Yoga Practices for Vata, Kapha, and Pitta

Modern Ayurveda – Yoga Poses

Practices you should you do if: 

(a) you’ve been travelling a lot/there’s been trauma in your life, (b) you need a lot of focus and intensity, (c) your life is sedentary/there is weight gain


Depending on the season, time of day, stage of life, and constitution, we come to the mat with different energies.

Vata reducing practices are great if we are traveling, under stress, have had trauma, or if we’ve had loss. We would be experiencing more change, more space, and more movement within that space. It could also be that we are in the Vata space because it is the Vata season, so we might want to come to our mat to decrease that Vata energy. 

Remember that Vata resides in the colon. A standing forward fold reduces Vata by compressing the colon to let out excess air. Simply by folding ourselves in half, the warmth of the third chakra starts to compress against the upper legs, and in that insulation, there is a warmth, there is a groundedness and we tend to feel a little more safe, a bit more protected.

With Vata intensive practices we want our gaze to look down, we want to move our energy down, we want to pulsate, and we want to allow ourselves to feel the earth beneath our feet. Forward bends, standing poses, seated forward bends, and hip openers are all good choices.

Poses like pigeon where we are bowed forward over our front leg start to allow the hips to open and the pelvis to spread. The energy is then able to go from crown to root which is really grounding and balancing to Vata.



On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have Kapha reducing practices. Kapha is naturally grounded, so we will want to move energy up to reduce Kapha.

A Kapha reducing practice might look like a lot of sun salutations, where we are moving quickly.

We might even kick up into a handstand at the wall. A more advanced practitioner might go from handstand into a forearm balance. Add in some backbends to relieve congestion in the lungs and to build heat.

Repeating these sequences a few times helps to build that energy, to bring the energy upward. We might also do standing poses that are a little more Rajasic.

 By going upside down and bending backwards, it opens the lung tissues up, it starts to open the pathways up so that the person can breathe and not feel so weighted down.

This practice has tipped the energy upside down, worked this person out, and bent their energy another way.

Kapha accumulates in the lungs and it is heavy. After a Kapha practice a person will feel energized, alert and vibrant.



Pitta is heat and it gets focused. It goes up, inwards, and deep. The kind of practice that we want for Pitta is one that will diffuse the energy away from the center.

Pitta accumulates in the small intestine and it is a part of the liver, the gall bladder, and the bile ducts. There is a lot of heat, a lot of bile, and a lot of intensity in Pitta. Its energy takes the shape of an upward pointing arrow. Using that as a mental picture in a Pitta reducing practice, we want our energy to go downward and outward. 

How we do that is to tune into the breath in a grounding way that diffuses the mind. The mind then doesn’t have to think. It can latch on to the breath, it is no longer leading. That’s a very important attitude shift for Pitta, it’s the attitude of surrender.

Slow movements that stretch the torso will start to open the area around the small intestine. For example sun salutations or some standing poses done slowly and with less intensity.

Pittas usually hate this, because they like to go fast and get fired up. Lying on your belly in poses such as cobra, superman, or any kind of forearm stability poses will stimulate the section around the gall bladder.

Do it in a grounding and spacious way where you are simply opening this area of the body, so that energy can start to move out. Pigeon pose, hip openers and forward bends are all similarly diffusing to Pitta.

by Cate Stillman, author of Modern Ayurveda