Shatkarmas help in purification of the body. Maximum benefit of yoga can only be achieved with regular cleansing of the system.
There are six different types of Shatkarmas:
- Neti : Nasal cleaning, including jala neti and sutra neti.
- Dhauti : Cleansing of the digestive tract.
- Nauli : Abdominal massage.
- Basti : Colon cleaning.
- Kapalbhati : Purification and vitalisation of the frontal lobes.
- Trataka : Blinkless gazing.
Maintaining Nasal hygiene
Neti is one of the six purification methods in Hatha Yoga. When the sinus cavities get clogged with impurities, infections, headaches, and inflammations set in. There are six different practices for body cleansing which help to prepare the body and the mind for higher Yoga practices- called Shatkarmas.
Shatkarma that deals with Nasal hygiene is referred to as Neti. Nasal hygiene is linked to many conditions like a migraine, sinusitis, allergies, headaches, and asthma. It is a very simple practice that can be done first thing in the morning after brushing your teeth. It relieves problems like sinus and nasal cavities.
Sutra neti is a Hath Yoga Technique which helps to clean the nasal cavity. Sutra Neti is one of the six techniques of neti. The other frequently used netis are; Jal Neti- with water, Sutra neti with a cotton string and Dugdha Neti with milk.
Sutra Neti is a waxed cotton string, used to clean the nasal cavity. The cotton string is inserted through the nose and taken out of the mouth. Both ends are held with the hands and the nasal cleaning is done by moving the string in a to and fro motion. These days rubber catheter is more popularly used which is easily available in the medical store. A rubber catheter is available in sizes between 1mm to 3mm. Take advice for the correct size or through trial and error method.
Gently insert the rubber catheter inside the left nostril. Do not rush it as the sensitive membrane may get irritated with it. A septal deviation is commonly found amongst most people, which is harmless. In case of acute deviation, a slight blockage may be felt. It is best to seek expert guidance in such cases.
Keep pushing the tube upwards till it reaches the back of the throat. The tube will start bending downwards. Open your mouth and insert your index and middle finger to grab the tube.
Use both hands in a massaging motion to clean the nostrils and throat.
Repeat the procedure with the other nostril. Store the catheter in a clean place.
Benefits of Sutra Neti
Sutra Neti and Jala Neti have similar benefits. When the nasal cavities get clogged, it may result in inflammations, infections, and headaches.
Sutra Neti helps to maintain nasal hygiene as it removes the dirt and bacteria trapped in the mucus of the nostrils.
The sensitive tissues inside the nose are desensitized, which may alleviate rhinitis, asthma and some types of allergies. Several health problems like a migraine, sinusitis, headaches, can be reduced with Neti.
Jala Neti is a yogic technique to clean your sinuses. To do Jala Neti (Neti using plain warm saline water), you need a Neti Pot, some salt, and water. Neti pot is a small pot with a long spout on the side which is inserted into one of the nostrils during the practice. It can be made of copper, steel, ceramic or even plastic. It is available in most health stores that sell yoga products. Prepare salt-water by mixing 1 tablespoon of salt to one liter of warm water. The salt should be of the right proportion and the water should be slightly warm so that it does not irritate the tissues inside the nostrils. Neti practiced with water is called Jala Neti. Neti can also be done using milk and is then called Dugdha Neti.
How to Practice Jala Neti (using water to clean Nasal area):
Salt is added to warm water and poured into the neti pot. The conical end of the spout is inserted into one of the nostrils.
You may need to tilt the head to allow the flow of water. Breathe through the mouth. The procedure should be continued till the water in the pot finishes.
The process should be repeated number of times, depending on the need and available time.
Sneezing and coughing may occur as the nose feels irritable. You will find relief after a few sessions.
Benefits of Jala Neti (Nasal Cleaning with Water)
Neti helps to maintain the nasal hygiene by removing the dirt and bacteria trapped along with the mucus in the nostrils. Neti helps avoid allergies, rhinitis, and asthma as the sensitive tissue is desensitized in the nose.
Neti reduces other ailments as a migraine, sinusitis, headaches, middle ear and tinnitus infections of the ear.
It can help lessen sore throats, respiratory problems, dry coughs, and tonsils and improve the vision by clearing the eye ducts. It further gives clarity to the mind by removing depression and tension.
Dhauti Shatkarma is also known as Gaj Karn. Gaj refers to the elephant in Sanskrit. The technique is inspired by nature. The elephant uses this technique to relieve itself from nauseous due to high acidity in the stomach, or because he has eaten something bad or indigestible. The elephant reaches deep into his gullet with the trunk and sucks out the ingredients. The technique is used to get relief from food allergies and Asthma.
How to Practice Dhauti Shatkarma:
Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in two liters of warm water (40°C). The water must be drunk by the glass while standing in an upright position. After bending forward slightly, press the left hand into the lower abdomen and extend the index and middle fingers of the right hand down the throat, keeping the tongue down to induce nausea.
Within half a minute the remaining quantity of water will come out.
Frequency: This technique may be repeated twice a week preferably in the morning on empty stomach.
Beneficial for high acidity, asthma, and high allergies. Removes halitosis or bad breath.
People suffering from high blood pressure or glaucoma are advised not to practice this exercise.
Nauli Shatkarma- Abdominal Massage
Nauli – Abdominal Massage
The Sanskrit word nauli comes from the root word ‘Nali’ or ‘Nala’ meaning a tubular vein and rectus abdomini. ‘Nau’ means ‘ship’- the abdominal muscles appear to flow as the rolling waves in the ocean.
When the rectus abdominii muscles are rotated anticlockwise, from left to right, it is called ‘Dakshina nauli.’ When they are rotated clockwise, from right to left, it is called ‘vama nauli’.
First, the abdominal wall is sucked in and up at the end of an exhalation while controlling the breath. The partial vacuum in the chest cavity occurs and the abdominal organs are all taken up to higher than the normal position in the trunk. This is referred to as ‘uddiyana bandha.’
Then the muscles are pulled together so that the middle group of muscles protrudes (referred to as ‘madhyama nauli,’ ).
Note: Nauli should not be performed by those suffering from, hypertension, heart disease, high blood pressure, hernia gallstones, duodenal or peptic ulcer.
Pregnant women should not practice Nauli. However, after childbirth Nauli must be practiced to strengthen the pelvic and abdominal muscles to strengthen the inner organs’ positions.
Benefits of nauli:
Nauli kindles the digestive fire, and removes sluggish digestion, indigestion, and all the disorders and brings about happiness. Nauli is great for toning the abdominal muscles, intestines, nerves, reproductive, urinary and excretory organs.
All the internal parts of the system are stimulated. It balances the endocrine system and helps to control the production of sex hormones.
Nauli is useful for improving indigestion, constipation, acidity, nervous diarrhea, flatulence, hormonal imbalances, depression, sexual and urinary disorders, dullness, laziness, lack of energy and emotional disturbances.
Through its practice, one can control sensual desires and strengthen one’s willpower.
The word “Basti” or as “Vasti” is a Sanskrit word meaning cleansing of the colon. The procedure entails cleansing of the colon with aid of water. Basti Kriya is performed by sitting navel deep in water (in ‘Utkatasana’). A tube is then inserted through the anus and the anus is then contracted.
The “Jala” Basti or “vari basti” means cleansing the colon with water. The water is sucked into the anus through a 0.8 cm catheter tube, and the procedure is performed.
After the water is sucked up, exhale and remove the tube, and then squat over the toilet. It is preferred to squat over the toilet to expel the water as the lower intestines also cleanse out. It is highly important to exhale before the removal of the tube as this ensures complete cleansing without remains of pieces of stool remaining in the lower intestines.
After the practice, make sure all the water is expelled. Then lie in shavasan on a blanket. Slowly pull-up the knees towards ears with hands clasped around back of the knees. This releases the air from the bowel and induces bowel action if any water is left.
Then return to Shavasana. Again fold up the knees to chest and rock from side to side. You can also either stretch out your arms at shoulder level or rock from side to side.
What kind of tube should be used?
The tube must be about 13cm to 15cm in length, smooth in texture and hollow. Though catheter or plastic tube may be used, ideally, use of organic tube is always preferred. Before inserting, the tube is lubricated with beeswax or other non-irritating oils as ghee or Vaseline. The tube is inserted 4cms into the anal passage.
The enlargements of glands and spleen all arise excess wind. Basti increases the appetite, and senses and mind get purified. Excess bacteria, thread worms, and old stool are all removed. Apana Vayu is pushed upward and pressure is felt in the stomach.
Practicing Basti cures digestive problems like constipation and disorders. It controls nervous diarrhea and strengthens the solar plexus. It improves muscle tone, improves blood supply and purifies the blood.
Basti should not be practiced by those suffering from high blood pressure, hernia or serious digestive ailments. It treats ailments as dysentery and colitis. But expert guidance must be taken prior to practicing under such circumstances.
Kapalbhati also referred to as the “’frontal brain purification technique” is a pranayama technique which invigorates the entire brain and awakens the dormant centers, responsible for subtle perception. The word ‘Kapal’ means cranium or the forehead and ‘Bhati’ means splendor and light or perception and knowledge.
How it works?
It involves vigorous inhaling and exhaling motion that cures all mucous disorders. In normal breathing, there is an active contraction of the inspiratory muscles – diaphragm and external intercostal, and expiration happens when this contraction stops. In kapalbhati, the process is reversed. Exhalation becomes active and inhalation becomes passive. This stimulates reversal in the flow of nerve impulses to the brain and from it, bringing about the stimulation and awakening of the brain centers.
The 3 forms of kapalbhati that are practiced are vatakrama, vyatkrama, and sheetkrama. Vatakrama is most commonly practiced.
Prepare the body for vatakrama: Keep the spine erect in sidhasana (meditative pose), eyes closed and relaxed, hands in Gyan mudra, and body in complete stillness or kaya sthairyam.
Inhale deeply through nostrils and then make 50 rapid respirations, emphasizing more on exhalation. Inhalation is short through the nostrils between the rapid exhalations through the mouth, pursing the lips.
- Practice Kumbhka: pause between an inhale and an exhale.
- Perform jalandhara bandha: In Sanskrit, Jal means “throat”, dharan means “stream” and bandh means “lock”
Extend the neck by lifting the heart and dropping the chin into the chest.
- Observe moola bandha: mool meaning root in Sanskrit.
For men, it means to contract the area between the anus and the testes and for women, it means to contract the muscles under the pelvic floor and behind the cervix.
- Observe Uddiyana bandh: Uddiyana means to rise up or fly up in Sanskrit. The insides fly upwards, intangibly referring to the energy and tangibly referring to organs as a diaphragm, stomach, and abdominal organs.
Before inhaling, release (upwards) moola bandha uddiyana and jalandhara in this order.
How much to practice?
Practice 3 rounds of 50 reps each. Increase the rounds to 5 and since hyperventilation does not occur in Kapalbhati, you can take up the reps to 200.
If you experience dizziness, it means that you are using more force than required. The key isti use more awareness and less force.
The acharyas define Trataka as looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed. It is a simple but powerful exercise. The two forms that are practiced are the “bahiranga” or external trataka (focusing on a present object) and the “antaranga” or internal trataka (having a clear and stable inner visualization of an object).
Most commonly used symbol is a candle as after closing the eyes, the impression remains naturally for a little time allowing “antaranga trataka” to be performed with ease.
Trataka helps to concentrate the mind and get rid of oscillating tendencies and a point of concentration referred to as “ekagrata” may be reached.
How does it work?
The brain starts giving out alpha rays when the object gets habituated and seizes to register. When the mind is restricted to one particular sense, the mind is turned off. Complete absorption in single perception withdraws contact from the external world. In trataka, a “blanking out” visual perception occurs and in this state, the central nervous system starts to work in isolation. This state is referred to as “sushumna.”
Trataka removes all eye diseases, sloth and fatigue, and physiological and mental dysfunctions. It must be preserved and kept like a golden secret. It is therapeutic in insomnia, depression, anxiety, allergy, postural problems, poor memory, and concentration. It relieves helps improve and build strong willpower, and memory. It removes headaches and eye strain, astigmatism, myopia, and early stages of cataract. The eyes not only become clear but can also see reality.
Regular practice of yoga-asanas may produce many health benefits, including increased fitness and normalization of blood pressure, lower levels of stress and increased feelings of happiness and well-being. This is because concentrating on the postures and the breath acts as a powerful form of meditation. All postures of yoga-asanas should be practiced including lying postures, sitting postures, standing postures, Inverted, or upside down postures.
Yoga-asanas improves the cardiovascular system (heart and arteries). Studies show that regular yoga-asanas practise may help normalize blood pressure. The digestive system is also affected with the improved blood circulation as the massaging effect of surrounding muscles speeds up a sluggish digestion.
The Skeletal joints are moved through their full range of motion, which encourages mobility and eases pressure. The gentle stretching releases muscle tension and increases flexibility. Maintaining many of the asanas encourages strength and endurance. Weight bearing asanas may help prevent osteoporosis, and may also help those already diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Long term benefits include reduced back pain and improved posture. With the improved blood circulation, easing of muscle tension and the act of focusing the mind on the breath all combine to soothe the nervous system. Long term benefits include reduced stress and anxiety levels, and increased feelings of calm and well-being.