bowlegs, or knock-knees, are also due to Vata.
P people have medium frames with medium shoulders and hips, and normal joints. Their fingers and toes are medium in length. Their body frame and height are generally proportional and balanced, indicative of prudent use of energy for development.
K people have a medium to broad frame with a heavy bone structure and wide-set shoulders and/or hips. Their tendency to store energy encourages massiveness; football linemen are usually quite K in constitution. Their bodies seem well-proportioned to the eye, and their joints are well lubricated, and may be deep-set. Their fingers and toes tend to be short and squarish.
Vata’s dryness promotes natural leanness of body. Some V people live out their lives in thinness and find it hard or impossible to gain weight, like my grandfather who could eat four meals a day and never gain an ounce. Such an individual’s Vata expends all food energy, which enters the body before it can be stored. V people are often skin and bones, with prominent tendons and veins on their limbs. Some Vs may overeat poor foods and become fat, but as they improve their habits and their diets and begin moderate exercise they can lose that weight and keep it off without much difficulty. V people are known for wide variations in weight even without radical changes in diet. They usually store most of their fat around their midriffs in a ‘spare tire.’
Ps can usually maintain an average weight for their build, with minor fluctuations. They can usually gain and lose weight fairly easily, since Pitta is the body’s principle of balance. They tend to deposit fat evenly all over their bodies.
K people can maintain moderate weight with regular exercise; otherwise Kapha’s heaviness tends to make them add excess poundage. They gain weight easily, especially in the lower parts of the body such as the rear end, and lose weight with difficulty, since they innately enjoy having ample stored energy.
Your personal skin colour depends greatly on your racial background. A Scandinavian who seems dark-skinned to his family will still be several shades lighter in pigment than the lightest African. Compare yourself with members of your immediate family or with others who have the same racial mix as you do to make an accurate evaluation.
Vs tend to be naturally dark, or they tan deeply and do not burn easily. They usually adore heat and cannot get enough sun, because they feel more ‘alive’ after getting sun. Their bodies need regular infusions of heat because Vata is by nature cold since it does not store enough energy to maintain good bodily warmth. Because of innately poor circulation their skin is usually cold to the touch, and may have a grayish cast to it.
Ps have light-coloured skin, often pink or coppery in hue. Because Pitta is hot and reactive their skin is usually warm to the touch. Their circulation is strong, but they tend to high blood pressure. They freckle before they tan, and rarely tan very deeply. They do burn easily, and may suffer from sun allergy.
K people enjoy the sun and burn after overexposure, but adjust easily to intake of solar energy and tan evenly and thoroughly after moderate sunbathing. Their skin is cool but not cold to the touch, but because they have good circulatory tone they rarely suffer from cold hands and feet as Vs often suffer. They may have a few freckles, but never in P-profusion.
Vs tend to have problems with dry skin because their high-energy output quickly uses up any available external lubrication. Their skin may be dry all over, or dry in patches and oily in patches due to Vata’s quality of variability. V skin chaps easily and may have a leathery texture to it. It is susceptible to conditions like psoriasis and dry eczema. Corns and calluses form readily, as do cracks, especially on the bottoms of the feet. V types often suffer from chapped lips. They may have a few moles or wrinkles. Their body hair is either scanty or overabundant, and tends to be dark, coarse, and curly.
Ps usually have delicate, irritable skin prone to rashes and pimples, and inflammations like impetigo. They usually have many moles, and their skin tends to wrinkle early. The body hair is light hued and fine textured. Their skin is coppery-red in colour, especially after exercise or when they are agitated. Their lips are deep red, reflecting the ample volume of blood beneath the skin. This also explains why Ps blush easily.
Ks have slightly oily, smooth thick skin, which is well lubricated, with a moderate amount of body hair and a mole or two. Ks are not naturally prone to any skin disorder. Their lips are full and moist.
V sweat is scanty even in heat because the V body type is metabolically cold and has a natural need for external heat sources like stoves, steambaths, and hot springs. V people who become overweight, however, perspire more.
Ps may sweat even in cold weather, because of Pitta’s innately excessive heat production. Even P palms may seem sweaty.
K sweat is moderate, and is consistent even in climate extremes.
Hair is closely related to Prana, the body’s vital force. This is the reason why like Samson none of India’s Rishis (seers) ever cut their hair. They allowed it to grow as long as it liked and to breakoff when it chose to do so. Because healthy hair rarely grows on an unhealthy body, the hair and its lustre are important indicators of overall tissue health.
V hair is usually dry, but may vary from dry to oily in different spots on the head. It is ordinarily dark in shade and is coarse or rough in texture. V hair is usually very curly or even frizzy, and tends to kink or tangle. It may be prone to dandruff or split ends, and often seems dull and lustreless.
Everyone with naturally red hair has substantial Pitta in their Prakruti (constitution). Other Ps are those people with light-coloured (blonde or light brown) hair, or those whose hair has gone grey or white at an early age. Early baldness is also a P-indicator, since it indicates high levels of testosterone, a hot, aggressive, P-type hormone. P hair is usually thin and fine or delicate, and quite straight. Sometimes oiliness dims its lustre.
K hair is most characteristically brown or dark brown, or chocolatey, and is thick, slightly wavy and borders on coarseness. Oiliness is one of its chief disorders, but its lustre is usually good.
Vs have hard, brittle nails, which are rough and may differ in size from one another. As always, significant irregularity shows a significant degree of V. Their nails often display marked ridges or depressions and may be slightly bluish in colour. People who bite their nails as a habit are often V types.
P nails are soft, strong, somewhat rubbery, and well formed. They are a lustrous pink in colour, with a coppery tinge due to the profuseness of warm blood right under the skin.
K nails are strong, large and symmetrical, in line with K’s natural regularity and lack of variation. They tend to thickness and may seem somewhat pale in colour.
Your eye colour is that wavelength of light the body does not desire and so reflects back instead of absorbing. Grey eyes, for example, indicate that the body does not need grey, and since grey is one of the colours associated with Vata this demonstrates that a grey eyed organism has ample Vata and needs no more.
Some people have brown patches in their eyes, which indicate accumulated toxins in the system. These splotches do not represent the true eye colour, though they may indicate a current condition. They should be ignored while determining constitution, and only the underlying colour considered.
Eye size is subjective, but if your eyes seem small, just as an elephant’s eyes seem small in relation to the size of its head, or if they appear unusually close together or far apart, they are V in nature. Grey, violet and slate blue are the typical V eye colours. Very dark brown eyes, verging on the black of bittersweet chocolate, are also indicative of V. Individuals whose eyes differ in colour from one another are usually V types. V eyes are often dry and scratchy. There is a grayish or bluish tinge to the sclera, and the eyes themselves quickly become dull and lustreless when the individual has expended all his or her energy and is out of sorts.
P eyes are medium in size and light in colour. Hazel green, red, light blue, and those electric blue eyes which some red haired persons have are all P eye colours. P eyes usually burn with an intense fire and radiate energy in all directions. The sclera have a reddish tinge, and become fiery red when irritated.
K eyes are large and liquid, sometimes blue but more often milk chocolate in colour. Their calm, cool, stable strength made the Ayurvedic texts compare them to the eyes of a deer or the petals of a lotus. They may have a tendency to itchiness.
V people tend to have crooked or uneven teeth, or buckteeth. Vata’s irregularity may make the jaw too small to accommodate all the teeth, or too large for all the teeth to fit together snugly. Usually some teeth are significantly larger than others are. V teeth tend to be brittle and oversensitive to sensations like cold and sweets. V gums often recede early. The tongue is often coated, and the coating is usually thin and adherent, and grayish or pinkish-grey in colour. They may have an Astringent or Bitter Taste in their mouths when they wake up in the morning.
P mouths have even teeth of medium size. Their teeth are prone to cavities, and their gums tend to bleed easily. Their tongues are coated occasionally, and the coating is usually yellow, orange or red. Sometimes the tongue is so irritated that it will bleed. The P mouth and tongue are also prone to canker sores. Ps may experience a Sour or metallic Taste in their mouths early in the morning.
Ks have large, even, gleaming teeth, which rarely need attention. Their tongues are rarely coated, and when they are the coating is usually thick and curdy, and white, off-white, or greenish-white, associated with a sickly sweetish Taste in the mouth.
V people are always anxious to eat, but their eyes are bigger than theirstomachs; they feel full after eating less than they wanted to eat. Their appetites are variable: excessive hunger on one day may be followed by disinterest in food the next. People who become dizzy or faint unless they are assured of regular between-meal snacks are also Vs. They do not enjoy stringent fasting because their bodies do not store enough energy to carry them through long periods of food deprivation.
P people have good appetites and really enjoy eating. They are always ready to eat, morning, , night, and , and hate to miss meals. Ps become snippy or irritable if they fail to eat when they are hungry, and they are not fond of fasting either because their systems are always on the prowl for new energy to consume and "manage."
K people have a stable, usually moderate desire for food, though they may be prone to emotional eating. They can go an entire day on water or juice alone without feeling any physical distress because they store plenty of energy in anticipation of such periods of deprivation.
Vs often find it difficult to function efficiently if they miss breakfast, because by mid-morning they begin to feel anxious or sleepy as their blood sugar drops and their energy becomes exhausted. Many Vs like a heavy breakfast, because they feel like they burn up their food quickly, but most feel better if they have a light breakfast and then an early lunch. Vs tend to rely on the caffeine in coffee or tea to wake them up and get them going in the morning, but this insidious practice robs them of energy later in the day, and eventually exhausts them altogether by drying out their glands. V energy comes in spurts or bursts anyway, and artificial stimulation by caffeine or sugar exhausts the energy reserves quickly.
P people can skip breakfast when necessary, especially if they are driving themselves toward some goal, but by lunchtime they begin to become hot and testy, and really calm down only after a good feed. Sometimes they suffer from heartburn when they are away from food for too long. They may take coffee and tea, but stimulants are less important to them in the morning to wake up than they may be during the course of the day to maintain their high levels of energy expenditure.
K people find they do best with a light breakfast, like a piece of fruit, and often enjoy skipping breakfast entirely. They usually are not much perturbed even if they miss lunch. They are not naturally attracted to stimulants, but may enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the morning to help mobilize themselves.
For the purposes of this question, anyone whose bowels do not regularly move once daily without straining or use of laxatives can be considered to be constipated. A condition in which loose stools are passed three or more times a day constitutes diarrhea. Healthy bowels move once or twice daily without assistance.
Some V people are lifelong sufferers from constipation, with a tendency to hard, dark coloured stools and frequent gas or bloating. Other V types experience variations in their bowel habits, with periods of constipation alternating with spells of loose stools or diarrhea. Many V people know from experience that good eating habits are essential for good digestion. When they are constipated, pure V people often respond only to strong laxatives like senna or castor oil.
P people are rarely constipated, and usually defecate regularly and frequently. Their stools are usually yellowish and well formed, but sometimes are loose and may seem hot and burning, especially after a hot, spicy meal. An intense yellow or orange stool indicates great Pitta intensity in the body. Many P people find that substances like milk, figs, raisins or dates act as laxatives for them.
K people are usually regular, and move their bowels once daily. They are sometimes slow in their eliminations. Their stools are most often well formed but are rarely hard. When constipated they respond to medium strength laxatives.
V women tend to have very irregular cycles, and may miss periods especially if they exercise too much or their weight drops too low. The spacing between periods is often longer than a month. Their flow tends to be scanty, and there may be clots. Both these symptoms are due to Vata’s dryness. The blood is usually dark in colour. Constipation and severe cramps may develop just before the bleeding begins. V cramps are generally more intense than are P or K cramps because cramping is itself due to Vata.
P women usually have regular cycles, but bleed for a longer time and more heavily than do others because of their innate heat. The blood is usually an intense, bright red. P women may have loose stools during or just before their periods, and may suffer from medium strength cramps.
K women often have effortless, regular periods, with an average quantity of blood which may be rather light in colour. Any cramps are likely to be mild, and are dull rather than intense. K women tend to be prone to water retention.
V types are so cold blooded that they love warmth at all times. It takes a lot of heat to make them sweat. The sun enlivens them, and they tend to lose strength during the dead of winter, when they bundle up warmly and seek out external sources of heat to make up for their meager internal heat production.
Pure P people prefer the colder latitudes and find hot climates intolerable. Because they produce so much internal heat themselves they love to sleep with the windows open even in winter. Mixed P types do not find heat so intolerable, but usually do prefer cold climates.
K types are stable enough not to be greatly disturbed by any extremes of climate, but if pressed often admit they prefer warm weather and are not over-fond of high humidity.
V types think a lot about sex. Sometimes they find their fantasies so satisfying that they lose interest in physical consummation. When they are interested, it is intense. Their passion becomes quickly inflamed and peaks quickly as they spend their available energy in the sex act. As with their other appetites their sexual appetite varies from day today, though Vs do tend to fall into habits of sexual overindulgence which leave them exhausted. Their fertility tends to be lower than average.
P people, being hot blooded, usually have ample sexual desire. They know what they want and readily put their desires into action. Whether their desire is great or small, however, Ps are able to balance desire with its fulfillment. If their sexual gratification is thwarted or delayed their innate anger tends to flare up. They are average in fertility.
K individuals experience steady desire and normally enjoy sex without being particularly fascinated by it because of their innate reluctance to ‘spend’ energy. Once sex captures their attention, however, their appetite for sex intensifies greatly. They are aroused to passion slowly but remain passionate for a long time once aroused. Their fertility is usually excellent.
V types are very active and often restless, but tend to display low stamina. Vigorous exercise tires them quickly- it dries them out- and makes them feel hungry afterwards. Unfortunately they often drive themselves to excess and exhaustion through over activity because they are convinced that ‘more is better’, and because they love to expend energy when they have it. They may become addicted to vigorous exercise because it temporarily makes them feel stable and pain free. Their muscle tone is usually poor and they must give active attention to developing muscle coordination.
P people can endure vigorous exercise so long as it does not overheat them. Ps usually feel both hungry and thirsty after a good workout. They can pace themselves well if they want to, but often do not want to because they are naturally compulsive and competitive. Their muscle tone and coordination are median.
K types have excellent muscle tone and are naturally coordinated. Of all constitutional types they are best able to endure vigorous exercise, but many times are least interested in it because of their aversion to energy expenditure. Once motivated, though, they get great benefit from regular activity, and enjoy it because it makes them feel good. They rarely feel hungry after exercise.
Pulse testing should be done early in the morning before eating. You should sit quietly with your back straight and your hands on your thighs for five to ten minutes before you test your pulse, breathing deeply and regularly so that the reading will be accurate. It is usually best to use your radial pulse, the pulse at your wrist below your thumb. Only three of your fingers are necessary for testing: your index, middle and ring fingers. Put your index finger closest to your thumb and your ring finger furthest away from your thumb, toward your elbow.
A V pulse is thin, shallow and fast with a broken or variable rhythm, or a tendency to skip an occasional beat. In purely V people this pulse seems to slither like a snake, and the artery will feel hard and cool or cold to the touch. It is felt strongest under the index finger.
A P pulse is full, regular, and strong, with medium speed and rhythm; in purely P individuals it often seems to jump like a frog. The artery feels warm and soft. It is felt strongest under the middle finger.
The K pulse is strong, full, slow and rhythmic like the swimming of a swan, and the artery may feel cool and rubbery. It is felt strongest under the ring finger.
Usually light sleepers, V people may toss and turn and have trouble getting to sleep, or may wake up several times during the night for no apparent reason. Their ability to sleep varies greatly from night to night. On some nights, especially when they are exhausted, they will fall into such a deep, prolonged sleep that they are inert to the world and are almost impossible to arouse. Otherwise they are easily disturbed by outside noises because their minds continue to use energy even when they should be resting. Often, no matter how deep or prolonged their sleep, they wake up in the morning feeling unrested for this reason. Frequent sleepwalking and sleep talking are also indicative of Vs. People who grind their teeth at night are usually V types.
Ps go to sleep easily, sleep lightly and wake up alert. Even when they wake up during the night they can return to slumber quickly. Most nights they enjoy restful sleep, and can get by very well on a minimum of sleep for many nights in a row without seeming ill effect. When they do have trouble sleeping it is usually because of over-attention to their work.
K types drop off to sleep quickly and sleep heavily, but wakeup rested and alert. If permitted, they will gladly sleep many hours at a time, because they save energy that way. Rarely does a K person have difficulty sleeping.
V types dream a lot and forget their dreams easily. In the morning they know they have dreamed but may only be able to remember fragments. Sometimes periods of seeming ‘dreamlessness’ alternate with days or weeks of vivid dreaming. When they do remember, they often report violent, intense, active dreams. Motion, particularly flying in the air, is typical of V dreams, as is being pursued by something or someone.
P people can usually remember what they dream. Their dreams are often passionate or otherwise intense, and often involve heat, light, or other energy. Usually the P individual is in control of the dream situation; if there is pursuit, it is usually the P person pursuing and not the other way around. Even dreams of buying and selling are P type dreams, because they involve transfer of money (‘green’ energy). P people usually dream in colour.
K people usually have very cool, calm, quiet, collected, uneventful, peaceful dreams, like those of an English countryside with cucumber sandwiches at afternoon tea in a gazebo on a swan lake. Ks usually do not bother to remember such dreams; they are more likely to recall those which are intensely emotional.
Untutored V people frequently speak in a breathy voice which becomes hoarse easily and cracks on strain. Voice training may overcome these natural defects. They tend to speak quickly, often with rising pitch at the end of a phrase, and tend to stray from the subject. They are usually very talkative and can speak on almost any subject to almost any audience, even if it is only the cat, the plants or a wall. They speak for the love of speaking. Talking expends a lot of energy, which is one reason they love it so. Their conversations may resemble monologues, in fact, two V people can spend hours talking at, not to, one another and both be satisfied afterwards without having communicated much. Part of their vocal weakness results from this overuse of their voices.
P people are usually concise and one-pointed in what they say. They know what they want to communicate, what response they want to elicit and how much and what kind of energy needs to be projected to obtain the desired response. A P voice frequently carries in it a tone of impatience with the listener, and is usually intense; a P whisper can be clearly heard across a room. Two Ps are sure to communicate with one another, and usually convert a conversation into a contest of wills to see who can outdebate whom. Ps are often accused of having sharp tongues.
K types speak slowly and cautiously, without volunteering much. Information may have to be drawn out of them. A pure K will initiate a conversation only if he or she has something important to say, in contrast with Vs who will strike up conversations with anyone, and Ps who will approach anyone who seems interesting. K voices tend to be lower in pitch and intensity than the others, but are usually more sonorous and melodious. Ks are a pleasure to listen to when you can get them to talk. Two Ks can easily sit across one another for hours or days without anything more than a few perfunctory pleasantries passing between them. Perhaps their innate taciturnity helps preserve the sweetness of their voices.
This question concerns how you typically react when you are confronted by a stressful situation. You may not actually display this emotion if you have taught yourself not to, but your very first reaction is characteristic of your constitution.
For example, once a friend of mine was in a bank when a robber walked in, pointed a gun at him, and said, "Hands up, you goof!"
Vs characteristically show fear or anxiety first, which is created by the dryness of their inherent Astringency. In such a situation a V type would put his or her hands up immediately.
P types, full of heat of pungency, ignite into anger first, whether they show it outwardly or merely burn with it internally. P types in this situation would raise their hands slowly, thinking only of when they could have their revenge on the gunman.
K people like to avoid confrontations because of the complacency of their innate Sweet. They have a strong disinterest in change, and their emotional sensitivity often shows when stressed by unpredictable situations. Like ostriches, they hope that by ignoring a situation it will go away. It takes a lot to arouse them, but once aroused they may feel great fear or anger.
My friend displayed the K response: he first experienced hurt at being called a goof, and then decided to have nothing to do with such an insulting man. He walked out of the door of the bank, leaving the astonished bandit gaping behind him. A few yards down the sidewalk, as the emotion wore off, he realized that a robbery was in progress and called the police, who succeeded in nabbing the thief.
V types are sensitive, high-strung and react quickly to change in their environments. They are exceptionally changeable, and resist regularity in their lives because their active minds demand continual stimulation. When their energy is high they can be the life of the party, but burn out quickly. Sometimes they crave companionship and other times demand solitude. They usually make friends easily, but their friendships are often short lived. They love to travel for fun. Their hyper adaptability gives them flexibility and a potential for detachment, but also tends to make them chaotic and ‘spacey’. They find it difficult to concentrate on any one subject, and often fail to complete the projects they start.
V types recognize the need for self-development but are rarely consistent with any one programme. They can become fanatic followers of cults or other far-out doctrines, but even their fanaticism is impermanent, and they may quickly and for little reason switch allegiance for a completely new set of ideas. Their faith often arises from insecurity.
P types are strong and forceful in their dealings. They are dedicated to the practical side of life. When permitted, they are domineering. They are inherently courageous and believe in fair play, and in a good mood exude exuberance, but when angry they can be cruel and hurtful. They make friends easily, especially if they perceive that such friends will be useful to them. They are usually acutely intelligent and tend to be impatient with anyone whose intelligence is not equally acute. Their innate arrogance of cleverness can make them intolerant.
P types are dedicated to their own self-development, which sometimes becomes a sort of ego-expansion. Their opinions are strongly held, and they can fall into fanaticism. They tend to stick with their fanatic ideas if they calculate that such a course would benefit them. Cult leaders and their lieutenants are usually P types.
Ks are predominantly calm, quiet, steady, serious sorts who most enjoy the pleasures of home and family. Patience, fortitude and humility are common K virtues, In excess these traits may engender passivity, attachment, possessiveness and greed. K people usually have very stable personalities, so stable that they sometime stabilize themselves right out of mental acuity or agility. They study each subject cautiously before committing themselves. Once committed to a course of action, though, they usually see it stubbornly through. They often make friends slowly, after deliberation, but a friendship established usually lasts.
Innate self-satisfaction makes K types less motivated for self-development than others do. They do not make good fanatics, but their faith in whatever they believe is steady and unshakable, though it is often motivated by a desire to maintain the status quo. K types do tend to be innately more compassionate than others do, however. Perhaps they are more maternal because of the strong influence of the Earth Element in their characters. Mother Earth is Herself mainly Kapha in prakruti (constitution).
You can test your predominant sense by remembering your most recent vacation trip; say, for example, to the seacoast. Remember the experience; then ask yourself which aspect of the experience did you first remember. You may have taught yourself to organize your knowledge in a specific way, but your first reaction- your prakruti- usually reflects your constitution.
V types have an acute sense of hearing, so acute that sometimes loud or dissonant noise can be physically painful to them. They usually first remember sounds, like the screeching of gulls or the rumble of waves. V people most often think predominantly in words, and even when they visualize (thinking in image) or emote (thinking in feeling); they usually use words to tie their thinking together.
P types are visually oriented. They tend to primarily remember images, such as the whitecaps on the breakers or the glare of the sunlight on sand. Ps visualize almost everything they think about and have no difficulty in creating fantasy images. Even if they have been trained to be very verbal, they always tend to see what they think about, and to use images to relate words and emotions together.
K people can easily remember the sensations of the sun’s heat on their bodies, or the water’s wetness and motion against them as they swam. Their feelings are emotional as well as physical, and emotions often influence their thinking as much as or more than the physical ‘feel’ of things. They often think with their emotions, and ‘feel’ the connection between words and forms.
Vs are good original theorists because they are not afraid to connect old thoughts in new ways. Their tendency to flit from idea to idea makes it difficult for them to make their theories function in practice however.
P people are methodical and efficient at planning and the implementation of the new ideas dreamed up by more theoretical types. Ps love to engineer ideas into practical uses, and have little interest in the day-to-day detailed running of a project or business.
K types are stabilizers. They are not renowned either for theorizing or engineering, but give them a new enterprise and they will run it smoothly. This sometimes translates into inflexibility or resistance to change, but if you have a factory or an office to run you will want a K in charge of it.
Vs usually remember easily and forget easily. When angered, they react just like a bottle of soda which is shaken and then opened: they erupt quickly, projecting all their energy into the anger, and as quickly return to normal when their attention is shifted from whatever it was that angered them. Within a short period of time they even forget why they were angry, unless whomever they blew up on reminds them.
Ps usually remember easily and forget with difficulty. When slighted, a P type will explode with rage, and even after the fire burns itself out the indignation will continue to smoulder for a long, long time. Ps often calculate their energy expenditures so that they can remain angry longer.
Ks need to be told a thing more than once before it sinks in, but once they have learned it they know it for life. Like the elephant, they never forget. Also like the elephant, it takes a good deal to irritate them, but once angered, K types never forget a slight.
Vs find it difficult to create habits of any sort, even those associated with such naturally habitual behaviour as eating and sleeping. Financial responsibility is not natural to them. Their innate diffuseness makes it easy for money to get spent as soon as it comes into their hands. They are prone to impulse spending on things they don’t really need; money (‘green’ money) to them is something meant to be spent.
Ps plan and organize well, calculate their expenditure wisely, and spend sensibly. They are afraid to spend money but rarely fall prey to impulsive spending. They spend to further specific purposes, and tend to feel superior to those people who cannot exercise such self-control. They make or break habits according to their perception of the habit’s utility to them.
Ks enjoy habits, sometimes to the extent of digging themselves into ruts. They always have money saved for that rainy day and can veer toward miserliness. They sometimes indulge in emotional spending, but usually feel that money is meant for accumulation.
Count the number of V answers, P answers and K answers, which you have obtained from this evaluation. Normally, one or two will predominate, and those indicate your prakruti (constitution). For example, if you had 9 Vs, 13 Ps, and 3 ks, your constitution is likely to be P predominant with V secondary. If there is confusion, consider especially your responses to these categories: body frame, skin colour and complexion, head hair, appetite, digestion and evacuation, climate preference, dreams, characteristic emotion, and lifestyle.
If you are still confused, think about your preference for temperature. If you really hate cold, and much prefer to be warm, your major predominance is very likely to be Vata. If you truly cannot bear to be too hot, and enjoy the cold for that reason, you are probably predominantly Pitta. And if you are not over troubled by either, you are likely to have a substantial amount of Kapha in you, even if it is sometimes overshadowed by Pitta or Vata. The summaries below may help you confirm your estimation of your own constitution.
V types are usually thin and have trouble gaining weight except when they overeat fanatically, which they may do to help stabilize themselves or to provide more energy for the next round of activity. Their bodies are usually narrow in the shoulders and hips and their joints often make a cracking noise when they move them. They tend to be fidgety; fidgeting like obesity, runs in families.
V people are dry. Their skin usually chaps easily and is prone to corns and calluses. Their hair tends to be coarse, dry and curly. V people suffer from cold, and often complain of poor circulation in their extremities. Their skin is usually cool or cold to the touch. They sweat little and love to be out in the sun.
Their appetites are irregular, and their love for excitement tends to lead them into irregular food habits, which worsen their digestion. They usually suffer from or have suffered from chronic constipation, due to innate Astringency. They love soupy, oily, hot foods, but always tend to go to extremes over their food, either indulging in cheesy casseroles and heavy, hard-to-digest items, or denying themselves all heavy foods.
They are prone to rapid fluctuations in their energy levels. Their energy comes in spurts or bursts. Often they try to sustain this energy with Pungent stimulants like coffee rather than admit to themselves that they are tired and need to rest. For a short while they can maintain a level of truly frenzied activity, but exhaustion inevitably follows, which they may not recognize until utter fatigue forces them to rest.
V people often have difficulty with sleep. Either they have trouble falling asleep, or they evade insomnia by maintaining such a high level of exhaustion that whenever they do permit themselves some rest they sleep as if dead. They tend to feel pain more intensely than do other types, and loud noise is also less tolerable to them; their nervous systems seem to have less ‘insulation’ than necessary. A Vs innate drive to avoid pain may manifest as fear. Vs adore oil massage because it helps soothe and quiet the active nervous system, which reduces their nervous sensitivity and therefore their pain, physical or mental.
V people live erratic lives because they find great difficulty in creating routine. The Bitter Taste makes them eternally interested in tinkering with themselves and their environment. If changeability characterizes most of what you do, you are V predominant.
Pure Ps are Pungent, which makes them intense, hot, and irritable. They are usually medium in height, and endurance. Their skin is usually light in colour and reddens quickly in the sun, after exercise, or when blushing. They sunburn easily, and usually have plenty of freckles and moles. Their hair tends to be straight, and light in colour. Everyone whose hair is naturally red is at least partly P.
P people sweat easily because of all that heat stored inside. The Sour and Salty Tastes ensure that their appetites are always good. They love to eat, because food and drink reduce fire’s intensity. If they miss a meal they may ‘consume’ some unwary bystander with their stored anger. They love all foods and usually digest well. They have a tendency to loose stools and are rarely constipated.
Ps powerful fire makes the mind acute as well. P types tend to become quickly impatient around slower or less focused individuals. Ps usually sleep well because they feel it is sensible to do so, but if they become obsessed with work they may spend sleepless nights. They apply the same intensity and competitiveness to everything they do, in work or play, and the Pungent Taste makes them anger easily, even if they don’t outwardly lose their tempers.
The K type is usually a heavyset individual who is a natural athlete when exercising properly, and who gains weight just by looking at food when neglecting exercise. Most Ks are healthy most of the time, especially if they do not overeat. Ks really do not feel the intense physical hunger that Vs or Ps do, since the Sweet Taste is innately strong in their constitutions, but they can become attached to food as a means of emotional fulfillment. K people sleep soundly and tend to oversleep.
K people generally do not crave the same excitement and stimulation that V and P people love, even from sex, although once they are stimulated the Sour and Salty Tastes become more predominant in them and their appetites awaken. K people are stable, somewhat slow, and tend to be complacent. Attachment to a stable, enjoyable status quo makes K people averse to change and may lead them to become greedy, stubborn, or reactionary. Ks need motivation and stimulation just as Vs require balance and relaxation and Ps require a challenge.
Individuals whose constitutions reflect the influence of only one Dosha (V, P, or K) are really lucky in the sense that once they know themselves they can always know how they will react to specific stimuli. People with dual constitutions – VP, PK and VK- have personalities, which are always in a sense ‘split’: under certain conditions one Dosha will predominate, and under other conditions the other Dosha comes to the fore. The inherent cohesion of personality which characterizes purely V, P or K people is more difficult to come by for those of us who have dual personalities, because we have to try to balance the demands of two very dissimilar principles. Most individuals are dual in constitution.
VP people generally have the poor circulation and love of heat that characterizes Vs, but their P nature sets definite limits to their ability to endure heat. The P in them makes them love to eat, but the V ensures they will have trouble digesting large meals. Many of their characteristics show a combination of V and P; for example, they often have wavy hair, caused by a combination of V’s curliness and P’s straightness.
All too often, the influences of V and P alternate in the VP individual. When a VP is imbalanced, fear alternates with anger as a response to stress. This can lead to bullying and domineering. The P aspect creates self-doubt about the individual’s capacity or fitness for command, so the compromise involves the domination of beings (people, animals etc) weaker than oneself.
A healthy, balanced VP weds V’s capacity for original thought and P’s expertise at application of theory. V and P have lightness and intensity as their common qualities. Proper direction of this intensity calls for harnessing the lightness for intensive self-development. Otherwise the V tendency toward addiction for pain control and the P predilection for addiction to amplified intensity will drag the VP individual into deeper states of addiction than either V or P people can separately know. VP types most need stability. They need to be weighted down with the heaviness which characterizes Kapha, the least influential factor in their personality equation. The Sweet Taste is most important for them.
PK people probably adjust best of any constitution to the confusion, irregularity and constant change, which characterizes today’s world because they combine K’s stability and P’s adaptability. Many of the people who achieve all-round success in life are PKs. P’s active metabolism balances K’s powerful physique to promote good physical health, and P’s anger is well tempered by K’s cautiousness to encourage good mental balance. Though PKs usually prefer temperate climates they can easily endure extremes of heat or cold. They enjoy and profit by vigorous exercise, including sex.
The dark side of the PK individual arises from the shared oiliness or wetness of P and K. The ease with which they succeed in the world promotes P’s arrogance and overconfidence and K’s smug self-satisfaction, which can insulate the personality totally and efficiently from all realities other than the reality it wishes to perceive. This is where the oiliness fits in; like ‘water off a duck’s back’ criticism may pass unregarded and only flattery may be acknowledged. This attitude can make a successful PK very difficult to live with. Because Vata is minimized in them naturally, PKs need the dryness of introspection or spiritual discipline, and the irregularity of exposure to unpredictable situations to prevent overconfidence. Bitter and Astringent are their best Tastes.
Vata and Kapha are united in their coldness. Though they do not suffer as intensely from physical cold as do pure V types because of the strength and insulation of K, they have a double emotional need for heat. They tend to be tall but are average in build and most other physical qualities, just as P types are. Their lack of heat usually manifests physically as digestive disturbances, especially constipation; respiratory disease with much mucus production is also common.
VKs are usually zealous about what they do, and often overdo things by neglecting to use discretion. They can be by turns light, open and airy, and deep and secretive. Their lack of a strong Pitta fire makes personality integration especially difficult for them, because of the diametrically opposite natures of V and K. They must be especially wary of jumping to conclusions without proper preliminary investigation. The deeply emotional nature of K mated with the over-activated up-and down nature of V ensures that emotional hurt goes deep and remains deep in a VK individual. VKs need warmth more than anything else, and they should use the ‘hot’ Tastes (Sour, Salty and Pungent), not exclusively but in preference to the ‘cold’ Tastes (Sweet, Bitter and Astringent).
Constitutions do not change, but perceptions may. After some time you may return to this evaluation and discover that your original opinion about your constitution was inaccurate. This is normal, because as we become healthier our perception of reality becomes less distorted, and what may have seemed impenetrably incomprehensible before suddenly becomes profoundly pellucid. Use today’s evaluation as the basis for planning your current health strategy. Even if you have erred today in determining your constitution, living for a while according to your current condition will be therapeutic.
The idea of constitutional types is simple, but not simplistic. Every individual has a body and mind, which is quite unlike that of any other. Constitutional types do not bind you down into a stereotype; they provide you information on metabolic tendencies, which are so deeply ingrained in you that they must be actively balanced if you are to remain in balance. They are simple ways to help you provide a foundation on which you can build the edifice of a new you. Vimalananda
(Dr. Svoboda’s teacher) always said that if the foundation was good the structure would be good, and if the foundation was imperfect no amount of building could save the structure built upon it. Constitution is the start of a road which progresses into more complex, esoteric avenues of personal enhancement.
Published with the kind permission of Dr. Robert Svoboda
Robert E. Svoboda, B.A.M.S. is the first Westerner ever to graduate from a college of Ayurveda and be licensed to practice Ayurveda in India. He graduated in 1980 from Tilak Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya in Pune, where world-renowned author and Ayurvedic Physician, Dr. Vasant Lad, B.A.M.S., M.A.Sc., was one of his professors. Since that time he has traveled extensively around the world, lecturing and conducting workshops on Ayurveda. Dr. Svoboda has traveled to more than fifty countries in the world, understands six languages and has authored several books. Dr. Svoboda consults with people privately.