Fast forward a few weeks however, and the heat can start to get to us. Whether we’re waking up in a sweat, struggling through that workout that suddenly seems so much easier in sub-zero temperatures or worst of all, stuck on a crowded form of public transport.The first few days of summer are always a magical time. Long evenings sat outside in the setting sun, fresh, seasonal fruit each day, and perhaps if you’re lucky, an afternoon spent on the beach – we often find ourselves yearning for summer, especially after a long winter.
Yes, most of us love the hot weather, but when it seems impossible to cool down, we often start to miss the colder months. But it doesn’t have to be like that! Unbeknownst to many, there’s a way to cool off in the summer that doesn’t involve strapping a packet of frozen vegetables to your forehead (not recommended). Instead, there’s a breathing exercise you can do when the hot weather sets in and you begin to feel a little, well, clammy.
The power of the breath should never be underestimated and the practise that knows this all too well is yoga. In yoga, most breathing exercises aim to heat up the body through building energy – but this breathing exercise will in fact achieve the opposite. While practising this exercise will cool you down in the heat, regularly taking a time out to focus on your breath will bring with it a whole bundle of other benefits – and might even make you happier!
Here’s how to keep your cool in the heat using your breath.
This exercise is called Sitali, which means cooling or soothing, and we can assure you this exercise does both!
– Sit in a comfortable seated position. Although you should be relaxed, you should ensure your spine is straight.
– Start to bring your awareness to your breath, using your diaphragm to breathe. It might help to think of yourself as breathing from the belly, as opposed to from the chest. Notice the rise and fall of the belly as you inhale and exhale.
– Open your mouth and form an O shape with your lips
– Fold your tongue at the sides leaving a passage for air to pass through – if you struggle with this (some people simply can’t do it) then don’t worry! We will provide another option at the end of this post.
– Stick your tongue slightly out and open your lips enough to let your tongue pass through
– Draw breath in sharply through your curled tongue and into your mouth, as if you are breathing through a straw.
– Try to notice and focus on the feeling of the cool, fresh air entering your body. A good visualisation is to imagine this air as blue, filling your lungs, seeping down into your abdomen and into the rest of your body
– Exhale by bringing your tongue back into your mouth and breathing out fully through your nose
– Repeat for a few minutes. If you lose focus, simply return your attention to the rise and fall of your belly as the cool air seeps into your body.
If you struggle to roll your tongue, Sitkari is a great alternative. Assume the same position as Sitali, but instead of folding your tongue, bring your teeth together and separate your lips. Your teeth should be exposed to the air and will feel quite cool. Draw your breath in through your teeth and focus on the hissing sound that you will hear. Imagine this cool air filling your body in the same way you would while practising Sitali. Exhale by closing your mouth and breathing out through your nose.
A Word of Warning
While both Sitali and Sitkari are suitable for practically anyone and in any place, there’s a few precautions you should take. Do not practise these exercises if you are asthmatic or suffer from any respiratory diseases. Consult with your doctor if you want to begin a pranayama practise.