Ayurveda includes answers to almost all ailments and professes a deep love for a clean body and a tranquil mind. Indian Upanishads and Vedas sing songs of praises and laurels, depicting the effectiveness of Ayurveda to combat ill health and imbalances in the body.
Hatha Yoga, a form of traditional yoga style, is knitted with some Ayurvedic cleansing processes to achieve a higher level of assimilation with the divine.
Shatkarma therapy has been used by yogis to defeat the imbalances between the three doshas – Vatta, Pitta, Kapha (Doshas are the energies that make up every individual, which perform different physiological functions in the body) – and also, to harmonize the two integral nadis: Pingala and Ida. These two nadis or energy systems are responsible for spinning of the chakras in our system, their health and vitality is of great importance. Shat means Six and Karma means the act of doing, therefore Shatkarma translates to the six acts of doing to cleanse the body from head to toe.
These practices helps to remove all toxins and impurities that would form any kind of blockages. Please note: The shatkarma therapy should be conducted initially under personal guidance by a teacher or a guru and not alone. This article would introduce the techniques and methods briefly for awareness of all.
Neti is the process of cleaning the nasal passage and throat. It removes mucus and pollution from the nasal cavities. There are two types of Neti: Jal Neeti and sutra neti – both are directed towards enhancing the flow of air and removing all obstructions.
Useful in pranayama and other higher meditation process, it reduces allergies and prevents cold, cough and sinus problems. It helps to clean the eyes, ears and Eustachian tube as well as increases awareness of Ajna chakra. This practice also enhances facial beauty & maintains youthfulness. Feel instantly light and fresh on doing these netis on a regular basis.
A special neti pot made of plastic, brass, clay or glass is used in Jal Neti. It is filled with lukewarm water mixed with salt in proportion of one teaspoon per half litre. The practitioner has to squat and fix the nozzle of the pot in one nostril so that the water flows from the other. This would deeply cleanse the nasal passage. The practice is then followed by standing Kapal bhati to dry out the nostrils.
Sutra Neti on the other hand, requires a thin, rubber catheter/tube which is dipped in ghee or edible oil. Again in a squatting position the catheter is pushed in from one nostril and slowly taken out from the throat to mouth. As shown in the image and then gently pulled back and forth for massaging the tract.
Dhauti kriya (exercise) is a series of yogic practices that cleanses the stomach and digestive system. It removes excess mucus from the chest and acidity of the stomach along with relaxing the bronchial tubes.
It also eliminates asthma, allergies and creates a sense of detachment between mind and body. The Dhauti kriyas consists of three parts: Sutra Dhauti, Jala Dhauti (Kunjal) and Shankha Prakshalana in order to achieve complete cleansing from throat to stomach.
In Sutra dhauti a new, washed cotton cloth, which is 3 meters long and 2 and half cms wide is used. Sitting on a low stool, one end of the cloth is dipped in water and other end is swallowed by the practitioner slowly and steadily. The vomiting sensation is to be neglected as it is normal but the process needs to be continued until instructed to stop. After churning the stomach for complete movement of the cloth in the stomach, it is gently pulled out.
In Kunjal or Vaman (means to vomit) Dhauti, the practitioner has to drink 2 litres of lukewarm water mixed with salt and then the same water needs to be vomited out. Middle and index finger with trimmed nails is inserted in the mouth as deep as possible to ignite the vomiting sensation. The process can be repeated once a week for a strong digestive system and to release pent up emotions.
Shanka Prakshalana is one of the oldest and most effective forms of cleansing the large and small intestines. 5-6 glasses of lukewarm water mixed with salt is taken and a series of specific asanas is performed. The same procedure is followed 5-6 times. You will feel the urge to visit the washroom over the next few hours, until yellow colour of the water is not observed. Post this, vegetable Khichdi (made from rice and lentils) is consumed for a healthier result.
Nauli or abdominal massage is an ancient practice performed by many sages to keep away gastric problems, constipation, and abdominal fat. By massaging the abdomen, this therapy strengthens the intestines, reproductive organs, nerves and excretory organs.
Spiritually, it stimulates the Manipura chakra, increases mental clarity and aligns the energy flow of the body.While standing in half squatting position after a deep inhalation & exhalation, the abdomen is squeaked in as much as possible and rectus is pulled up.
This creates an arch in the stomach, which is churned from left to right 10-15 times. Nauli is practiced on an empty stomach or at least 5 to 6 hours after a meal.
Basti or yogic enema is a strong cleansing technique that can be performed only after nauli kriya is mastered. It is aimed at cleaning the lower intestines and the colon, removing toxins and cooling the body. This process has to be learned from a qualified yoga instructor.
As stated in ancient texts, Basti kriya is ideally performed in a river, but one can sit in a tub filled with water so water reaches up to the navel. One has to draw in water from the anus into the large intestine. To do this one needs some practice. Try to expand the sphincter muscles of the anus and try to pull water up into the rectum. Hold it for a while and then expel it through the anus. Since this process may be difficult in the beginning, some practitioners insert a rubber or plastic tube into the anus to make it easier.
But in modern times, enema equipments are used to cleanse the body, which is an easier alternative to the practice of Basti. Even Shanka Prakshalana (mentioned above) is another method to clean the intestine.
The frontal brain cleansing pranayama is highly effective and cleanses not only the lungs but also the nadis or energy systems in the body. For further information read Learning the art of balanced breathing.
Trataka translates to look or to gaze, is a fixed gaze meditation focusing on cleansing the eyes and refining the way we perceive things. An effective way to develop strong eyesight, it opens the third eye chakra and also improves memory.
Further, it assists in balancing the nervous system, relieving tension, increasing concentration, releasing emotional baggage and washing away confusion and worries.
A candle is lit and the practitioner needs to unwaveringly look at the flame of the candle. Using it as a centre point to gaze, the eyes should not blink. Eyes might start to water and burn, in such cases it is best to close the eyes and take a few deep breaths before starting again.
Cleansing the body is not new to the yogic practice rather it is used to create a balance in the body, mind and spirit. These purifying exercises will enable the practitioner to take his practice to a new level of harmony & balance.
Please note: Kindly do not practice these therapies until and unless guided by a competent teacher or guru initially.