Just as it is important to eat the right foods for your Dosha, so it important to vary the versions of pranayama, or breathing, in order to keep your constitution in balance. Pittas need to balance the elements of fire and water to create a happy Pitta as opposed to a fiery, explosive temperament. The best breathing regime for Pitta is the Sitali or cooling breath. Aim to create a cooling practice in your morning routine and slow down, be accepting and relaxed. Be kind to yourself and give yourself a little rest.
Benefits of Pranayama for Pitta Dosha
The act of drawing the air across the tongue and into the mouth in Sitali Pranayama is said to have a cooling and calming effect on the nervous system. To practice Sitali you need to be able to curl the sides of your tongue inwards, which is a genetic trait and not everyone is able to do this. If you cannot curl your tongue in this way, try an alternative technique called Sitkari Pranayama, which offers the same effects. In this version, you place the tip of your tongue lightly behind the teeth in the upper jaw and breath in and out around it.
Sitali, or Sheetali Pranayama is best suited to Pitta types because it is cooling and relaxing as opposed to energizing or warming. Pittas benefit from daily practice of Sitali Pranayama in many ways. Pitta’s main qualities are hot, oily and light. The cooling breath of Sitali calms and balances the excess Pitta, especially if you are feeling angry or frustrated as the practice will bring you to your still center enabling you to do more effectively with these moods and emotions.
The benefits for Pittas are both physical and emotional. Pranayama will help with disorders of the stomach and digestive tract. Many Pittas are prone to attacks of acid indigestion and the Sitali breath will help to calm this condition.
Whenever coolness is needed to balance excess heat Sitali will be of benefit. It is pacifying towards Pitta, but is neutral to Kapha and Vata. It will be of great benefit if you are experiencing hot sweats or flushes due to the menopause, or if you are engaged in physical exertion. If you need to spend time outdoors in hot weather, Sitali will help to prevent your body from over heating, so it is a good preventative for heatstroke or heat exhaustion.
Sitali is also very effective in cooling down heated emotions or tempers. It can also reduce agitation and anxiety, which are often associated with an excess of Pitta. Many Pittas suffer from an afternoon “slump”, largely due to their propensity to always on the go and Sitali Pranayama can be very beneficial when you are feeling drowsy or are struggling to focus. It helps to sharpen the mind, bring much needed oxygenated red blood into your system and improve your ability to focus.
Techniques of Pranayama for Pitta Dosha
As indicated above, if you are not able to curl your tongue into a “straw” perform the following with your tongue resting lightly behind your teeth.
- Sit comfortably with your spine erect and your shoulders relaxed. Allow your shoulders to roll forward very slightly, keep the hands and wrists relaxed and resting lightly on your thighs.
- Lower your chin very slightly, curl your tongue lengthwise and project it out of your mouth to a distance that is comfortable. There is no need to aim for maximum projection!
- Inhale gently through this “straw” as you slowly lift your chin towards the ceiling. Only lift as far as is comfortable, you do not need to overstretch your neck.
- At the end of the inhalation, with your chin still lifted, retract your tongue and close your mouth. Exhale slowly through your nostrils as you lower your chin slowly back to a neutral position.
- Repeat this cycle between eight and twelve times.
Pranayama Tips/Instructions for Pitta Dosha
Repeating the above sequence every morning will help to get your day off to a relaxing start. Repeat the sequence at any time during the day when you feel your beginning to feel hot, or tired, or irritable.
The other Pranayama techniques are, of course, also beneficial for all Doshas, so you may wish to incorporate diaphragmatic breathing and Ujjay Pranayama into some of your daily routines.