Sheetkari Pranayama (Hissing Breath)

The sound shee or sheet is made during inhalation in this practice. The Sanskrit word kari means ‘that which produces’. Therefore, sheetkari can be translated as the pranayama that produces the sound ‘shee’. In English the practice is usually called ‘the hissing breath’.

Scriptural references

This practice is mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which states: “Make the sound ‘shee’ while breathing through the mouth. By doing this practice one will become like Kamadeva (Cupid – the god of love).” (3:54)

Many worthwhile benefits can be gained from regular practice of this asana.

Shape of mouth

During inhalation the mouth should be shaped as shown in the following picture. Press the lower and upper teeth together. Separate the lips as much as is comfortable. Fold the tongue backwards into khechari mudra so that the lower surface gently presses the upper palate2. Inhale through the gaps in the teeth.

Those who have many teeth missing or no teeth at all will find this practice impossible. We suggest that you do sheetali pranayama or kaki mudra as alternatives.

Technique

Sit in a comfortable asana.

Close the eyes.

Shape the mouth as described.

Breathe in slowly and deeply.

At the end of inhalation close the mouth, keeping the tongue in khechari mudra.

Hold the breath and do jalandhara bandha for a few seconds.

Then release the bandha, and raise the head.

Slowly breathe out through the nose.

This is the end of 1 round.

Do more rounds.

Further details

For full details of awareness, benefits, duration and other aspects of this practice, refer to ‘General Details’ given later.

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