- Pranayama – the art of breathing in yoga
- Sitali Breathing, its benefits and methods
- Sitkari Pranayama – the alternative to Sitali
Pranayama or breathing exercises are just as important a component of yoga as yogic poses or asanas. These breathing exercises work on both the mind and body, cleansing them, removing negativity and toxins, and helping intake fresh air and positivity from the practice and environment. The ancient yogis developed a number of pranayamas, each of which has its own benefits and methods. Today let us focus on Sitali breathing
With the summer months just around the corner, temperatures are set to soar in all parts of the country. The frustration, anger, and stress that allows us around all year rears a particularly ugly head during these hot and humid days. Excessive heat in the body is something that yoga actively works to prevent. Even though the digestive fire within the body is considered important, yoga recognizes that balance in body and mind is what is best for the individual in the long run. So in order to help people cool down both physically and mentally, the Sitali breathing was developed.
Sitali breathing involves the tongue being pushed out of the lips in a shape that resembles a curled leaf or a beak of a bird. The air that the individual breathes passess through this curl, and thus it enters the mouth cooled from the wetness of our saliva. This cooling practice is believed to pack a number of benefits, including –
- Building awareness of our breathing pattern, thus helping us breathe more deeply and evenly throughout the day
- Helping in controlling high blood pressure
- Reducing fatigue and energizing the mind and body
- Reducing pitta imbalance, which includes symptoms of heat such as acid reflux, irritability, acne, and a general feeling of inflammation or heat
- Reduce stress and promoting relaxation
The curling of the tongue like a straw however, does not come to people easily, and some may simply not be able to do it. For them however, the alternative practice of Sitkari pranayama provides similar benefits without the tongue acrobatics. Here, the teeth are used to create a small gap in the mouth while the lips are pulled apart, allowing the air to be cooled in a manner similar to Sitali before being taken in.
Here are some guides to help you out –
When to Practice and What to Remember
It is best to practice these exercises at least twice a day. Early morning, when you need some harmony and energy boost, and the afternoon post-lunch time of drowsiness are two times these exercises can be particularly effective. These can also be undertaken when you feel excessive heat, or are feeling stressed, angry or frustrated. Remember that your exhalation should be twice the length of your inhalation, as this relaxes the nervous system, and repeat up to twenty times in each practice.
Since this exercise effectively reduces body temperature, it is best practiced in the summer months or after an intense or heating exercise session. Be sure that the room you practice this exercise in is not too cold, as this may aggravate your lungs.