Whole Living Daily

Cool Down Now! Yoga on the Mat

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It’s summer and it’s been a hot one at that! Temperatures have been soaring to record highs across the nation. If you’ve been feeling overheated in your yoga practice or anytime throughout the day, here are two breathing techniques for you.

1 of 3

1 For both practices, sit in a comfortable position that nurtures an upright spine.

2 For seetkari breath, join the teeth and inhale into the mouth. This will make a "hiss" sound. Exhale out the nose smoothly.

3 For sheetali breath, stick the tongue out and curl it. Inhale through the mouth, sipping the air with the tongue. Exhale out the nose.

In the system of Hatha yoga, there are two cooling forms of breath control, or pranayama. These are seetkari (hissing breath) and sheetali (cooling breath). Both can be practiced during or after your asana practice or anytime to cool the body temperature.

Here’s how to practice:

Seetkari, or Hissing Breath

-       To practice, sit in a comfortable position that encourages an upright spine. Or, you can maintain tadasana.

-       Join the front and bottom teeth, spread the lips, and inhale through the teeth (it will make a slight “hiss” soung). A cooling sensation will be felt on the tongue.

-       Close the mouth and exhale smoothly out of the nose.

-       Practice 9 to 15 times

Sheetali, or Cooling Breath

-       Like seetkari, sit in a comfortable seated position with an upright spine.

-       Stick the tongue out and curl it (if possible—those who cannot curl the tongue can just practice seetkari).

-       Inhale through the mouth, sipping the air in while curling the tongue (like a straw).

-       Close the mouth, drawing the tongue back in, and exhale smoothly out the nose.

-       Practice 9 to 15 rounds.


These breathing practices are not advisable for those with low blood pressure or respiratory/throat disorders such as asthma, bronchitis, or tonsillitis.

Nor should either pranayama in cold weather or in very polluted environments. Unlike breathing through the nose, which has a natural filtration and heating system for the breath, mouth breathing in cold or unclean air can damage the lungs.

[Photos by Marisa Ling.]

For more cool-your-jets workouts, try these exercises.

Sophie Herbert is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student), a singer-songwriter, and a visual artist. She has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India; teaches yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and recently released her first full-length album, "Take a Clear Look." Please visit her website at SophieHerbert.com.

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