In day-to-day life, our body & mind get tired and need to cool down & relax. Sitali Pranayama is the way of relaxing & cooling body-mind system through yogic breathing.
This technique of breathing is one of the ‘8 classical pranayama‘ mentioned in Hatha Yoga Pradipika especially used in yoga for moistening your system and reduces any imbalances in it.
Regular practice of Sitali Pranayama helps expel toxins out of the body & cleanses it. Also, you will feel a reduction in anger present in your mind & body due to excess work or hot weather or hot working environment (factories) instantly by the practice of Sitali.
Meaning of Sitali or Sheetali
Sitali or In Hindi also spelled as Sheetali is derived from the root word ‘Sheet’. The meaning of the Sanskrit root word ‘Sheet‘ is ‘cold’ or ‘frigid’. So, the term ‘Sheetal’ can be treated as a noun which translates into ‘Something which has cooling or soothing effect‘.
Also, the name of this pranayama is so-called Sitali because of the hissing sound (Si….Si….) produced through the tongue instantly provides coolness at the upper and lower palate (Tali) of the mouth.
Hence, the Sitali or Sheetali Pranayama (Means controlling the Prana) refers to a breath which letting your Prana cools down by inhaling through the moist curled tongue.
Steps to Perform Sitali Pranayama
To practice Sitali Pranayama, you need to sit comfortably in a chair with spine and neck in a straight line. Open your mouth making an ‘O’ shape with the tongue curled on the sides and project it out. Inhale deeply, close the mouth and exhale slowly through your nose.
Following are the steps to perform Sitali Pranayama on floor.
- Sit in front of yoga mat at any meditative posture like Padmasana, Sukhasana or in Vajrasana with head, neck, and spine erect in one line. Also, to make practice more effective, you can make Gyan Mudra with your hands.
- Breathe in deeply 2-3 times with your mouth open, and exhale from the nose to prepare for the sitali breathing.
- Bring out your tongue while curling it on sides towards the center to form a tube-like shape.
- Now inhale through the tube-form tongue and towards the end of inhalation, lower your chin to the chest in ‘Jalandhara Bandha’. At this point, hold your breath for 6-8 secs.
- Before exhaling, lift up your chin, withdraw your tongue & close your mouth. Now exhale completely through your nostrils. This completes one round sitali breathing.
If you are unable to roll your tongue, bring your flatten tongue near the mouth and then just purse your lips to make a small “O” shape with your mouth.
Inhalation vs. exhalation ratio should 4:6 in the beginning. As you become more comfortable in retaining the breath for a longer period, extend this ratio up to 4:8 or 5:10 or 6:12.
Continue doing Sitali Pranayama for 2-3 minutes, then return to normal breathing and do it 2-3 times again.
If you are a beginner, in summers, you can do this cooling breath 5 times a day. Then gradually increase it to 10 times a day.
People who are not able to roll their tongue in sitali pranayama, can practice another breathing exercise which has the same effect as sitali have.
See also: Sitkari Pranayama for Cool Body and Build Vitality
Benefits of Sitali Pranayama
Sityali Pranayama provides many benefits due to its cooling & soothing effect. Its cooling mechanism is effective in balancing the imbalanced Kapha dosha of the body.
- A research 1 done on the effect of Sitali along with sitkari pranayama on Brain waves has shown, it increases the alpha, delta, and theta waves power and decreases beta wave power.
Where alpha waves bend mostly seen in the calm and quiet brains, beta waves observed in mind full of fear and anxiety.
- It relieves you from stress & anxiety through its soothing & relaxing effect.
- It also helps reduce fever by bringing down body temperature.
- Do this when you feel hot during summers to cool down.
- It helps calm down hunger and thirst in an emergency situation.
- Its repetitions 3-4 times a day can help bring down overall body temperature by 3 to 4% during summers.
- It also helps in lowering blood pressure.
- Sitali Pranayama is very useful for people suffering from Insomnia. Its regular practice will help cure them of insomnia.
- It is very helpful for people suffering from a sleep disorder. It helps them relax and sleep well for up to 8 hours at night.
This pranayama also helps in addressing the problem of hair fall in general and during monsoons. Its regular practice restricts hair fall and promotes hair-growth on your head.
Precautions While Doing Sitali
You need to know the following cautious while doing Sitali Pranayama.
- For the effective results out of this breathing exercise, it’s preferred to practice it in empty stomach.
- Make sure your back and neck are not bent or curved as it restricts the Prana flow within the subtle body.
- Unlike other pranayamas, avoid doing Sitali Pranayama during winters and extreme cold weather as it could induce respiratory problems in your lungs
- Those having heart ailments should consult a doctor or an experienced Yoga trainer before trying to do Sitali Pranayama.
Sitali Pranayama Contraindications
In following medical or health conditions, avoid doing this cooling breath.
- People dealing with regular blood pressure, chronic ailments like migraine and chronic constipation should not do this.
- People suffering from asthma, cough, cold and congestion should not do it as it will further deteriorate their condition (as it includes breathing-in cool air during controlled breathing exercise).
In all, Sitali Pranayama is a great yoga exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere to provide relief and relaxation to body and mind. It is also helpful in reducing body-heat, fever; and provides relief from stress, anger, and anxiety.
It is a breathing exercise that can be done to calm the mind and give a soothing effect to the body while at work in the office. You can also do it in a 10-15 minute break while doing household chores at home. It also helps in reducing anger.
It is free of cost and is available for one and all. One can do it by watching free tutorials and videos available online.
- Impact of Sheetali and Sheetkari Pranayama on the Topographic Mapping of the Brain Waves [source]
Thank you for your interesting articles.
Sitali Pranayama has helped me fall asleep for many years and reduce anger. At night, after a few rounds or up to 26 rounds, I start to yawn. I believe this is a sign that my nervous system is shifting to the relaxed phase. Sitali Pranayama only does not work very well to help me fall asleep when I have had caffeine (coffee or chocolate) before bed.
I have two questions about Sitali Pranayama:
1. In the Precautions, you mentioned that people with heart ailments should consult their doctor. Please explain how it could be harmful to people with what kind of heart ailments.
2. In the Contraindications, you mentioned “people dealing with regular blood pressure”. Will you please explain this a little more.
Thank you very much.
All the best to You.
Your experience is amazing! Regarding your questions:
Because in sitali pranayama one requires to hold the breath inside after inhaling through the curled tongue. People having Shortness of breath couldn’t able to hold the breath or they can harm themselves in doing so, therefore it’s contraindicated for such people. – However, it can be practiced in such condition without breath retention
Sitali pranayama is one best breathing technique to lower blood pressure in case of hypertension but people having already low blood pressure on practicing it can feel breath shortness which causes dizziness and fainting. So it’s especially contraindicated for such people
Hello…! Will sitali help reducing spine problems like to decrease swelling in a disc of the spine?
As sitali pranayama has the cooling mechanism, it can’t be used in treatment of swelling in spine disc. You can use pranayama like Nadi shodhan & bhramari to relieve from spine problems.
Hi doctor, thanks for the article. I have a few questions. Do you know of any videos off hand on how to do Sitali correctly? 2nd your article mentioned not to do it in winter? Is that true? It’s winter here but I’m inside my house can I still practice sitali?
Hello jason, In the post I have described “how to do sitali” in very easy steps. We will try to prepare a video on the same in the near future.
I mentioned it to not practice during winter because this breathing is used to cool down your body. If you’re feeling that your body needs it (even in winters), definitely you can practice it.