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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SHATKARMA: Internal Cleansing Practices

We have developed a practice of cleaning our external body through bathing since our childhood. But do we ever think that cleaning of internal body is equally important? We spend a lot of time cleaning and bathing the outside skin, hair and teeth but cleaning of internal body remains neglected most of the times.. The yogis in the ancient times developed different practices for keeping the internal body cleansed so as to ensure that the different systems in the body keep functioning at their optimum level. The idea was that the body was like a temple, and it was to be kept clean. In today’s times, when we inhale tons of pollution everyday and pure food is a distant dream, this cleansing becomes all the more important!

Modern science may have whatever definition of health but Yogis say that “when a Man forgets his body, then he is in Health”. WE can feel the disease free and painless body only if we keep the internal body as clean as the external body.

Shatkarma, is defined in Yoga, as a cleansing process or a group of purification practices. These techniques are used to cleanse a person’s nasal, alimentary and excretory tracts. Shatkarma consists of six groups of purification practices. The aim of Shatkarma is to create harmony or a balance between the two major Pranic channels-Ida and Pingala Nadis. It also helps to regulate the prevalence of the Doshas i.e. (Kapha-mucus, Pitta-bile, Vata-wind).

In this series we will discuss 3 of the techniques. i.e. Jala neti, Kapalbhati, and Kunjal kriya (Vaman Dhauti). Remember, these practices are best done under expert supervision.

The benefits:
  • Removes mucus and pollution from the nasal passages allowing air to flow freely.
  • It also helps to manage respiratory disorders such as Asthma.
  • It brightens and adds lustre to the eyes.
  • Neti can be practiced everyday if one is suffering from sinusitis, cold or headache.
  • This is an important practice for people living in this part of the world, given that they spend almost all their time in an air-conditioned environment.
A special ‘neti pot’ is used for this purpose; a teapot with a nozzle that fits in the nostril may also be used. Jal Neti is best done in the morning. Luke-warm water mixed with a pinch of salt is filled in the neti pot.

How to practice:
  • Stand comfortably with your legs apart. Lean forward.
  • Tilt your head to one side and slightly backwards.
  • Begin inhaling through the mouth.
  • Gentle insert the nozzle into the uppermost nostril, ensuring that no water leaks from the side of the nostril.
  • Tilt the neti pot, such that the water runs into the nostril and not down the face.
  • Adjust your body posture to ensure that the water passes out through the other nostril.
  • Once all the water is finished, tilt the head back to the upright position and allow the water to come out of the nostril, by blowing gently.
  • Now, repeat with the other nostril.
  • When you have finished, ensure that all the water is removed from the nostrils by practicing Kapalbhati Kriya.
  • Rest after the practice.
Caution: Those who suffer from chronic bleeding in the nose must consult a yoga therapist before practicing.

KAPALBHATI (Frontal Brain Cleansing)
Kapal refers to the ‘Frontal Brain’, and Bhati means ‘to cleanse’. Kapal Bhati is the cleansing process or technique of the frontal brain.

The benefits:
  • Destroys all mucus disorders from the sinuses and relaxes the facial mucles and nerves.
  • Keeps the face young and glowing.
  • It helps to clear mind-clutter, and improves focus.
  • It is also a very good exercise for the cardiovascular system.
How to practice:
  • Sit comfortably. Place palms on knees as shown, keep back straight, close your eyes.
  • Exhale forcefully and rapidly through the nose in quick succession, pulling the stomach in towards the spine as you exhale. Inhalation will be automatic and passive.
  • Practice 50 exhalations at a stretch.
  • Repeat 3 times. This kriya can be practiced everyday.
  • Rest after the practice.
Caution: People suffering from High BP, heart disorders, nasal-bleeding should consult a yoga therapist. Also, often people may experience dizziness when they begin to practice Kapalbhati; do not feel discouraged, you will get used to the practice. If this condition remains, even after a while, consult a yoga therapist.

KUNJAL KRIYA (Voluntary Regurgitation)
The benefits: Highly beneficial for people suffering from asthma, acidity, indigestion and other digestive disorders. It also helps to release emotional blockages. How to practice:
  • 4-6 glasses of luke-warm water, each mixed with quarter teaspoon of salt is used in the practice. Kunjal Kriya is done on an empty stomach. It may be practised once a week, or forthnight.
  • Stand comfortably.
  • Drink at least 4-6 glasses of the above preparation as fast as possible.
  • When the stomach is filled, you will vomit automatically.
  • If not, use the 3 fingers of your hand (index, middle and ring fingers) to gently rub and press the back of the tongue. Rub your tongue, till you begin to vomit water.
  • Continue doing this, until all the water has been vomited out.
  • Rest after the practice.
Caution: People suffering from hernia, high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, should consult a yoga therapist.

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