The word ‘sheetali’ (also called Sitali) is derived from the root word ‘sheet’ in Sanskrit which means ‘cool’ in English. Therefore, the meaning of Sheetali pranayama is ‘cool breath’. It is named so because of the cooling sensation felt by the tongue in mouth which cools the prana air in our body at the time of inhalation of the air. The practice of this pranayama makes use of the tongue which is curled while inhaling through mouth.
The most notable and pronounced effect of Sheetali pranayama is to produce cooling sensation. Therefore, it is best practiced in situations where the high energy levels are to be reduced and the agitation or excitement in the body or mind is to be nullified. So, it is best done after doing all heat generating exercises, such as yoga asanas, pranayama and other exercises. It is also good in conditions of high BP, stress and anxiety and mental upheavals. Similarly, it shall be avoided in conditions where the body energy levels are already low as it further reduces the energy levels which can cause problems.
Steps to practice Sitali
Follow the steps in given order to learn the practice of Sheetali breathing exercise…
1/8. Sit comfortably, either on any flat surface in cross-legged Padmasana, Sukhasana or in Vajrasana, or on the chair with feet resting on ground. Keep the spine straight but without any muscular tension.
2/8. Keep the hands in Gyan Mudra and on the knees. The Gyan Mudra is the one in which the tip of index finger touches the tip of thumb.
3/8. Stabilise your breath by inhaling through mouth and exhaling through nostrils for a few times.
4/8. Bring out your tongue and curl it from sides to make a pipe like formation.
5/8. Inhale the air by sucking it in through this pipe-like curly tongue from outside the mouth.You will feel a cooling sensation throughout the tongue.
6/8. Once inhalation is complete, retain the posture of the tongue and get into Jalandhara Bandh or chin-lock by holding breath and letting the chin rest over the collar bone.
7/8. Before exhalation, release the hold, withdraw the tongue and then exhale through the nostrils. The beginners need to do the lock step and they can simply proceed to exhalation after inhalation.
8/8. Practice about 3-6 cycles of this pranayama.
Time duration of Sheetali Pranayama
Sheetali pranayama is generally advised to be done at the last of all pranayamas because it produces the cooling effect. This can be practiced for a minimum of 6 cycles.
This is best practiced during summers to beat the heat by producing cooling sensation. This can also be practiced when you are thirsty but do not have any liquid to drink. This can quench your thirst for some time.
Benefits of Sheetali Pranayama
Some major advantages of the Sheetali pranayama are associated with the cooling effect it produces. These are-
1/8. Research supports the contention that this breathing exercise provides relaxation and peace to mind. It has been found that the alpha, delta and theta brain waves become more powerful and the beta waves become less powerful after doing this practice. While alpha waves are associated with relaxing nature, beta waves are associated with anxiety and fear.
2/8. Relieves stress and anxiety due to its cooling effect on body and mind.
3/8. Since it produces cooling effect, it can be used as a natural way of reducing the temperature of the body.
4/8. This is used during summers to reduce the effect of heat on body.
5/8. In emergency situations, it helps in quenching thirst and reducing the hunger pangs.
6/8. Reduction in blood pressure is another of its major benefits.
7/8. Relaxation induced with the practice of this pranayama is good for people with sleeping disorders and insomnia.
8/8. The breathing exercise reduces the instances of hair fall and promotes the growth of hair. Therefore, it is helpful in maintaining healthy hair.
Precautions and Contraindications
It is good to take note of certain precautions and contraindications in order to do this breathing exercise fruitfully.
1/7. People with chronic constipation are not advised to do this because it causes the nerves to cool down which does not work to ease off the excreta movement.
2/7. People who have low blood pressure shall also avoid doing this because of it works to reduce the high blood pressure in the body.
3/7. If you are having cold and cough, then this is not the pranayama for you because it will cool down the region in and around mouth which will not help in case of cold and cough.
4/7. Those who have condition of asthma shall also avoid doing this because it causes constriction of air passages due to cooling effect it produces.
5/7. It is better to avoid this pranayama during the winter period because it can induce or aggravate ailments induced due to cool weather condition. Even if you wish to do it, make sure you practice it indoors or when there Sun in shining bright during the afternoon time.
6/7. It shall be practiced empty stomach. So, it is best to do in the morning time, or there shall be a gap of at least 4 hours after taking the meal before doing this pranayama.
7/7. People having ailments of heart shall seek prior nod of the doctor before practicing this exercise.