Panting is the primary way for dogs to cool themselves off because they don’t sweat the way humans do. Instead, dogs cool down through their mouths using the evaporation of moisture from the mouth and tongue, and by exchanging the hot air of their lungs with cooler external air.
For us humans, Cooling Breath, or Śītalī (shee-tuh-lee) Prāṇāyāma, can help in much the same way. We can “drink the air” through a curled tongue to cool down!
Śītalī Breath cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and may reduce fatigue, bad breath, fevers, and high blood pressure. I use it for hot flashes.
How to Practice Śītalī / Śitakārī Breath:
- Close your eyes, take a few normal breaths, then open the mouth and form the lips into an “O.”
- Curl the tongue lengthwise and project it out of the mouth.
- Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw.
- Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand.
- Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils. During each exhalation, you can also lightly touch the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth, inviting the tip of the tongue to send coolness toward the upper palate.
- Swallow now and then if the throat feels dry.
- Continue this cycle until you feel refreshed.
- If you are unable to curl your tongue, try Śitakārī (shee-tuh-kah-ree) breath. Gently press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips as much as you comfortably can, so your teeth are exposed to the air. Inhale through the teeth and exhale through the nose.
Besides building breath awareness, this practice is said to calm hunger and thirst! If you experience hot flashes or feel uncomfortably hot due to the weather, give it a try and let me know how it goes!