Breathing Exercise for Reducing Stress
Sheetali Pranayama: Hatha Yoga Breathing Exercise #6
Free Online Video of Sheetali Yoga Pranayama
(Video #5 of the Online Yoga Breathing Exercises Video Series)
What is Sheetali Pranayama:
Sheetali Pranayama is Yoga’s answer to heat, stress, anger and irritation. Sheetal means calmness and peacefulness and those are the results of practicing this cooling breath. I recently undertook the practice of Sheetali Pranayama when an internal heat imbalance took place within my body and I am happy to report that the energies within have been cooled and equilibrium has been restored.
Sheetali Pranayama comes directly from the traditional schools of Hatha Yoga, but, it was also taught to me in my Kundalini Yoga training and is a widely used breathing technique to combat Ayurveda’s Pitta (Heat: see Introducing Ayurveda – Alternative Medicine for Self Healing) related issues. Sheetali is another pranayama worth having in your repertoire and its simplicity makes it possible to do anywhere and an anytime.
Below are the details of Sheetali Pranayama.
Benefits of Sheetali Pranayama:
Primary benefits of Sheetali Pranayama:
- Cools the mental, physical and emotional systems and reduces internal heat.
- Reduces stress and creates a sense of tranquility and peace.
- Reduces anger and irritation promoting calm.
- Reduces fever.
- Combats other Pitta related disturbances such as acidity, burning eyes, heat rash etc.
Secondary benefits of Sheetali Pranayama:
- Stimulates and assists in digestion.
- Helps combat restlessness and helps induce sleep.
Cautions for Sheetali Pranayama:
There are not many cautions for practicing Sheetali Pranayama. Since it’s a cooling breath it will increase Kapha (mucus) so don’t practice it if you have cold and respiratory related issues. Also, in winter don’t overdo it to avoid exacerbating Kapha and excessively cooling the system.
Instructions for Beginner’s Sheetali Pranayama:
To practice Sheetali pranayama sit up in a comfortable position, you are also practice this breathing exercise standing up or lying down. The instructions below are for if you are sitting, but, for other positions only slight modifications should be needed.
- Elongate your spine upwards, lengthen your neck and subtly bring your chin back and in like a soldier at attention. This will align the spine with the back of your head.
- Close your eyes and place your hands on your knees.
- Now curl the sides of your tongue up to create a tunnel and slowly breathe in through your mouth allowing the air to pass over your tongue thus creating a cooling sensation.
- After you inhale, bring the tongue back in and exhale through the nose. Then again stick the curled tongue out and repeat.
- Do 10 repetitions. One breath cycle of inhalation and exhalation makes 1 repetition.
Instructions for Intermediate Sheetali Pranayama:
The only change for intermediate Sheetali Pranayama is to increase the number of repetitions from 10 up to 50.
Modification for Sheetali Pranayama:
The key to Sheetali Pranayama is the cooling of the air as it passes through the curled tongue, unfortunately, not everyone can curl their tongue in this manner. If you fall into this category just curl the sides of you tongue up as far as possible and breathe in allowing the air to flow over the tongue to create the coolness as best as possible.
Secret of Sheetali Pranayama:
According to Yoga lore, The Fonz (Fonzie from the TV show Happy Days) practiced Sheetali Pranayama in secret and it was the reason why he was so cool :-).