Ayurvedic medicine recognizes three basic types of primal energy called doshas. These three -- vata, pitta and kapha -- are the basic building blocks of the material world. When they're in harmony within the body, all is well. When they're not, you get ill.
Made up of water and earth elements, kapha dosha is slow, cool, heavy and oily. Kapha keeps you grounded, but when it becomes too predominant, you may experience congestion from colds or allergy, among other symptoms. In fact, excess kapha has to do with the whole organism clogging up and becoming sluggish, mentally, physically and emotionally.
The yogic or Aryuvedic approach to chest congestion is to curb the kapha and bring the other doshas into balance. This can be done with asanas (poses) that rebalance the chakras, with healthy restorative foods and with purification practices.
Asanas to Clear the Chest
Asanas for excess kapha help strengthen and purify the body and to restore vitality. Poses should be held long enough to challenge yourself a little, but not to the point of stress or strain.
As might seem obvious, chest congestion is best treated with asanas that draw energy to the chest and upper torso, such as Supported Bridge pose which opens the chest and boosts circulation to the upper body, using a block to support your lower back. Another good place to start is the basic Cobra pose, which will clear stagnation around the heart chakra and relieve spinal tension from your tailbone to the base of your skull.
For any and all congestive issues, you want to stimulate the lymphatic system, and Bound Angle pose, which opens the abdomen, chest and groin, will accomplish this. Just support your outer thighs with blanket or other padding. If you've got chest congestion then you've probably got a stuffy head too, and Big Toe pose -- a simple standing forward fold in which you grab your big toesies -- will help both.
Yoga is a whole-body approach to health, so you can't really separate diet from anything else you're doing. First, you want to avoid certain foods that tend to cause energy and digestion to stagnate. For starters, reduce your intake of dairy, which contributes to phlegm, and minimize nuts and seeds, red meat, salt, oils and other fats. Foods that help move that extra kapha baggage along include hot spices, vegetables by the truckload, beans, light fruits such as apples, pomegranates and pears. Avoid heavier fruits like bananas and avocados.
An excess of kapha can make you especially sensitivity to cold and damp environments and you may benefit from dry heat sources such as a heating pad under your back or a sun lamp aimed at your chest. It's also best to avoid cold, wintry air, especially avoiding exposure of your lungs, nose and throat.