Pranayama (breath work) is one of the 8 limbs of yoga. While there are many different paths of yoga and many different lineages, most systems of yoga work from the outside in, or from the gross to the subtle. Pranayama is an amazing way to bridge the physical practices with the more subtle practices within yoga. Controlling our breath prepares us to sit for longer periods, gives us access to the nervous system and creates deeper internal states of being.
There is a vast array of pranayama techniques and each has its particular benefits and place within one's practice. In the warmer weather months, there are two excellent techniques for cooling down the body. They are Sitali and Sitkari.
In order to practice Sitali, you must be able to curl your tongue lengthwise, making a narrow tunnel down the middle (this requires a specific gene in order to do this). You breathe in slowly through this tunnel where your breath is moistened and cooled. You then close your mouth and exhale all of the hot air out of your nose. You can do this for several minutes and focus on the cooling sensation as you breathe.
For those of us unable to create the lengthwise tunnel, we can use Sitkari. In this breathing technique, you wet the front of the teeth with the tongue, curl the tongue back and inhale through your closed teeth. You exhale the hot air out of your nose. This can also be done for several minutes, focusing on the cooling sensation.
For anyone experiencing a lot of heat, these two techniques are recommended and especially in the summer months. For Pitta types (the dosha of fire and water) this can be a fairly regular breathing practice because pittas tend towards heat and intensity much of the time! This technique will cool the mind and body of excess heat and help to calm a pitta person.
If you are practicing in colder weather or are generally finding yourself too cold, these pranayamas are contraindicated. For Vatas (air and space) and Kaphas (water and earth), use only during hot spells and when the mind and body are showing clear signs of too much heat.
Stay cool, calm and collected, <<First Name>>!
Love & Breath,