Sitkari – a cooling pranayama for hot days

Smiling mouth of teeth
Image CC by Nicubunu from OpenClipArt Library

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes we have lovely hot sunny days when it’s the perfect occasion to practice one of the more unusual pranayama breathing techniques – sitkari (hissing breath). It is said that sitkari cools the body and that in moderate heat 10 to 15 rounds are sufficient.

Sit comfortably, hands and shoulders relaxed, eyes half or fully closed. Allow the breath to settle for a minute or so (breathing normally) then begin sitkari. Press the tongue up to the tip of the mouth, have the teeth together and part the lips, and inhale through the gaps between the teeth and around the edges of the mouth (making the sound ‘seet’). Close the mouth and exhale through the nose. A variation is to hold the breath after the inhale, bring the chin down to chest and apply jalandhara bandha, maintain the retention, then release the bandha and bring the head up and exhale through the nose. If you have high blood pressure don’t hold the breath after the inhale.

If sitkari works for you, you should find that the mouth and then the whole body cool a little. According to texts (e.g. the Hatha Yoga Pradipika) this practice will reduce hunger and thirst, and will develop the body’s vitality. I hope we have some more sunny days so we can practise this again!

PS – if you don’t get on with inhaling through the teeth, the other practice is sitali which operates on the same principles, but is done through a curled tongue which you poke through the lips. Read this article for more detail on sitali. I tend to find that as some people can’t do roll their tongue up, it’s easier for people to learn sitkari.

Jug of water with ice cubes
Image by NickyPe from Pixabay

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