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Did You Notice? It’s Hot. Here’s What You Need To Know

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By Karen Weintraub
Guest Contributor

In case you hadn’t noticed: It’s hot out there.

Until midday tomorrow, when a storm is expected to blow through bringing cooler air, it’s a good idea to stay somewhere with air conditioning and skip that run or garden overhaul you’ve been planning.

Weather like this is particularly dangerous for people who have lung conditions, are over 65, or young enough to think it’s a good idea to be outside in weather like this.

High humidity means that a key cooling mechanism for your body – sweating – won’t work as well. Normally, sweat evaporates, cooling you off. But when there’s so much moisture in the air that it can’t hold any more, that evaporation can’t occur.

Sometimes people compensate by drinking too much water or taking salt pills to allow themselves to continue their activity levels, despite the weather. Dr. Elliot Israel, professor of medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, says that’s a bad idea because it can throw off the electrolyte imbalance and cause even more serious health problems. Continue reading

‘Air Conditioner Breath’: Cooling Yoga For The Next Heat Wave

I’m armed and ready for the next heat wave. The CDC just sent over this link to its “extreme heat” page, with all kinds of basic public health precautions for when the mercury rises. And now I’ve got an extra secret weapon.

The moment my friend mentioned that her yoga teacher had a technique called “air-conditioner breath,” I wanted it. Of course, this was on 103-degree Friday, and I’m not feeling quite so desperate now. But in this warming world, I fear it will come in handy all too often, and I’m deeply grateful to Ceylan Akturk, a yoga teacher and therapist in the Boston area, for sharing it. She writes:

 

A key philosophical precept of yoga, handed down from the sage Patanjali, is ‘Yoga is the cessation of fluctuation.’ Every summer, the request I hear most from practitioners, family, and friends is for yogic ways to cool off when the mercury fluctuates uncomfortably upwards.

While we can’t do anything about what’s fluctuating around us, we can turn inwards, harnessing our natural central air to create balance through Śītakārī Prāṇāyāma, a cooling breathwork variation that anyone at any age or condition can do anytime, anywhere. Śītakārī, and its cousin, Śītālī, come from the Sanskrit root Śītālā, which means to cool. Benefits of this cooling breathwork include increased energy, soothing of the eyes and ears, support of the liver and spleen, improved digestion, and relief of thirst. (To learn more, see B.K.S. Iyengar’s book, Light on Pranayama.)

There are several variations of both Śītālī and Śītakārī Breath, but the version below is the one that my teacher, Bo Forbes, calls ‘Joker Breath’ for the shape of the mouth (Batman fans will understand). It’s easy for those of you who have difficulty curling the tongue:

Find a comfortable seated position, sit up tall, lift the chin parallel to the floor.
Smile widely, lips open, teeth apart, creating space in the mouth.
Take the tip of the tongue upwards, behind your upper teeth but not all the way up to the soft palate, keeping the tongue soft, like a leaf curling upwards.
Close the eyes and focus your inner gaze, or drishti, on the center of the forehead, visualizing a cool blue point. If this is difficult, lower your gaze to the floor.
Breath through the mouth with slow, deep inhales and long exhales, creating a sound somewhere between hissing and slurping as cool air circulates around the tongue. Pay attention to the turnover, allowing the inhale to flow easily into the exhale, exhale into inhale, creating a continuous flow of energy, or prana.
Do this for as long as it takes to cool off, anywhere from 3-10 minutes. Continue reading