Shat karmas (Cleansing )
Hatha Yoga describes Shatkarmas (six processes) in details for Body purification and mind purification. Various asanas (yoga pose) six shatkarmas, mudras & bandhas (psychic knots or psycho-physiological energy release techniques) and pranayama are described in old ancient Sanskrit texts of Hatha Yoga (Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gherandasamhita). Yoga has considered internal purification of the human body in depth. The shuddhikriyas (Cleansing Process) have been planned with a view to have total purification of the body before various samskaras are made thereon for baking the body in the fire named Yoga so as to turn the body into a ripe vehicle. The organs where there can be a lot of impurities require these shuddhikriyas. The internal organs, which come into contact with the external matters regularly, need to be purified. The trachea regularly comes into contact with the external air, the food pipe comes into contact with the external food products, and the mind comes into contact with the thoughts of the external world; these and such other organs need to be purified internally. Hence the shuddhikriyas. Certain elements are cured with these kriyas.
Ayurveda has described these shuddhikriyas by the name of Panchkarmas. However, these panchkarmas take help of certain medicines and herbs. In the shuddhikriyas stated in Yoga, the emphasis is on the natural method. Many shuddhikriyas have been described in the Yoga texts. We will consider some of them in this syllabus. Direct study of these shuddhikriyas is expected over here. While studying shuddhikriyas, one should consider the important difference in other yogic processes and the shuddhikriyas. Other yogic processes invariably form part of the daily activity of the human life, but these shuddhikriyas are not to be practiced daily. In fact they are not meant as part of the daily routine. When it is necessary to purify the body, these kriyas may be practiced daily, but when the need is over, the practice is stopped. It cannot generally be stated over here, when the need arises. It depends on each and every individual hence, the processes will be taught over here, but they are not to be practiced daily, but according to the duration which each individual may need. The duration may be different for each shuddhikriya.
The detailed description of each shuddhikriya is given but it is enough to remember that shuddhikriyas are not to be practised like asanas and pranayam in day-to-day life.According to the classical yoga texts, Hatha Yoga involves the following Shatkarmas or Shatkriyas which are in fact little known or practiced in contemporary western yoga classes. There are 6 groups of cleansing techniques: Neti, Dhauti, Nauli, Basti, Kapalbhati, Trataka.
Neti (nasal cleansing) is divided into five part that is 1.Jala Neti(usingwater), 2.Dugdha Neti (using milk), 3. Ghrita Neti (using ghee), 4. Swamootra Neti (using one’s own urine), and 5. Sutra Neti (using a thread).
Dhauti consists of: 1. Chaksua Dhauti (eye cleansing), 2. Karna Dhauti (ear cleansing), 3. Jihwa Dhauti (tongue cleansing), 4. Kapal Randhra Dhauti (scalp cleansing), 5. Danda Dhauti (cleaning the esophagus), 6. Vatsara Dhauti (stomach cleansing with air, also called Bhujangini Mudra), A.Vastra Dhauti (stomach cleansing with cloth), B.Vahnisar Dhauti (same as Agnisar Kriya or stomach massage), Varisara Dhauti also called Laghoo and Poorna Shankaprakshalana (washing from mouth to anus with water), C. Moola Shodhanam (cleaning the anus) 7. Vamana Dhauti includes Kunjal Kriya (stomach cleansing with water) and 8. Vyaghra Kriya (emptying the stomach of excess food),
Nauli is abdominal purification through massage and churning. The various stages are: 1. Madhyama Nauli (central contraction), 2. Vama Nauli (left contraction), 3. Dakshina Nauli (right contraction), and rotational Nauli .4. Bhasti (colon cleansing) can be done with water (Jala Bhasti) or air (Sthal Basti).
Kapalbhati (frontal brain purification) is done by air (Pranayama Kapalbhati) or water (Jala Neti stages 2 & 3)
Trataka (intense gazing to purify the optic and psychic facilities) is done as a meditation practice upon a Yantra or Mandala such as a candle flame, star, photo, statue, gemstone, or any other symbol or object.
Why all these strange ways of cleansing the bodily senses?
The ancient yogis discovered and/or invented these amazing ways of internal cleansing not solely for health (of course that was an obvious by product) but primarily for preparation for higher states of meditation. With today’s unhealthy environment, lifestyles, bodies and minds, these techniques can be used just as effectively by modern people as a physical therapy for a wide range of common illnesses in place of conventional medicines and procedures. But beyond their use as healing techniques for body and mind, the metaphysical effects of these cleansing practices can also help one to gain more from their spiritual endeavors and meditation. At first, some of them may seem rather extraordinary and somewhat disgusting to westerners, but after some explanation and practice, the simplicity and efficacy of them becomes evident, and their adaptation into everyday life becomes effortless and highly beneficial.
The Hatha Yoga cleansing techniques have been used for thousands of years as both preventative and curative medicines. You may only want to learn them for better digestive function or better breathing, but their benefits will gradually show to you the deeper nature of physical, mental, emotional and psychic cleansing.
Out of all the different cleansing techniques listed above which Hatha Yoga has to offer, there are three primary practices which are the easiest to learn and the most efficient for modern people. Easy – in so far as they require no previous yoga experience to perform them properly and efficient – in so far as together, they work quickly and effectively to enable the student to clean out the most commonly troublesome areas of the body, that being: 1) the upper respiratory system and the 2) the digestive system. All 3 of these techniques use warm, slightly salted water to clear out the mucus passages, leaving the body feeling light and clear, and the mind receptive for yoga and meditation practice.