If you don’t want to lie down on the floor from last week’s options for cooling down with yoga, there are other options. Some of the breathing practices from yoga also trigger the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which tells your body to relax, lowering heart rate and cooling you down if your overheated. If you want to know more about how this works see this brief article on how your breath affects your nervous system.
My 2 favourite breathing practices for cooling down are alternate nostril breathing and longer exhales. Here’s a brief how to below – see my stress relief handout from my yoga for workplace wellness workshops (PDF) for more detailed instructions.
Caution: Your breath should never feel strained. If you feel light-headed, tension in your head or chest, or uncomfortable, stop and let your breath return to a natural breathing pattern.
Work with a normal breath. You don’t need to use deep breathing.
Longer exhale to inhale
The purpose of this practice is to lengthen the exhale compared to your inhale. First take a few rounds of normal breathing and count silently how long it takes you to inhale and exhale. When you try the practices below, find a breathing pattern that is comfortable. If you find that you are straining to lengthen your exhale, reduce the count of the exhale until it’s comfortable.
- If you already find that your exhale is longer than your inhale, you can continue with this practice. If it’s comfortable you can gradually increasing the exhale by a count of one (but only to the point that your exhale no more than doubles your inhale).
- If the length of your exhale was shorter than your inhale, first work on finding an even breath. Again count silently as you inhale and exhale. Gradually try increasing the length of your exhale by a count of one until it is the same length as your inhale. If this comfortable, you can gradually increase the exhale by a count of one for a few rounds of breathing (no more than double the inhale).
- If your inhale and exhale are the same length, take a few rounds of this even breath counting both the exhales and inhales. After a few rounds, try lengthening the exhale gradually by a count of one (no more than double the inhale).
- To complete the practice, while counting, gradually decrease the length of your exhale so it returns to even with your inhale. Then let the breath return to a normal pattern and take a moment to observe the effects.
Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana)
The focus of this practice is about alternating your breath through each nostril independently. You can use your fingers to control that or simply imagine doing it (especially if you’re sitting at your desk at work!).
- Bring your right index and middle fingers to rest on your forehead between your eyebrows.
- Rest your thumb on the right nostril.
- Rest your ring finger on the left nostril.
- Press with your finger to close or block your left nostril. Inhale through your right nostril.
- Block the right nostril with your thumb. Open your left nostril. Exhale through your left nostril.
- Inhale through your left nostril. Block the left. Open the right. Exhale through your right.
- That is one cycle. You can repeat the cycle several times. Try this for 30 seconds to 1-2 minutes.