Cool Your Yoga Practice this Summer with Sheetali Breaths
By: Sojourner Williams
Practicing yoga during the summer months can have its benefits. The warm weather can help to relax muscles and joints providing ease with flexibility and mobility. If you practice in the morning, the early sunrise can give your morning practice an energetic boost. Summertime also provides many wonderful opportunities to practice outdoors in nature. The summer months can have their challenges though, particularly when it comes to heat and feeling overexerted. Luckily, through the practice of pranayama, breath control, which is part of the yogic practice, you can learn to balance and counteract heat inside and outside of the body.
Sheetali Breath is deeply cooling and rejuvenating and is known to cool both our internal temperatures and tempers. Sheetali breath is best practiced with a curled tongue, but if that’s not a possibility, there is a modification.
To practice Sheetali breath, curl your tongue if you’re able and slide it between puckered lips. Inhale deeply through the mouth as if you’re drinking through a straw (your tongue serving as the straw) allowing the cool air to burst to enter the body creating a sense of expansion. To exhale, release the breath completely, also through the mouth, taking your time to fully empty yourself. Repeat for several rounds.
If curling the tongue is not an option, pucker your lips as if you’re preparing to whistle. Allow your jaws to relax and your tongue to soften against the lower palette of your mouth. To practice this variation of Sheetali breath, inhale deeply through the mouth as if drinking in the air and when you’re ready to exhale, release the breath completely.
Since the Sheetali breath practice is so cooling and filled with the elements of air and ether, it’s a wise idea to practice this breath in a seated cross-legged position, which is extremely grounding and stabilizing as it will create balance by adding earth and water energy. To find comfort in a seated cross-legged position, you may opt to elevate your hips on a blanket, pillow, or bolster, so that your spine lengthens and the hip flexors find ease. Invite your limbs to relax and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
Once you’re comfortable and still, it’s time to begin your cooling Sheetali breaths.