Whether you’re looking to cool down or simply nourish your emotional, mental, and physical body, yoga and pranayama offer a number of poses and practices to help you chill out. Cooling sequences are also beneficial when the seasons transition from summer to fall because they help balance pitta dosha. Pitta often accumulates through the summer months and can leave excess heat in the body. Regardless of your reason, we hope you enjoy and cool down with these relaxing asana and pranayama suggestions.

Poses to Cool the Body

Yoga is versatile in that it can have both a heating and a cooling effect on the body, depending on your practice. It’s cooling effect is felt in poses that are held for a longer amount of time and pull the body’s energy downward, like legs up the wall pose. The gentle and calming nature of yin yoga also has a cooling effect on the body. As you practice the following poses, focus on slowing down your inhalation and exhalation.

Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)

  • Begin lying on your back with your knees bent, feet planted on the floor, and the tips of your toes touching the wall.
  • If you’d like, you can use a bolster or a blanket under your hips by sliding it under your glutes.
  • Stretch your arms away from you so that your fingertips touch the wall, or straight out in a “T” shape with your palms facing toward the sky.
  • Begin to walk your feet up the wall until your legs strengthen.
  • If there’s too much of a stretch in the backs of your legs, scoot yourself further away from the wall.
  • Relax into this pose and feel the downward sensations in your legs.

Stay in this pose for 1-15 minutes. When you’re ready to release, walk your legs back down the wall until the soles of your feet reach the floor. Push yourself into a seated position with your forearms and hands.

Knees to Chest (Apanasana)

  • Begin lying on your back with your legs and arms extended.
  • On an exhale, pull your knees to your chest with your abdominals.
  • Wrap your arms around your shins like you’re giving yourself a hug. 
  • Keep your back flat and the back of your head planted against the floor. Gaze up toward the sky.
  • If it feels inviting, rock side to side for a gentle spinal massage.

Hold this pose for a minute as you focus on the expansion and contraction of your ribs on each inhale and exhale. On an exhale, release your legs and arms back toward the ground.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

  • Begin standing at the top of your mat with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Drop your arms by your side with your palms facing forward.
  • Root through the bottoms of your feet. Feel your big toes, pinkie toes, and heels connecting with the earth.
  • From your feet, pull energy up into your legs. Slightly activate your quads.
  • Lengthen your tailbone and through your spine.
  • Shine your heart forward as your shoulders relax down your spine.
  • Hold your gaze forward as you imagine a string gently pulling the crown of your head upwards.

Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to several minutes.

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

  • Begin in Tadasana, standing mountain pose.
  • Step your feet in together so that your inner ankles are touching.
  • Lengthen your spine as you stand up straight.
  • Shift your weight onto your left foot as you pull your right leg up, keeping your knee at a 90 degree angle.
  • Keeping a long spine, reach down with your right hand and guide your right foot to meet your inner left thigh.
  • For a gentler stretch, place the sole of your right foot against your inner calf.
  • Inhale and bring your hands at the center of your chest in Anjali Mudra, or prayer hands.
  • Exhale and ground down through your left foot.

Hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. When you’re ready to release, guide your right leg back to the ground. Shake out your hips, and then repeat on the other side.

Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)

  • Begin seated with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • On an exhale, pull your ankles in toward your pelvis. Press the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall out to the sides. 
  • If your hips or groins are especially tight, there’s an option to place a blanket under your pelvis.
  • Use your pointer fingers, middle fingers, and thumb to grab your big toes, keeping the outer edges of your feet on the floor. There’s also the option to hold onto your ankles with your hands.
  • Avoid forcing your knees down and instead let gravity pull them downward. 
  • Keeping your back straight, gently bring your chest forward toward your feet.

Stay in this pose between 1-5 minutes. Pull your knees back toward each other on an inhale and extend them back to their original position.

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

  • Lie flat on your back
  • Spread your feet as far apart as your yoga mat. Allow your arms to rest at your side with some space between your hands and your hips.
  • Relax completely, and enjoy this rejuvenating pose.

Stay in savasana as long as you’d like but at least 5 minutes to receive the most benefit.

Gentle Twists

Yoga twists are great for the body. They increase blood flow to the digestive organs and improve their ability to function, among many other benefits. The abdominal organs are compressed and massaged during twists, pushing stagnant blood and toxins out. When released, a fresh supply of blood, nutrients, and oxygen then washes into the organs. Yoga twists also destress and cool the body down, especially when they’re held for a longer amount of time. Hold these poses for 3-5 minutes on average, unless it feels better for your body to hold for a lesser or longer amount of time.

Marichi’s Pose (Marichyasana I)

  • Begin seated with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Bend your right knee and plant your right foot as close to your right sitting bone as possible.
  • Keep the left leg strong and activated and press the inner right foot actively into the floor.
  • Place the fingertips of your right hand behind you, about a foot away from your glutes.
  • Inhale to lengthen your spine and reach your left arm to the sky.
  • Exhale and twist your torso to the right as you bring the outside of your left bicep to the outside of your right knee.
  • With each inhale, focus on finding length in your spine. On each exhale, deep your twist.

Stay in this pose for 1-3 minutes. Release with an exhalation, and then repeat on the other side.

Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

  • Begin lying on your back.
  • Bend your knees with the soles of your feet on the floor and your knees directed toward the sky.
  • Press into your feet to slightly lift your hips from the floor and shift them about an inch to the right.
  • Exhale and pull your right knee toward your chest while your left leg extends straight on the floor. Keep your left foot flexed.
  • On an exhale, cross your right knee over your midline as you keep your knee bent. Rest your right knee on the floor.
  • Extend your right arm straight out to the right, keeping it in line with your shoulders.
  • Rest your left hand on your right knee or extend it out to the left.
  • If it feels comfortable to do so, turn your neck to the right with your gaze toward your right fingertips.

Breathe into this pose for 1-5 minutes. When you’re ready to release, draw your right knee into your chest and roll onto your back on an inhale. Release both legs to the floor before repeating the same steps on your opposite side.

Restorative Twist

You’ll need a bolster or a couple pillows for this pose.

  • Begin by placing your bolster or pillows (stacked on each other) on the ground. 
  • Sit next to the bolster and rest your right thigh against the end of it.
  • Place your hands on the outside of the bolster. Your back should be slightly twisted toward the right.
  • On an exhale, lower your torso to the top of the bolster. Turn your head to the left and rest your right cheek on the bolster.

Relax and breathe into this pose for 3-5 minutes. Release on an inhale by pushing yourself back up to a seated position. Repeat on the other side, this time with your left thigh against the end of the bolster.

Cooling Pranayama

Sitali and sitkari are two cooling pranayama practices that are especially beneficial during the summer months. Sitali breath adds moisture to the system and soothes a pitta imbalance while Sitkari breath balances the endocrine system and builds vitality. Both will have a cooling effect on your body and help you release excess heat.

Sitali Breath

  • Begin seated in a comfortable position
  • Close your eyes, focus on breathing into your diaphragm for several minutes. 
  • Open the mouth in the shape of an “O”
  • Curl the tongue lengthwise and push it out of the mouth slightly
  • Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as you would if drinking through a straw
  • Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand
  • Bring the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils.

Repeat this sitali practice for 2 to 3 minutes. Afterwards, return to diaphragmatic breathing. Take several breaths before opening your eyes and returning to your day.

Sitkari Breath

  • Begin seated in a comfortable position
  • Close your eyes, focus on breathing into your diaphragm for several minutes. 
  • Gently press your lower and upper teeth together. Separate your lips from each other, exposing your teeth to the air.
  • Inhale slowly through the gaps in the teeth.
  • Close the mouth and slowly exhale through the nose.

Repeat this practice for 2-3 minutes. Afterwards, return to diaphragmatic breathing. Take several breaths before opening your eyes and returning to your day.

 

Cooling yoga and asana practices can reduce body temperature, balance pitta dosha, or calm the nervous system and ground the body. After practicing, notice how each practice feels in your body. Can you feel the cooling effects? Leave a comment below and let us know which of these cooling suggestions was your favorite!