Sheetali Pranayama (cooling breath)
Sit in any comfortable meditation posture with the hands on the knees in chin or jnana mudra.
Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
Extend the tongue outside the mouth as far as possible without strain.
Roll the sides of the tongue up so that it forms a tube.
Inhale and draw the breath in through this tube.
At the end of inhalation, draw the tongue in, close the mouth and exhale through the nose.
Practise yogic breathing throughout.
The breath should produce a noise similar to rushing wind.
A feeling of icy coldness will be experienced on the tongue and the roof of the mouth.
This is one round.
Practise 9 rounds.
Duration: Gradually increase the number of rounds from 9 to 15 and the duration of each inhalation/exhalation. For general purposes 15 rounds is sufficient; however, up to 60 rounds may be performed in very hot weather.
Awareness: On the tongue and the cooling sensation of the breath.
Sequence: Practise after asanas and other yogic practices which heat the body in order to restore temperature balance.
Precaution: This technique should not be practised in a dirty polluted atmosphere or during cold weather. The nose heats up and cleans the inhaled air before it enters the delicate lungs. However, breathing through the mouth bypasses this air-conditioning and the induction of cold or dirty air directly into the lungs may cause harm.
Contra-indications: People suffering from low blood pressure or respiratory disorders such as asthma, bronchitis and excessive mucus should not practise this pranayama. Those with heart disease should practise without breath retention. This practice cools down the activity of the lower energy centres, therefore, those suffering from chronic constipation should avoid it. Generally, this pranayama should not be practised in winter or in cool climates.
Benefits: This practice cools the body and the mind as well. It affects important brain centres associated with biological drives and temperature regulation. It cools and reduces mental and emotional excitation, and encourages the free flow of prana throughout the body. It induces muscular relaxation, mental tranquillity and may be used as a tranquilliser before sleep. It gives control over hunger and thirst, and generates a feeling of satisfaction. It helps reduce blood pressure and acid stomach.
Advanced practice: This pranayama may also be combined with jalandhara bandha on internal retention (for details of this practice refer to the section Bandha). Do not strain when performing kumbhaka, one or two seconds is sufficient at first. The duration may be increased gradually as the technique is mastered.
Practice note: About one third of the population possesses a genetic inability to roll the sides of the tongue into a tube. The
practice of seetkari pranayama gives similar benefits.
Note: The Sanskrit word sheetali is derived from the root sheet which means 'cold'. Sheetal means 'that which is calm, passionless and soothing'.