The Sanskrit word sheetali means ‘cooling’ or relaxing”. This type of pranayama is so called because it cools down the body and relaxes the mind. In English it is usually called ‘the cooling pranavama’ or ‘cooling breath’.
The practice is briefly described in various hatha yoga scriptures. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states: “Those who are wise should inhale through the mouth and then exhale slowly, through the nose.” (3:57)
No other practical details are given. Benefits are briefly mentioned in the following verse: “Sheetali pranayama alleviates diseases of the spleen and other large organs of the body, and helps to remove fever, hunger, thirst and bilious problems. Furthermore, it helps to eradicate all poisons from the body.” (3:58)
A slightly fuller description of the method is given in the Gherand Samhita: “Inhale through the tongue and fill the lungs. Do kumbhaka (breath retention) for a few seconds and then exhale through the nostrils.” (5:72)
Here it clearly indicates that one should breathe in through the tongue. The benefits are described in the next verse: “A sadhaka should do sheetali pranayama since it eliminates indigestion, coughs and bilious problems”. (3:73)
A similar description is given in chapter three of the Shiva Samhita.
Rolling of tongue
During inhalation the tongue has to be rolled as shown below.
Roll the tongue so that both sides curl upwards and inwards, with the edges almost meeting each other. Needless to say, the teeth should be separated. The end of the tongue should protrude outside the mouth, but without strain. The rolled tongue forms a tube through which one inhales.
Sit in a comfortable meditative asana.
Hold the back straight and head upright, but without strain.
Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
Be aware of breathing.
Roll the tongue.
Slowly inhale through the tube-like tongue.
Breathe in deeply, but without strain.
Then hold the breath.
Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth.
Do jalandhara bandha.
After a few seconds release jalandhara bandha.
Exhale slowly through the nose.
Be aware of the breath flow.
The first round is completed at the end of exhalation.
For details of awareness, benefits, duration and other aspects of the practice, see ‘General Details’ at the end of this topic.