How to Perform Shatkarma Yoga (Internal Cleansing of the body)
In Hatha Yoga, Shat-Karma (Shat means Six in Sanskrit) are the six ways to purify food pipe, stomach, eyes, lower-colon and respiratory system viz Dhauti, Neti, Nauli, Bhasthi, Tratak and Kapalbhati.
Dhauti purification can be classified into four categories viz Antar Dhauti (Internal washing), Danta Dhauti (Dental cleaning), Hrid Dhauti (Throat cleaning), Karna Dhauti (Ear cleaning) and Moola Sodhana (Rectum cleaning).
i) Antar Dhauti (Internal Washing)
Antar Dhauti (Internal Washing) can further be divided into four categories i.e. wind purification, water purification, Agni Sara (fire purification) and cloth purification.
a) Wind Purification
The purification technique can be performed using air but one should learn this kind of exercise from an expert yoga teacher who has mastered these techniques. In this exercise one has to swallow air into the stomach using epiglottis, lock the epiglottis, rests a while and with a push swallow a little more volume of air into the stomach and keep repeating the process till complete stomach is filled with air. After the stomach is filled with air the yogi expels the air out along with foul gases from the anus.
b) Water Purification (Kunjar-Kriya)
In this exercise one has to drink a lot of water empty stomach to his/her maximum capacity and then tickle at the root of the tongue with index and middle finger for vomiting. Do this tickling two to three times so that all water along with toxins from stomach comes out through mouth. Eat very light the day one perform this exercise.
Varisara-Dhauti (Sang-Pachar Kriya)
In this water purification exercise one can drink a large quantity of water and immediately eject the water through its anus. This exercise is difficult to master so should not be attempted without expert teacher.
c) Agni-Sara (Fire Purification)
This exercise can be performed either by sitting in a crossed leg position or in standing position by keeping hands on the thighs. Exhale all the air out of the stomach and lungs and empty them completely. Now in this position, the diaphragm is raised upwards and with breath out, practitioner pumps his stomach (abdominal muscles) in and out at least 10-20 times without inhalation. The above practice is one round. The practitioner can do 5-10 rounds daily. The Agni-Sara is very useful in activating spleen, liver, kidneys and pancreas and is a very useful exercise to shed abdominal fat and get rid of constipation.
d) Cloth Purification
In cloth purification bring one fine muslin cloth having 7.5 cms width and 4.5 meter length and make sure that the cloth is perfectly stitched and properly cleaned. Soak the muslin cloth in tepid water and then rinse the water out of the cloth. Now start swallowing the cloth from either end very slowly and try to swallow at least 30 cms on the very first day and hold it for a few seconds and then slowly pull out the cloth. Day by day increase the length of the cloth to swallow and with practice you will be able to swallow complete cloth (of course keep one end of the cloth outside your mouth to pull the cloth back) and be able to hold it for five minutes. After practice wash the cloth properly with soap/detergent and dry it and keep it in a clean place for next day practice. Never ever hurry up while performing the Dhauti karma. Always perform the karma very slowly to avoid any roughness in the throat. After the internal Dhauti exercises is over then drink some warm liquid (e.g., milk) to lubricate your throat. Morning with empty stomach is the best time to perform this exercise.
One can practice the cloth purification once a day or week. Cloth purification should be practiced with patience and increased gradually to avoid any harm. Initial 2 – 3 times there is vomiting sensation while performing cloth purification. The regular practice of the karma heals Gastritis, Dysperia, Gulma, bile and phlegm problems, stomach and spleen problems.
People who practices the Internal Dhauti or internal purification exercises regularly, never requires purgative/laxative. Also as per Ayurveda, all disease starts from stomach and the said techniques keep ones stomach clean and healthy and the practitioner never has any kind of disease.
ii) Danta Dhauti (Dental Cleanning)
It is cleaning of the teeth and massaging the gums and nowadays performed daily by civilized people.
iii) Hrid Dhauti (Throat ant Tongue Cleaning)
It is to clean the throat and the tongue. To perform Hrid Dhauti (Throat and Tongue cleaning) one has to keep his index, middle and ring finger together and then rub gently multiple times starting from the root of the tongue to the middle of the tongue. Wash the mouth with clean water and then gargle with warm salt water. This practice is very good to keep throat infection free. One can perform Hrid Dhauti daily. Also, with the help of right thumb one can rub the point where forehead and right side of nose meets. This is very good exercise to clean the nervous system. This practice is very useful in healing enlarged spleen, abdominal diseases, phlegm and bile disturbances.
iv) Karna Dhauti (Ear Cleaning)
Karna Dhauti or Ear Cleaning is performed when the wax of the ear becomes hard. It is very easy to remove hard wax of the ear using cotton ear buds. Karna Dhauti (Ear Cleaning) should not be done often as it may harm the ear. Also, never pierce the external ear with things like wires, toothpick etc as the ear tissues are very soft.
V) Moola Sodhana (Rectum Cleaning)
It is the cleaning of lower colon with water and is illustrated in Bhasthi.
Neti exercises are intended for the cleaning of nasal passage of the respiratory system. It is very important to keep the nostril clean as unclean nostrils gives rise to irregular breath which leads to disease. The air we breathe contains a lot of germs, dust particles and other foreign matter. A part of our respiratory system is so designed to avoid entering of these foreign matter into the lungs .i.e. these foreign matter should not pass the boundary of nasal passage. Neti exercises help in purifying the nasal passage from such foreign matter using air, water and String. These techniques not only help in preventing foreign matter to enter the lungs but prevent cold and keep the nasal passage and nerves healthy.
Jala Neti (cleaning using water)
This method is easy compared to Suta Neti. Take warm salt water and pour it into Neti bowl. Tilt the head to one side and from the upper nostril pour water from the Neti bowl as shown in the picture and let the water flow out of the other nostril till the bowl gets empty. Keep inhaling through mouth till water is flowing from one nostril to the other. Similarly repeat the process from the other side.
Suta Neti (cleaning using string)
Take one feet long flexible rubber catheter (available on medicine store) or a special cotton string. Push one end of the string in one of the nostrils and keep pushing gradually till it reaches the root of the throat. Now pull the string out of the mouth using fingers. Hold both ends of the string using both the hands and move the string backward and forward 2-3 times very gently to collect excess mucous and foreign particles from nasal passage, pharynx and mouth.
Nauli and Udhiyan Bandha help in strengthening abdominal muscles and also energize liver, stomach and intestines. To practice Nauli one has to Master Udhiyan Bandha or abdominal contraction, then only one should try for Nauli.
Udhiyan Bandha and Nauli can be practiced both in standing or sitting position but for beginners standing position is recommended as it assists free movement of abdominal muscles. To practice Nauli or Udhiyan Bandha in sitting position, cross legs position Padamasan or Sukhasan are fine.
Udhiyan Bandha: To perform the exercise in standing position, stand with about one feet distance between the feet, hands resting on the thighs and trunk bent slightly forward. Take 2 to 3 deep inhale and exhale breathing and then exhale all air out from lungs forcefully. When there is no air in the lungs and the diaphragm is curved upwards, try to pull the intestine and naval towards the back and keep holding the breath without inhaling as long as comfortable. The Udhiyan Bandha can be performed 5 to 8 times with breaks of small intervals.
To practice Nauli the technique is similar to Udhiyan Bandha. Apply Udhiyan Bandha and free the center portion of the abdomen by contracting right and left side of the abdomen. This is called Madhyama Nauli or Central Contraction and aligns all the abdominal muscles in a vertical line. After gaining control of the Madhyama Nauli (central contraction), try to control left side (Vaam Nauli) and right side (Dakshin Nauli) independently.
Technique for left and right abdominal contraction is similar to Central contraction but one has to apply more pressure on the thighs with the respective hand i.e., more pressure on left thigh with in case of Vaam Nauli(Left Abdominal contraction) and more pressure on right thigh with right hand in case of Dakshin Nauli(Right Abdominal Contraction).
Churning or rotating of abdominal muscles faster is done from center to the left and then right with Udhiyan Bandha. One has to lose excess fat before practicing the Nauli. Slight pain in the abdomen is normal for beginners and should go away after 3 to 4 days of practice.
Bhasthi is the yogic alternative to enema to clean the intestinal canal. In Bhasthi a vacuum is created in the intestinal canal and then water is drawn via rectum to clean the intestine canal whereas in Bhasthi the water pressure is used and in some cases water may enter into small intestine and can get absorbed there.
To practice Bhasthi, take a small tube approximately 10 cms in length and push it slowly in rectum through anus to keep the sphincter in open state so that water easily enters the large intestine. Sit in a large tub filled with water and start doing abdominal contraction exercises (Nauli exercises) to create vacuum so that water is drawn through natural means to the large intestine. When water enters the large intestine then the small tube should be removed and after a little more contraction of abdomen (Nauli) the water from large intestine along with wastes from intestines should be pushed out.
Bhasthi may be performed once a week or twice a month to cure urinary problems, digestive problems and constipation.