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Sheetali and Seetkari – Pranayama to Control Stress and Blood Pressure

In the last few posts on pranayama, I introduced the concepts of breath retention (kumbhaka) and the energy locks (bandhas). Essentially, these techniques can be used in conjunction with any of the pranayama techniques that I have talked about in previous posts. I will be covering some of these variations in future blog posts.

In today’s post, I would like to introduce you to two breathing techniques which are jointly labeled "cooling pranayama". They provide cooling not only at the physical level but also at the nervous and mental levels. They are highly effective in cooling the system during summer time. However, they can be practiced even during winter months as they calm the nerves down and also help release mental tension and stress. These pranayama techniques also help reduce blood pressure.

Seetkari Pranayama

The word "seetkari" (सीत्कारी) literally means the breathing technique that "produces the ‘seee’ or the ‘seet’ sound". In English, it is usually translated as the "hissing cooling breath".


seetkari

Step-by-step

  1. Sit in any comfortable cross-legged sitting posture with the spine upright, arms and shoulders relaxed.
  2. For the next few breaths, observe the flow of breath at the tip of the nose. This helps bring in a feeling of being centered and inward focused.
  3. Open the lips and bring the teeth together lightly.
  4. Take a long deep inhalation through the gap between the teeth.
  5. At the end of inhalation, lower the chin to the chest in Jalandhara Bandha and hold the breath for 6 to 8 seconds. Make sure that you retain the breath only as long as it does not impact the quality and depth of the following exhalation.
  6. When you are ready to exhale, lift the chin up, close the right nostril with the right thumb. Using Ujjayi breath, exhale slowly through the left nostril. This completes one round.
  7. Repeat for five deep breaths.
  8. At the end, bring the breathing back to normal and relax.

Sheetali Pranayama

The word Sheetali (शीतली) means "the one that can cool you down". The technique is very similar to the Seetkari pranayama.


sheetali

Step-by-step

  1. Sit in any comfortable cross-legged sitting posture with the spine upright, arms and shoulders relaxed.
  2. For the next few breaths, observe the flow of breath at the tip of the nose. This helps bring in a feeling of being centered and inward focused.
  3. Bring the tongue all the way out and roll it in the shape of a tube. Some people have problem creating this tube with their tongue. In that case, continue with the Seetkari pranayama, described above.
  4. Take a deep, long inhalation through the tube in the tongue.
  5. At the end of inhalation, lower the chin to the chest in Jalandhara Bandha and hold the breath for 6 to 8 seconds. Make sure that you retain the breath only as long as it does not impact the quality and depth of the following exhalation.
  6. When you are ready to exhale, lift the chin up, close the right nostril with the right thumb. Using Ujjayi breath, exhale slowly through the left nostril. This completes one round.
  7. Repeat for five deep breaths.
  8. At the end, bring the breathing back to normal and relax.

Benefits

  • Both Sheetali and Seetkari are effective in cooling the system down. The cooling effect is induced by the incoming breath which makes contact with the moisture in the mouth.
  • Cooling is not just limited to the physical level alone. These practices calm the nerves down and also help calm the mind.
  • Helps deal with stress more effectively.
  • Helps lower blood pressure.
  • You are able to sleep better, thus helping fight insomnia.
  • Mental calmness can help deal with anger and anxiety.

Contraindications

  • Avoid these techniques during the extreme cold days of winter
  • Avoid these practices if you are suffering from severe cold or congestion
  • The cooling breaths cool down the activity of lower energy centers (below the navel chakra). Therefore, these practices should be avoided in case of chronic constipation.

49 comments to Sheetali and Seetkari – Pranayama to Control Stress and Blood Pressure

  • Pramila Sinha

    What is origin or source of this pranayama?

    • Subhash

      Hi Pramila, the source for most of the pranayama techniques, including Shitali and Seetkari, is Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Thanks for visiting my site.

  • Cindy

    Thank you for the instruction provided. I am curious at the directive to block right nostril exhaling left, why is that?

    • Subhash

      Thanks a lot, Cindy, for visiting my site. The left nostril is associated with the Ida Nadi which is supposed to represent the cooling, female aspect. Since we are practicing the cooling breath, I have decided to symbolically connect it with the left nostril while exhaling. Also, in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in the description of Ujjayi pranayama (Ch 2, shlokas 51 and 52), it is mentioned that after breathing in through both the nostrils, the exhalation should be through the left nostril. I have tried to keep the same concept for the sheetali and seetkari pranayamas as well. I hope this helps. Please do let me know if you have any other questions.

  • vijay

    Thnx sir, for valuable info

  • Allison

    Hello,
    I have very severe anger and irritation, and last night I tried sheetali for the first time. I was amazed to find that today I felt like a different person..calm and cool. It helped me tremendously, but I also heard that these breathing techniques increase mucus. I generally tend to have an excess of mucus in my throat and I was wondering of there is a way to offset this effect. I have heard that right nostril breathing reduces mucus and warms the body. Can this be practiced after sheetali, or would it completely reverse all the effects of sheetali?
    Thank you so much,
    Allison

    • Hi Allison,
      I would like to know where you read about Sheetali causing mucus as I have not heard of it before. My suggestion would be to continue the practice of Sheetali since it is giving you such benefits. I think you will yourself be able to determine if it is causing excess mucus in you. It is true that right nostril breathing is identified as heating breath and that it can help with mucus. However, I always recommend doing Sheetali after right nostril breathing because it helps calm the system down.

  • Vinay

    Would like to know as how to cool down my mind and BP, which I had been recently detected

    Can you suggest some basic asanas for this, please be simple in words to explain this to me

    Vinay

    • Dear Vinay,
      To help you calm the mind and help with BP, you need to develop a routine which includes a sequence of gentle asanas, pranayama and meditation. Foe asana, you can do a simple surya namaskar routine, forward and backward bending poses and a twisting pose. For pranayama, try to include deep breathing, bhramari, sheetali and seetkari and Naadi shuddhi (alternate nostril breathing). Try to include a minimum 20 minutes of meditation in your routine. Hope this helps.

  • Shume

    Hi i want to know is there any pranayama that gives extra energy when we need to keep awake at night without getting fatigued? Shume

  • Frances

    Hi there. Brilliant stuff, can I do this before meditation or after or does it not matter?

  • Frances

    Can we do both in the same session?

  • Frances

    The Ujjayi breath, is that to be started once we have finished the exhalation? Thank you

  • Hi Frances,
    Talking of Sheetali or Seetkari, Ujjayi breath is used for exhalation. The inhalation is either through the gap in the teeth in Seetkari or through the tube in the tongue in Sheetali. Having inhaled, the exhalation uses the Ujjayi breath.
    Yes, you can do them both in the same session – recommended.
    In general, pranayama is practiced before meditation. My suggestion is that you practice Sheetali and/or Seetkari first and then meditation.

  • Frances

    Great, will do. Thank you for your response.

  • Sreedhar

    Dear Sir
    Could you please let me know it will help FRO psorASIS skin problem.

    Regards
    Sridhar

    • Dear Sreedhar, I am really sorry but I don’t have any experience with the condition that you have mentioned. All I can say is that the practice of Sheetali and Seetkari are helpful in general in many conditions.

  • Soumendra

    Dear Sir,
    Thank u for this guidance. But I have a question. I heard that Sheetali pranayama should not be done if you are having constipation tendency. I do have a constipation tendency genetically. How should I be able to do Sheetali pranayam then. I do not want my constipation to come back. I have found difficulty doing other pranayamas. I found very relaxing doing sheetali. Could you guide in this context please.

    • Hello Soumendra, I have not heard of Sheetali causing constipation. Where did you read this? I would like to know if you found it in a reliable text or source. In my opinion, you may continue with Sheetali without any adverse effect on constipation. For constipation, you may want to try Laghu-shankha-prakshalana technique.

      • Santoshananada

        Sheetali breathing is a contraindicated practice for constipation as outlined in the Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha book by Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

        • Thank you, Santoshananda, for your kind feedback. I truly appreciate your pointing out an important contraindication. I will be updating the post accordingly. Thanks again.

  • Anurag

    Thanks Subhash Ji. Today my temperature was 39.4 c and with your kind guidance in this website I was able to bring it down to 38 within few minutes.

  • Gaurav

    Res. sir,
    I have been found suffering from acute pitta dosha .will sheetali and sitkari pranayama help me? If yes,how many times per day should I repeat them?can you give any other suggestions?

    • Hi Gaurav,
      I am not really familiar with the Ayurvedic concepts of the three doshas and am not in a position to recommend the value of sheetali etc for pitta. In general, you will find sheetali and seetkari helpful in calming the mind and the nervous system.

      • gaurav

        Thank you sir for your reply.
        I am suffering from depression since last 17 years.I get agitated very easily.Can I do both sheetali(5 minutes) and sheetkari(5 minutes) for 3 times a day ?please do reply.

  • Hi Gaurav,
    I am sorry about your going through depression for so long. Yes, you may practice sheetali and seetkari as given by you. Just make sure that you don’t strain yourself in any way while doing the practice. Try to keep the exhalations gentle, soft and deep. I hope this will help you.

  • Imran Saifi

    Hiii sir I m suffering stomach problem last one month in my stool lot of mucos come out . my health also not build up suggests me?

    • Hi Imran,
      The practice of Shankh Prakshalan is considered to be an excellent remedy for this kind of problems. If you are interested, I will be glad to send you the instructions via email. All the best.

  • THANKING YOU FOR Sheetali Pranayama.

    PETER

  • m babu

    RESPECTED SIR,

    I WANT TO LEARN Pranayama FROM u sir,,i was waiting for GURU like u ,,please accept me —-am in chennai –india

  • Charu Malik

    Hello! I really liked d precision n accuracy with which you gave the techniques of these pranayams. I’ve heard that one of these can cause “Kayakalp” or d regeneration of body tissues, can you please throw some light on this aspect.

    • Dear Charu,
      Thanks for your kind feedback. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the technique that you have mentioned which can result in “kayakalpa”. From my perspective, to do a total transformation at all levels – body, breath and mind, you need to maintain a fully integrated yoga practice which includes asana, pranayama and meditation, along with proper diet etc. I don’t believe there is any short-cut!

  • raj

    May I know the difference between pranayam and meditation from stress relief perspective. I can allot 15 min from my daily routine and am not sure which one to target for effective stress relief. Please advise.

    • Dear Raj, both pranayama and meditation are helpful in dealing with stress. If you can do only one or the other, you may want to practice say 4 days a week of pranayama and 3 days of meditation. That should help. All the best.

  • Vidya

    Subhash Ji,

    Thank you for the clear and elaborate explanation of how to perform these two pranayamas. I suffer from hyperthyroidism from about 10 years and my right thyroid gland has a visible swelling that pains at times, and is continuing to swell. I found this post when i searched for ‘seetali and seetakari’ because I read elsewhere that these two pranayamas will help cure hyper thyroidism. Is this true? And if not, which asanas and pranayamas will help my condition?
    Awaiting for your guidance.

    Thank You
    Vidya

    • Dear Vidya, I don’t have any direct experience in this regard. All I can say is that these two pranayamas can only help but not aggravate the situation. So it is worth a try. The asana that is supposed to be the best for thyroid related issues is the combination of Sarvangasana and Halasana. please give them a try as well. All the best.

  • Bapi

    Dear Sir,
    I have psoriasis problem form past 3 yrs. I started Kapalbhati and anulom vilom at last winter. I surprised in 18°C temperature sweat was saw in my body. After one I saw month some blood from my nose and stool. After this I stop Pranayama. But I got good result for psoriasis. So I want to restart it. But I have not so many knowledge about this.

    • Dear Bapi, as long as you keep the practice gently without causing any strain, I think you should be OK to restart your pranayama practice. Wish you all the best.

      • Bapi

        Dear Sir,
        Thank you for Reply, I will start it as soon as possible. I have a question – Why my body was so heated? I practiced it quit gently (with nominal strain). Have you any centre in Kolkata?

  • Hello Bapi, it is hard for me to judge why the body gets heated. I would suggest you start slowly and stop when any unusual signs appear. Allow the system to get used to the practice slowly.
    No, I don’t have a center in Kolkata. It is better if you get in touch with a local yoga teacher who can provide you guidance.

  • fatih

    Hi. I tried to do a cooling breathing exercise,closing left nose and breathing right nose.After I did it I felt like a bit panic and depression.I gave it up.But Shitali may be diffrent from this.I am scared to do it.

    • Dear Faith,
      The Sheetali is considered a very safe practice and, if done without any strain, should not cause the symptoms that you have mentioned. I suggest you practice it under the guidance of a yoga teacher in your area so you can practice it the right way. All the best.

  • fatih

    Thank you for your answer.
    Some breathing trainers say that breathing always be kept and never be hold.Do you agree with them.İf held people may feel depressed and tired.they say we should always breath to stomach.Most people hold their breathing acoording to them.

    • Hi Faith, breath retention is an important part of pranayama. However, holding the breath should be practiced only under the guidance of a yoga instructor who has experience in pranayama. Breathing to the stomach is a good practice. However, we need to learn to breathe into all parts of the lungs.

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