Sheetkari Pranayama (The Hissing Breath)
The practice of controlling the life force or vital energy of the body through breathing is called Pranayama. “Prana” in Sanskrit means life force, vital energy, or breath. This is an important part of any yogic tradition as breathing itself is a requirement to live. “Ayama” means to control or to extend. Yogis believe that this is an essential part of the yogi tradition as the fourth limb of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga or the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which lists eight guidelines in living a meaningful and purposeful life. The first four limbs mentioned in Ashtanga Yoga are all concentrated on improving one’s self-awareness. It is a practice that can be done alone or be included in yoga routines.
Pranayama involved different muscles or body part for the breathwork and categorized as such. Breathing with muscles concentrated on the abdominal muscles is called abdominal breathing. Breathing concentrated on the muscles of the thoracic cage and middle part of the body is called thoracic breathing. And breathing that is focused on the clavicles and upper part of the lungs is called clavicular breathing.
The steps of any pranayama involve Puraka, Rechaka, and Kumbhaka. Puraka is the process of inhaling air into the body either through the nose or mouth. Rechaka is the process of exhaling the air out of the body. Kumbhaka is the process of holding breath and it could either be before inhaling or Bahya Kumbhaka or Antara Kumbhaka which is holding of breath before exhaling.
The breathwork involved in Pranayama is believed to have many benefits in both the mind and the body. One of the many benefits of pranayama is to be able to maintain the temperature of the body. Cooling pranayama is known to have a cooling effect.
Sheetkari Pranayama is one of the most practiced pranayamas. It is also known as an alternative to Sheetali Pranayama which is another cooling pranayama that involves rolling of the tongue. These are two similar Pranayama. The difference can be found on the steps involved. Sheetkari Pranayama or Hissing breath is called as such as the sound produced while doing the Pranayama is similar to the hissing sound of a snake. “Shee” refers to the sound this pranayama produces during practice while “Kari” means “to produce”.
The Sheetkari Pranayama also helps in the opening, activating, and balancing the Sahasrara Chakra or the Crown Chakra. The seventh chakra or the Sahasrara chakra is the chakra found at the top of the head. It is involved in connecting with the earth and the universe.
Precautions Before Doing Sheetkari Pranayama
Before practicing the Sheetkari Pranayama, there are a couple of precautions that need to be reviewed and checked. Any pranayama practice should be done with guidelines from a guru in a place that is quiet and clean. People with heart problems should avoid this Pranayama or if there are respiratory problems. This pranayama may also lead to irregular bowel movement and should be skipped by people who are experiencing problems in the bowel.
How to Do the Sheetkari Pranayama
- Sit erect in a comfortable position asana.
- Relax the body and close the eyes.
- Give attention to the flow of breath and focus.
- Open the lips while the upper and lower teeth are meeting.
- Press tongue against the roof of the mouth.
- Take a long deep breath through the mouth with the gaps between the teeth.
- Hold breath for a moment after inhaling and close the mouth.
- Exhale through the nostrils steadily and calmly.
Benefits of Sheetkari Pranayama
This pranayama is good for restoring balance in body temperature. As cooling pranayama, it cools the mind and body by regulating temperature. Great breathing exercise during the summer or in fever. As the body temperature gets lower, it also maintains blood pressure which will be beneficial to the heart. This will have a calming effect allows one to remove mental tension that will help reduce anxiety attacks and depression. It is also a good breathing exercise that will help the practitioner to get better sleep.
It is also good for people with low energy and stimulates the flow of vital energy in the body. It refreshes the body and helps purify the blood. Because of this, the skin is also affected positively. It boosts immunity to diseases and allergies, a good remedy for problems in the endocrine and reproductive system.
The continuous practice of Sheetkari pranayama also helps better health on the tongue, throat, mouth, and better dental health. This pranayama is one of the most known and effective exercises for curing pyorrhea and promotes healthy gums.
Sheetkari Pranayama helps in opening, activating, and balancing the Crown Chakra. An open and well-balanced Crown Chakra regulates the flow of life and energy throughout the body and helps psychological and physical functions.
Recommended Asana for Sheetkari Pranayama
Lotus pose or Padmasana which is the best and most ideal pose for meditation and doing pranayama. A good pose for opening up the hips and stretching the lower limbs. It also helps in calming the body and increase awareness and attentiveness which is great for meditation and practicing pranayama. It helps improve posture and restore energy levels. This pose is done by sitting on the floor with legs outstretched. Cross legs into a cradle while the feet are placed on top of opposite thighs. Make sure that the spine is erect and straight. Jnana Mudra is recommended to be used.
2. Baddha Konasana
Butterfly pose or Baddha Konasana which is a good pose to be used by pregnant women. It helps in regulating blood circulation and relieves stress. The pose focuses on the lower part of the body which includes reproductive organs. It is a good remedy for menstrual problems and helps increase the flexibility of the thighs, groin, and knees. To do this, start by sitting with stretched out legs. Bend the knees and pull the feet towards the pelvis. The soles of the feet should meet and close together. Feet should stay close to the floor. Clasp the feet together with both hands.