Shatkarma – Yoga Cleansing Technique

Shatkarma means body cleansing technique in yoga. Its translation from Sanskrit means “six actions.” They help to balance three doshas in our body. Hatha Yoga Pradipika says that everyone who has an excessive fat or mucus should practice Shatkarma.

It is better to use it as preventive measure, without waiting for health problems to occur, however, it is also often used for healing purposes.

In total, there are six body purification techniques: Nati, Nauli, Kapalabhati, Basti, Trataka, Dhauti. All Shatkarmas in yoga have a specific purpose. Quick cleansing can be done every day if necessary, while the long and powerful ones are usually done on days free from work and yoga practice, as well as on weekends.

Jala Neti – nasal passages and sinuses cleansing procedure

For this technique, you will need a special neti pot and saline solution (1 tsp. to 0.5 liters of water) to rinse nasal passages. Jala Neti helps to get rid of mucus from the nose, improves eyesight, has a beneficial effect on the condition of the ears, and strengthens intuition.

How to do Jala Neti?

Saline water should be of the same temperature as the body, so you need to pour it into one nostril, tilt the head so that water flows out through the other nostril. Do the same in reverse order.

Open your mouth and breath through the mouth. Water should go through the nasal passages on its own, without any effort. It may take 3-4 procedures to feel the effect. After the procedure, it is necessary to dry the nostrils by breathing Kapalabhati.

Jala Neti is not recommended in the following cases:

  • if there are inflammatory and purulent processes in the nasal cavity (cleaning can cause the move of infection to the inner ear);
  • in the cold season especially if there is a need to go outside after that.

Nauli – cleansing ritual for the digestive system

Nauli is a very important cleansing ritual in yoga. It is an abdominal self-massage when all the abdominal organs and muscles move laterally and vertically while holding a breath. It helps to “fire” digestion, and besides that it balances all doshas.

How to do Nauli?

First of all, practice it only on an empty stomach. 

  1. The first step is Uddiyana Bandha. Standing up straight take a deep breath and while exhaling bend your knees and  lean on your elbows. Try to exhale all of the air, push it out with your abs. 
  2. Make a “fake” inhale and thus vacuum your stomach. 
  3. Hold it as long as comfortable and repeat it several times to warm up the stomach.
  4. While holding Uddiyana Bandha try to relax the middle part of the abdomen keeping the side muscles engaged. Visually it will look like a tourniquet of muscles in the middle of the stomach. Hold it as long as you can, avoid any discomfort. 
  5. After having mastered this practice, you can start “rotating” abdomen from left to right, and then from right to left. To do that you need to relax left side muscles while keeping the right side contracted, then vice versa. After a while you will be able to make a rolling motion with your abdomen muscles. 
  6. Don’t get upset if you can’t do it right away, it will take a while to master Nauli.

There are practically no contraindications for practicing Nauli. The only exceptions are a pregnancy, period, as well as acute diseases of the abdominal cavity.

Experienced yogis can make around 500 rotations per 15-20 minutes session. In this case, there is no need to practice other digestive system cleansing techniques.

Kapalabhati – “skull shining” breathing

This breathing exercise is also kriya, and it is aimed at cleansing the nasal passageways and sinuses, front parts of the brain. As a result, it creates a peaceful state of consciousness and awakens the body energetically. That is why it is better to breath Kapalabhati before yoga lesson and in the morning.

How to perform Kapalabhati?

  • First, sit in a comfortable meditative posture. 
  • Take a deep smooth breath and exhale forcefully, all the abdominal muscles should be engaged. Inhale should be passive, you just need to relax abdominal muscles and it happens itself. 
  • Continue doing it from to 2 to 3 minutes, and gradually extend this time. 
  • Remain your eyes closed, face – relaxed, spine – straight.

People suffering from high blood pressure, serious cardiac disorders, epilepsy, stroke and hernia should avoid practicing Kapalabhati.

Basti – lower intestines and colon cleansing technique

If your digestive system is stable and functions properly, there is no need to do it often. Perform the procedure when it is necessary to cleanse the body or if there are malfunctions of the intestines.

Basti is a yogic enema. To do it you need a clean tap or boiled water, or slightly salted water.

How to do Basti?

Some time ago Basti was performed in the river. A person was sitting in a water and by performing Nauli was willing to “suck up” water into the intestines. By eliminating the water again to the river, a yogi cleansed the lower intestines from all the negative substances.

Today this technique is applied as an Enema with the use of special bottle or any container with the bamboo stick. Such manipulations are performed until clean water comes out.

Due to the fact that only water is absorbed in the colon, and all the other substances are not, removing all the excess from there will be beneficial for the whole body and human well-being.

People having a tendency to constipation should necessarily practice Basti. At first, it is done every day for a week. Then – 3 times a week, then – 1 time per week, and then – 1 time per month or three months. Once again, if there are no digestive problems, there is no need to perform Basti.

Basti is also recommended if there are problems, and frequent colds. These are usually  the signs of toxins overload. This procedure also should be done before practicing starvation in order to get the rectum rid of everything unnecessary. 

Trataka – a practice of gazing

Trataka is an Indian technique when yogi concentrates, gaze on a single object. Thus, it is necessary to fix the view on an external object. Typically, a flame of a candle is such an object.

To practice Trataka you need to sit in a comfortable position in the dark room and put a source of flame at eye level (approximately 20-30 cm from yourself). Now you need, trying not to blink, look at the fire until the tears begin to appear in both the right and left eye. At this stage you should close your eyes with your palms, don’t press. Sit like this for about five minutes. Concentrate and try to visualize the image of a flame at the eyebrow center.

Keep practicing for a month, then take a week break and continue further. It is believed that this exercise not only cleanses the tear ducts and heals the eyes, but also strengthens the Ajna Chakra (“third eye”).

Dhauti – digestive system cleansing technique

Dhauti may also be referred to as Kunjal Kriya. This Indian practice helps to clean the stomach.

This procedure should be performed on an empty stomach (in the morning, or at least 3-4 hours since the last meal). You need to drink 1.5-2 liters of water at once. It can be clean tap water, or slightly salted water, with chamomile or lemon. Immediately after that, you need to put a finger on the root of the tongue and provoke vomiting. Eat some food after 30 minutes.

This practice improves digestion, gives energy, clarifies the mind, and also has a very strong effect on prana.

Shankha-Prakshalana (“shell gesture”) is a more complex technique. It helps to cleanse the entire intestines and stomach. To do this, you need to drink 1-1,5 liters of slightly salted water and perform special asanas helping water to move throughout the digestive system. It causes defecation, and thus cleans your intestines from unnecessary substances.

This shatkarma has a beneficial effect on all body systems.

It is worth noting that If you want to start performing cleansing practices, you must be prepared for them. Adhere to the advice of experienced yoga experts and better do it under their control.

You need to be especially careful with the intestines cleansing techniques to avoid injuries.