Your breath provides a window into your current energetic state: Shallow, labored breaths, like those you experience during a tough workout, indicate an activated, heated sympathetic nervous system (your fight-flight-freeze response). Deep, slow breaths, on the other hand—the kind you experience when you slip into Savasana or sit in meditation stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system response and ease you into a cooling “rest and digest’’ state. If the hot temperatures and pace of summer have left you feeling overheated and sluggish, these pranayama practices can function as tonics to invite calm and equilibrium.
Before You Start
Take a moment to check in with yourself. Sit in stillness and observe, without judgement, how each inhalation and exhalation feels. What sensations are you experiencing and which physical movements occur? Then, fully breathe in and out, allowing your body to completely exchange outgoing carbon dioxide with incoming refreshing oxygen. This anchors your focus to the present moment so you can receive the full benefits of these cooling pranayama practices that release excess heat, making them beneficial after an athletic asana practice or a challenging workout.
See also Breathe Easy: Relax with Pranayama
Sitali or Sitkari Pranayama
To practice cooling Sitali Pranayama, bring the sides of your tongue up toward each other to make a U shape. Draw your breath in through it like you are sipping air through a straw. Exhale through your nose. Continue for 8–10 rounds. If you cannot roll your tongue, try Sitkari Pranayama: Part your lips and lightly touch your upper and lower teeth together. Inhale through the gaps between your teeth, with your tongue floating just behind them. You may hear hissing sounds as you breathe in. Exhale through your nose. Continue for 8–10 rounds.
Chandra Bhedana Pranayama
This breathing technique—also known as moon-piercing breath is associated with a cooling, introspective, lunar vibration, the opposite of heated, outwardly-focused solar energy, which makes it a perfect balance to summer’s exuberance. With your right hand, use your thumb to close your right nostril. Breathe in through your left nostril, filling your torso with air. Seal both nostrils and hold the breath for 2–3 counts. Release the right nostril and slowly exhale. (You will inhale only through your left nostril and exhale only through your right). Repeat for 12 rounds.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
This technique can balance your energy—inviting calm or boosting your alertness. Curl your right ring and pinky fingers into your palm. Join your middle and index fingers and point your thumb upright. Rest your left hand on your thigh. Gently press the extended two fingers to seal off the left nostril as you inhale for 4 counts through the right. Close your right nostril by pressing down with your thumb, releasing the left nostril as you exhale out of it for 4 counts. Inhale through the left nostril for 4 counts. Close the left nostril, open the right, and breathe out of it for 4 counts. Practice 4–6 rounds.