Many more people practice Kapalabhati, the breath of fire, than Sheetali, the cooling breath. Sheetal means cool and soothing in Sanskrit and that is the effect it has on the mind and body. It is calming and relaxing to the body’s metabolism.
Sheetali breathing is useful in reducing blood pressure, ulcers, acidity or any increase in the fiery ‘pitta’ state which can often translate to inflammation, stress and the fight-flight response. It literally cools the body’s temperature and has a rejuvinating effect on the body’s systems by removing excess heat. It is said to refresh the nervous system by activating the parasympathetic branch of the autonomous neverous system which relaxes the breathing, heart rate and muscular tension. It also refreshes the endocrine system, spleen, bile and even reduce fevers.
How to do Sheetali Breathing?
Start with a crosslegged meditative posture on the ground with your back straight and your body relaxed. Take a few slow deep breaths to further relax your body.
In this type of pranayama the tongue is rolled lengthwise into a tube which sticks out of the mouth. As it so happens, many people can’t roll their tongue in this direction. For these people an alternate horizontal folding of the tongue horizontally can be used. This is often called Sitkari Pranayama.
Inhalation uniquely in this practice, happens through the mouth, and you can feel the air being cooled as it enters through the wetness of your curled tongue. Exhalation is gentle and slow through the nostrils. The general proportion of time in inhalation to exhalation is 4 seconds to 10 seconds if possible. The shorter the inhalation and the longer the exhalation, the more relaxing this exercise will be. But keep in mind as with all Yogic practices, nothing should cause you discomfort. Do not force your breathing to follow any proportion. Just guide it along gently in the direction of the proportion mentioned.
Practice this for five minutes and work your way to ten minutes as you get more practice. Ten minutes will truly relax you and cool all the stress away.
Please keep in mind that it may be better to avoid this exercise if you have low BP.as this exercise tends to lower blood pressure. If you are going to try it anyway, please keep an awareness on your body and stop when you feel any discomfort. If you feel dizzy then please stop the practice and continue normal breathing.