Yoga for Kapha Dosha
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
This is the first blog post in a three part series about the best yoga poses and practices for each dosha. All dosha mind-body types need to move every single day, and I of course recommend that absolutely everyone practices yoga in particular (and so does Ayurveda!). But not every yoga practice is going to benefit every person in the same way, because everyone is so different.
In the same way that different foods and lifestyle practices benefit different doshas to a greater or lesser degree, different yoga poses serve the doshas in different ways. Today we’re looking at Kapha dosha. This can be applied to your dosha imbalance (if you’ve got excess Kapha going on right now), or if you’re naturally a Kapha dominant person (your prakruti, or original, balanced constitution is mostly Kapha dosha), or if it’s Kapha season (which is late winter and spring).
Right now over here in the norther hemisphere, we’re currently in Kapha season, so these yoga poses will be great for (mostly) everyone to bring a little extra focus to.
A little recap on Kapha dosha: Kapha is made of water and earth. It is the beginning and the foundation. In the body, it’s the skeletal system and the body’s structure, it’s that which holds everything together. Kapha actually translates to phlegm. It's the rasa, or the body's juiciness. Kapha lubricates and protects the body. It’s unctuous, nourishing, nurturing, cold or cool, wet, sweet, heavy, dense, dull, soft, smooth, and stable.
There are five subdoshas of Kapha. These subdoshas are essentially specific actions Kapha has on the body. They are as follows:
Bodhaka Kapha: Located in the mouth, throat, and on the tongue. It is that which lubricates the mouth. Bodhaka kapha regulates saliva production, and has a big role in enzyme production. It’s one of the first steps in the digestion process. If there’s excess Kapha dosha in this subdosha, you may experience excessive salivation, a foamy, frothy mouth or tongue, or excessive phlegm in the throat.
Tarpaka Kapha: Located in the head. That which lubricates and protects the mind and nervous system, and nourishes the sense organs. If there’s excess Tarpaka Kapha, you may experience brain fog, a dull or cloudy or slow mind.
Kledaka Kapha: Located in the upper part of the stomach as well as the inner lining. That which lubricates the stomach and protects the body by creating a barrier so that the high acidity within the stomach doesn’t leave the stomach (which could cause issues like leaky gut, for example). It helps to maintain proper alkaline levels and moistens our food so that it can be properly broken down and digested. If Kledaka Kapha is in excess, you may experience sluggish or poor digestion, nausea, or the ability to still taste food in your mouth hours after eating or upon waking up in the morning.
Avalambaka Kapha: That which holds, lubricates, and protects the respiratory system. Avalambaka Kapha holds the organs within the chest together. When there’s an excess, you may experience excessive fluids within the lungs or respiratory system (wet coughs, colds, flus, pneumonia, allergies, etc.), or abnormal growths within this area, or even just tightness and rigidity within the chest.
Sleshaka Kapha: Located in the joints, Sleshaka is that which holds, lubricates, and protects the joints. So it’s the synovial fluid, the ability to absorb shock and prevent injuries, the fluidity of the body and joints, etc. When there’s excess Shleshaka in the body, you may experience swelling or stiffness in the joints.
So with all that in mind, yoga poses for Kapha dosha will target the chest, lungs, joints, stomach, and nervous system. Kapha dosha does well with a rigorous daily practice. We want to build some heat, get the body moving, the heart pumping, the breath and blood flowing, and break a sweat. Kapha also wants to put a good amount of attention on the digestive fire in their yoga practice. Breathing with sound will build that internal heat. So think vinyasa practices-- Ashtanga yoga is great for kapha dosha, but if you’re not into that or don’t have a Mysore shala around you, practicing some sort of power vinyasa (flow) will be beneficial.
We want to focus on opening the chest, expanding the lung capacity, and expelling excess mucous. We’re also strengthening the chest, shoulders, arms, and upper back. Incorporating poses that stimulate the abdomen and entire core of the body is really important too.
Best poses for Kapha:
Sun salutations. A 5x and B 3x.
Backbends and side bends for opening the chest and lungs. Dhanurasana, urdvha dhanurasana, urdvha mukha svansana, ustrasana, matsyasana, setu bandhasana. Parivrtta janu sirsanas, parighasana.
Inversions to strengthen and stimulate the upper body. Salamba sarvangasana, adho mukha svanasana, halasana, sirsasana, karnapidasana.
Arm balances or arm intensive poses and movements for strengthening the upper body and core. Bakasana, chaturanga dandasana, navasana, mayurasana.
Twists will help to deepen the lung capacity as well as wring out the internal organs and stimulate the stomach as well. Marichyasana C and D, Ardha Mastyendrasana, parivrtta trikonasana and parsvakonasana.
Breathing practices are a powerful way to balance the doshas and cleanse the body and mind. Be sure to check with your yoga teacher before taking on a pranayama practice, because they can be intense and aren’t always recommended to every student. That being said, here are some pranayama practices for kapha dosha:
Kapalabhati breathing, skull cleansing breath— fast and forceful exhales through the nose that are instigated by the abdomen.
Solar pranayama— inhale through the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril for at least five minutes or so.
Nadi shodana, alternate nostril breathing with inhalation retention— inhale through the left nostril, hold, exhale through right nostril. Inhale through right nostril, hold, exhale through left nostril. Do this for five minutes or so to start.
Some other considerations for kapha’s physical practice would include increasing your time in the sauna. Going on bike rides, runs, and long fast walks, and cardio work like jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers can be really beneficial for kapha dosha as well.
So just to recap: Kapha finds balance and clarity with sun salutations, backbends, side bends, inversions, core work, and twists. We want to get hot, build up a sweat, work our body, increase our heart rate, and detox. Of course we still want to incorporate other poses and movements in our practice as well, but if you’re dealing with a kapha imbalance, or if it’s kapha season, it’s a good time to spend more energy on these areas of your practice.
That’s all for today! Reach out to me with questions or concerns. That’s what I’m here for. Happy practicing. :)