After a sweaty HIIT workout, when you’re emotionally heated or angry, but also and especially on a hot summer day - the ancient yogis have thought of you. Maybe not about the HIIT workout, but it works all the same.
The yogis, by sitting in the Himalayas and observing nature and animals’ behaviour have created two breathing exercises that cool the body. Most of the breathing exercises, also called Pranayama, warm up your body, so Sitali and Sitkari are two exceptions.
Good for us! And it gets better: Both exercises also suppress hunger and thirst and their techniques are very simple to do, anywhere, anytime.
Let’s start with Sitali:
The name comes from Sanskrit, Sita means cooling or soothing.To start Sitali, sit comfortably in a seated position or meditation pose with a straight spine. If you’re out and about, maybe on a hike where you are longing for some cooling, make sure you stand upright of you can’t sit.
Now fold up your tongue up on the sides, leaving a small passage in the middle for the air to pass, and stick out your tongue a little bit. Only part the lips as much as you need to for the tongue to come through.
When you’re ready, take a deep breath in through your mouth, or better through the tongue, and exhale through the nose. Inhale through the mouth, exhale through the nose.
It’s advised to repeat this for two to three minutes. If you have more practice, you can keep doing Sitali for up to ten minutes.
Learn more on this Guide:
For everyone who cannot roll the tongue, Sitkari is a great alternative.
Sitkar means hissing in Sanskrit and it describes the sound that’s produced during the breathing exercise. You will hear it in a minute coming from your own mouth.
For Sitkari we start in the same upright position as for Sitali: Straight spine, shoulders relaxed.Now bring your teeth together gently, but don’t tighten up your chaw, and open your mouth slightly.
To start, inhale deeply through your mouth and through your clenched teeth. The sound you hear should remind you of your last visit at the dentist. Sorry for bringing that memory back, guys! Then exhale through the nose. You can do up to 20 repetitions.
The main benefit of both Pranayama exercises is the cooling of the body.
How does this work?
- 1. If you breath in through your mouth, the air doesn’t get warmed up (as it does when inhaling through the nose) and reaches the lungs with the temperature of the outside environment, which is usually cooler than our own body temperature.
- 2. When inhaling through the tongue or teeth, the air gets moistened.
The combination of these two elements - cold and wet air - has a cooling effect on your body.But that’s not all. Here is a whole list of benefits you can experience after a regular practice of Sitali and Sitkari.
The breathing exercises affect the endocrine gland in a positive way, and help to control hunger and thirst. Isn’t that useful for all of us, when the munchies arrive or when stuck in traffic without food? The Pranayama also reduces excess biles and lowers fever.
Due to its activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, the exercises calm and relax your body and mind, lower blood pressure and improve sleep, even help with insomnia. They also improve digestion.
Used for Ayurvedic Cooling
According to Ayurveda, the science of nature, an imbalance of Pitta means the body and mind holds too much heat and fire. Ayurvedic therapists therefore recommend Sitali and Sitkari in this case, to help people cool down. Mentally and physically.
Sitali and Sitkari are also a common exercise in Kundalini yoga that works mainly with breath and quick movements.
Contraindications: Don’t practice in extreme temperatures
There is one important thing you should be aware of!
Don’t practice Sitali and Sitkari in too hot or too cold temperatures. As explained above, the air reaches your lungs in the same temperature that it is inhaled in, so if the air is of a too extreme hot or cold temperature, it can hurt your lungs.
Besides this there is not much to worry about. Anyone can do it. However if you have generally low blood pressure, observe if the practice makes you feel good, as it can lower the blood pressure even further. Stop and keep breathing normally if you feel drowsy.
So have a go next time you feel hot. As winter is at our door step, just wait for your next workout session. I’m sure Sitaliand Sitkari can come in handy.
You don’t need a teacher or any experience to benefit from these cooling breathing exercises, as long as you listen to your body and stop and breathe calmly in case you don’t feel well.
The techniques are very simple and there is nothing you can do wrong. Enjoy!
About the Author
Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method - a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online: http://www.vikasayoga.com