Understanding Ayurvedic Examination: Beyond the “Dosha Quiz”
Many people today taking Ayurvedic constitutional quizzes in books or online and feel that these give an “accurate” model of their so-called “dosha type” and sometimes get confused when going to a Practitioner and it differs.
Some practitioners place too much emphasis on temporal rather than life-long traits or on very variable factors such as the Pulse (nadi) alone (which requires much skill).
Such assessments don’t reflect deeper life-long traits and patterns and we often have biases ourselves. Mental traits, abuse, predominating climates, age, sex, digestive strength due to diet etc. and also disease can alter our normal state. There are several factors to consider for even the Prakriti or one’s in-born biological constitution or nature alone, which can easily be changed or altered, such as by life-long diseases, dietary and other factors.
Doshas themselves are but simplified expressions of the five great elements (panchamahabhutas) and the 20 gunas (qualities) within us known in Ayurveda.
Each element itself is further divided into portions and qualities of its own. Each of us has a unique set of these also threefold: constitutionally, psychologically and disease-wise, of which the dosha-model is but a simplified version of alone.
Then there are sub-types within these doshas as heavier Vata and Pitta types and slim Kapha types. Vedic Astrology has numerous types also, for example, a Budha-Prakriti or Mercury-type is a “strong-Vata” type, athletic, with secondary Kapha qualities, but primarily Vata and may hold weight at times, due to their secondary Kapha-nature and also sometimes high-Vata anxiety-eating, or even poor kidney function and metabolism.
As most people are dual-constitutions, they can thus aggravate even the lower dosha in them. Vata is always involved as it always moves the doshas and our Vatic diets and lifestyles can throw any type out by being aggravated!
This is why a full assessment is required of all bodily tissues (dhatus), channel systems (srotas), mind on various levels etc. as well as disease, digestion and so on which advanced practitioners can read from face, pulse, medical history etc.
Ayurveda employs a Tenfold examination of the patient of which Prakriti or Biological Constitution is but one and has its own science.
Then there are Eight other aspects to be examined relative to (a) Constitution and (b) disease to arrive at a valid conclusion and what is best for the patient.
However, there are several other factors and considerations also that are also examined In the classics (Sushruta, Sutrasthana, XXXV.3-45; Charaka, Vimanasthana, VIII.94) before a complete diagnosis can be put in place:
- Ayus or Life-span (according to Alpayu, before 32 years, Madhyamayu, 32-70 years or Dirghayu, 70+ years)
- Rtu Pariksha or the Seasonal examination and working with the seasons
- Desha or location / environment and related factors and predominating doshic factors
- Prakriti, the natural biological constitution from birth
- Vikriti, the disease condition or nature according to doshic characteristics (which can be different from the Prakriti)
- Sara, the state of nutrition of the dhatus or tissues
- Samhanana or compactness of the body
- Sharira Pramana or measurement of the body
- Satmya or suitability / habitual tenancies
- Sattwa or the mental constitution (according to sattvas, rajas, tamas and sub-types)
- Deha or bodily build, according to slim, moderate or obese
- Aharashakti / Agni or digestive power
- Vyayamashakti or the power of exercise
- Vayas, age or stage of life and dosha-stages (youth-Kapha ;middle-age, Pitta; old-age,Vata)
- Bala or strength of the individual, as such to undergo treatments etc.
- Bheshaja or Aushadha, the use of drugs, their qualities, effectiveness (age etc.)
In addition, we need to consider:
- The Sex of the person (Males are more Pitta while Females are more Kapha. Male reproductive systems are however Kapha and female more Pitta).
- Racial variations (Facial features, hair colour and such differs as per racial and geographic types, so we cannot stereotype these.)
There are also Astrological concerns or Cosmic Factors, where diet and lifestyle regimes have to be modified and synthesised along with the above also:
- Yogas or planetary combinations, Grahas (planets), Rashis (signs) their placement, strengths and weaknesses in the chart
- Mahadasha or great planetary period and ruling planet with regards to strengths or weaknesses
- Bhukti sub-planetary period and the ruling planet with regards to strengths in the chart
- Gorcharas planetary transits from the Moon and their various effects
These affect (a) the psychology of the person and also (b) onset of various diseases, according to their combinations and aspects etc.
Constitutionally also, we need to consider, relative to the overall and deeper Prakriti or Constitution of the person, which is fine-tuned beyond the doshic levels:
- Their planetary type (representing variations and combinations in body and mind)
- Their elemental type (representing the deeper aspect behind the doshas, especially relative to psychology)
- The Gunas or 20 qualities unique to their nature and how to work with them
- Psychological types as combinations of sattvas, rajas and tamas and pure types, from a Brahma to a vanaspatya type (Ayurveda lists 16 of these according to various degrees of the three gunas).
Hence this does not mean merely assessing one thing such as the mind or Prakriti or the body and correlating the two as many do, or diagnosing the disease alone. We have to examine and work with all factors. This simplified form of Ayurveda, does not consider the whole picture. We must educate clients on diets, seasons, planetary periods etc. and adjustments made accordingly, to properly bring them into the Ayurvedic way of living.
This also means tailoring Yoga techniques and practices also, relative to deeper Prakriti, psychological afflictions, disease-specifics and cosmic or astrological changes, which may also require they do certain rituals, mantras etc. and work with their karma on a deeper level also, not simply take herbs, one diet or a rigid (or genetic doshic) Yoga practice.
This is why regular check-ups and consultations are required by clients to be able to cover all such factors and also work with them on an integral basis, relative to changes in our environment.