This is an excellent Pranayama for the times when we are stressed, agitated, overheated, suffer from Pitta aggravation or hot flashes of menopause, inflammatory processes in the body, neck and shoulder tension (and tension headaches). In my previous blog I have described the energetic implications of Pranayama, so I am just going to jump right in with Seetali.

Most Yogic breathing is done through the nose, because exhaling through the mouth too fast leads to a carbon dioxide deficiency, and breathing through the nose slows us down, plus it sends vibrations to the brain that are both stimulating and relaxing in the right way. However, breathing IN through the mouth can have a wonderfully cooling effect, especially if the breath is directed over the underside of the tongue, to increase the surface that makes contact with the air.

We can curl our tongue either into a lengthwise tube and stick it out the front of the mouth, or a sideways tube by curing the tip up and tucking it behind the top teeth. In the second variation we stick the ends of the tongue-tube out the sides of the mouth ("smile" the sides of the lips apart), and it is then called Sitkari Pranayama, but the effect is the same. A certain percentage of people for genetic reasons cannot curl their tongue into a tube lengthwise. If neither of these two options work, we can lightly hold the tip of the tongue between the teeth as we inhale.

Begin in a comfortable seated position with your spinal column elongated and your head just ever so slightly tucked towards the chin. When inhaling, pull the air through the rolled tongue while lifting the head a little as if you are drinking a class of water (avoid dropping the head back too much). When exhaling through the nose, close the mouth, return the head back to its slight nod towards the chin, and at the end swallow any saliva that accumulates. This Pranayama produces salivation and can have have a hydrating effect that is beneficial to dried-out Vata.

In the beginning, keep your posture still, but as you settle into a relaxed rhythm, try to add a tiny amount of movement to the spine by arching when inhaling and softly rounding when exhaling. All movements, the head movement up and down, the spinal movement "cat/cow" style should be subtle and coordinated with the breath. I love this Pranayama for this, as I find it hard to sit still (nervous Vata energy), and by moving with the breath I satisfy that Vata urge to move, but because the movement is so small and reduced in amplitude, it keeps my Vata from becoming aggravated. LOVE!

With this Pranayama as with any other, by lengthening the exhale we can achieve a soothing, sedative effect, by lengthening the inhale we would have a more energizing effect, and by keeping the inhale and exhale the same length we would have a balancing effect.

Incorporating your skills from the Alternate Nostril breathing technique described in my previous blog you can also customize this Pranayama to your particular needs. You can:

  • exhale through the left nostril to sedate and release any blockages from the Ida nadi, or
  • exhale through the right to do same for the Pingala nadi.
  • By alternating right and left nostril on the exhale you can balance them out by extending the exhale so that it is the same duration on both sides.

For a video tutorial refer to my Youtube channel. Stay calm, balanced and centered with Seetali Pranayama!

Happy breathing. Namaste!

Anna M.