Beat the Heat with Sheetali, the Cooling Breath

Summer is here and the weather is heating up. As the temperature rises our tempers shorten. You might find yourself irritated by the heat. Feeling flushed with waves of exhaustion or feeling mentally fuzzy, unable to focus on much. Breathwork can be used to help balance and regulate our nervous system, our immune system, and our temperature too.

Sheetali is a cooling breath. This technique has a calming effect on the mind and the body. Breathwork has a direct connection to the autonomic nervous system. This cooling breath stimulates your parasympathetic or rest and digest center of your nervous system. Cooling and calming the body in this simple and effective practice.

How it’s done…

Sheetali

  1. Sit in a comfortable position cross-legged on the floor, or if in a chair, move your back away from any support and plant both feet, hip-width distance apart. Allow your head, neck, and spine to naturally align.
  2. Close your eyes and bring your attention to the tip of your nose and start noticing your breath.
  3. Breathe diaphragmatically for a couple of minutes. Allowing time to slow the breath and feel it begin and end in the pit of your belly.
  4. Open your mouth and form your lips into an “O” shape.
  5. Curl your tongue into a taco shape and project it out of your mouth.
  6. Inhale deeply from the belly through the curl in your tongue. Imagine you’re drinking through a straw.
  7. At the top of the inhale, uncurl your tongue and place it on the roof of your mouth, closing your mouth and exhaling out from the nose.
  8. Continue at a slow, comfortable pace for 3 to 5 minutes or 10 to 20 rounds.

As you inhale, pay attention to the cool air you naturally draw in. On the exhale notice as the cool sensation is dispersed out into your body.

Can’t curl your tongue?

About 25% of the population can’t curl their tongue, so nothing is wrong with you. Try Sheetali’s breathing cousin Sheetkari. This is done the same way but instead of curling your tongue you gently press your teeth together and separate your lips. Your tongue will stay on the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth. Suck air in through your teeth creating a hissing sound and feel the same cooling sensation.

This technique works because the air is cooled down by the moisture of your tongue.

Add these practices, handed down through generations of yoga practitioners, to your toolbox of pranayama exercises. Some of the only breath practices designed to cool the body off instead of naturally warming it up as ujjayi does.

Most commonly practiced in the summertime, but can also come in handy after an intense hot yoga class or any high endurance workout. Suffer from hot flashes or have a fever? Give these practices a try.

Both practices come from Sanskrit. Sheetkari translates into hissing breath and Sheetali to cooling or soothing.

How do these practices cool down the body?

When you inhale through your nose air is warmed up. It’s one of the many amazing things this filter on your face does to help process oxygen through your body. But! Breathing through your mouth doesn’t have this same effect. The air moistens as it passes over your tongue allowing the air to remain cool as it enters your body.

Besides the cooling effect these practices also…

  • Alleviate stress
  • Reduce fever
  • Suppress thirst and hunger
  • Help with insomnia
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Calm you down
  • Combat anger
  • Improve digestion
  • Boost your energy

Being Mindful of your body

Breathing through your mouth is a great tool when practicing some form of breathing technique, but should not be done on a regular basis. Your nasal passage is designed to help filter out bacteria and other particles in your environment, your mouth is designed to absorb them, so be mindful about how and when you are using mouth breathing techniques. This is another reason you might choose to go with Sheetkari (hissing) over Sheetali even if you can curl your tongue.

People with respiratory problems like asthma should skip this practice. The same goes for those nursing a cold. It’s also recommended that you find a clean and quiet place to practice as the pollution of a big city could bring in harmful particles.

As we move into summer it is important to stay hydrated and pay attention to our body temperature. Next time you find yourself feeling hot, fatigued, or thirsty from the heat give Sheetali or Sheetkari a go and test it out for yourself.

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Breathwork Coach, Pulmonaut Explorer, & Content Creator. Taking it one breath at a time.

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Mary Clymer

Mary Clymer

Breathwork Coach, Pulmonaut Explorer, & Content Creator. Taking it one breath at a time.

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