Sitkari Pranayama (Hissing Breath): Steps, Benefits & Precautions

sitkari pranayama

Our mind and body often get stressed by the hot summer heat, which develops a sense of tiredness in us. In these long hours of summer heat, there are some yogic breathing techniques to soothe our body and mind.

In the list of 8 classical pranayamas described in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Sitkari is most effective breathing to cool down your body and builds vitality. Unlike Sitali breathing, in Sitakari, we don’t need to roll the tongue to suck the air but it is sucked through gaps in the teeth.

See also: Another Cooling Breath Using Rolled Tongue

Meaning of Sitkari

The term “Sitkari” is used in the Sanskrit language for ‘Hissing’ sound. In sitakari pranayama, when air is sucking in through gap present in the teeth, a ‘hiss’ sound is produced. The produced hissing sound is the same as snakes make when they release their stress and frustration.

Hence, sitakari pranayama also called hissing breath which let Prana or ‘life force’ to cool down & thus release excessive anger and frustration out of the body.

To practice sitkari pranayama, sit comfortably on the floor in any meditative pose with head, neck, and back aligned. Gently press your upper and lower teeth together and start inhaling through teeth gaps and exhaling through the nose.

Beginners who are new in yogic breathing practice can go through following steps to perform sitkari pranayama.

Steps to Practice Sitkari Pranayama

  • Sit comfortably in a cross-legged pose and align your back body in one line. To deepen the breathing effect, you can close your eyes and emulate Gyan Mudra with your hands.
  • Now, gently press your upper and lower teeth together, and separate your lips comfortably so that your teeth get exposed to the air.
  • Curl your tongue upwards so that lower part of tongue touches the upper palate. (If you aren’t able to curl your tongue, just rest your tongue at the back of the teeth)
  • Now breathe-in slowly & deeply through the gaps present in the teeth. Feel the air is filling up your abdomen, followed by chest & neck portion in the end. During your breath inhalation, a small hissing sound will be made.
  • Now close your lips (eventually mouth) and exhale through your nose slowly in a controlled way.
  • This completes 1 round of Satakari Pranayama.

Practice Note:

For beginners, the ratio of inhalation vs. exhalation is 1:1 at the beginning period of practice. When you feel more comfortable in this breathing, gradually extend the exhalation 2 times or 4 times of inhalation.

The reason behind extended exhalation as compare to inhalation is because exhalation is cleansing part of breathing as it releases carbon die oxide out (Also, It release emotional, internal physical locks in the body).

Further for experienced practitioners, sitakari can also be emulated with breath retention and bandhas.

Sitkari With Breath Retention (Kumbhaka)

Initial steps are same until inhalation.

  • After inhalation, hold the breath for a comfortable period inside. This will increase the holding capacity of lungs, as well as cooling breath sensation will be transferred to the subtle brain cells.
  • Now, exhale the breath completely out for an extended time period.
  • Repeat in the same manner for 20 times.

Sitkari With BodyLock (Bandhas)

While holding the breath in above-mentioned steps, lower your chin to the chest and hold the breath for a comfortable period in this position. It’s called Jalandhar Bandha.

Benefits of Sitkari Pranayama

  • It’s shown in a research 1 that sitkari pranayama positively affects the brain waves to relax the the body.
  • Cooling effect comes out of hissing breath positively impact on the nervous system and endocrine glands. This positive impact releases the emotional and psychological knots present in body and mind.
  • The cooling mechanism of Sitkari pranayama is very helpful for people who suffer from anxiety and hypertension.
  • Not only does it cools down the body, but it also clears extra heat out of the system by affecting those parts of the brain that regulate body temperature.
  • It helps calm down the mind by supporting mental composure.
  • Sitkari pranayama eases hyperacidity in the intestinal area.
  • It balances excessive pitta dosha and calms soreness all through the body.
  • As the tooth is exposed in the air while inhaling in this pranayama, It’s also considered beneficial practice for good health of the teeth.
  • Its regular practice reduces hunger pangs & quenches thirst.
  • Sitkari pranayama is also very effective for inflammatory skin.
  • Those who practice it regularly start looking younger and more attractive due to it’s breathing exercise.

Precautions for Sitkari Pranayama

  • As sitkari pranayama cools down the body temperature, it’s not preferred during cold weather.
  • Make sure the temperature of your body and surrounding haven’t much difference as inhaling very cold breath could affect your lungs.
  • Also, holding the natural breath for an extended period (breath retention) could warm it up again inside the body and so the cooling effect can be decreased. Hence, don’t hold the breath for a prolonged period in sitkari pranayma.
  • When the surrounding air is too polluted, avoid doing sitkari pranayama.

Contraindications of Sitkari Pranayama

In the following conditions, sitkari pranayama should be avoided.

  • People who suffer from cough, cold, Asthma and Bronchitis
  • People suffering from low blood pressure and heart ailments shouldn’t do it with internal retention
  • Avoid sitkari who is suffering from chronic constipation or gastric problem.
  • Those who have sensitive teeth or gap in teeth should avoid it, as it can raise sensation in the tooth.
  • Sitkari pranayama is a good alternative for those who can’t roll tongue in sitali pranayama.

Conclusion

In short, Sitkari Pranayama is a great yogic breathing exercise which can be done anytime, anywhere to cool down your mind & body. It provides relief & relaxation from stress. It also helps in reducing your body’s temperature.

You can do it whenever you are free from work- either in the office or at home. You can also do it when you are in the gym or before doing weight training exercises at home. Just ensure that you do it after having a heavy workout.

References

  1. Impact of Sheetali and Sheetkari Pranayama on the Topographic Mapping of the Brain Waves [source]

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