Hi, I’m Bettina. What I'm working on : Forget to slouch. Relaxing is freedom. Choose life.

Articles tagged “pranayama”

How to Transform your Tongue into an Air Conditioner

Tree Lung Breathing

It’s summer in Berlin, even though the weather isn’t quite hot here yet.

Nonetheless, when the heat does turn on, sweating through a yoga class could feel like heating your body too much.

To address overheating, two yogic breathing / pranayama techniques called sitali and sitkari use your breathing to cool your body down. Not only do these two breathing / pranayama techniques cool your body down physically, they also cool down any heated emotions you may have, like anger or resentment. They both calm the mind, cool the body, and lower blood pressure.

The first breathing / pranayama technique sitali asks you to sip air through your rolled-up tongue. If you can’t roll up your tongue like a straw, the second breathing / pranayama technique sitkari is when you suck air through your teeth.

Watch the video below to see how to practice these two cooling breaths.


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ACTION STEP : The next time you feel overheated either physically or emtionally, try a few rounds of sitali or sitkari breaths as I show you in the video above.

If you feel light-headed, dizzy, or in any way uncomfortable during these breaths, stop and breathe normally for several rounds. Begin again when you’re ready.


Let me know if you have any requests for a short yoga routine and/or questions about yoga or meditation!


Signature from Bettina of Active Hands Yoga




Photo by Jamesdguy

Notes from David Gordon White’s Alchemical Body

Alchemical Body for Yoga

Lately I’ve been reading books about the history of medieval and pre-medieval religion in India written by Professor David Gordon White. If you’ve ever wondered what the “5,000”-year-old history of yoga is about, read his books. He traces the usage of the word “yoga” from the earliest instance in texts up to medieval times.

Yoga was not always about being bendy or even calming your mind. For certain hatha yogis in medieval India, it was about becoming god-like or god’s equal while in your own body–whether through alchemical means or through hatha yoga practices we would recognize today as breath work / pranayama and physical postures / asanas.

Rather than a book review, I present here a few notes from his Alchemical Body that might be pertinent to our yoga practice today–because no one I know is going to get some cinnabar and try to turn base metals into gold these days. (And if you are, please do let me know how you’re making gold in the comments below.)

First off, White explains the functions of the three locks / bandhas in a way I hadn’t heard before:

1. Mula bandha / root lock draws apana vayu up through the medial channel.

2. Uddiyana bandha / ‘lock of the upward-flying [bird]’ : the emptying of the lungs and the contraction of the lungs and diaphragm into the upper thorax causes prana to fly up through the medial channel into the cranial vault.

3. Jalandhara bandha / ‘lock of the net bearer’ seals your head off from your torso by constricting the network of nadis in your throat and arrests the downward flow of nectar from your cranial vault.

If so, then that would explain why mula and uddiyana locks / bandhas are almost always taught first. If you have no nectar in your head, there is no point in preventing the nectar from flowing out.

White also says : “Steady breath leads to steady mind leads to steady semen leads to steady body,” in which the steadiness of the body comes last rather than first. Usually hatha yoga says that steady body leads to steady mind, but it goes both ways.

Furthermore, White elucidated why fire and heat are big symbols in yoga :

The yogic fire kindled at subtle body’s base burns up the fire of time, which is death (kulagni), via the filling of the shusumna channel. Yogic fire is sacrifice internalized : the inner fire of tapas fueled offerings of one’s vital breaths in an inner sacrifice.

So when you sacrificed your breaths internally, you were prolonging your life.

The following pranayama technique is said to give you mastery over disease and death. Need I say that you practice the following at your own risk?

1. First draw your subtle breath / prana in through your left nostril and into the lunar channel

2. Retain this breath as long as possible

3. Exhale through your right nostril via the solar channel

4. Inhale right and continue alternate nostril breathing

5. Continue to pump outer nadis like bellows: at one retention, the pressure will open the medial channel and empty the peripheral ones–which then become ‘swooned’.

Breath retention is the dangerous part as is the bellows breath, so you can get the milder version by just doing alternate nostril breathing without the breath retention.

And lastly, speaking of Siddhas, the perfected ones, White says that they embodied “carefree playfulness” — the Siddhas “always seem to be at play–playing with words, playing with other people’s minds, playing games with the world” (p.349). The phenomenal world is a field of play.

What do you think of White’s interpretation of hatha yoga? Do you want to transform your body into gold when you practice yoga or is this all just crazy talk?

As always, comments are always welcome and encouraged.



Photo from folktalefibers

Why do we only breathe through the nose? A breathing exercise for relaxation and letting go

Most people know that in yoga we recommend only breathing through the nose. But that’s not true all of the time.

Watch my video below to learn a very simple breathing exercise that helps you let go of stress and stale air in your body by breathing out through the mouth.

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ACTION STEP: Try this breathing technique the next time you transition from a stressful situation–maybe when you get off work? Or during your lunch break?

If you’ve got any questions about yoga, meditation, healthy living, let me know and I’ll answer you in next Thursday’s Q and A video.