Summer is approaching and the temperature is heating up. I love summer and am drawn to all things hot - spices, weather, water....my Dosha is predominantly Pitta and my astrological sign is the Sun sign of Leo. I am drawn to all things firey! Even my yoga practice tends to be a bit on the Rajasic side - maybe a little to much heat for my best interest. As with all things in life; balance is key. So to help me balance my mind and my body I practice Sitali Pranayama or Sitkari Pranayama (cooling breath) when my life, practice or weather gets a bit overheated. This breathwork helps to calm my mind, cool my body and brings a quality of balance to my practice (Sattva).
If you would like to read more check out Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Muktibodhananda .
According to the yogic text this breathwork can be performed after a heated practice or any time of day to help "cool" the countenance of the mind. The HYP suggests practicing this pranayama during the summer months for therapeutic benefits. Yogis say this breathwork can help calm an overactive nervous system. Some claim it can alleviate high blood pressure, purify the blood and improve digestion.
How to practice Sitkari (Cooling)
Come to a comfortable seated position that allows for a dignified spine, with an open heart. Close your eyes. Stick out your tongue a comfortable distance and allow it to curve into the shape of a taco, rolling the outer edges inward to create a strawlike, tube shape. Now inhale deeply, feeling the cooling effect in the mouth, air being sucked through the tongue like a tube or a straw. At the end of your inbreath, close the mouth and exhale through the nose. It is suggested to practice 9 rounds initially and build up to 10 minutes.
Another option is to inhale as above and then retain the breath. Apply the lifting of the pelvic floor - Mula bandha and the chin lock - jalandhara bandha as long as comfortable. Hold the retention as long as comfortable and then release mula bandha and jalandhara bandha and exhale through the nose in a slow and controlled fashion.
What if you can't curl your tongue?
It's possible that curling your tongue isn't possible for you! Genetics or other anatomical variations may play a role in this. No worries, you can receive the benefits of this cooling breath with a variation called Sitkari Breathing.
Bring your teeth together and separate your lips. Now inhale through the teeth, it sounds like you are hissing. Focus on this to calm the mind. When your inhale is complete, close the lips and exhale through the nose. Begin with 9 rounds and build up to 10 minutes if you like.
Discontinue if you feel light headed. Just return to regular breathing and focus on the long slow calming effects of your breath. If you would like to explore a practice where we incorporate the breath, check out this one hour yoga class with me.