July, in most parts of the country, has been ushered in by sizzling temperatures in the 90s with triple digit heat indexes. You are not alone if you feel like anything above 80 degrees is oppressive.
If you melt in the heat like the Wicked Witch of the West being doused with water, hydrate and stay indoors as much as possible. But when you must be outdoors, and you feel the heat bearing down on you, you can cool off with two simple, controlled breathing exercises.
Breathing consciously and mindfully can help to restore balance in the mind and body, and bring you relief from uncomfortable heat.
Two cooling exercises—“Sitali” and “Sitkari”— help you avoid getting both physically and emotionally overheated. These exercises are yogic breath exercises from the breathwork system known as Pranayama, the formal practice of controlling the breath, the source of your vital force.
Summer temperatures in India easily top triple digits, and these centuries-old breathing sequences are proven temperature-regulating techniques for such sustained heat.
How do Sitali and Sitkari work? As you inhale through your mouth, you pick up moisture as your breath hisses. The water-saturated air cools and moisturizes your system. Sitali and Sitkari lower blood pressure and reduce body temperature as it rises in hot weather. These are equally effective for quelling the fires of anger and resetting your body’s balance when you’re hot under the collar and not just hot.
Close your eyes and take a few full, deep breaths in, slowly inhaling and exhaling with equal rhythm.
Stick your tongue out of your mouth about an inch, and curl your tongue, creating a little tube with the curled edges.
Inhale slowly through your mouth like you’re sipping air through a straw.
Allow the air to fully fill your lungs and abdomen, letting your body fully expand.
Pull your tongue back in, close your mouth, and slowly exhale through your nostrils.
Repeat for about a minute, and then just breath regularly but deeply for several more breaths.
Can’t curl your tongue? No worries; try Sitkari instead.
Close your eyes and take a few full, deep breaths in, slowly inhaling and slowly exhaling.
Hold your lower and upper teeth together gently.
Separate your lips so your teeth are fully exposed to the air, but stay relaxed and comfortable. No need to strain your face.
Inhale through your teeth slowly and deeply, expanding your lungs fully front and back and filling your body.
Close your mouth and exhale slowly through your nostrils.
Repeat for about a minute, and then just breath regularly but slowly and deeply for a several more breaths.
So when the mercury rises into the 90s, you feel your physical temperature perculating, or your emotions are on the verge of boiling over, a few minutes of gentle Sitali or Sitkari can help you stay cool as a cucumber.
“For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.” ~Sanskrit proverb
Individuals being treated for low blood pressure should opt out of these particular exercises, due to the result of marked decrease in blood pressure. Avoid breathing in very cold air in an air-conditioned space as it stresses the lungs.