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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Yogic Cleansing Techniques: Shatkarma

A disease-free system should be the starting ground for yogasanas and pranayama. There are six specific cleansing techniques, known as Shat Kriyas, which eliminate impurities and help cure many ailments.

1. Vamana Dhouti:
This is a process of cleansing the interior of the stomach. Drink four to six glasses of tepid water, with a little salt added to it, early in the morning on an empty stomach. Then stand up, bend forward, insert the middle and index fingers of the right hand into the mouth until they touch the uvulva. Tickle it until you feel a vomiting sensation. The saline water thus ejected will bring up bile and other toxic matter with it. Repeat the process till all the water is vomitted out. This should be done once a week or as and when necessary.

It is beneficial for cleansing the stomach in cases of excessive bile, constipation, and gastric troubles. Persons suffering from hyperacidity should perform kunjal with unsalted water. It gives relief from headaches, nervous weakness, chronic cold, cough and asthma. It should not be practised by those suffering from high blood pressure, ulcers and heart trouble.

2. Basti (Yogic Enema):
Sitting in utkatasana, naval deep in water, insert a tube in the anus and contract the anus. This cleansing with water is called basti karma. ("Hatha Yoga Pradipika" 2:26)

The practice of basti karma is a process of cleaning the lower abdomen, especially the colon. There are two varieties, viz., Sthala Basti and Jala Basti.

Sthala basti
Sthala or dry basti is performed while lying on the back. Assume Vipareeta karani mudra but position back at a 60° angle to the floor. Then bring the knees down to the chest. Push the sphincter muscles out and in, so air is sucked into the bowel. This is not an easy practice and jala basti has to be perfected first. Sthala basti can also be practised in paschimottanasana, performing ashwini mudra. Uddiyana may also be required in the beginning. In paschimottanasana it is not easy to suck in air as there is pressure on the anus, so it is best to start in an inverted asana. After practising basti, do not take food for one & half hours.

Jala basti
If a river is not available, practice can be done over a bucket or basin of water. Beginners will have to start by inserting 8mm catheter into rectum. Traditionally, a bamboo tube was used. Plastic tubing or a catheter is suitable but organic material is always preferable. The tube should be at least 13-15cms long, preferably smooth and hollow. Lubricate it with beeswax or non-irritating oil such as Vaseline or ghee.

Insert 4cms of tube into anal passage or as much as possible, then squat over bucket or basin in utkatasana. Exhale and perform uddiyana bandha. If water is not sucked up through tube into bowel, then do madhyama nauli and hold. If water is still not sucked up do vama, or dakshina nauli. When you can no longer hold kumbhaka, remove catheter or tube without exhaling. Then stand up and exhale slowly through nose. When you expel water it is best to squat over toilet because stool in lower intestine will also come out. If catheter is not removed before exhaling, water will pass out and tube may get blocked by pieces of stool.

After much practice catheter will not be necessary as you will be able to suck water into bowel directly, but that is a very advanced stage which may take years to perfect. When practising without catheter you have to push rectum out as far as possible, then draw it in with uddiyana. First you open sphincter muscles with fingers, perform uddiyana and remove the hand. Maintain kumbhaka for as long as possible and then slowly exhale.

After the practice, make sure all water is expelled. Then lie in shavasan on a blanket. Slowly assume pashinee mudra, placing knees beside ears and balancing or backs of shoulders, hands clasped behind back of knees. This releases air from bowel and induces a bowel action if there is any water remaining.

Come out of the position slowly and lie in shavasana again. Then fold knees to chest, hold them and slowly rock from side to side, or rock with arms stretched out to the sides at shoulder level. Lie in shavasana again, and when you are ready, perform bhujangasana slowly 3-5 times. This exerts pressure on lower intestines and releases any remaining water or air. Those who are able should perform mayurasana. Pashinee mudra is the most suitable counter-pose.

It is extremely important that water used in basti is perfectly clean and neither too hot nor too cold. In cold weather lukewarm water should be used. It is not necessary to add salt to water but catheter must be sterilized before and after use. Basti can be done in warm or hot weather, especially if you are also doing intense pranayama and bandhas. Basti generates energy but also removes heat from the system. It must not be done during cloudy, rainy, windy or stormy weather.

3. Jalaneti:
Most diseases of the nose and thraot are caused by the accumulation of impurities in the nasal passage. Jalaneti is a process of cleansing the air passage of the nostrils and the throat by washing them with tepid saline water. Take a clean jalaneti pot. Put half a teaspoonful of salt in the pot and fill it with lukewarm drinking water. Stand up and tilt your head slightly to the right. Insert the nozzle of the pot in the left nostril and let the water flow into it. Inhale and exhale through the mouth, allowing the water to flow out through the right nostril. Reverse this process by tilting your head to the left and letting the water flow from the right to the left nostril.

Jalaneti should be practised only in the morning. It will relieve sore throat, cold, cough, sinusitis, migraine, headache and cases of inflammation of the nasal membranes. It keeps the head cool and improves vision.

4. Nauli - Abdominal Massage:
Lean forward, protrude the abdomen and (the muscles) from right to left with speed, this is called nauli by the siddhas. ("Hatha Yoga Pradipika", 2:33)

Nauli Kriya is intended for regenerating, invigorating and stimulating abdominal viscera and gastro-intestinal or alimentary system. For practice of Nauli you should know Uddiyana Bandha. Uddiyana can be done even in a sitting posture; but Nauli is generally done while standing.

Stage-I: Do a strong and forcible expiration through mouth and keep lungs completely empty. Contract and forcibly draw abdominal muscles towards back. This is Uddiyana Bandha. This is first stage of Nauli. Uddiyana Bandha terminates in Nauli.
For practising Nauli, stand up. Keep right leg a foot apart from left leg. If you keep up feet close together, at times you may lose balance and stumble down. Rest your hands on thighs, thus making a slight curve of back. Then do Uddiyana Bandha. Do this for one week before proceeding to next stage.

Stage-II: Now allow centre of abdomen free by contracting left and right side of abdomen. You will have all muscles in centre in a vertical line. This is called Madhyama Nauli. Keep it as long as you can with comfort. Do only this much for a few days.

Stage-III: Here you should contract right side of abdomen and allow left side free. You will have muscles on left side only. This is called Vama Nauli. Again contract left side muscles and allow right side free. This is Dakshina Nauli. By having such gradual practices, you will understand how to contract muscles of central, left and right sides of abdomen. You will also notice how they move from side to side. In this stage you will see abdominal muscles only in central, right or left side. Practise this stage for a week.

Stage-IV: Keep the muscles in centre. Slowly bring to right side and then to left side in a circular way. Do this several times from right to left side and then do it in a reverse way from left to right side. You should turn muscles always with a circular motion slowly. When you advance in practice you can do it quickly; but you can derive full benefits of this Kriya when you do it very slowly and gradually. This last stage of Nauli will appear like 'churning' when abdominal muscles are isolated and rotated from side to side.

Beginners will feel slight pain of abdomen in first two or three attempts. They need not fear and stop the practice. The pain will vanish away in 2 or 3 days. When Nauli is demonstrated by advanced Yogic student, onlookers will be extremely surprised to look at movements of abdominal muscles. They will feel as if an engine is working in abdominal factory.

When beginners want to do Dakshina Nauli, they should slightly bend towards left side and contract left muscles. When they want to do Vama Nauli, let them bend a little to right side. In Madhyama Nauli, push entire muscles forward by contracting two sides.

This exercise is not at all possible for those who have a barrel-like belly. When they find it difficult to carry their own belly, they cannot at all dream of getting success in this Kriya. They can also try by gradual slow practice. For getting success, they must exert hard and have rigorous practice for a long time. Those who have a tender body can very easily learn and perform this Kriya in a beautiful and efficient manner.

If Yogic exercises are done in right way with right mental attitude, it will surely lead you to spiritual growth. Nauli Kriya eradicates chronic constipation, dyspepsia and all other diseases of gastro-intestinal system. Nauli helps Sang Pachar and Basti Kriya also. The liver and pancreas are toned. The kidneys and other organs of abdomen function properly. Nauli is a blessing to humanity.

5. Trataka:
In yoga, four exercises have been prescribed for strengthening weak eye muscles, relieving eye strain and curing of eye disease. They are known as ‘Trataka ‘, which in Sanskrit means ‘Winkles gaze at a particular point." or looking at an object with awareness. 

The four tratakas are: Dakshinay jatru trataka in which, with face forwards, eyes are fixed on tip of right shoulder; Vamajatru trataka, in which eyes are fixed on tip of left shoulder; Namikagra trataka, in which eyes are focussed on tip of nose, and Bhrumadhya trataka, in which eyes are focussed on space between eyebrows. 

These exercises should be practiced from a meditative position like padmasana or vajrasana. The gaze should be maintained for as long as you are comfortable, gradually increasing period from 10 to 20 and then to 30 seconds. The eyes should be closed and rested after each exercise. Persons with acute myopia should perform the tratakas with their eyes closed.

6. Kapalbhati:
Kapala means ‘skull’ and bhati means ‘shine’. This is a respiratory exercise for the abdomen and diaphragm. The channels inside the nose and other parts of the respiratory system are purified by this exercise. In the process, the brain is also cleared.

Sit in a comfortable position, preferably in padmasana. Exercise the diaphragm by exhaling suddenly and quickly through both nostrils, producing a hissing sound. Inhaling will be automotive and passive. The air should be exhaled from the lungs with a sudden, vigorous inward stroke of the front abdominal muscles. The abdominal stroke should be complete and the breath should be expelled fully. While inhaling, no willful expansion is necessary and the abdominal muscles should be relaxed. This exercise should be done in three phases, each consisting of 20 to 30 strokes a minute. A little rest can be taken in between. Throughout, the throacic muscles should be kept contracted.

Kapalbhati enables the inhalation of a good amount of oxygen which purifies the blood and strengthens the nerve and brain centres. This kriya provides relief in many lung, throat and chest diseases like chronic bronchitis, asthma, pleurisy and tuberculosis.

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