As the heat of summer washes over you, look to your breath to help keep you cool. These five breath practices can keep you cool from the inside out.
As warm summer nights heat your body, you may be looking for a way to cool down. Fans and air conditioning can be drying and cumbersome, but ancient pranayama techniques can help create coolness from within. Pranayama, one of the eight limbs of yoga, is a collection of breath exercises. Prana is that life force energy within you and yama is restraint, so together, pranayama translates to life force control or control of the breath.
Breathing is something you do all day, and you don’t usually think about it. But paying attention to your breath cycles can be a powerful practice in focus and can relieve stress and calm the nervous system.
The following practices can be combined with meditation and yoga asana or be performed on their own to help relieve excess heat. Some of these practices may lead to slight lightheadedness, so always make sure you’re in a comfortable, safe place, preferably seated on a couch or cushion.
1. Nadi Shodana Pranayama
Alternate nostril breathing is a calming pranayama technique. It is wonderful to practice before meditation, before bed, or simply to reset midday. Alternating nostrils as you breathe with mindfulness also brings energetic awareness to each side of the body and each side of the brain, which may allow you to feel more balanced in body, mind, and spirit.
- Find a comfortable seat.
- Take a few cleansing breaths.
- Bring your right hand toward your face.
- Rest your left hand on your thigh.
- Rest your right thumb on your right nostril and your pinky and ring fingers on your left nostril.
- You may curl your remaining fingers into your hand or rest them on your forehead.
- Plug up the left side of your nose and breathe in through the right nostril.
- At the top of your inhale, plug your nose and hold your breath.
- Exhale through only the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril and plug your nose at the top.
- Exhale through just the right nostril.
That is one full breath cycle of nadi shodhana. Continue and repeat as long as you would like.
2. Sitali Pranayama
This breath practice is like drinking a sweet, cool beverage through a straw on a hot summer day. The sweetness is your breath! As you curl your tongue into a straw, you’ll sip the nectar of prana and feel rejuvenated.
- Curl the sides of your tongue to make the shape of a straw.
- Breathe in through your tongue. You’ll feel the coolness on your tongue and in the back of your throat as the air enters your mouth.
- At the top of your inhale, sip your tongue into your mouth and seal your lips. Hold your breath for a moment.
- Exhale through your nose fully.
Repeat several rounds. If you are not able to curl your tongue, open your mouth just enough to show your teeth and breathe in through the sides of your teeth. Then exhale through your nose. You’ll still feel the coolness in your mouth.
3. Sama Vritti with Legs Up the Wall
This is an even, calming breath practiced during a restorative yoga posture. Sama means same in Sanskti while vritti means fluctuations. The fluctuations of the breath—the in breaths and the out breaths—are the same length for this pranayama practice. You decide how long they will be, but keep them equal.
- Lie on your back with your legs facing a wall.
- Send your legs straight up the wall. You can be as close or far from the wall as you’d like.
- Rest a blanket under your back for extra cushioning. Allow your feet and legs to relax.
- Rest your hands gently on your chest or torso. Close your eyes if you’re comfortable.
- Begin to consciously count your breathing. Inhale for a count of three, four, or five.
- Exhale for the same length.
- Continue for several minutes.
When you are through, roll to your side and come up to a comfortable seat.
4. Lion’s Breath
This is a go-to practice for cooling down quickly. It’s also a good face stretch and a way to reset anytime during the day. As you exhale, you can imagine the physical and emotional heat leaving your body. Super brave breathers will practice this one in public.
- Find a comfortable seat.
- On your inhale, scrunch up your face: your eyes, your nose, your lips.
- On your exhale, stick out your tongue, open your eyes, and roll your eyes up and back.
- Repeat at least three times.
5. Panting Dog Breath
Dogs don’t sweat, they release heat from their bodies by sticking out their tongues. Try it—it works for humans as well! This is a Kundalini Yoga pranayama practice.
- Find a comfortable seat and rest your hands on your knees. Or stand with your feet wide, knees bent, and hands on your knees.
- Open your mouth and gently stick out your tongue.
- Begin to “pant” at a pace that feels cooling to you.
- Emphasize your exhales and allow your inhales to happen naturally. You’ll feel the cooler air coming in and the heat leaving your body.
- Continue for one to three minutes, swallowing as necessary.
May these practices bring you a sense of well-being and revitalized energy. Enjoy the many benefits of paying attention to your breath, including feeling cooler—inside and out!
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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