The Cooling Breath
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
- Thich Nhat Hang
We’ve been talking about breathing a lot recently, and have realised that this truly is a super power. Diaphragmatic, or deep belly breathing, can help switch off a fight flight reaction and reduce our anxiety levels with no need for specialist equipment or training. We just need to breathe and come into the present moment allowing our anxieties about past or future events to melt away, and along with it any physical tension we are storing in the body.
Making our breathing a conscious deliberate thing has multiple physiological and psychological benefits. After just a few minutes of this deeply restorative practice we are calm and centred and ready for anything. The best thing is that you can do it anytime, anywhere and no-one knows you are doing it.
Get into the habit of observing your breath, the tidal quality, note the rate and the rhythm and notice how changes to these affect how you feel.
This week we want to introduce the Sheethali Pranyama. This is known as the cooling breath and can be very useful if you feel hot and bothered or are annoyed or short tempered.
The Sheethali pranayama has been well researched, and studies have shown it to be effective at reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. A 2020 article found it increased metabolic rate of the body but had no effect on body temperature. Other studies have shown a calming (cooling) effect on the mind indicated by a decrease in beta and increase in alpha, delta and theta brain waves on EEG.
Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and the hands laying loosely on the knees
Relax the shoulders bringing the shoulder blades down and together
Release any tension in the face and jaw
Stick out your tongue to a comfortable position, do not over extend it
Curl the edges of the tongue up at the sides to make a tube
Inhale slowly through the tube for at least 4 seconds
Focus on the cooling effect on the tongue and the roof of the mouth
Close the mouth and exhale even more slowly through the nose (aim for at least 6 seconds)
Continue for 5 minutes
Allow 1 minute rest and then repeat the 5minute Sheethali Pranyama
Finish with a few minutes rest and deep breathing through the nose
For other breathing exercises see our previous articles:
Ujjayi breathing to stop a panic attack
Diaphragmatic breathing which is great for relaxation
Alternate nostril breathing to help restore balance
Humming bee breathing which has a beneficial effect on health both physical and mental health
Bellows breathing which reduces anxiety and can help with weight loss
Lion’s breath to energise
 Kumar, Naveen & K, Mahesh & Allu, Aadhyyanth & Jagadeesan, Thanalakshmi. (2021). The immediate effect of Sheethali and Sheethkari Pranayama on blood pres- sure and cardiovascular changes among hypertensive patients Production and Hosted by. International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences. 9. 1249-1252.  Telles S, Gandharva K, Sharma SK, Gupta RK, Balkrishna A. Body Temperature and Energy Expenditure During and After Yoga Breathing Practices Traditionally Described as Cooling. Med Sci Monit Basic Res. 2020 Jan 7;26:e920107.  Jagadeesan, Thanalakshmi & Ravindran, R & Sembulingam, Prema. (2014). Impact of Sheetali and Sheetkari Pranayama on the Topographic Mapping of the Brain Waves. IOSR Journal of Pharmacy (IOSRPHR). 4. 51-57.