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Ayurveda and Asana

Ayurveda can shed light on the practice of yoga.

By Mark Halpern

Asanas for Kapha

To balance the heavy, slow, cold, and sedated nature of kapha, practice asanas that are more stimulating and heating. Asanas best suited to individuals of kapha nature or imbalance are those that open up the chest. The stomach and chest are the areas where kapha accumulates. In the chest, kapha takes on the form of mucous. These asanas are excellent for the prevention and treatment of congestive conditions like bronchitis and pneumonia as well as constrictive conditions such as asthma and emphysema.

Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) are useful asanas for kaphas. To perform Setu Bandha, lie flat on your back with your arms to your sides, with palms facing down toward the floor. Using your elbows and forearms, raise your pelvis off the mat as you keep your shoulders and feet grounded. Try to stay on the tops of your shoulders and increase the height of the pelvis by extending evenly through both legs.

As a gentle alternative to this posture, lie on your back in extension over a bolster and a pillow. Both of these variations do an excellent job of opening the chest, allowing for greater circulation of energy through this region. These asanas also affect the flow of energy through the heart chakra, aiding the development of compassion and unconditional love.

For those of kapha nature and imbalance, the calming and sedating effect of most asanas needs to be balanced by other asanas that are more stimulating and heating. People of kapha nature are the best suited to handle strengthening poses, as their joints and muscles tend to be strong and stable. Increasing flexibility is extremely important for those of kapha nature, as kaphas tend to become overly stiff or rigid.

Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutation) is a very good aerobic exercise for kapha and helps in the treatment of obesity and depression, two common kapha conditions. The Sun Salutation is the ideal asana for kapha, as it is very active, creates heat, and opens the chest.

There are 12 parts to this sequence of poses. Begin by standing erect with the feet touching each other. Bend the elbows and bring the palms together in the middle of the chest. Raise the arms above the head and extend into a slight backbend. Bend forward into Uttanasana and bring the hands to the floor, bending the knees if you need to protect your back. From this position, lunge backward with the right leg as you bend the left knee. The knee of the right leg may lie on the floor. The foot of the left leg should be between both hands.

Bring the left leg backward and place it by the right leg as you lift your buttocks high into the air and come into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog). Allow the elbows to come to the floor and glide your body forward into Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). Then press back into Downward-Facing Dog. Next, lunge the right leg forward as you bring your pelvis low to the ground. The right foot is placed between the hands and the knee is bent, held close to the chest. Bring the left foot forward as you return to Uttanasana. Come up to a standng position and raise the arms once again over the head, extending the back and neck. To complete the cycle, return the hands to the chest, palms together.

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Reader Comments

Liz

I've found that lion's breath is particularly beneficial when one's pitta is out of balance. :D

Ginny

I found this very helpful as I have been experiencing vertigo when doing certain poses like shoulderstand. I currently have an imbalance of Vata which looks like it's being aggravated by some of the poses I do. Thanks!

Alan

I beg to differ about the idea of "dissolving" the ego or ahamkara. This is a common misunderstanding in the yoga community. We could not exist without an ahamkara. Without it there would be no "I' to see, feel, touch etc. Every object in nature by definition has an identity or ahamkara. Yoga is the timeless, ever present unchanging ground state from which nature or prakruti and every ahamkara arises. In the yoga state we both transcend and include the ego / ahamkara.

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