Mind Over Matter in a (Hot) Flash
Cool your inner summer heat with meditation and breathwork
We hear stories of yogis who can regulate their body temperatures through meditation, and breathing exercises called pranayama. More and more, Westerners are picking up on these ancient techniques, and researchers have been wondering whether or not they work for women with hot flashes. Good news: clinical trials show that they do! These practices are easy, free, and available to anyone willing to give them a try. So why not sit down, close your eyes, and see if you can cool down your own hot flashes and anxiety, too?
Turn on the air
Pranayama is the ancient yogic practice of using your breath to enhance your health. Specific breathing exercises have been passed down through the generations for practically every physical issue. Here are a few we pulled from the sacred archives for you.
Sheetali Pranayama has been practiced for centuries because of its power to cool your core body temperature and calm stress. Here’s how you do it:
Sit in a comfortable position, preferably with your back straight.
- Close your eyes and allow your body to relax.
- Bring the sides of your tongue up, rolling it into a tube shape.
- Stick the end of your tongue out just past your pursed lips.
- Take a long inhalation through your rolled tongue, as though you’re sipping the air through a straw.
- Notice the cool sensation of the airflow over your tongue
- Pull your tongue back in and close your mouth.
- Exhale through your nose
- Repeat 7-15 times
- When you’re through, take one long, deep breath in and out through your nostrils.
If you’re in a hurry, here are a couple of other simple pranic practices you can use to breathe yourself cooler in a flash:
- Simple cooling breath: Inhale through closed teeth and open lips. Exhale through your nose. Repeat several times.
- Left nostril breathing: Close off the right nostril with your thumb and breathe gently in and out through the left nostril only. Pause briefly after each inhalation and each exhalation. Repeat several times.
Breathwork + Meditation
While pranayama is a precise practice of controlling the breath, breathwork exercises are designed to release control and set your mind on a new journey.
Breathwork and meditation coach Jenna Reiss works privately with clients and facilitates women’s circles, using a 2-step technique is designed to create different reactions within your body that change its temperature by releasing certain forms of energy, such as those associated with past trauma.
While her personal guidance is an integral part of her complete program, Jenna encourages women to try this technique on their own for cooling hot flashes and calming menopause related anxiety:
- Lie down in a comfortable position.
- Take one breath into the belly through an open mouth
- Without exhaling, take a second breath into the upper chest through your still open mouth
- Repeat for at least 2 minutes. (FYI, Jenna says the magic happens at the 15 minute mark.)
- When you finish the exercise, return to your normal breathing pattern and rest for at least five minutes.
“The magic happens at the 15 minute mark,” Jenna says. “And if you really want to cool off, try splashing your skin with water and meditating while wet!”
If you’re one of the many people who find it difficult to meditate on your own, Jenna offers an online audioguide.
The power of mind over the matter of hot flashes is real, and studies show how meditation can significantly reduce the amount women are bothered by hot flashes and night sweats.
By focusing on what’s happening inside you physically, emotionally and mentally, you become aware the differences between thoughts, feelings, and sensations. This allows you to react more thoughtfully and calmly to situations in your life.
Fitness and Meditation teacher Amber Susa, owner of Allomi studio in Redondo Beach, CA recommends closing your eyes and envisioning yourself in an environment that makes you feel cool, and experiencing it with all five senses.
- Imagine yourself sitting at the edge of the ocean
- Feel the cool breeze on your face, and the mist from the water on your skin, and imagine the feeling of the breeze flowing over it
- Hear the sounds of the water as the tide comes in and out
- Smell the salty air, and taste the drops of salt water that touch your mouth as the waves approach and recede.
- As you splash the water on your arms and your face, you feel relieved and healed
- Focus on a calming phrase (mantra) such as “I am in control. My body is my ally. I’m connected to my body and I feel coolness within,” and repeat it mentally.
Do a search on YouTube and you’ll find guided meditations specifically for hot flashes and night sweats. You can also try a meditation app like Headspace, or Clarity which is designed specifically for women dealing with menopause.
“Mindfulness meditation not only helps you control inner heat, it also helps you stay calm, Amber says.“ When there’s overheating there's anxiety. You panic because you have no control and that makes it worse. When you trust the rhythms of the body and its natural intelligence, you just feel better all around.
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