As we enter yet another hot spell, I thought I’d remind you about Sitali pranayama – the cooling breath.
It can really help to cool the head and bring a feeling of calm to the mind. It’s also the breathing practice that comes in very useful for menopausal hot flushes, and also if you get flushes because of hormone-based medications.
Trying adding it to your daily practice to help regulate body temperature, and use it for immediate relief too.
Why do it?
Sitali is an unusual breathing technique in that we inhale through the mouth and exhale through the nose. Normally, best practice is to inhale nasally, as the first line of our immune defence is a combination of the nasal hairs and mucus that capture the ‘alien invaders’ before they can enter the body (pollen and dust, other microscopic particles and germs). So it’s a practice to do indoors, in a space that isn’t dusty or contaminated.
The benefits are many-fold. The incoming air is cooled by the saliva in the mouth as it passes over the tongue and this has a pleasingly cooling effect in the mouth.
On an energetic level, the yogic texts say that sitali cools the higher chakras without extingushing the digestive fire. Basically, it brings a calmness into the upper regions of the pranic/energy body (head and heart area), without diminishing the fire in our belly. It helps us to get on and do things.
I personally think that a lot of its benefit is purely in making us stop for a moment and focus simply on breathing. When the going gets hot, our minds can begin to jump ahead and catastrophise, making the whole situation even more uncomfortable. Sitali brings a cooling of the mind, which is why it’s a lifesaver during hot flushes, and can be equally as useful to intersperse through your asana practice on a warm day. It might also help you survive a heatwave!
How to do it
Curl up your tongue into a tube, like a straw, and breathe in slowly. Close your mouth and breathe out softly through your nose.
Five or six slow breaths should do the trick to cool you down, but repeat until you feel the benefit.
If you can’t curl your tongue it’s your parents’ fault! – it’s genetic and some people just can’t do it. Instead, smile with your teeth showing and breathe across the tongue with it almost touching the roof of your mouth. Works just as well!
I hope it’s helpful over the coming days. Let me know how you get on!!