Kapha-Proof Exercises to Stay Energized
by Eva Dusch
The Importance of Moving Upwards
In our hyperactive Western society, the Vata and Pitta qualities seem to be celebrated more than ever; the speed, fun, creativity, goals, successes, and always-wanting-more mindset. Being a Kapha may sound like you’re a soft, lazy, and cuddling bear who just wants to eat cupcakes all day. However, with the right counterbalancing activities, you can enjoy - and not get stuck - the beautiful stabilizing qualities of this Dosha.
Do you remember the main properties or characteristics of Kapha Dosha? The sutras will have you chanting them over and over again (yes, you can ask our loving students): slow, stable, heavy, slimy, soft, cool, gross, and dense. But there’s one characteristic that’s often not mentioned, and that has to do with movement or direction: ‘downwards’. It’s that sweet grounding feeling when melting down into your yoga mat during savasana. Kapha helps us to become rooted down and really feel our sitting bones again.
Move It Up
This feeling of grounding comes from the Kapha elements of Earth and Water. From all the five elements, these are the only two that naturally move downwards. They give us a sense of heaviness, stability, and density; take planting your feet firmly on the ground, for example. It is these elements where ‘gravity’ really shows. Not so much with Fire, Air, and Space as they all move upwards, and bring more mobility and lightness.
That downward movement is one of those things that make Kapha ‘special’. It is one of the practical reasons to have Kapha Dosha – as a biological manager – in the upper part of our body:
- It makes sure that whatever comes into our bodies in terms of food, breath, and Prana, will be taken on a downward path throughout our digestive tract and otherwise through the whole body.
- Kapha helps to prevent Vata and Pitta from moving upwards inappropriately and even jumping out of the body; it is like the heavy and downward lid on the pot! It’s the container that keeps everything neatly packed.
Stuck in the Mud
If we were all like elephants and rhinos, it wouldn’t be so bad to be wallowing in muddy pools. Unfortunately, as human beings, that’s a kind of ‘too much Kapha’ situation. It’s sticky, muddy, heavy, and hard to get out of. Mentally and physically this can be expressed either by actual ‘weight’ or by feeling ‘down’, or feeling heavy and depressed; laziness will drag you down onto a couch or into this ignorant “whatever” mentality. That’s your cue that the downward Kapha quality has become too much and it’s time to shake things up.
Get Moving and Grooving
So what to do? According to Ayurveda, just take the opposite quality to counteract the problem! For Kapha, that means integrating lighter and upward moving qualities. That doesn’t mean you have to run around like an overly excited Vata person all day or become a tightly scheduled Pitta manager.
Here are a few examples of using the upward movement quality as counter-remedy:
- Get up earlier than normal, between 6:00 - 6:30 am (before sunrise) to end the ‘downward’ mode, which is a main property of sleeping.
- While doing physical exercises, choose more often for upward and intense movements including asanas (it helps to have uplifting music on).
- While doing breathing exercises (including pranayamas), choose stronger upward ‘pumping’ modes of breathing like Kapalbhati (breath of fire) and Bhastrika (bellows breath).
- Keep your gaze aimed higher during asanas.
- Make sure you have ‘uplifting’ thoughts and ideas.
- Make sure you stimulate yourself enough to get you’re butt moving: meaning – get ‘up’ and do something!
- When overloaded on Kapha, your stomach might spontaneously move its contents upwards by vomiting - a method which is used therapeutically in Panchakarma to treat Kapha Dosha.
- Instead of abhyanga, do Udvartana (Ud- meaning upwards) as part of your Dinacharya (daily routine): This is a powder massage with upward movements and movements towards the heart. It’s very refreshing and energizing.
Getting Up for Kapha Types
This is always the most ‘fun’ part of telling Kapha types, who often want to sleep the most or the longest: ‘You need the least amount of sleep’ - “Wait, what? No, that’s not fair”. So a good anti-Kapha treatment is to get up early, and that means as early as possible. Ideally, 1.5 hours before sunrise or no later than six. Rising during the Kapha hours (6:00 - 10:00 am) can bring in those heavy qualities and literally contribute to extra weight gain - and that without eating extra.
When a Kapha type gets up, drinking a glass of warm water with honey - honey "scrapes" fatty tissue - is a good way to start the day. Another important thing is to add speed and variety to the routine. Alternating between cold and hot showers, and incorporating a firm dry (brush) massage are recommended. You can even use a rough hand cloth for this when a dry brush is too intense, as recommended by our teacher Victoria Raven Hyndman. Sturdy and circulation-enhancing body exercises are especially important for Kapha. Active movement helps to activate heat to get the sweat flowing which opens up the channels and can help clear through the pores. Kapha types need to shake things up in every way to pull themselves out of the stagnant and sticky muddy waters. This means changing your yoga routine every week or two weeks but also literally standing on your mat and just shaking and dancing already helps a lot. Put a few drops of Wild Orange essential oil in your diffuser for some extra uplifting and positive energy to start the day with.
A Kapha type is best advised to keep breakfast very small and light or skip it altogether. Only eat when hungry. A good anti-Kapha tea is recommended. Kaphas can also have a cup of (preferably black) coffee in the morning (sorry to those jealous Vata friends).
Start implementing some Kapha-balancing postures into your yoga practice and connect to your body. How do you feel before, during, and after the practice?
- Standing poses
- Tree pose
- Standing on one leg pose
- Planking / side planking
- Warrior poses
- Sun salutations / Variations to add:
- Lifted arm side bends after 1 step
- Plank Hold
- Hold breath
- Heart and chest openers
- Work your abdomen
It’s when we look beyond the gross outer layers of life that we find our way to the more subtle layers that can shift your whole being and perspective on life. That’s how it felt when Eva encountered the path of Ayurveda. After years of practising yoga and meditation, it was the cherry on the cake. The foundation she was looking for, that connects everything. No matter where you go. After working for years as a writer and freelance journalist, she took a big break in 2016 to travel the world. She went to all corners of the planet, living in New Zealand and South America for a while. As unstable and challenging the circumstances sometimes were, it was through yoga and Ayurveda that she found stability, balance, and inner peace. Something she brought back home with her when she returned to Amsterdam in the spring of 2019. That same year, she started her journey with the Delight Academy to deepen her knowledge, skills, and experience in the field of Ayurveda. Her motivation to become an Ayurvedic Practitioner is to help people reconnect with their bodies and inner knowing again. Encouraging them to take their health into their own hands, using nutrition, awareness, and balance as tools. She believes in conscious, healthy, and joyful living inspired by the beauty and depth of Ayurvedic wisdom and holistic philosophies. Photo credit: Kiki Reijners