Summer is winding down – but it’s still hot, and after weeks of fiery weather, many of us are in need of strategies to help us cool down.
While the physical practice of yoga is often designed to build heat, there are breathing practices that can help do the opposite and cool you down – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The Sanskrit term for breathing practice is pranayama, the literal translation of which is “vital life force.” Here’s how you can use pranayama techniques to keep yourself cool, calm, and collected through the end of the summer season.
The Cooling Breath
There are two pranayama practices – sitkari and sitali pranayama – that most directly translate to “cooling” breath. The idea behind both is that drawing air across the tongue into the mouth serves to cool the body and calm the nervous system. The differentiation between the two practices involves the ability to curl your tongue – which not everyone is able to do.
For those who can’t curl their tongues, give this variation of cooling breath a try. Start by parting your lips slightly and placing your tongue just behind your teeth. Inhale slowly through the space created between your upper and lower teeth while tilting your chin upward, allowing air to flow directly over your tongue. At the top of your inhalation, seal your lips and exhale through your nostrils while gradually lowering your chin to a neutral position. Repeat this eight to twelve times.
For tongue curlers, practice this technique by first tilting your chin slightly downward. Curl your tongue lengthwise and allow it to extend out of your mouth to a distance that feels comfortable to you. Slowly inhale through the space created in the curled part of your tongue (as if sucking air through a straw) while gradually lifting your chin toward the ceiling. At the top of your inhalation, retract your tongue and seal your lips. Exhale slowly through your nostrils while gradually lowering your chin to neutral. Just like sitkari pranayama, repeat this eight to twelve times.
This simple breathwork practice not only helps cool the body, but it can also be useful in calming the mind to help improve the quality of sleep. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet hips’ width distance on the floor. With one hand on your belly, breathe slowly while counting the duration of each inhale and exhale so that you can even out your breath.
Gradually increase the length of each exhalation by one or two seconds once every few breaths (engaging your abdomen slightly at the end of each breath will help you do this). Allow your exhalations to slowly lengthen until they are up to twice the duration of each inhalation – though if twice as long isn’t possible, simply exhaling for longer than you inhale will have the same effect. After repeating your 1:2 breathing eight to twelve times, slowly allow your breath to return to normal.
Set Yourself Up for Relaxation
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