Here's an easy breathing exercise to cool you off during the next summer heat wave.
Sitali is one of many breathing exercises commonly practiced either before or after yoga asana (postures). These exercises are called pranayama. A Sanskrit word, pranayama literally means restraints of the breath. Prana is the vital life force that exists in everything. In this case it's referring to the most gross form, which is the breath. Yama means to restrain or control. Thus pranayama literally means to control the breath. When the breath is controlled and calm the body will follow and eventually the mind. If you practice pranayama regularly you will notice that everything else seems to melt away when you are focused on your breath. The mind becomes one-pointed.
To practice sitali, first sit in a comfortable position, preferably cross legged. If your knees are higher than your hips you may require a meditation cushion or a folded blanket under your bum to take the pressure off your knees.
Take a few deep abdominal breaths, both inhaling and exhaling through the nose. When you inhale your abdomen will expand with the air filling your lungs. Then as you gently exhale relax your abdomen.
Now open your mouth and stick out your tongue, curl your tongue as in the picture above. If you cannot curl it like the picture, just do your best and curl the edges as much as you can with the tongue sticking out of the mouth. Now inhale deeply sucking the air in through your curled tongue. When you have finished inhaling comfortably, bring your tongue back in and close your mouth and exhale through the nose. Again stick out the tongue and inhale. Then exhale through the nose (with the mouth closed). Continue inhaling and exhaling this way for several rounds. You can practice making the inhale and exhale smooth and rhythmic by counting to 4. Inhale for 4 counts, then exhale for 4 counts. Now you're doing sitali!
Sitali not only cools you down, but also purifies the blood and quenches thirst. It's also safe to practice sitali at home without the guidance of a teacher.
Happy Summer Everyone!