The Ideal Pranayama for Long Distance Runners
One single Pranayama can keep a long-distance runner ‘cool’, ‘calm’, ‘sweat-controlled’ ‘temperature-controlled’ and ‘hunger-controlled’, even, in the hottest of the environments.
‘Sheetali Pranayama’ not only augments these components, but also, adds a lot of other subsequent benefits. The translation itself (the Sanskrit word ‘Sheetal’ means ‘Thandha’ in Hindi and ‘Cool’ in English) emphasizes on how very cooling this practice is. This practice proves to be the best when practiced during any phenomenon which has the heating properties. Though on a contra-indicative note, the practice of Sheetali Pranayama should not be performed while one is suffering from cold or cough, has low BP, is asthmatic, has bronchitis and also during winter as it could escalate the associated problems.
Practice of Sheetali Pranayama evaporates the saliva of the tongue and moistens the surface of the mouth. As a result, the air that is sucked into the mouth becomes cool. The prominence of coolness can be felt in the mouth and in the process of respiration, the same ‘cooling down’ air from the mouth moves through the trachea to the lungs to the blood vessels and the other parts of the body, thereby, replacing the excessive heat with ‘cooling down properties’ and thereby generating an overall ‘calming down’ effect.
Further, the physical tiredness and excessive thirst which one feels during a long run can be kept under control with regular practice of Sheetali Pranayama. In simple terms, regular practice of this one pranayama can help a long-distance runner continue his / her run, with ease.
- Assume any sitting meditative posture
- Extend your tongue out
- Wrap it in from the sides so that the sides of the tongue are trying to touch each other in the middle
- The rolled tongue is in a cylindrical form
- This cylindrical opening is visible and is pipping out from the lip which are open in an ‘O’ shape
- Slowly, in a rhythm, inhale the air from the opening as if it is being sucked into your throat and then traveling down the throat to fill up the stomach with the air. The sound created during inhalation will be ‘sh sh sh sh sh….’ sound
- Relax the tongue, close the lips softly and exhale from the nostrils
- This is one round of Sheetali Breathing
- You can start with 10 rounds and gradually increase the number, as per your requirement
- Practice “Sheetali Breathing” as explained above
- Inhale and apply kumbhak (retain your breath)
- Apply Jalandhar Band and Mool Bandh
- Hold your breath for as long as you can without straining yourself
- Release your moola bandha, bring your chin parallel to the floor to release Jalandhar bandh and exhale through your nostril in a rhythmic manner
- Make sure that the exhalation is normal and in a controlled manner. Uncontrolled exhalation means you have exceeded your comfortable capacity of holding your breath
- You can start with 5 rounds and gradually increase the number as per your comfort
- Once you are comfortable in this practice, you can apply the ratio of 1:4:2 inhalation, retention and exhalation. Make sure this is a smooth transition and not a forced one. Also the retention should start with low ratio and slowly move to the normal ratio
Note: In case, you are not able to manipulate your tongue to create a cylindrical shape, create an ‘O’ shape in between your lips and inhale and exhale through that opening. You will get the same benefits.
- It reduces Acidity
- It reduces high BP
- Induces Sleep – Sheetali can be practiced before hitting the bed so that the body and the mind are at ease and can acquire the required equilibrium to induce deep sleep
- With its cooling properties, it is seen to be helpful during Fever as it brings the body temperature down
- Recommended to cure Peptic ulcer
- Practicing during hot weather will help maintain the coolness inside and outside
- Practicing Sheetali can deal with Kapha-Pitta disorder
- Not to be practiced by those who have low BP, asthma and bronchitis
- This pranayama should not be performed during winter
- The retention of breath should be for minimal period or the system will get heated up
- People with constipation should not do it
As the filtration of air, when inhaled through the mouth, is lower compared to the nostril, one needs to watch precaution in terms of pollution level. Ensure that you practice this pranayama in a clean environ. Ignoring the above, will contaminate the lungs and could lead to serious problems.
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Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.