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You as an Individual Woman

CATEGORY: Women's Health

Publication: Ayurvedic Healing for Women
Author: Atreya

  Then realizing the pure consciousness inhering as Self
to be that self-same Tripura, he become aware of the
One Self holding all, and was liberated.

The fundamental point of Ayurveda is that everything is interrelated.  Nothing is separate in the universe or the human body.  Another fundamental point is that the external universe is reflected in the internal universe of the human body.  While everything is interrelated, each item is also unique.  Each part contributes its own special quality to the whole, whether as a cell in the liver, as a human being on Earth, or as a star in the sky.

Hence, the concept of individuality is basic to the Ayurvedic system.   Ayurveda only works with individuals.  Yet, this understanding of the individual is within the context of the whole or Mother Nature.  In Ayurveda, the word Prakruti means “Mother Nature”- that feminine quality that allows form to manifest.  It literally means “nature,” and encompasses the unique qualities of everything.

In Order to use the Ayurvedic system, you need to have a basic understanding of how Ayurveda determines your individuality.  In this sense, it does not mean to categorize you as a person.  Rather Ayurveda strives to understand how your organism functions, how your metabolism functions, how your mind functions.

This Understanding of how our body and mind function is liberating.  It frees us from society’s stereotypes, from conditioning, from misconceptions and judgments we may have formed about ourselves.  Ayurveda understands that each person is born with a basic nature that does not change.  Understanding your natal or genetic makeup frees you from all the other concepts.  This knowledge is empowering.  Your natal nature, or constitution, is also called prakruti in Sanskrit.  However, this is not the cosmic Mother Nature (also Prakruti), but the individualized nature.  The word prakruti, as used in the rest of this book, will refer to the natal constitution of a person.

Ayurveda also understands that there is a changing nature or situation in the body.  It is called vikruti in Sanskrit, which means “that which covers prakruti.”  This signifies a transient state of the body and mind.  For example, if I have a cold, that is a transient imbalanced state.  It does not indicate a change in my natal constitution, which remains fixed as diseases pass over it.  The prakruti does not change during a lifetime.  In very rare cases chronic illness can change the prakruti and become the actual nature of the person.  This is quite rare, however, and is usually terminal.

Once these two different states of the body are clearly understood, it is possible to proceed: our constitution does not change, but we are always in change.  When our changing constitution (vikruti) is the same as our natal constitution (prakruti), health is present.  When they are different, an imbalance is present.  The imbalance can pass with time, or it can become a “disease.”

Ayurveda theory is based on the assumption that, if you understand your natal constitution, you will take measures to prevent imbalance from developing in the first place.  However, if imbalance occurs, understanding your constitution can determine the kinds of therapeutic treatments that you should choose or receive.

Ayurveda also recognizes two different types of natal constitution, physical and mental.  The ancient texts say that these are usually the same.  What many modern practitioners are finding today-especially in the West- is that this rule is not as fixed it was in the past.  We are now finding certain individuals that have different mental and physical constitution.  They are still a minority, but this can create confusion for a woman who is trying to diagnosis herself.

One of the difficulties for untrained people is the confusion between the natal and changing constitutions.  Often, clients of mine think that they are the disturbed state-usually a chronic situation-instead of their natal state, which they have forgotten over time.  I will try to clarify the differences below so that you can identify your own natal state more easily.

Ayurveda determines your individuality by seeing which of the three natural forces dominate your organism.  These three principles or forces were discovered by observing nature over hundreds of years.  These three forces are not man-made, or theories, or concepts.  They control the environment and all manifestation-whether we understand them or not.  They are primal forces of Mother Nature, basically feminine in nature, and are not directly observable, although you can observe their functions and effects in the body and in nature.

These three forces are movement, transformation, and cohesion.  Their names in Sanskrit are vata (that which moves), pitta (that which transforms), and kapha (that which binds).  It is said that, to understand these three “humors” or forces, one needs to study them for eight years, as they are metaphors for Mother Nature’s movements in the manifest world.  These three principles combine to make ten different types of people.  Seven types are traditionally recognized.  For our purposes, however, ten types provide greater clarity.  The main qualities of the three humors are given Table 1.

Table 1. The Main Qualities of the Three Humors

HUMOR

QUALITY

CHARACTERISTIC

Vata:

cold, dry, light,

irregular, fast

(like wind)

Pitta:

hot, oily, light

penetrating, moving

(like fire)

Kapha:

cold, oily, heavy,

regular, slow

(like water)

The humors combine in the following ways to make ten types: vata, pitta, kapha, vata/pitta, vata/kapha, pitta/vata, pitta/kapha, kapha/vata, kapha/pitta, and vata/pita/kapha.

Take our Dosha Quiz to determine your type!

There is more information on this subject in my book, Practical Ayurveda.  Ayurveda is a vast subject and any reading you do on it will be valuable.  A very good book that covers this subject is called Prakruti:  Your Ayurvedic Constitution, by Dr. Robert Svoboda.  The basic physical descriptions of the ten different combinations are:

Vata: Vata woman are thin and either tall or short.  They do not gain weight and have little or no fat tissue. Their arms and legs are quite thin.  Their hair is dry, as is their skin.  Their complexion may be darkish and they can tan well, though they may lose it rather quickly. They tend to have brown or dark eyes. Their circulation tends to be weak or variable, as is their immune system.  Menstruation is often irregular, with little flow and sharp pain or cramps.

Pitta:
Pitta women are of medium size and height.  They usually do not gain much weight age 36 to 39, and even then perhaps only a few pounds.  They have a fair amount of fat tissue, enough to give form, but not too much.  Their hair is slightly oily and may turn gray at a young age. Their skin is slightly oil and prone to infections or pimples, even later as an adult.  Their complexion may be fair or reddish, in either case they sunburn easily. Their hair tends to be light colored and prone to dandruff. Their eyes are generally light in color, blue, green, or gray.  Their circulation is good.  Their immune system is normally good.  Menstruation is often profuse, with dark-red blood, some times accompanied by pain.  They can a tendency to vaginal or urinary infections.

Kapha: Kapha women are larger than the other two types.  They may be either taller or shorter, but they have thicker bones and bodies. They are physically the strongest. They can be normal or overweight in size. However, they always tend to put on weight easily and so must be aware their whole lives of eating habits.  They tend to have thicker arms and legs then the other types.  They have the best quality of skin and hair, both slightly oily, but with good luster. Their complexion is fair or whitish, yet they tan well and evenly and they hold their tans well.  Their eyes can be of any color, though they tend to be brownish.  Often, they have poor circulation. They have the strongest immune system.  Menstruation is very regular, with medium flow, usually little or no pain.  If pain is present, it is dull and achy.  They are prone to accumulations that can result in fibroids and tumors.

Vata/Pitta: These women are usually less thin than the pure vata types, but can have a vata-type body.  The skin gives a clear indication if pitta is present-it is oily and often prone to pimples or infections.  The hair may be thin and dry (vata) or oily and with dandruff (pitta), or a mix of both.  These indications will help you see if there is a combination of both vata and pitta.  Vata types have irregular circulation; pitta types have good circulation.  These types tend to fluctuate between the two.  Menstruation is irregular, sometimes with pain and irregular flows-some times heavy, sometimes light.

Vata/Kapha: These women have either a vata or a thinner kapha-type body.  They tend to be shorter rather than taller.  Usually, if vata is first they tend to have a more vata-type body. The skin is a good indication: is it oily or dry? Thinner with oily skin and no inflammation is a good indication of vata/kapha.  V/K types tend to have poor circulation, with cold hands and feet. Menstruation is more regular and less pain; flow is minimal or light.

Pitta/Vata: Those women are fairer in complexion, perhaps still thin, yet with oilier skin and hair than V/P types.  They are more prone in the Sun. Menstruation tends to be heavier, with fewer irregularities, yet they are more prone to infection and irritations in the vagina.

Pitta/Kapha: These women are strong in body, with good muscles.  They tend to be larger, but not necessarily fatter, than other pitta types. This is a very good constitution for athletics and sports (though exercise is good for all types).  They may have a problem with oily hair or skin, and have occasional problems with inflammation. Their circulation is good. Menstruation is heavier rather than lighter, yet regular and with little or no pain.  Sometimes infections can occur, such as yeast infections with mucous discharge.

Kapha/Vata: These women are larger than other dual types that include vata.  They have good skin and hair.  They may have pale skin.  Vata tends to manifest as irregularities in the body or mind.  They may occasionally have dry skin.  Menstruation is regular, with light flow.  Pain can occur at times, as can blockages or accumulation such as fibroids and cysts.

Kapha/pitta: These women are larger than other dual types with pitta.  They are strong, if fit, and have greater endurance.  This mix gives them better circulation than pure kapha types.  Menstruation is regular, with a heavier flow than a pure kapha type.  Pain is generally absent, but the tendency toward infections, such as yeast infections, and accumulation is there.

Vata/Pitta/Kapha: Traditionally, this type is said to be rare and exhibits a perfect balance of the three humors.  According to ancient texts, however, this may not be our modern definition of perfect beauty, as it tends to reflect a large, strong, lustrous body with a fair amount of padding.  This type is rare, and I have only encountered one or two in many years of practice in Europe.  They are said to be the strongest and have the most endurance of all types.  Menstruation is balanced, with a light flow that causes no problems physically.

Each of the ten constitutions has different emotional and physical qualities, some positive, and some destructive and problematic.  Here are the positive qualities of the different constitutions:

Vata: Vata is creativity; it is intuition.  Vata is abstract and fluid, changeable and adaptable.  Vata is present in all artists of every medium; it is inspiration.  It provides flexibility and is social, though not necessary in a profound way.  Travel and movement are enriching.  Several activities are needed and pursued with joy.  When in balance, vata women have light and easy cycles, generally shorter in duration-24 to 27 days and lasting for 2-4 days.  Pain is absent and so are emotional swings.  Some fatigue may be present on the first day of menstruation.  Life is abundant and joyous.

Pitta: Pitta is the energy of manifesting things. It is driven and motivated.  The quest is very important, as is knowledge and understanding the nature of things.  The inquiring mind is pitta in nature.  Pitta is discrimination of the mind. Pitta women can impart their understanding to others and assist or aid people through their knowledge.  They like to create things and put ideas into form.  They are passionate and motivated.  They are full of life and enjoy the interaction of life, yet need to remain independent.  They need and seek responsibility.  Their mind likes and needs to be stimulated through learning and seeking.  Pitta is the energy to initiate things.  When balanced, pitta women have regular cycles with a heavier flow than the other types.  Yet pain and emotional swings are not present.  Life is exciting and passionate.  Their menstruation time is average, 3-5 days long.

Kapha:  Kapha is the energy of cohesion. It binds and provides the quality of lubricating or of balance and stability.  Kapha is the basis of the body and the mind for all types, as it provides the needed stability.  Hence, Kapha is the quality of stability, mentally, and emotionally.  Kapha women are the archetype of the Divine Mother and they radiate unconditional love.  When balanced, kapha is devotion to the divine or to life itself.  Love is the balancing quality in nature and kapha is that love in an impersonal sense.  Kapha people move little (as in location) and prefer to stay in a known environment.  This allows their best qualities to over flow.  They are the most reliable and least self-oriented of the three in a balanced state.  They enjoy being and need to be with others and prefer a few deep relationships to many superficial ones.  Family is very important and they love to create a family when secure.  They are less concerned with intellectual pursuits than the others and prefer emotional relation with live beings-plants, animals, or people.  When balanced, they have very regular and light menstruations with no pain or emotional swings.  Life is full of love and abundance.  Their menstruation is longest, 3-7 days.

Vata/Pitta:  This combination generally makes a woman creative and able to manifest the creativity in a concrete form.  That can be in the arts, in business, or any walk of life.  This is a good combination for teachers.  They are usually very fun, energetic, and like change.  Their cycles tend to be regular, with normal flow.

Vata/Kapha: This combination generally makes a woman creative in a more stable or concrete way.  This tendency may be more likely to manifest toward people or animals than toward abstract material forms.  Great power of intuition lies here.  An attraction to nature and all living things is present.  The cycle for a V/K woman is regular, with light flow.

Pitta/Vata:  This combination generally makes a woman more passionate toward life and the interests that she has.  There will be the tendency to be a motivating force-in an energetic way-for those around her.  This is also a good combination for teaching or helping others in any kind of pursuit, emotional, intellectual, or physical.  Her cycle is regular, with a good flow.

Pitta/Kapha:  This combination generally makes a woman motivated with life.  She gets into life and lives it.  She wants a home and family, yet she pursues different interests or careers.  She has great capacity for work.  Her cycle will be regular, with an even flow.

Kapha/Vata:  This combination generally makes a woman alive and bubbly.  Talkative, friendly, and social, this combination has the stamina to relate directly, deeply, and clearly with many people.  She is caring and intuitive in her approach to others and perhaps enjoys organizing others or events.  Management skills with people are there.  Her cycles are regular and light.

Kapha/Pitta:  This combination generally makes a woman powerful and strong.  She has the ability to do whatever she wishes in life.  Yet she tends to be more humanitarian than material in a balanced state. She is a strong benefic force in society.  Her cycles are regular and moderate flow.

Vata/Pita/Kapha: This combination can make a woman the archetype of a goddess.  She generally radiates love to others, yet she is strong and possesses great strength of will and brilliant intuitive abilities.  She is regular and has a moderate menstrual flow.

Here are the destructive or problematic qualities of the different constitutions:

Vata: When imbalanced, vata brings depression, stress fear, anxiety, and worry.  Irregularities manifest throughout the body and the mind.  All nervous disorders are due to vata.  Menstruation becomes irregular, with sharp pains and cramps before and during the first days of menstruation. The pain can be debilitating.  Depression is common before menstruation.  Menstruation can stop under extreme stress or depression.  Vaginal dryness is caused by an imbalance of vata.  Fatigue is generally present before and after the beginning of menses.

Pitta: When imbalanced, pitta brings frustration, irritation, anger, manipulation, and jealousy.  The heat of pitta brings all forms of infection and inflammation to the body and the mind.  If left untreated it can burn the spirit.  Menstruation becomes very heavy, with a lot of blood loss that can lead to anemia, fatigue, and energy loss.  Pain can be present before menstruation, yet not sharp, as in vata. A woman can get frustrated, and angry with those around her before her menstruation begins.  Once it starts, she feels a great relief, but may also feel quite tired.

Kapha: When imbalanced kapha creates huge emotional needs and feelings of a lack of love and security.  Kapha types internalize their emotions and self destruct through an accumulation of emotions.  This may take the form of fat, tumors, fibroids, cysts, etc.  Generally, they try to avoid expressing their feelings, which leads to disrupted physical habits.  Their cycle can become disrupted by strong emotions, though it will generally still be regular.  They tend to suffer more emotionally, with large swings of guilt, unworthiness, and failure, accompanied by a basic feeling that no one loves them. There is a tendency to accumulate water before the menstruation begins.  They may have sore breasts because of water retention.  They tend to become stagnant and inert in mind and body.  Through this, they lose their vitality.

Vata/Pitta: When imbalanced, this type becomes erratic in emotional behavior and tends towards strong outbursts of a passionate nature.  They suffer from irregular menstruation and inflammations or infections.  They tend to get sore breasts or nipples, though irregularity.  Vaginal dryness can be common, especially latter in life.  Pain can be present, changing from sharp to general, both before and during menstruation.

Vata/Kapha: When imbalanced, this type can become very depressed in a self-destructive way, internalizing the depression with a feeling of no self-worth or guilt.  They may have outbursts, but overall, they tend to just feel badly with no real external cause.  If left alone, they can feel dejected or worse.  Yet, if they are with others, they can feel inadequate.  Their cycle is irregular and may stop if a deep depression sets in for some time.  They may have excess mucus or discharges, according to their emotional state, which is irregular.  Pain is migrating, deep, and dull.

Pitta/Vata: When imbalanced, this type can feel angry and irritable, and be prone to violent outbursts.  They tend to blame others for everything and create mountains out of molehills.  They are prone to infection and inflammation in the vagina or bladder.  Infections can move around and be difficult to cure. They have irregular emotions and flow, although the number of days between cycles may be consistent.  Pain, if present, is more general, with more just before and just after the start of menstruation.  Depression may accompany the swings of anger or frustration.

Pitta/Kapha: When imbalanced, these women can feel irritable and frustrated.  They have the tendency to internalize most of the emotions they feel, yet an occasional outburst is likely if someone or something provokes them.  They are prone to yeast infections or other inflamed, infectious discharges.  Their cycles are regular in time, but usually quite emotional and disturbed.  They may have heavy flows.

Kapha/Vata: When imbalanced, these women usually experience self-negating feelings of unworthiness, accompanied by depression.  Outbursts seldom happen, as everything is internalized, although a general feeling of neglect and lack of love can trigger strong emotions.  There may be sore or painful breasts before menstruation.  Excessive discharges are common.  Their cycles tend to be regular, but with irregular flow.  Migrating, dull pain is also common, either before or after the start of menstruation.

 Kapha/Pitta: When imbalanced, this type may have internalized anger, which sometimes can be projected onto those around them.  Generally, there is self-destructive behavior that is held within, as well as an accumulated frustration with life and/or love.  Accumulation of water is common before the menstruation begins.  Accumulative and inflammatory problems may occur frequently in the vagina.  Their cycle is generally regular in days, but not in emotions or in flow, which tends to be heavy.

Vata/Pitta/Kapha: When imbalanced, this type can demonstrate the problems of any of the three humors.  As vata is the most unstable humor, it is generally the one causing irregularities of time or emotion.  It can stop the flow of menses or cause any form of dryness and emotional depression.  Pitta will cause inflammation and excessive flow accompanied by anger or frustration.  Kapha will cause retention and accumulation of fluids or mucus through self destructive or internalized emotions.

Note that, in a balanced state, any of the constitutional types have smooth and regular menstruation.  Sometimes there can be fatigue on the first day or two of menses.  Yet, when you look at the imbalanced states, you see that all of them can experience some kind of problem.

It should be understood that, according to Ayurveda, vata is the cause of most disease in the body because of its unstable nature.  However, this is even more true for reproductive and hormonal problems.  A disturbance of vata is present in all forms of menstrual, premenstrual, pre-menopausal and post-menopausal problems.  This is true even if you have no vata present in your constitution.  Hence, the treatment of vata is included in every kind of corrective therapy.

Very often, menstrual problems are due solely to a transient factor (vikruti) like stress or shock. These imbalances the vata humor and causes problems, as is explained in the next chapter.  The point here is that you may be experiencing symptoms of a humor that is not dominant in your natal constitution.  The only sure way to know whether you are experiencing an imbalance of your natal constitution (prakruti) or of your changing constitution (vikruti) is to see a practitioner.  This is especially true if you are of a dual type, because in that case it is more difficult to determine what your natal nature is.

There is one very helpful trick to help you recognize your natal constitution.  Look at your tongue in a mirror.  A very wide broad tongue is kapha in nature and a very narrow tongue is vata.  A pitta tongue in not wider than the outer edge of the teeth-it is between the other two in width. The mixed constitutions are between the pure types; e.g., a pitta/kapha tongue will be broader than a pitta tongue and narrower than a kapha tongue.  This is a simple, but very effectives, way to know your natal constitution.