The Shatkarmas (Yogic Cleansing Techniques)
The shatkarmas are yogic cleansing techniques the cleanse the subtle channels of karma as well as remove impurities and restore proper functioning of the physiology of the body. They are highly misunderstood and not taught in our modern yoga culture that is transfixed upon only physical aspects and asana. These are preparatory processes in the most part that prepare the body for the porcess yet to come. Using the knowledge given in Ayurveda, these processes become timely and more deeply understood as to when and how to create balance of the body and mind. Without these understandings these processes can become dangerous and imbalancing to the health of the person.
The Shatkarmas (Yogic Cleansing Techniques)
(Also called shat kriyas or even kriyas)
1. Dhauti cleaning the stomach
2. Basti cleaning the colon
3. Neti cleaning the nasal passage
4. Nauli cleaning the abdominal organs
5. Kapalabati cleaning the respiratory organs
6. Trataka clearing the mind through gazing
The Original HYP Text
Hatha Yoga Pradipika Chapter 2 verse 21 – 37
21: “When fat or mucus is excessive, shatkarma; the six cleansing techniques, should be practiced before (Pranayama). Others, in whom the doshas, i.e. phlegm, wind and bile are balanced should not do them.
22: Dhauti, basti, neti, trataka, nauli and kapalabati; these are known as the six cleansing processes.
23: These shatkarma, which effect the purification of the body, are secret. They have manifold, wondrous results and are held in high esteem by eminent yogis.
24: A strip of wet cloth four angulas wide (i.e. 7 – 8 cms) and fifteen hand spans (i.e. 1 ½ m) in length is slowly swallowed and then taken out, as instructed by the guru. This is known as dhauti (internal cleansing).
25: There is no doubt that coughs, asthma, diseases of the spleen, leprosy and twenty kinds of diseases caused by excess mucus are destroyed through the effects of dhauti karma.
26: Sitting in utkatasana, navel deep in water, insert a tube into the anus and contract the anus. This cleansing with water is called basti karma.
27: Enlargement of the spleen and all diseases arising from excess wind, bile and mucus are eliminated from the body through the practice of basti.
28: By practicing basti the appetite increases, the body glows, excess doshas are destroyed and the dhatu, senses and mind are purified.
29: Insert a soft thread through the nose to a length of one hand span so that it comes out of the mouth. This is called neti by the siddhas.
30: Neti cleanses the cranium and bestows clairvoyance. It also destroys all diseases that manifest above the throat.
31: Looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed is known as trataka by the acharyas (teachers).
32: Trataka eradicates the eye of all diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway to creating those problems. It should be carefully kept secret like a golden casket.
33: Lean forward, protrude the abdomen and rotate (the muscles) from right to left with speed. This is called nauli by the siddhas.
34: Nauli is foremost of the Hatha yoga practices. It kindles the digestive fire, removing indigestion, sluggish digestion and all disorders of the doshas and brings about happiness.
35: Perform exhalation and inhalation rapidly like a bellows (of a blacksmith). This is kapalabati and destroys all the mucus disorders
36: By the six karmas (Shatkarma) one is freed from excesses of the doshas. Then Pranayama is practiced and success is achieved without strain.
37: According to some teachers Pranayama alone removes impurities and therefore they hold Pranayama in esteem and not the other techniques.”
The term shatkarma or shatkriya translates as ‘six actions’; within each ‘action’ there are several practices. Each one is powerfully purifying, profoundly cleansing at all levels of ‘being’ and induces self-study (svadhyaya) that subtly alters aspects of the manipulative ego-personality. The ancient rishi’s considered them as essential to the practice of Yoga; the body is purified then trained in Trataka (concentration). Gathered together, these six actions form then foundation of the meditative practices of Raja Yoga.
In medieval India Hatha Yoga originally referred simply and precisely this selection of practices, however the use of the term ‘Hatha’ has changed radically since HYP was written; generally Hatha Yoga now refers to asana practice; the shatkarmas are little known and may seem extreme to many on first encounter.
“The goal of all Yogic teaching is, how to concentrate the mind, how to discover its hidden facets, how to awaken the inner spiritual faculties.”
“With most of mankind the mind is very little developed and is entirely under the control of the body. By learning to control the body, we can easily control the mind.” Sw. Vishnu-devananda
“To care for the body is a duty, otherwise the mind will not be strong and clear”
HYP describes vatsara dhauti only; the other dhauti practices are described in the Gherand Samhita.
Ø ANTAR DHAUTI (internal) vatsara (plavini)
vahnisara (angisara kriya)
bahiskirta (anal cleaning)
Ø DANTA DHAUTI (teeth) jihva (tongue)
kapal randhra (frontal sinuses)
Ø HRID DHAUTI (cardiac) vastra (cloth)
vaman (kunjal & vyaghra)
Ø MOOLA SHODANA (base purification)
Though the digestive tract runs continuously from mouth the anus, it tends to be considered as having discrete sections, however it functions as a whole; indeed the mind-body-spirit is an integral system. Dhauti, the cleansing practices, assist the efficient movement of food throughout the alimentary canal. Sluggishness in any section affects the entire tract detrimentally, and also has impact on associated organs that work in tandem with it, e.g. liver, gallbladder, pancreas etc. While the entire existence and continuation of a healthy individual depends on the effective function of the digestive system, it is habitually abused, either through ignorance or desire; the shatkarmas provide methods for redress. Dhauti cleans out old bile, mucus and permits release of impurities from the blood; it becomes possible for the sub-conscious-inner-wisdom of the body to rebalance the natural harmony of the subtle chemistry.
“Shape your lips like a crow’s beak and drink air. Let the air swirl in the stomach for some time and then allow it to dispel itself. Vatsara dhauti is a most secret technique to purify the body. It destroys all diseases and increases gastric fire.” GS 1: 15 – 16
Perform kaki mudra; assume a meditation position, placing the hands in either gyana or chin mudra and relax consciously. With the eyes open, focus on the nose tip (nasikagra drishti); avoid blinking. Make the mouth into a beak by pursing the lips, relax the tongue, and breathe in slowly and deeply through the “crow’s beak” (kaki mudra). Through training, work out how to bring the air into the stomach and not the lungs; there is a knack to closing the epiglottis and with a sudden push, a little air goes into the stomach; swallow the air into the stomach while expanding the abdomen; repeat this breath up to ten times until the belly is fully distended. Take up an inverted posture such as pashinee mudra (the folded psychic attitude – halasana with the knees dropped to the ears and the hands folded between the knees). This allows the air to pass out of the anus.
Benefits of this practice are related to the mudras adopted and the effect of the air through the digestive system making it work more efficiently, removing gas and wind and preventing acidity and heartburn. The air can also be burped (Bhujangini mudra). Some air is normally taken in as one eats, it can be as much as half a litre! The stomach functions better with some oxygen; this practice removes stale gasses.
Gyana mudra means the psychic gesture of knowledge.
Chin mudra means the psychic gesture of consciousness.
Kaki mudra soothes and cools the body and mind, purifies the blood and stimulates the digestive fire.
Pashinee mudra creates a state of harmony and peace in the nervous system naturally bringing about Pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses, while stretching and stimulating the spinal muscles and deeply massaging the abdominal organs; the awareness is held on either mooladhara or vishuddhi chakra.
Shanka means a conch and prakshalana means cleaning out.
A short practice, laghoo shankhaprakshalana, can be done once a week (every day in the case of constipation) with no dietary restrictions. The full practice should be done once or twice a year under guidance at an ashram.
Laghoo shankhaprakshalana (short intestinal wash)
This should be done on an empty stomach in the morning. Prepare two litres of warm salty water (ratio 2 tsp salt : 1 litre). In a squatting position quickly drink two glasses of this water. Then dynamically execute five asanas that relax and stimulate the sphincters and nerves of the intestinal tract letting the water flow through; –
a) Tadasana arms stretching up overhead and lifting onto the toes.
b) Tiryaka tadasana
c) Kati chakrasana
d) Tiryaka bujangasana
This is a complete round.
Without a break drink two more glasses of the water, complete that round and a third followed by uddiyana bandha with nauli.
Go to the toilet and if there is no bowel movement, do not strain, it will come later on.
It is usual to complete the practice with kunjal kriya and neti.
Benefits; – This kriya supports normal functioning of the intestines, relieves flatulence, constipation, acidity, indigestion, menstrual cramps, asthma, acne and boils etc. It also prevents urinary infections and the formation of kidney stones. The addition of fasting or partial fasting enhances the practice. It counteracts the bowel malfunctions that cause a decrease in the natural cleansing of the intestines due to low-grade food, a sedentary lifestyle, or gradual organic breakdown. In many cases the tract can be like a pipe clogged up by lime-scale.
In healthy people this purification of the body sharpens the mind and creates dynamic vitality, permitting the intensive yogic practices leading to states of higher awareness.
VARISARA (WASHING OF THE INTESTINES)
This is similar except that the rounds are continued until the intestines are completely flushed through and almost clear water flows on evacuation. Typically this would consist of eight rounds, but can take anything from 20 to 50 glasses of water and two to four hours. By this time the digestive tract is completely cleaned out. In the first phase the faecal matter is eliminated; in the second only yellow water is passed, the osmosis of the intestinal wall is reversed, and the blood is cleansed as toxins are drawn from the major organs of the body by the action of the salty water. The guidance and encouragement of a guru is needed as this ‘marathon’ may take several hours. It is followed kunjal kriya and jala neti, then silence and warmth, total rest without sleeping. 45 minutes later a special meal of rice, ghee and lentils (kitcheri) relines the stomach and maintains the tone and peristalsis of the tract preventing indigestion, diarrhoea and constipation. For the duration of the day the body is rested, but sleep should be avoided for three hours (lest there are headaches or lethargy); rest on the next day also. There should be silence and no physical or mental work done. Another meal of light watery kitcheri should be taken six hours after the first.
There are food restrictions for the following month (essentially a pure, simple, neutral diet).
Benefits; – The action of this kriya is much more effective in purifying the system of disease. Laghoo will achieve the same results but more slowly. These practices achieve the same results as extended fasting; both thoroughly clean up the lower gastrointestinal tract.
VAHNISARA (AGNISARA KRIYA)
“Push the navel against the spine a hundred times.” GS 1:19
Both vahni and agni mean fire, sar is essence = essence of fire = Manipura chakra; the practice creates internal heat.
Standing or sitting in bhadrasana, exhale, apply jalandhara bandha and push the abdomen in and out rapidly 10 to 15 times, or for as long as the out-breath can be held. Another method is to extend the tongue, pant like a dog and move the abdomen in rhythm with the breath. Fifty is sufficient.
Benefits; – Agnisara kriya counteracts the sedentary lifestyle which can lead to many hidden inefficiencies in all the koshas and to underperformance at all the levels of being human. It deeply massages the abdominal organs, reduces abdominal fat, strengthens the muscles, especially after child birth; stimulates the relevant nerves and so harmonises all abdominal conditions of the bowel, liver, kidney, spleen, pancreas and digestion – allowing optimum assimilation of nutrients. It has a dynamic effect on the five pranas (panchapranas), raising energy levels and easing dullness and depression.
BAHISKIRTA (ANAL CLEANING)
“It is not easily available, even to the gods” GS 1:23
This requires controlled prolapse of the rectum so that it can be washed outside the body.
JIHVA MOOLA DHAUTI (TONGUE) means cleaning the root of the tongue.
Thoroughly wash the hands and clean the nails. With index, middle and ring fingers joined, bringing the tips into line, gently place them as far back into the mouth as possible and rub the root of the tongue slowly and thoroughly, cough out any phlegm. Milk the upper and lower surfaces of the tongue.
This must be done on an empty stomach, as there can be a sense of retching if one rubs too hard or reaches too far back.
Benefits; – Impurities that the body is trying to expel collect as a coating on the surface of the tongue; regular cleaning removes this breeding ground for bacteria, preventing self-contamination.
Karna (ear) Glands in the outer canal of the ear produce wax to protect the deeper structures of the ear; this can accumulate and block the vibrations of sound.
Nothing smaller than the little finger should be placed in the ear.
Clean and trim the nails, place the little finger in the ear and rotate it gently and apply some pressure to the ear walls to dislodge wax; remove the finger; tilt the head to that side and shake out any bits of dry wax; repeat with the index finger. Wash the layer of wax off the fingers and repeat for the other ear.
Benefits; – Hearing can be impaired by a build up of wax.
Kapal randhra (frontal sinuses)
Vigorously wash the top of the head with cold water. (This term is also used for cleaning the upper back palate.)
Benefit; – This gives immediate transformation from sluggishness to wakeful vitality, soothing the whole brain.
Simply press the thumbs on the temples and rotate first in one direction then in the other. Aim diagonally upward and straight backward from the temples. This cooresponds to the sutures of the cranium, frontal bone, temporal bone, and pariatal.
Benefit; – Eases headache and brings relaxation to the brain, removing sluggishness.
Wash the eyes with clean lukewarm water whenever time permits.
Benefit; – The eyes are refreshed and tiredness is relieved.
Danta dhauti (teeth) cleaning the teeth with a special stick (neem or babool), but normal toothbrush etc can be used.
VASTRA DHAUTI (CLOTH)
A cotton cloth (3 cms wide by 4m) is used, kept in warm water during the practice. The sadhak squats on the ground or sits on a low chair. Consciously relax the whole body; an end of the cloth is chewed gently like food (but do not shred it) so that saliva is secreted to ease its passage, and then swallowed. If there is difficulty in getting the cloth down one may use a sip of water, but restrict the use of water. Sweetened milk may be used instead of water if that makes it easier. The stomach is to be filled with cloth and not with water. To resist the urge to vomit as the cloth initially passes the back of the throat, wait a few moments until the spasm passes and try again; once it is past the trachea this sensation ceases. Gradually 3 meters of cloth are chewed and swallowed, avoid letting it bunch in the mouth, until about 30 cm remains in the hand.
Practice nauli; first dakshina, then vama followed by rotation and madhyama nauli.
The cloth can be left in the stomach up to 15 minutes (but no longer or it could enter the intestine). Five minutes is sufficient to clean the stomach; beginners may find that one minute is enough. Agnisar kriya can be practiced instead of nauli.
Squat and gently but firmly draw the cloth out, there could be some resistance initially, take care not to pull too hard. It will be thick with mucous.
Benefits; – In Ayurveda the seat of kapha dosha is in the mucus element of the chest and stomach; in this practice the mucous from the chest is loosened and removed. It has a great reputation in treating asthma perhaps by creating a chain reaction in the brain and relaxing the bronchial tubes. The autonomic nervous system is toned by consciously controlling the reflex to vomit. Vastra dhauti thoroughly scrubs the walls of the stomach and stimulates peristalsis and the digestive juices; it brings both pitta (bile element) and kapha doshas back into balance, improving all conditions related to the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Danda dhauti (stick)
A soft banana stem, sugarcane stick or turmeric root is inserted into the stomach. A thin catheter is usually used nowadays.
VAMAN (KUNJAL & VYAGHRA) KRIYA (VOMIT)
Vyaghra means ‘tiger’, a couple of hours after eating his food the tiger regurgitates it; in this practice the meal is vomited three hours afterwards, by using saline water or pressing the very back of the tongue.
Benefits; – Working on the principle that the food that has been easy to digest passes quickly through to the intestines, leaving the most difficult and least nutritious; this remainder needs a lot of energy and activity from the digestive organs to process and eliminate, for very little gain: the tiger vomits what is left three to four hours after eating. The Yogi can copy the tiger to clear the stomach of its contents so that practices can be performed where it is advisable to have an empty stomach (e.g. Pranayama).
KUNJAL washes out the digestive tract from the mouth to the stomach with warm salty water, it is done first thing on an empty stomach; there is no unpleasant taste, smell or nausea. About 35,000,000 glands line the stomach and secrete several litres of digestive juices during the day; the practice permits these to function more efficiently. Prepare about three litres of lukewarm water per person; (1tsp salt: 1 litre): if the water is too cold it will chill the body. Using salty water for kunjal kriya inhibits the secretion of acid into the stomach.
Clean the hands and scrub the nails thoroughly.
Relax the body and the mind and focus on the concept of cleansing the Temple of the Pranas. Begin to drink the water. Keep drinking glass after glass of the prepared water as rapidly as possible in succession, until you can not take another drop… and then drink one more, until the sensation of fullness reaches right up to the back of the throat. This is important. The oesophagus should be filled right to the top with water.
As you lean forward horizontally over a bucket, tuck one fist under the left ribs, so that there is pressure on the stomach organ. Press the back of the tongue firmly with the fingers of the other hand and slide the fingers down the back of the throat. This should spark the reflex, and the water should gush out, as it does, remove the fingers; if it does not, press the root of the tongue more firmly and consciously relax.
Follow on with jala neti.
Keep warm afterwards and wait 30 minutes for the stomach to reline itself with mucus before eating.
Benefits; – This practice cleanses both the upper alimentary canal and the respiratory system. There is great psychological benefit to be gained both from overcoming the initial conditioned reaction of disgust at the idea of this practice, and from learning to control the pyloric sphincter at the bottom of the stomach. If we had more care and respect for the stomach there would be no need to do this kriya, but we all tend to abuse our digestive tract on a massive scale.
Intentionally vomiting may seem unnatural; the inner-wisdom of the body uses it as an action of last resort to rid it of poison, or over-rich food, however washing the organ regularly has a curative effect.
Kunjal removes impurities that can contaminate the body causing hyperacidity, halitosis, phlegm and sore throats; it robustly enhances general health by permitting the best possible assimilation of nutrients. Gastroptosis occurs when a residue of undigested food collects in the bottom of the stomach, which becomes prolapsed below the pyloric valve, this causes fermentation and distension, creating impaired health through auto-poisoning.
Kunjal gives wonderful relief to sufferers of biliousness who may observe their expelled water as being green; this indicates that over-secretion of bile has found its way from the intestines into the stomach, causing a nauseating bitter taste.
Asthmatics may observe large globs of phlegm in the expelled water; here the strong reflex from the pyloric valve will have loosened mucus secretions from the bronchial tubes. Kunjal is recommended as a safe procedure even during an attack, as the forceful action of the vagus nerve releases the spasm in the respiratory system. Even though drinking the water quickly is difficult when breathing is laboured, the stomach should still be filled to bloating. Daily Kunjal is recommended for asthmatics. (Please practice under the guidance of a qualified teacher)
The powerful contractions during kunjal improves the muscle tone and circulation in the entire abdominal area and raises the internal body temperature.
It is especially recommended for those with cold extremities.
MOOLA SHODANA (BASE PURIFICATION)
“If the person does not practice moola shodana then the apana (function of elimination) does not pass freely. Clean the anus with the finger then repeatedly wash it with water. This practice removes the hard fermented stool from the lower colon. Abdominal ailments are removed, the body becomes graceful and healthy and one’s digestive fire improves.” GS 1: 43 – 45
This will seem most offensive to many but, along with Amaroli (Shivambui), it has the most liberating effect in awareness and acceptance of the body, grounding and connecting with the pelvic floor in a very practical way.
In India turmeric roots are easily available and are used; turmeric is astringent, anti-biotic, a blood purifier and stimulates peristalsis. In many ways a finger is better because it can be manipulated into the pockets of the rectum and ease out hard faecal matter. The hands should be very thoroughly cleansed afterwards.
Ensure that the fingernail is short, clean and not snagged.
In a squatting position use ghee, oil, soap or water as a lubricant and, insert the index or middle finger into the anus about 2cms and then gently rotate it in both directions simultaneously pushing the finger further into the rectum. Continue rotating and inserting as deeply as possible, stimulating the nerves and functions of the rectum. Remove and wash and repeat several times using firm but gentle pressure on the walls of the rectum. Contracting and releasing the anal sphincter (ashwini mudra) will intensify the practice. Wash the anus with cold water to stimulate blood flow.
Benefits; – There is a rich supply of blood vessels and nerves from the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems at the anus; it is these blood vessels that so easily distend to form haemorrhoids. Moola shodana stimulates these and supports the function of the whole elimination system, encouraging strain-free elimination. The rectum is cleaned of encrusted waste matter, which hardens onto the thinly walled plexus of blood vessels creating haemorrhoids, bleeding, scabbing and rectal pain. It has a direct action on easing constipation. Haemorrhoid suffers need to begin the practice very cautiously and gently pushing back the distended varicosed veins into the rectum and massaging very carefully. Combining daily moola shodana with laghoo shankhaprakshalana, elimination will become much easier and as the haemorrhoids heal more pressure, rotation and repetition can be used in moola shodana.
“Without regular cleansing of the system you will not gain maximum benefit from your practices. Without the purification of the body one will not be ready for the higher practices of yoga. When the body is free the mind also functions properly.”
2. BASTI to perform basti you must be adept in uddiyana bandha and nauli.
Ø Jala (water)
Ø Sthala (dry)
“Basti karma is said to be of two types – jala and sushka. Jala basti is done in water while sushka is done on land (that is in air). Stand in utkatasana in water to the height of the navel. Contract and expand the anus. This is called jala basti. Urinary, digestive and wind problems are cured by jala basti. The body becomes pure and looks like Kamadeva (Cupid). (Sushka ) Sit in pashimottanasana and do basti. Contract and expand the anus (ashwini mudra) This practise prevents abdominal problems. It stimulates digestive fire and eliminates wind problems.”
GS 1: 46 – 50
JALA BASTI (WATER)
Either standing in deep water or using a bucket of water and a 20cms plastic tube gently inserted into the anus; perform uddiyana bandha and madhyama nauli sucking the water up into the anus (this can be a bit of a knack). Hold for a few breaths. Expel the water and stool into the toilet. Repeat until the stool has been evacuated. Now more water can be taken in. Madhyama nauli is repeated many times until the colon is as full as possible, followed by rotational nauli. The water can be held in for ten minutes to release encrusted stool. The practice can be repeated until the water is completely free of stool. Do shavasana, pashinee mudra, shavasana, and bhujangasana slowly five times to release any remaining water or air.
Variation; – A more approachable method that gives the same benefits is to perform ashvinni mudra while sitting in cool fresh water up to the navel.
Benefits; – Basti generates energy, removes heat from the system, develops strength and control of the abdominal muscles, massages and tones the organs and nerves. Water basti is better as it completely scrubs out the intestines. Air basti stimulates peristalsis. Both are good for constipation. If intending to go on a fast it is recommended to do basti to thoroughly clean out the intestines permitting the greatest purification of the body. Sushka basti can be done very frequently but jala not as often; it is desirable for there to be a certain amount of stool and it’s associated bacteria in the colon. Advanced Yoga practitioners use basti to cool down the abdominal heat generated by their practice (sadhana).
STHALA BASTI (DRY YOGIC ENEMA)
Just as described in the Gherand Samhita; sit in pashimottanasana and perform ashvinni mudra 25 times sucking air into the bowels; retain it for some time and then expel it.
Benefits ; Cleans the colon and removes flatulence.
“In Yoga, control of the body starts with the cleansing processes known as the kriyas, the first step to eliminate poisonous substances accumulated in the system”.
3. NETI Practice before Pranayama, to clear the nasal passages and improve respiration.
Ø Sutra (thread)
Ø Jala (water)
Ø Dugdha (milk)
Ø Ghrita (ghee)
SUTRA NETI (THREAD)
Traditionally this was done with a bundle of cotton threads, carefully twisted and soaked in beeswax, but now a thin rubber catheter is used. Very gently insert the sutra into the left nostril until it is felt at the back of the throat. Reach into the throat and pull it out through the mouth. Gently pull the sutra back and forward several times before removing it. Repeat for the other nostril. (With the cotton only, the sutra can be passed back into the other nostril, until both ends hang out of the mouth; it is then joined so that it is a loop and gently passed through the passages until the join is outside the body at the nostrils. Then the sutra is passing in through one nasal passage across the back of the nose and out the other nasal passage, after a few movements of the sutra, it is slowly removed. This practice greatly assists in balancing the airflow of the two nostrils.) This could be done once a week followed by jala neti. If the passages are particularly blocked jala neti can be done both before and afterwards.
Benefits; – Pranayama practices should always be preceded by sutra neti Through the frictional massage of the airways the membranes are strengthened and able to work more efficiently, to clean, warm, humidify and disinfect the air before it reaches the lungs, so that the air entering the lungs is in optimum condition. Many people breathe through their mouths because their noses are too blocked; this leads to infections, asthma, and emphysema. Many yoga practices cannot be performed correctly without being able to breathe through the nose. Sutra neti stimulates the nerves and related brain functions of the eyes, tear ducts and olfactory zone; it increases mucus briefly, flushing out the secretory glands and removing stagnation of the blood, increasing resistance to invasion by viruses. Sutra neti clears away dried up mucus deposits and foreign bodies and should be followed by jala neti to flush out the passages. At a more subtle level, the neti practices engage the other koshas and stimulate the ajna chakra, the midbrain psychic centre.
JALA NETI (WATER)
A suitable pot (lota) should be used such as the one in the picture, filled with salty water (1 tsp salt: ½lt lukewarm water). Using salt reduces discomfort; it has a higher osmotic pressure than pure water and will not be as easily absorbed into the membranes, the salt kills any bacteria present and flushes out viruses. Keep the mouth wide open so that you can breathe, insert the nozzle of the pot into a nostril and tilt the head while raising the pot so that the water will flow in though one nostril and out through the other. After 30 seconds or so put down the pot and clear the nose. Repeat for the other nostril. Clear the nose. Jala neti is followed by bastrika to dry the nose. Bellows breathe with one nostril closed, then the other, and then with both open. Agni kriya can be done also until the nose is dry.
Benefits; – Jala neti can be done at any time of day (even several times a day if one has a cold), to remove the breeding ground for germs in the olfactory zone. Jala neti is effective in the conditions of sinusitis, inflammation of the adenoids, eyes, throat, tonsillitis, catarrh, headaches, insomnia and tiredness. The soothing effect on the brain is influential on depression, epilepsy, migraine and tension-stress conditions. The practice improves all other ailments of the respiratory system such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia etc. From an esoteric perspective, clearing impediments to the free flow of air has a profound effect on all the other koshas of the body, which has a great influence on psycho-spiritual health. An over looked aspect of jala neti is bastrika. Daily practice of bastrika may have phenomenal effect in and of itself, research is continuing as to the effect it has on catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine), their action on neuro-transmitters and consequently on immune function, pain reduction and health. Bastrika mimics the action of prolonged belly laughing. Madan Kataria in Bombay has developed this ancient yogic breathing technique into a vast enterprise, Laughing Clubs International. Bastrika (and laughing) gets the heart rate to over 120 beats per minute faster than any other form of exercise without any cardiovascular risk or metabolic demand, and there is a rapid return to base rate.
4. NAULI (RECTUS ABDOMINII MUSCLES)
Ø Dakshina (right)
Ø Vama (left)
Ø Madhyama (middle)
These three practises require a proficiency in Uddiyana bandha with the ability to hold external breath retention (bahir kumbhaka) for some time.
Madhyama nauli Perform uddiyana bandha then contract the rectus abdominii muscles so that they form a central arch running vertically in front of the abdomen. Continue as for Uddiyana bandha.
Vama nauli (left) Perform madhyama nauli then isolate the left side of the rectus abdominii and contract as strongly as possible without straining; return to madhyama nauli and continue as for Uddiyana bandha.
Dakshina nauli (right) Perform in the same way but isolate the right side.
Abdominal rotation After the above have been mastered, ‘churning’ can be achieved by transferring from vama to dakshina to vama gradually working up to several consecutive rotations.
Benefits; – The rolling, rotation and agitation of the entire abdomen during nauli gives deep massage and profound toning to the abdominal muscles and organs. It generates heat in the body, stimulating digestive fire and balancing the endocrine functions, which leads to change in emotional disorders, lethargy and diabetes. On an esoteric level, nauli has a profound effect on pranamaya and manomaya koshas, creating mental clarity and power and increasing the storehouse of prana in Manipura chakra.
Ø Vatakrama (air cleansing breathing)
Ø Vyutkrama (reversed)
Ø Sheetkrama (cooling)
Vatakrama kapalabati (breathing)
This is the same as the pranayama practice.
Vyutkrama kapalabati (reversed)
Prepare lukewarm salty water (ratio 1 tsp: ½ litre); relax the body; snort the water into the nostrils letting it flow down into the mouth; repeat several times. Perform bastrika as for jala neti.
Sheetkrama kapalabati (cooling)
Prepare as above only take the water into the mouth and push it up expelling it through the nose; repeat several times. Perform bastrika.
Benefits; – similar to jala neti but more intensified, with more stimulation to the facial nerves.
Ø Antaranga (internal)
Ø Bahiranga (external)
Bahiranga trataka (external)
Place a candle at eye level 2 to 3 feet away and sit in a meditative posture, practicing kaya sthairyam (steadiness of the body) until you are prepared to be still and steady for half an hour with the intention of being detached from all thoughts arising in the mind; sakshi, the silent witness; perhaps use mantra japa to still the thoughts. Begin gazing steadily without blinking at an object such as a still candle-flame or symbol like Om; if the eyes become strained imagine that the breath is through the mid-eyebrow centre to ajna chakra. Then when the eyes are closed to rest, the subtle form is seen in the mental space, naturally leading to Antaranga trataka. By beginning with external vision, the eyes become steady and concentration develops, if the image ‘moves’, bring it back to the central space. It is important to choose carefully what is the object for focus as a deep impression is made on the mind and many subtle energies and influences are aroused by the practice. Choose something neutral, or choose wisely.
Antaranga trataka (internal)
This is clear, one pointed (ekagrata), concentrated focussing on an object seen within the inner spaces of the mind, Hridyakash or Chidakash. The preparation is the same, but a point of light or symbol is chosen.
Benefits; – The eyes become clear and bright, and, by inducing a strong sense of ajna chakra it begins to create changes in the perception of all psychosomatic experience. Trataka calms, stills and focuses the mind, developing concentration and will power; it begins the journey into Internal Yoga, the deeper levels of Mind (GS indicate clairvoyance and subtle manifestation). This is the stepping off point from physical cleansing to esoteric cleansing.