Many people consider summer their favorite time of year, and for good reason.
The extra hours of sunlight each day, time spent with family and friends outdoors, and trips to the beach are just a few of the things to love about the season.
But, sometimes the ample sunshine can make things get a little too hot, and you’re left feeling overheated, sweaty, and uncomfortable.
Thankfully, there’s things you can do to keep cool without always having to rely on blasting the air conditioning!
If you practice yoga, you’re probably already familiar with pranayama as a way to enhance your yoga practice and take it beyond the physical asanas.
Pranayama breathing is the practice of controlling one’s breath through various exercises and patterns.
Different types of pranayama can serve different purposes, such as to calm the mind or get blood flow going prior to engaging in a physical practice.
All pranayama exercises will serve a purpose one way or another.
If you’re looking for a way to keep your body temperature down while enjoying all that summer has to offer, there’s some amazing pranayama techniques that you should definitely try!
The 2 Cooling Breaths
The two breathing styles best suited for the heat are sitali and sitkari, known as “the cooling pranayamas.”
Like many components of yoga, the sitali breath was inspired by observing the natural world.
Specifically, ancient yogis modeled the sitali breath off of curling movements that they noticed in nature, such as a new leaf uncurling in the early stages of its life, or the way a bird’s beak curves at the bottom.
In addition to cooling the body, the sitali breath is said to have other benefits such as calming hunger and thirst and soothe the body.
However, sitali involves rolling the tongue lengthwise, which a large portion of the population is simply unable to do! It’s a genetic trait, no amount of practice can change it!
But, worry not. Sitkari is much simpler to get a hold of than sitali, and still serves to keep your body cool during the summer months (or anytime you feel you need a break from the heat)…
Sitkari Breath – How To
Anyone can easily perform the sitkari breath by following a few easy steps:
- To begin, sit in any comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Close your mouth hard enough so that your top and bottom teeth touch, but then separate the lips as much as possible without discomfort.
- Take a deep inhale with your lips agape. You should hear a “hissing sound” as the air travels through the gaps in your teeth.
- Focus on this sound as you breathe. It can be very helpful for the mind to have a focus point while practicing pranayama to avoid any external distractions.
- Even without practicing the full pranayama breath, if you simply breathe with your teeth together and lips apart, you’ll notice that the air feels cooler immediately after breathing it in through the teeth. This is a great way to get a minor cooling effect if you’re on the go or don’t have time for a full pranayama practice.
- After you complete your inhale, close your lips and exhale through the nose.
- You can repeat the sitkari breath up to twenty times for maximum cooling effects. But, you should begin to feel the impact after just a few rounds.
- You can also try adding just a drop of peppermint essential oil to your tongue before beginning the breathing cycle. This can enhance the cooling effects on the body even further, plus it can help energize you when the heat seems to zap your energy, and will give your breath a nice fresh scent.
Other Benefits of Cooling Breathing Techniques
In addition to physically cooling the body, sitali and sitkari breathing (along with most pranayama breathing techniques) can improve focus and reduce anger and agitation.
Given the negative emotions that feeling overheated can stir up, a reduced tendency for agitation could definitely come in handy on a hot day.
Even if you don’t have time for a full pranayama session, simply breathe through your teeth as in the opening portion of the sitkari breath.
A deep inhale through your mouth will still provide minor cooling effects, because typically air warms when passing through the nostrils.
Still, definitely go for the full pranayama if time permits, because the technique will provide a greater cooling feeling along with the other benefits of pranayama.
Whether you choose to try sitali or sitkari, these breathing techniques are a great tool to add to your list of ways to stay cool this summer so you can fully enjoy the sunshine without overheating!
Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method – a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him at www.vikasayoga.com.