Beat the heat and stay cool this summer with three pranayama practices. Pranayama equates to directing the breath. Directing the breath through voluntary means allows you to calm the mind and move towards a more meditative state. Most people breathe using their upper chest, which ignites the fight or flight response. In times of stress or anxiety, you'll notice your breath short and shallow. Using the whole capacity of the diaphram and lungs to breathe naturally lowers the stress response, thus activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Breathing from this space allows you to remain neutrally aware and calm in any given situation.
If you can breathe, you can do yoga. Pranayama combined with yoga asana ignites prana (life force) in the body, which in turn stimulates healing and optimal functioning of your organs, muscles, tissues and cells. When movement is linked with the breath, you move into a deeper meditative state. I tend to think of this type of yoga as a moving meditation.
Here are three pranayama practices you can do on and off the mat this summer to stay cool.
1. Sheetali Breath.
Begin by curling your tongue in your mouth. If you are unable to curl your tongue, pucker your lips instead as if you had just sucked on a lemon. Inhale through curled tongue or pursed lips. Close your mouth and exhale through both nostrils. Repeat this process five to ten times until you feel your body temperature receding. Focus on smooth and even inhalations and exhalations as you practice this breath.
2. Pursed Lip Breath.
For this pranayama, begin by breathing in through both nostrils. Fill the diaphram and lungs slowly with a smooth and steady inhale. As you exhale, purse your lips as if you were blowing into a straw and slowly exhale the entire breath out of the lungs and diaphram. Extending the length of the exhalation will calm the nervous system and cool the body. This breath can also be done anywhere, and is great to do if you are stressed or anxious.
3. Lion's Breath.
This last pranayama will quickly expel heat from the body as well as relieve tension in the muscles around the jaw and face. Inhale through the nostrils. As you exhale, open your mouth and stick out your tongue. You may want to close your eyes on the inhale to the degree you feel comfortable, and then exhale with an audible "HA". The forceful exhale relieves tension in your head and jaw. This pose is great anytime you build too much heat in practice, or notice that you are holding the jaw or breath while in a pose.
If you prefer, you can forego sticking out your tongue and just exhale audibly through the mouth. Either way, you're bound to feel cooler and calmer after just a few lion's breaths.
Stay cool this summer with these pranayama techniques that can be done on or off the yoga mat. To learn more about pranayama and incorporating them into your yoga practice, sign up for my newsletter.
All Photos courtesy of Adobe Stock and Ashley Humphries.