Prana is life force. It is the energy that creates and sustains us. When prana flows easily through all parts of our beings, life unfolds with greater ease. Pranayama, one of the eight limbs of Yoga, is a powerful set of practices that harnesses and directs prana to flow the way it is intended. A consistent and balanced pranayama practice can correct emotional and physical disturbances, calm the doshas and support spiritual awakening.
Because it is so powerful, it’s best to learn advanced pranayama practices from an experienced teacher, but there are a few practices that are simple enough to share online. We have posted on bhramari and a version of nadi shodhana. A few months ago, we also shared the practice of yoni mudra as an additional way to direct your flow of energy and connect to your higher self within. This month, we offer one additional pranayama practice that is designed to disperse excess heat in the body and mind.
Shitali is a simple, calming pranayama that you can do anytime you need more cooling energy in your body or mind. Practice shitali after you’ve been outside working in your garden, in times in your life when you are impatient or quick to anger, or if you have burning sensations with digestion (though like all pranayama, wait at least three hours after eating to practice). Do shitali consistently every day during the summer or when pitta dosha is high and you will notice a powerful cooling effect on your body and mind.
1. Sit with a straight spine. Close your eyes and feel the movement of your breath.
2. Curl the sides of your tongue up and breathe in slowly pulling the air across the surface of your tongue (if you cannot curl your tongue, the practice is called shitkari and the approach is below).
3. Bring your hand into Vishnu mudra (index and middle finger touching the pad of the thumb). Close your right nostril with your right thumb and exhale smoothly and slowly out the left nostril. Repeat three, six, or up to 20 times if you feel overheated.
Shitkari pranayama (modification for shitali)
If you cannot roll your tongue, practice shitkari. Spread your tongue so the tip touches the back of your bottom teeth, open your lips and teeth enough to inhale across the surface of the tongue. Finish the same as step 3 above.
If you have been trained in pranayama and regularly practice breath retention, you may include an inhale retention before exhaling through the left nostril. Use a 1:1:2 ratio (inhale:hold:exhale) to start. We have extensive experience with pranayama and offer one-on-one Yoga consultations if you would like to bring this retention into your practice.