Shat Kriyas – Yogic Cleansing Processes
Shat=6, Kriyas = action; 6 yogic actions to cleanse your body naturally
Shat Kriyas or Yogic cleansing processes are an integral part of yoga as they help eliminate accumulated toxins from the system. The body functions like a machine and like a machine it has to be continuously cleaned and maintained. It is this cleansing of toxins like mucus, gas, acid, sweat, urine and stool that improves its functioning. Kriyas also help prepare the body and condition it for the proper practice of yogasana and pranayama.
The objectives of the Kriyas are to:
« Cleanse the inner tracts – respiratory tract and digestive tract.
« Develop an inner awareness.
« Desensitize the possible hypersensitive reactions in the pathways (as in nasal allergy).
« Build the stamina and the forbearance capacity.
The six cleansing processes are:
Trataka, Neti, Kapalabhati, Dhauti, Nauli and Basti or Vasti
These kriyas clean the eyes, respiratory system, food pipe and tone up abdominal viscera and the intestines. They also build up resistance to diseases, sharpen the mind and wash the colon. Apart from cleansing the system, as a whole, the kriyas also provide a massaging effect on the areas applied. All kriyas may be learned from a knowledgable yoga instructor.
for eye sight
Trataka is an important eye exercise done by focusing the eye on a selected object (to be performed with the help of your yoga teacher). Sit in an erect, comfortable position and place an object (usually a burning candle but may be another uplifting object like a flower) at eye level at a distance of around three feet from the face. This should be done in a closed room to ensure a steady flame. After closing the eyes for a few seconds, open them and gaze at the brightest spot of the flame above the wick. Continue doing this without moving the eye ball or blinking. Concentrate on the object until eyes are tired or watery. Relax, close eyes and feel the after image of the flame. Open your eyes as it fades away. Repeat the procedure for another four to five times. Then close eyes and relax completely. This exercise can be done any time. It is however recommended that you do it early in the morning or late at night, daily for 15 to 20 minutes. The body may not be moved throughout the practice.
for upper nasal tract (from throat to nostrils)
Neti means cleansing and clearing of the nasal passage. The nasal cavities can get clogged with impurities which may cause infections, inflammations and headaches. This practice is ideally done in the early morning after brushing your teeth, though it can be practiced at any time of the day. The two main types of nets we focus on are: Jalaneti and Sutraneti. Before doing Jalaneti and Sutraneti, a few drops of warm ghee are placed into each nostril while in the supine position. This lubricates and eases elimination of mucous through the nostril. The face is then covered with a folded towel and pressure is applied around the area near the nose.
Jalaneti: Jala means water. So water is flushing your nose otherwise known as the nasal douche. Jalaneti is another technique for nasal cleansing, the only difference being that the cleansing is done with salt water. This is done with a special kind of vessel with a spout called Neti Lota. Boiled water is cooled until it is lukewarm and mixed with a teaspoonful of salt. The concentration of salt and the temperature of the water is maintained throughout the practice. Thereafter, the person has to stand erect, stoop forward and insert the spout gently into one of the nostrils; tilt the head slowly to the other side so that the water runs into one nostril and comes out through the other. The nozzle is not pushed into the nostril as this can cause damage. The person is breathing normally through the mouth (inhalation through the nose will propel water into the mouth) which allows the water to flow freely through the other nostril continuously like a stream. The process is repeated for the other nostril. Jalaneti is then followed by the proper drying of the nose by bending in all directions and exhaling forcefully, as any water residue can cause a cold or Sinusitis.
Sutra Neti: Sutra means string. A rubber string (catheter) of size between 1 mm and 3 mm may be acquired from any medical store. Select a size which you feel is comfortable for you to use, through trial and error or through expert advice.
- Take the rubber catheter in your hand and very gently insert the tube inside your left nostril. Take care not to rush it; do it very slowly as it can irritate the sensitive membrane inside the nostril. Many people have mild nasal septal deviations, which is more or less harmless. If the deviation is acute then one may feel a block while inserting the rubber tube. Seek expert guidance in such cases.
- Push the tube into your nostril upwards, till it hits the back of the throat. At this point the tube will bend and go down the throat. Continue inserting the catheter slowly.
- Open your mouth and use your middle and index fingers to grab the tube from inside your throat. This takes a little practice. Once you get the knack of it, you can do it with ease.
- Pull the tube out so that part of it is just outside the mouth. Never leave the other end of the tube, which you are holding with your other hand.
- Now using both hands move the tube in a massaging motion to clean the nostrils and throat.
- Repeat the procedure with the right nostril.
- After the practice is over, remove the catheter and clean it. Store the catheter in a clean place for another day’s next practice.
Benefits of Neti
- It helps to maintain the nasal hygiene by removing the dirt and bacteria trapped along with the mucus in the nostrils.
- It de-sensitizes the sensitive tissues inside the nose, which can alleviate rhinitis, allergies and some types of asthma.
- Several health problems like sinusitis, migraine, headaches, can be reduced by doing Neti.
part of this are excerpts from : https://www.yogicwayoflife.com/sutra-neti-nasal-cleaning-in-hatha-yoga/
for lower respiratory tract (from nostrils to lungs)
Kapala means skull or head and bhati means shining: it is said when you practice this kriya your face will shine and you will glow.
- Sit comfortably with your spine erect. Place your hands on the knees, palms open to the sky. Or have one palm on your tummy.
- Take a deep breath in through your nostrils and expand your abdomen.
- As you exhale, pull your stomach inward. Pull your navel back towards the spine as much as you comfortably can. You may keep your right hand on the stomach to feel the abdominal muscles contract. Pull the navel in.
- As you relax the navel and abdomen, the breath flows into your lungs automatically.
- The inhale is automatic and comes without effort and can barely be heard. The focus on the exhale only.
- Take 20 such breaths to complete one round of Kapalabhati.
- After completing the round, take a comfortable inhale, lower your chin to the chest and hold your breath as long as you comfortably can.
- Relax with your eyes closed and observe the sensations in your body.
- Then lift your chin and exhale; after take 3 more deep breaths.
- Do two more rounds of Skull Shining breathing technique.
Don’t worry about the inhalation but let it happen automatically, focus on the exhalation like throwing it out of your body
Keep your face soft without distortion.
Be still and relax the shoulders.
(for digestive tract up to stomach)
Dhauti is a very important technique of auto-cleansing the digestive tract. While there are many kinds of Dhauti, the most important ones are explained here.
Vastra Dhauti is known to be beneficial in cases of Asthma, Bronchitis, chronic cough and other respiratory disorders. It removes excessive bile and phlegm from the stomach. It is effective in indigestion.
This is done with a white muslin cloth (about 14 feet long and 2’’ wide). The cloth must be sterilized and kept in a closed container. This strip is dipped in lukewarm water and one end is taken deep into the mouth using the index and middle fingers. The cloth is then swallowed slowly and carefully along with the saliva. With the help of some warm water, the cloth is swallowed little by little until only a small portion remains outside. This is followed by Nauli or Uddiyana Bhanda. The strip is then drawn out slowly with both the hands. The whole process does not exceed 10 minutes.
This process is practised on an empty stomach only and the strip is removed within 10 minutes of insertion. The person remains quiet. In case of an itching sensation, stop for a while and continue insertion after the feeling has passed. Persons suffering from gastric and duodenal ulcers, hypertension, heart problems and hernia do not practise this kriya. As always learn from an expert teacher and only perform maximal once in a week.
Vamana Dhauti or Kunjal
Vamana Dhauti is recommended for patients suffering from indigestion, asthma, diabetes, constipation or chronic colds. It cleans the upper portion of the gastro-intestinal tract by removing excessive mucosal secretions and bile from the system.
For this procedure, lukewarm water is flavored with aniseed and cardamom. While in Kagasana, the person drinks four to six glasses of this water or as much as possible in quick succession until she/he feels nauseated. Immediately after this, standing up, the person bends forward and inserts the first three fingers of the right hand far back into the mouth until she/he vomits and the water gushes out of the mouth. This process is continued until all the water comes out and the stomach is empty.
Vamana Dhauti is practised early in the morning on an empty stomach. The water is drunk quickly. If required, Jalaneti may be practized immediately after. In cases of bronchial asthma, diabetes, constipation, arthritis and flatulence, a little salt can be added to the water to expel the accumulated phlegm and other toxins from the digestive system. However, a person suffering from stomach ulcers, heart problems and hernia avoids this kriya. On the other hand, persons suffering from high blood pressure can practise this kriya with plain water or aniseed cardamom water without salt, under expert guidance. This kriya may be practized once a week or more often if required.
Hrid Dhauti and Danta Dhauti
Hrid dhauti is cleansing the tongue and danta dhauti is cleansing the teeth. Since ancient times, hatha yogis traditionally broke off small branches of the fibrous neem tree and used it as a brush to clean their teeth. The idea of cleansing the tongue, however, may be a more novel idea to many people. The tongue is like a thick, plush carpet that traps and holds food and bacteria. Several mail order firms sell stainless steel tongue scrapers. If these are not available, use a spoon or a toothbrush. A scraper, however, is far superior. The technique is a simple one: Gently scrape the tongue, removing plaque, coatings, and build up. Rinse your mouth when finished. (http://www.encognitive.com/node/3100)
for abdominal muscles and internal organs
(Agnisara is the preparatory phase for Nauli)
Nauli means isolation of the abdominal recti (Abdominal muscles). This yogic technique massages the entire abdomen by contracting and isolating the belly (abdomen) muscles (especially the rectus abdominis).
It is an abdominal exercise and is practised in a standing position with both legs apart and bending slightly at the knees and stooping forward. With the fingers spread wide, place the hands on the thighs just above the knees. Inhale deeply. While exhaling, the abdomen is contracted back towards the spine and downward and forward strokes to the abdominal recti are maintained. The recti will contract and stand out isolated from other muscles. This is Madhyama Nauli.
Vasti or Basti
Colon Cleansing, Enemas
This practice is unusual like most of these Kriyas but unusually beneficial as well, especially for the people with the complicated concoction of a modern diet. Vasti refers to the lower potions of the torso. The traditional means of practice are by sucking water, or even air, right through the anus into the colon. The water or air is then expelled again, carrying flushed waste matter. Practicing it this way requires excellent control to say the least. An easier method is through inserting a tube which carries medicated oil, herbal concoctions, water or coffee. Typically it is an enema. Many diseases are a result of toxicity from the colon and intestines being picked up by surrounding tissue. Unhealthy food or bad combinations trigger the intestines to produce mucus to protect the body from soaking up toxins. If this occurs regularly the mucus can turn into a kind of plaque which is hard to shed unless by fasting and colon cleansing.
The yogic kriyas evolved in times before sanitary conditions, refrigeration and clean food were as commonplace as they are today in many countries. Although they may have been more necessary back then, the kriyas remain useful and valuable techniques today. You may practice nauli, neti, hrid dhauti, tratakum and kapalabhati on a regular basis; but reserve the other kriyas – vasti, variasar, gaja karani and kunjala – for medicinal purposes or for preventative health reasons a couple of times a year. Follow a clean and healthful diet and never use the kriyas as antidotes to overeating or bad dietary habits. If you have questions about the advisability of, or the techniques for, any of these practices, please consult a qualified teacher or an ayurvedic health professional.