Autumn may be upon us, but we still have some hot days left! This pranayama practice will help you stay cool -and calm!- no matter what the rest of your summer brings.

Pitta: Summertime’s dosha of choice.

In Ayurveda, summer is pitta season. Pitta is one of the three dosha. The three dosha are energies that are present in every person’s body. When one (or two) dosha are excessive or deficient, the person experiences a dosha imbalance. We often take on the characteristics or qualities of the dosha that are excessive or deficient within us.

Whether you meet with an Ayurvedic practitioner or take an online quiz to find out what “your dosha” is, what you really discover is which dosha is out-of-balance. You are made up of all of the dosha! It is okay that the dosha within each of us are present in different quantities. That is what makes us all unique! However, when dosha imbalance becomes excessive we experience dis-ease and dis-order.

Associated with heat and light, pitta dosha dominates summer. It is composed of the elements fire and water. Pitta governs digestion, metabolism, and appetite on all levels. It is our ability to digest food, but also our experiences.

People who have excess pitta tend to be intense and energetic. They are mentally sharp and witty. Their thoughts are deep and penetrating. Focus and concentration come easily to them. At their best, pitta people are excellent leaders.

When pitta is out-of-balance, we may experience symptoms such as digestive difficulty (physically, mentally, and emotionally). We are prone to overheating and vision problems. Judgement, frustration, impatience, and irritability are all associated with pitta.

No matter what dosha imbalances we tend to experience, we all have a higher potential to experience excess pitta during the summer. It is important to take care of ourselves by balancing rest with activity, eating regularly, favoring sweet, bitter, and astringent foods, and wearing light clothing in cool colors.

Sitali and Sitkari: Pranayama practices for excess pitta.

Pranayama practices can help balance out-of-balance dosha. In the Yoga Sutras, pranayama is the fourth of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. Prana means “life-force”. The word pranayama translates as “life-force extension”. The breath is not prana itself, but one way we receive prana. Pranayama practices balance the body, focus the mind, and soothe the nervous system.

Sitali, sometimes called “cooling breath”, is one type of pranayama practice. It not only has a cooling effect on our bodies, but it also helps to calm and quiet the mind. Here is how you can practice Sitali:

  1. Practice in a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed
  2. Notice Pitta qualities present in your body. (heat)
  3. Notice Pitta qualities present in your mind (agitation, impatience, irritability, judgement)
  4. Close your eyes (if comfortable doing so) to assist with concentration.
  5. Begin by taking three to five smooth and even breaths, in and out your nose.
  6. Curl your tongue so that it creates a straw-like shape.
  7. Inhale through your curled tongue.
  8. Close your lips and exhale through your nose.
  9. Repeat this breathing technique for about eight to 12 breaths. Eventually you could practice this technique for ten minutes.
  10. If you can’t curl your tongue, that is okay! Sitkari is a similar pranayama practice to Sitali. Instead of curling your tongue, simply place the tip of your tongue behind your top two front teeth. Inhale through the space between your tongue and teeth. Exhale through your nose. Follow the same guidelines you would use if you were practicing Sitali.