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Discover the Best Pranayama Practices for Balancing Kapha Energy

Updated: Apr 26

Feeling sluggish and tired? Emotional eating? Weight gain? Pre-diabetic? Cholesterol numbers creeping up? Sinus congestion? Demotivated? You might have an Kapha imbalance. Learn breathwork practices to invigorate Kapha and start restoring balance today.

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In this article we'll explore pranayama fundamentals and specific practice to balance Kapha dosha. We'll also cover Kapha concepts, and how the two come together to create a balanced state during Kapha season, for Kapha dosha types year-round, and Kapha imbalances.


What Is Pranayama or Breathwork?

The way we breathe changes how energy, prana, flows throughout our bodies and minds. When we learn to breathe diaphragmatically, we're calmer and healthier. So, take a diaphragmatic breath and relax.


Prana means "life force" and ayama means "expansion." Pranayama practices help us permeate our bodies and minds prana, with the vital force. Pranayama increases your vitality."

-Veena, Saumya Ayurveda


Which pranayama practice is balancing and supportive for each person depends on many factors. It is best to work with an experienced teacher to ensure the practice is beneficial.


The Kapha balancing pranayama practices are invigorating to Kapha dosha. This article covers: diaphragmatic breathing, Bhramari (humming bee), Bhastrika Pranayama (bellows), and Kapalabhati Pranayama (skull shining).


woman performing pranayama practices outside

The Right Environment for Pranayama


It's important to be mindful of your breathing during Pranayama, which is why you'll want to do your breathing exercises in a quiet space that's free of distractions. Choose a clean room that's well-ventilated. When the weather is warm, Pranayama techniques can be done outdoors. For your indoors, chose an area and make that your designated spot for prayanama, breathwork.


  • Pranayama practices are best performed with an empty stomach.

  • Before beginning a breathwork/pranayama practice, always check with your physician.


Veena's photo of smoothly flowing river water

Kapha: That Which Protects and Lubricates


Kapha dosha is governed by water and earth. Nourishing and reliable, Kapha provides structure and stability in our inner and outer worlds. Like the elements it represents, Kapha physical properties are moist, heavy, slow (or dullish), cool, stable, oily, and smooth.


Balanced Kapha supports groundedness, endurance, strength, and dependability. It protects critical systems from our immune system and personal boundaries down to our stomach lining and the fluid in our joints. Out of balance, Kapha manifests as physical and mental “dullness.” We may put on a few extra pounds, or feel weighed down, lethargic, foggy, or depressed.


woman outside in winter

What is Kapha Season?


Depending on your location and the climate around you, Kapha season may vary. Generally speaking, it begins in the late-winter and ends in early spring.


Kapha's qualities are: heavy, cool, moist, slow, steady, and smooth, oily As such, late winter and early spring is Kapha season. As Kapha in the environment increases, Kapha in us is likely to increase as well.


During this time, we often become heavier, we may feel lethargic (long, cold, dark days add to this), fatigue, excessive sleep, depressed mood, demotivated, thick white coating on the tongue, slow, sticky bowel movements, possessive or overly attached, sentimental, stubborn, with a tendency for emotional eating. This is why balancing the Kapha is so important for overall well-being.


woman balancing on rocks

How Do I Know If I Have a Dosha Imbalance?


Peruse these comprehensive and convenient lists of signs and symptoms of dosha imbalances.


As we are all comprised of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, there can be an imbalance in any of the doshas, or a combination of dosha imbalances. Read all three lists and see if anything looks familiar.


Common Kapha Imbalances:


woman practicing nadi shodhana

In the following guide, we’ll highlight pranayama practices to balance Kapha.

Discover the Best Pranayama Practices for Balancing Kapha Energy


Pranayama

Our breath channels Prana - the vital life force - throughout our bodies. It’s beneficial for all dosha types to establish a routine of daily diaphragmatic breathing. During Kapha season, add these pranayama to invigorate and cleanse impurities mentally and physically.


Practice pranayama in this order: establish diaphragmatic breathing, Bhramari Pranayama, Bhastrika, then Kapalabhati.


woman in savasana practicing diaphragmatic breathing on a dock

Step One: How To Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing


Whether we are new to pranayama or we've practiced for years, lie in śavāsana, corpse pose, on a firm, flat surface on a blanket or yoga mat. You may want to cover yourself with a shawl or thing blanket. let your arms turn so palms are upwards and arms near but away from your sides. Be comfortable. Straighten your spine. You may want to use a bolster under your knees.


Breathe through your nose, focusing on the way your belly expands and contracts as you inhale and exhale. Place your right hand over your belly and your left hand over your chest. If you are breathing with your diaphragm, your right hand will move up and down while your left hand will stay still.


Once you have confirmed that you are practicing diaphragmatic breathing, in time your breath will naturally lengthen. Simply place your attention on the gentle rise and fall of your abdomen. As you exhale, your abdomen contracts, and as you inhale, it expands. There is nothing "to do," only observe the rhythm of the breath.


Diaphragmatic breathing calms Vata dosha, leaving you feeling relaxed and grounded. It soothes the nervous system. Once diaphragmatic breathing becomes established, you can repeat this exercise without placing your hands on your chest and stomach.


Diaphragmatic breathing is the foundation to pranayama, breathwork practices.  It is the most important breathwork to practice and master. Before trying other pranayama practices, diaphragmatic breathing needs to be automatic.


Breathing diaphragmatically decreases the breath rate and increases a sense of calm and focus. It’s foundational to all other pranayama, breathwork practices. First, we learn to breathe diaphragmatically, then we can be guided onto other breathwork practices and derive benefits.


Please Read: Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life before proceeding with these pranayama practices.

honeybee flying to a flower

Step Two: How To Practice Humming Bee Breath Bhramari Pranayama


Brhamari pranayama brings stillness to the mind and soothes the nervous system. It reduces stress and relieves anxiety. It is said to lower blood pressure, support a healthy throat and creates a melodious voice. It releases anger and improves sleep quality.


Sit with your head, neck, and spine in alignment. (Do not practice bhramari while lying down.) Close your eyes and place your thumbs over your ears. Keep your pinky fingers near your nostrils and your index fingers near your eyebrows. Take a deep breath through your nose, focusing on the way your lungs expand.


Hold your breath in your lungs and press your pinky fingers against both of your nostrils, leaving them partially closed. As you exhale, use your throat to make a low-pitched humming sound. The sound should be similar to the buzzing of a bee.


This is a calming breathing exercise that promotes healing throughout the body. This exercise is most effective on an empty stomach. It is an excellent way to reduce stress and improve throat health.


Contraindications

  • Chest pain

  • Ear infection or pressure

  • Epilepsy

  • Menstruating and pregnant women


bejeweled bellows

Step Three: How To Practice Bhastrika Pranayama


 Bhastrika (Bellows Breath): “Bellows Breathing” is a vigorous, forceful inhalation and exhalation of deep breaths. This practice stimulates all the organs in the body as though all the organs are taking a cleansing shower.


This pranayama brings balance, invigorates, and cleanses body and mind. Beginners may perform 3-5 rounds of however many repetitions are comfortable in one round.


How does one measure comfort? There should be an absence of effort and one remains completely relaxed. The mind relaxes when the nervous system is relaxed and so inhalation and exhalations need to be even, without effort and in a state of relaxation.


Close your eyes and relax your jaw. Quickly inhale and exhale through your nose, keeping your mouth closed. You should feel your ribs flare out and in and as you breathe.


Breathe in and out three times, then allow yourself to breathe normally before repeating this exercise again. Continue this exercise for a total of 15 seconds. Over time, you can gradually increase the duration of this exercise to a full minute.


This type of breathing is highly stimulating and can leave you feeling energized. It can improve digestion and leave you feeling more alert and aware. This exercise can also lift excess kapha and remove congestion from the lungs.


Benefits of Bhastrika Pranayama


  • Balances all three doshas (Vata and Pitta be gentle, Kapha can be more vigorous)

  • Stimulates agni

  • It’s internally cleansing as it burns ama (toxins)

  • Removes excess mucus from the nose, sinuses, and chest

  • It’s cleansing to the lungs and helps alleviate asthma and allergy symptoms

  • Increases lung capacity

  • Strengthens the lungs, hearts, diaphragm, and abdomen

  • Supports healthy liver, spleen, and pancreas

  • It oxygenates the blood and improves circulation

  • Removes carbon dioxide from the body

  • Increases sense of vitality in mind and body

photo of a woman focused with an invigorated mind

Step Four: How To Practice Kapalabhati Pranayama


  • Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath): Powerful breath clears the head to energize and brighten. Kapalabhati brings balance to the body, organs and the mind. It is considered the “wonder” pranayama as it can cure many diseases, conditions and imbalances when performed correctly.

  • Performed with a forceful exhalation and a passive inhalation. The inhalation is brought all the way to the top of the head, and then the breath is forcefully and completely exhaled. The passive inhalation to the top of the head will naturally take longer, perhaps up to 30-40 seconds, than the forceful exhalation. Maintain relaxation in body and mind. Let go of effort and release all tensions.

  • Kapalabhati may be performed for 10-15 seconds for a beginner and over times, up to a minute. However, as with bhastrika, quality is key, not quantity and one needs to remain relaxed, comfortable and making no effort.

Benefits of Kapalabhati Pranayama


  • Balances all doshas

  • Clears out the lungs

  • Improves focus and concentration

  • Improves memory and recall

  • Sharpens the senses

  • Improves agni (digestive fire)

  • Supports a healthy appetite

  • Clears the pranic (energy) channels (srotamsi) but without adding heat

  • Supports a healthy immune system

  • Increase circulation (especially the head, hence, shinning skull)

  • Clears the blood

  • Creates a melodious voice


Both Bhastrika and Kapalabhati are profoundly Kapha pacifying as these pranayama practices invigorate the mind, cleanse the tissues and channels, and enkindle the digestive fire. These practices should be comfortable and pleasant and have no dizziness or other concerning effects.


Bhastrika and Kapalabhati Contraindications:

  • Avoid if menstruating or pregnant

  • Avoid if blood pressure issues (including low or high)

  • Not for people with: hernia, heart issues/disease, ulcers, epilepsy, vertigo, migraines, nosebleeds, detached retina, glaucoma, stroke, risk of stroke, or recent surgery.

  • Those suffering from asthma or chronic bronchitis should practice bhastrika only under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

  • It is best to have an experienced teacher guiding your pranayama practice.

Always practice within your comfortable capacity. When you feel you have completed the practice, gently open your eyes, while maintaining awareness inwardly, and reestablishing a connection externally. If you feel the inward connecting fading, apply the Two Minute Meditation throughout the day. Alternatively, having completed your pranayama practice, perform nadi shodhana, then sit for your meditation.


woman wondering

What Follows Pranayama? Meditation.

After completing your pranayama practice, and nadi shodhana, you are now prepared to sit for meditation. Meditation is how we discover our true nature.


Wondering what precedes pranayama practices? Yog-asana. The sequence is significant. First, yog-asana. Second, pranayama practices. Third, meditation. Each step is preparing your body and mind for meditation.

Saumya Ayurveda's 3 steps for transforming your daily life with image of a woman meditating by a lake

There is a saying, "The mind is more in the body, than the body is in the mind." The Saumya 3 steps for transforming your life, daily--shifts us from fight-flight-freeze mode, to rest-restore-relax mode and helps maintain dosha balance. Try it for forty days and observe the changes. The more grounded and relaxed we are, the smoother life flows.


"The breath is the connection between the mind and body, so by training the breath, we become calm, focused, and grounded, we slow down the aging process by decreasing stress. These practices are so simple and easy to have as part of our daily life. We actually feel and look younger."

- Veena, Saumya Ayurveda


1. Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life. When we re-learn to breath diaphragmatically, we move from the flight-fight-freeze mode, to rest, restore, relaxation mode from where we want and need to live.


2. Free Daily Guided Practices: 11 minutes in the morning and in the evening, as anchors of your daily Ayurveda routine.



"Choose a couple of practices from the Ayurveda routines that provide you with the greatest support. Perform them while applying our two minute meditation technique and your mundane tasks, just transformed into a mellifluous meditation. This is meditation applied to daily life." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda

Explore More Pranayama Breathwork: Ayurveda Breathwork Pranayama 

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"Veena was able to help me regain my energy in just a few months and I’m feeling like my “young” self again! I love the food plan she designed for me, and all the supporting practices (am/pm routines, breathing practices, herbs, and spice mixes) are so enjoyable to incorporate into my day. I highly recommend Saumya Ayurveda if you want to feel better and have more vitality.”

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Discover the Best Pranayama Practices for Balancing Kapha Energy During the Season. Start today.

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Veena at Saumya Ayurveda

Veena is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and meditation teacher, and monk.


She is President Emeritus and teaching faculty of the Meditation Center.


Veena fell in love with the traditional medicine used in her family’s home, learning herbal remedies at her grandmother's knee.


These childhood experiences were the seeds of a lifelong passion. For over 30 years, Veena has dedicated her life to the world’s oldest healing system: Ayurveda.


She draws on this ancient wisdom to help others find their compass to a healthy life – and support those left wanting by Western medicine.


An experienced Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Veena’s deep, intuitive knowledge of Ayurveda empowers her clients to reclaim their fullest, most vibrant lives –mentally, physically, and spiritually. Veena individualizes treatment plans to each person, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all approach, so it fits your life and becomes woven in your lifestyle, naturally.


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