According to Ayurveda, Kapha types make great friends! They are loyal, loving, and they are awesome listeners who cultivate and keep relationships with ease. That’s because Kapha Dosha’s main strengths are staying power and earthy connectedness. Kapha balancing can help to bolster these while combating Kapha’s weakness – congestion and stasis.
All that earth/water energy can bring heaviness and damp into the respiratory area as mucus. It can also lead to too much lazing around on the couch, feeling low and unable to find the motivation to get moving. To boot ourselves into action and clarify the lungs, sinus and nasal passages, many of the tools in our Yoga repertoire are excellent – in fact they were designed for this!
The seven steps of Hatha Yoga begin with cleansing kriyas – this is an important first step to clear the passages and energetic pathways to make way for the prana that will help replace stasis with a fresh charge of vital energy. Next, postures, pranayama and mantra that detoxify, warm, energize and uplift will decrease an excess of holding and allow Kapha Dosha’s many qualities to shine.
The Kapha Body Type
Kapha Dosha is the alchemy of earth and water. The Kapha body type is fuller and more curvaceous than the slim, angular Vata and lean, muscular Pitta. Kapha types also have skin that is soft and smooth, and large lustrous eyes and eyelashes. They do not suffer from the dryness of Vata or the eruptions of Pitta. They have very symmetrical features and their beauty is often felt to be genuinely inside and out.
That said, Kapha Dosha tends toward illnesses like sinus and respiratory congestion and a certain inertia. But, with attention to food, movement and breathing practices, Kapha can be the healthiest and happiest of all constitutions.
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The most challenging time of the year for Kapha types is late winter/early spring. The winter thaw leads to cold, damp air that exacerbates the sinus and lung congestion this type battles in any case. Spring also brings pollen, and for those who are allergic, it’s a double whammy. Late winter is also the time we’re heaviest. The more sedentary pace of winter, when we’re most likely to be cozied up inside cocooning, can be especially hard on Kapha Dosha leading to a sluggish feeling by late winter. Add the comfort foods we eat at this time, like squash and potatoes, and by mid-winter, most of us will have put on more weight.
This makes early spring a perfect time to engage in a Kapha-pacifying cleanse. Spring greens are nature’s way of providing us with the perfect opportunity to slough out the phlegm from the digestive system and get back to lighter more clarifying fare.
Ayurvedic Diet for Balancing Kapha Dosha
Foods that are already Kapha in nature are pale, sticky, slimy and heavy or dense, like rice, banana, oatmeal. These are the foods that are meant for pacifying Vata, so steer clear of these when you’re trying to balance Kapha Dosha! What Kapha types need are foods that are heating, clarifying, light and easy to digest. The Kapha balancing tastes are pungent, bitter and astringent. Think bitter and astringent greens, pungent, peppery foods, and food with a good amount of fiber.
Foods and Herbs for Balancing Kapha Dosha
- Bitter melon (kerala)
- Black beans
- Mustard seed
- Mustard oil
Yoga for Pacifying Kapha Dosha
Ayurveda is not only about what we eat, but about applying Yoga techniques in your daily life that are tailored to balancing your Dosha. And actually, the first three limbs of Hatha Yoga (cleansing kriyas, posture and pranayama) are specifically designed to boot out excess phlegm and the sedentary feeling that comes with an excess of Kapha Dosha, and to import the motivating and clarifying effect of enhanced life force energy. Bring on the Prana!
And, when you’re using the right technique for your type, in 20 minutes a day, you’ll feel more motivated and uplifted. Let’s get too it – Yoga to help fire up Kapha Dosha.
Cleansing for Balancing Kapha Dosha
The simplest of the Yogic cleansing techniques is actually becoming fairly mainstream. You’ll see Neti pots in almost any pharmacy nowadays. Jal Neti means clearing the nasal passages by pouring warm salt water through one nostril at a time using a Neti pot.
Fill your Neti pot with sea salt and warm water so it is the saltiness of a gargle or a palatable soup. Bend the torso no more than 45 degrees and turn the head to one side making sure not to dip the brow too low. Just turn the head naturally sideways. Insert the Neti pot into the upper nostril and breathe naturally through the mouth as you pour. Water should flow out through the lower nostril until you’re about halfway through the pot. Remove the pot and then exhale several times through the nose (without blocking the nostrils with a kleenex) to clear the rest of the water droplets. Be gentle at first so as not to block the ears. Perform Jal Neti on the other side. Finally, lubricate the nose with olive oil or lavender and a carrier oil.
Postures for Balancing Kapha Dosha
Twisting breathing either with an alternate nostril exhale or the thymus thump is excellent for getting into movement in a simple way and in the area of the chest! If you want something a bit more gentle, start with the basic Waist Twisting pose. This is often part of an Akhanda opening sequence: Sun breaths, Half moon and then twisting breathing. Follow this up with the Sun salutation and you will have worked in every direction of the spine.
Since Kapha accumulates in the area of the lungs, strong active twisting poses are wonderful within the standing sequence, such as Twisting Hero pose and Twisting Triangle. It’s important not to overdo it at first, and If these are a bit too intense and you need to start with a low and build up your level of activity, try Twisting Cat.
Naturally, Kapha could benefit from a bit more fire at the navel, so postures on the navel are excellent for pacifying Kapha Dosha. To close your sequence, Fish or Bow would really open the chest, clarify the lungs, and uplift and inspire.
Breathwork for Balancing Kapha Dosha
Breathing is one of the easiest ways to clarify and clear Kapha, as Prana is dry and light as opposed to heavy and damp. Start with Kapalabhati to expel stale air from the base of the lungs and then move to Nadi Shodhana or Bhastrika with an even inhalation and exhalation in the area of the ribcage. During asana, Ujjayi is warming and adds to the clarifying effect.
Mantra for Balancing Kapha Dosha
Chanting aloud is warming, just like pranayama, as it involves a mastery of the breath. Chanting Vedic mantras, especially solar mantras like Gayatri, with a more quick pace are wonderful for releasing stagnant energy and importing vitality. That said, Kapha types can also benefit from the more uplifting melodies and beats of Kirtan. Mantras that connect to archetypes with a more stern, disciplinary feel, like Shiva (Om Namah Shivaya), are perfect for more relaxed Kapha Dosha types.
Meditation for Balancing Kapha Dosha
Since Kapha already tends towards stillness, walking meditation or meditation with continuous chanting are quite beneficial. Like Vata types, people naturally high in Kapha Dosha benefit from something tactile and active to focus on like the use of mala beads. In the case of Kapha, this is to stop them from relaxing so much they fall asleep!
Though they may be very good at devotional meditations on a preferred icon, Kapha should try to stretch their attention that’s usually focussed on family and community to something very expansive. Try a meditation on the pure blue sky or on space extending in every direction to infinity!
Yoga for Kapha on Akhanda Yoga Online
Need some inspiration? Join us for pacifying Kapha on Akhanda Yoga Online! Enter your email to receive a free toolkit of videos all focussed around clarifying the damp of the water/earth type and season. The toolkit includes cooking clips, cleansing, pranayama and a full Yoga classes!