Summer is a beautiful time. The sun is shining and all is well in the world. But if you are stuck in a heat wave that is too hot to handle, instead of cranking up the air-conditioning, try some of these cooling Pranayama techniques instead.
With Pranayama, or breath control, we are controlling and channeling the life force of Prana within the body. By using different techniques of breath control, we can stimulate different energy fields within the body. When practicing Pranayama, try to sit in a comfortable position with your back straight. You might want to practice in a quiet environment without many interruptions.
Sheetali – The Cooling Breath
This technique not only cools down the body, but it cools down the mind as well. It has a calming effect on the blood pressure as well as the nervous system. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system by triggering a Rest and Digest reaction. This technique is said to also reduce acidity, hypertension and indigestion.
To start, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Stick out your tongue as far as possible without straining it, and roll it so that the sides of the tongue are facing upwards. Inhale for four counts through the rolled tongue, like sipping air with a straw. Then close your mouth and exhale for six counts through your nostrils. This is one round of the cooling breath.
As you inhale, the air is cooled down by the moist tongue, and you'll feel the air being colder when entering your body. You can continue for 10 rounds to start with, slowly progressing up to 40 or 50 rounds.
Sitkari – Teeth Hissing
If you find it difficult to roll your tongue like this, not to worry. An alternative for the Sheetali is called Sitkari Pranayama, or teeth hissing.
To start, bring the upper and lower front teeth together, and pull your cheeks into a smile. Fold the tongue and press the tip of the folded tongue onto the back of your teeth. When you inhale through your teeth, you will make a hissing sound, while the cool air is entering your body. Exhale through your nostrils and keep your mouth closed. Repeat for 10 rounds.
When Not to Practice
If you are suffering from any kind of respiratory problem, such a asthma or bronchitis, or if you have a heavy cold, it's best to skip this practice. Also, if you are in the midst of a busy city with lots of pollution around, it's best to wait until you can practice somewhere more quiet and clean.
These breathing exercises not only help to cool the body, but they can control hunger, thirst and a general feeling of lack of energy as well—all of which are typically present on a hot summer day.
So the next time you are feeling hot and thirsty, you can try a few minutes of these cooling breathing techniques, and test it for yourself!