Shitali Pranayama ~ Cooling Breath
Prana is the vital life force and that which animates life.
One manifestation of prana is breath and prana is the reason consciousness stays in the body.
Another manifestation of prana is clear perception and awareness and is responsible for sensations, feelings, and emotions. Yama means to gain control.
Pranayama then means to control this life force with awareness, and is the yogic practice of focusing on the breath. Pranayama brings harmony between prana, the breath, emotions, and consciousness.
One such pranayama that is very supportive during the heat of Summer, or anytime you need to cool down, is Shitali Pranayama.
Also known as Cooling Breath, it is specifically designed to reduce body temperature and in doing so, it also calms the mind and the emotions and reduces stress.
Shitali Pranayama is highly effective when looking to balance Pitta dosha as it removes excess heat from the body, relieves thirst and burning sensations, soothes hives and rashes, purifies the blood, and refreshes the body.
It is effective for colic pain, fever, excessive hunger, and various allergies. Although it has a cooling effect on the body, it enkindles Agni and digestive enzymes and thereby improves digestion, absorption, and assimilation
Shitali Pranayama is very helpful for menopausal women with hot flashes and it also serves those with gastritis and peptic ulcers.
How to do Shitali Pranayama: Step-by-step guide
Sit in any comfortable posture, lengthen the spine & close your eyes. Rest your hands on your lap facing up.
Take two or three deep inhales and exhales through the nose to prepare.
Stick out your tongue and curl the sides in towards the center to form a tube. Stick the end of the tongue out between your pursed lips. (See note below if you just can’t do this)
Inhale through the curled tongue, allowing air to pass over your tongue which will create a cooling sensation.
After you inhale, draw the tongue in, close the mouth, drop the chin to the base of the throat (chin lock) and hold the breath for a few seconds
Then release the chin lock and slowly exhale through the nose. This is one round.
Then again stick the curled tongue out and repeat.
For general purposes, doing this for about 1-5 minutes is adequate.
Ideally, sit for a few minutes after in silent meditation.
The Chin Lock is important as it helps to prevent Prana from escaping the body through the Nadis (energy channels) and it redirects it to the Manipura Chakra (Solar Plexus).
*If you can’t roll your tongue, just purse the lips making a small ‘o’ shape with the mouth, or practice a variation known as Sitkari Pranayama ~ inhale through the teeth, with the lips parted and the tongue floating just behind the teeth.
Both these variations will also bring a cooling sensation to the mouth.