Shatkarma Kriya

Shatkarma is the Sanskrit term for one of the six yogic purification techniques (kriyas) as outlined in the “Hatha Yoga Pradipika.” The purpose of these cleansing techniques is to keep the body strong, clean and healthy. They are said to remove toxins and anything blocking the flow of prana in the body. Practicing shatkarmas internally purifies the body, which makes pranayama and meditation practice easier by preparing the body to perform these practices without distraction, discomfort or fatigue.The shatkarmas should always be learned from and practiced under the supervision of an experienced teacher. 

As a house stands firmly on its foundation, the same way, in the yogic journey our body needs a strong foundation that becomes the base for whole practices of yoga. The base here we talking for our body is the cleansing of our internal system of organs. In the yogic tradition, this cleansing is known as Shatkarma or Shat kriyas

Modern science says, our internal organ comprised of 11 major systems includes circulatory, respiratory, digestive, excretory, nervous, and endocrine systems. To make sure the healthy & proper functioning of the body as a whole, the cleansing of organ systems is very important on a regular basis. 

Traditionally, there are 6 method yogis used for cleansing of internal organs for a healthy body is called as Shatkarma. 

Shatkarma or Shat Kriya

Shatkarma is a set of 6 preparatory practices used by ancient yogis to purify the body internally, thus prepare them for higher practices of asana & pranayama.  

  • The term Shatkarma is originally taken from the Sanskrit language, which has 2 root words: Shat & Karma
  • Shat means “Six” & karma here is referred to as “Action performed to achieve some desired results“. 
  • Shatkarma also called Shat Kriya as it’s the Hindi translation of the term Shatkarma (Karma = Kriya).

Why Purify Body? Importance of Shatkarma

Consider the human body as a computer system. The external body which we can touch or see is like the hardware of the computer system while the internal body works as a software.

External body or hardware is easy to come in contact thus it gets purified through daily routine activities like wash, bath & brushing, etc. While the inner body organs come in contact with the external matters regularly ( through food, vision, touch, smell) and don’t have any specific routine activities to get purified.

  1. It is important for a yoga practitioner to purify their inner body organs from time to time so as to make sure the proper working of yogic practices on the body. Shatkarma removes impurities of internal body
    organs which got accumulated by regular intake of external matter through different sensory organs.
  2. To make sure the proper flow of Prana (life force) Shatkarma ensures there isn’t any physical/mental knot present in Nadis. Shatkarma, especially Kapalbhati & Nauli balances Prana flow within two important Nadis i.e. Ida & Pingala.
  3. Usually, our mind is cluttered from many unwanted thoughts which in the yogic language are called Vrittis. By the practice of Shatkarma (more especially trataka), we can bring a state of steadiness in mind.

There are mainly 2 traditional texts “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” & “Gheranda Samhita” that have described Shatkarma in a detailed manner. Whereas both texts belong to the teachings of Hatha Yoga, their idea of performing Shatkarma is completely different. 

Precautions of Shatkarma

  • Practice Under Supervision of an expert: Practicing any of 6 Shatkarma needs expertise in that particular kriya, so it’s mandatory to have theoretical as well as practical knowledge. Hence, it’s advised to a beginner to do these kriyas under the supervision of an expert guide
  • Shatkarma Isn’t an Everyday Practice: Most people aren’t aware of the fact that Shatkarma is never advised by ancient yogis to perform daily like asana, pranayama & other disciplines of yoga. It should be practiced weekly or monthly basis depends upon how well your internal organ system works. 
  • Use Clean & Sterile Equipments: While doing Shatkriya make sure neti pot, water, rubber thread, cotton cloth & other equipment are clean and sterile. The purpose of these yogic activities is to clean your body from its core level so the material you are using that should also be clean.
  • Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Practice It: At the time of pregnancy, it is better to avoid doing Shatkriya. If one really wants to do it then she can perform Jalneti and Trataka. Other kriyas may affect the health of the fetus as they are connected with the movement or cleansing of the stomach.
  • Lighten Up Your Diet: 6 Shatkarmas are really vigorous practices for your internal organs system. Until you lighten up your diet, don’t practice Shatkarma as it’ll overwork your organ system & can lead strain in it. 
  • Keep Calm While Practicing Shatkarma: If anybody wants to be a master in Shatkriya then make sure don’t hurry while doing Shatkriya. Any kind of hustle in Shatkarma practice can hurt your internal organs system. 

Shatkarma In Gheranda Samhita

Sage Gheranda is another foremost author of Hath Yoga teachings who emphasized to practice Shatkarma at the very first stage of yoga. 

The Yoga Sage Gheranda propagated is also called Ghatastha Yoga which has 7 limbs, in contrast to eight-limbed yoga that came from Yoga Sutra. 7 Limbs mentioned in Gheranda Samhita are:

According to Sage Gheranda, our body & mind is like a vessel (combinedly called as Ghata) that carry our soul & characteristics Gunas as water inside a vessel. 

Ghatastha Yoga firstly aims to purify the body or vessel that carries a soul, through 6 purification techniques contains in Shatkarma. This purification of body & mind is termed in Gheranda Samhita as Ghata Shuddhi

Thus, the practice of Shatkarma is important for every person who has just begin the journey of yoga as per Gheranda Samhita. 

The sequence of 6 practices of Shatkarma according to Sage Gheranda is also a little different than the HYP sequence. Here shatkarma sequence is:

There are six shatkarmas, each a different purifying technique:

1. Neti

Neti is the third Shatkarma that deals with purifying nasal cavities from accumulated impurities. it’s very important to clear the nasal cavities as it’s the pathway to Prana we take through breathing. 

Breathing works like fuel to charge up the human body. If the fuel (breathing) is dirty by any reasons it can make us sick. unclean nostrils are could be one of the main reasons for irregular breathing. 

Neti Shatkarma is the exercise intended for purification of nostrils by the various techniques. 

Neti is basically of 2 types, based on their procedure.

1. Jala Neti – In this neti, Jala (water) is used as a cleaning tool to remove the impurities of nostrils. Using the neti pot, water is poured in through one nostril & then under the effect of gravity, it’s expelled out another nostril. Water that comes out from other nostril removes impurities from nasal pathways.

  1. Sinusitis-Neti kriya helps with curing sinusitis, ailments of nose, throat and eyes, catarrh, tonsillitis and even inflammation of adenoids and mucous
    membranes.
  2. Cough and cold-Jal neti is very helpful in preventing cough and cold. It also puts a hold on allergic sneezing.
  3. Headache– Headaches are quite common these days. Day to day practice of jal neti helps minimize chronic headache and migraine.
  4. Insomnia-There are many people who are suffering from insomnia and find it difficult to fall asleep. Jal neti is one of the most effective yoga practices to
    cure insomnia effectively.
  5. Drowsiness-Nasal cleansing yoga helps reduce the symptoms of drowsiness, and regular practice can even help with getting rid of it.
  6. Grey hair- Irrespective of age, hair problems are becoming more and more prominent. Jal neti helps with improving the hair health and prevents untimely loss of
    hair, greying of hair and other hair conditions.
  7. Eye diseases-It treats many eye related problems and conditions such as night-blindness, soreness and dimness, etc.
  8. Ear-Ear diseases and infections can also be cured to a great extent with regular practice of jal neti. It can also be said that jal neti is one cure for all
    your ENT-related conditions.1.

2. Sutra Neti – In this neti, a rubber thread (sutra) is used to massage the nasal pathways in such a manner that it opens any blockages present in nostrils. 

Nasal congestion: This is one of the best yoga exercises to clean the nasal region.

Sinus: Sutra neti along with jalneti has the power to cure all nasal related disorders like sinusitis, blockage of nasal passage, etc. It massages the membranes and sinus glands thereby strengthening them. It is also good for nose and throat, tonsillitis and catarrh.

ENT cleansing: The regular practice of this cleansing yoga ensures to rejuvenate the entire ENT region thus prevents with many diseases of this region of the body.

Brain cells: Sutra neti also makes the brain cells fresh and refresh, improves the function of tear duct and olfactory zone of the brain.

Eyesight: It helps to stimulate the nerves and improves functions of the eyes and eyesight.

Protects from viruses and bacteria: It increases resistance to invasion by viruses and bacteria.

Mucous deposit: It clears away the dried up mucus deposits and foreign particles and removes stagnation of the blood.

Balances the nostrils: This practice greatly assists in balancing the airflow of the two nostrils.

Stimulates the Ajnacakra: The practice of this yoga engages the Kosas and stimulates the Ājñācakra, the psychic centre in the midbrain.

Cough and Cold: The practicing of sutra neti is good in the prevention and management of cold, cough and sneezing.

2. Dhauti

What is Dhauti in Yoga?

Dhauti is made up of ‘Dho root word which means ‘Washing’ or ‘Cleansing’. The way, we keep taking shower time to time for cleansing and activeness of body, internal organs need the same for effective working.

As yoga has many physical practices, Dhauti is a preparatory action before involving in any physical practice of yoga. It cleans complete digestive tract or gastrointestinal tract (GI)1 to eliminate accumulated bolus (chewed food) 2 from the top of the alimentary canal to the colon.

Dhauti not only affects the digestive tract but also increases respiratory system  & frontal brain efficiency.

Sometimes Dhauti is also named as Kunjal or Gajakarni kriya. These are Sanskrit names of ‘elephant‘. Indeed, Yogis learned the idea of Dhauti-kriya technique from nature. It’s the same as when an elephant expels out undigested content of the stomach through the deep trunk.

Types of Dhauti

There are different types of Dhauti (internal washing) derived for different parts of the mouth & GI tract. Chosen a particular type, depends upon the practice level (beginner or advanced) of a seeker & the requirement in a yogic system.

There are mainly 4 types of Dhauti according to functioning on particular parts of the body.

  1. Danta Dhauti
  2. Antar Dhauti
  3. Hrid Dhauti
  4. Moola Shodhana Dhauti

A practitioner who is not comfortable with swallowing cloth (in Vastra Dhauti) through the mouth, can simply wash the GI tract with drinking lukewarm water in the beginner level.

An ancient text, Gheranda Samhita , on yoga gives an idea of categorization of Dhauti

1. Danta Dhauti:

Danta Dhauti is the simplest type of Dhauti as it comprises the cleansing of mouth & head parts. It’s of following 4 types.

A) Danta Mula Dhauti

Danta means Teeth and ‘Mula’ means Root. This Dhauti kriya consists cleaning the root of teeth which ensures a long life of teeth.

How To Do: In this Dhauti, the root of tooth rubbed using acacia resin or clean earth. It cleanses and removes any impurities (if present in the tooth).

B) Jhihva Dhauti

Also called Jhiva Shodhana. ‘Jhiva’ means tongue. This Dhauti kriya helps in elongation of the tongue which is said to destroy the old age and any bodily diseases.

How To Do: To perform Jhiva Dhauti, place your index, middle and ring finger into the throat and then rub root of throat continuously up and down (throw phlegm out). This practice activates salivary glands.

C) Karna Dhauti

Karna means ear. Practicing this Dhauti regularly can make you listen to the mystical sounds (Nada).

How To Do: To practice it, simply put ring finger in-ear and rotate it in a circular motion. It cleanses the ear apertures.

D) Kapala Randhra Dhauti

‘Kapla’ means Skull or Head. This Dhauti kriya consists massaging the front head with the thumb.

How To Do: To do this kriya, bring your right thumb at the middle of the eyebrows and rub gently your forehead. Perform this kriya after waking up in the morning, in the evening, and after night meal. It reduces stress, insomnia, and increases vision

2. Antar Dhauti (Internal Dhauti)

Antar Dhauti is the washing of the lower part of the stomach region or large intestine. It’s of following 4 types.

A) Vatsara Dhauti

Vatsara means ‘Drinking of air’. Air is the medium of washing in this kriya.

How To Do: To perform Vatsara Dhauti, the air is swallowing slowly into the stomach through the mouth in Kaki mudra. Then upper stomach and the intestine filled with this air, respectively. After holding it in the intestine for a period, released it out through the anus.

B) Varisara Dhauti

It is also called Shankhaprakshalana Dhauti. This practice washed the entire digestive tract from mouth to the anus. Water is the medium of washing in this kriya.

How To Do: In Varisara Dhauti, lukewarm salty water is drunk in excess & then letting it out through the anus. After drinking a little water in the beginning some asanas are performed for easy flow of water.

C) Agnisara Dhauti

Commonly it’s known as Vahinsara Kriya. Vahinsara Dhauti is the practice of stimulating heat energy of the navel region. This kriya does the washing by means of ‘Fire‘.

How To Do: In Vahinsara Dhauti, abdominal muscles rapidly contract & expand while sitting in Vajrasana. Sometimes this kriya also performed with rapid breathing along with abdominal movements. These rapid movements produce heat in the stomach (Digestive fire).

D) Bahiskrita Dhauti

This kriya does the cleaning of the intestine through held air. Practicing this Dhauti can get Godlike Body .

How To Do: In this Dhauti, Crow seal (Kaki Mudra) is made to suck the air in and held this air in for 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, stand in clean water equal to the navel level and pulled the long intestine out. Then washed intestine carefully with hands and draw it again in the abdomen.

3. Hrid Dhauti

Hrid means Heart. This Dhauti consists of the techniques to wash organs related to the heart i.e. the upper stomach organs. It’s of following 3 types.

A) Danda Dhauti

‘Danda’ means stick. This Dhauti kriya removes phlegm and bile from deep down of throat (esophagus). It cures all heart-related problems.

How To Do: To perform Danda Dhautii kriya, Insert core of a banana tree stem or turmeric root into the throat and let it reach below the throat. Now slowly pull it out. It comes out with mucus, phlegm from the esophagus.

B) Vastra Dhauti

‘Vastra’ means Cloth. In this Dhauti kriya, a cloth is used to wash the upper stomach region. It removes extra mucus from the food pipe.

C) Vamana Dhauti​​

‘Vamana’ means vomiting. In this Dhauti, after drinking excessive water throat induced to vomit out this water. Along with water, undigested food particles and phlegm comes out in Vamana Dhauti. ​

4. Moola Shodhana Dhauti​

Moola Shodhana Dhauti kriya is the cleansing of the rectum using a soft turmeric root. The practitioner inserts the middle finger or turmeric root into the rectum and rotates it clockwise and anticlockwise. It clears the extra feces from the rectum. Use olive oil for easy insertion of turmeric root & lubrication of anus. Stands in utkatasana while doing moola shodhana dhauti.

Benefits of Dhauti Kriya

Dhauti karma is washing the complete alimentary canal. Different organs are connected on the way of the alimentary canal. Thus the practice of dhauti kriya is beneficial in many ways.

3. Nauli

  • A cleansing practice for the abdomen which uses the abdominal muscles to massage and stimulate the digestive organs. The muscles of the abdomen are projected forward then contracted in a wave-like movement that increases “bodily fire.” This practice can take a lot of practice to perform effectively, as it requires a lot of abdominal control.
Nauli is an exercise of classical hatha yoga; it is not often taught in yoga as exercise. There are four steps, which are learned one after another:
  1. The abdominal lock, Uddiyana Bandha: The lungs are emptied, and the abdomen is pulled inwards and upwards under the lower edge of the ribcage
  2. Dhyana Nauli: only the central muscles of the abdomen are contracted
  3. Vama Nauli: only the left muscles of the abdomen are contracted
  4. Daksina Nauli: Only the right muscles of the abdomen are contracted.

Benefits of Nauli

4. Basti:

  • A method for purifying the large intestine either with or without water. In the method with water, jala basti, the yogi sits in a tub of water and draws up water into the rectum by practicing uddiyana bandha and using the nauli kriya. Then the water is expelled. 
  • Sthala basti (aka Sushka basti or Vata basti), cleans the colon by sucking air in the body without the help of any catheter or tube.
  • Jala basti (aka ‘Vati basti’) cleans the colon by sucking water into the anus through a pipe.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that the pipe form of basti destroys swelling of the abdomen and diseases of the spleen among other ailments.

The Gheranda Samhita states that the wet (pipe) form of basti wards off urinary diseases, wind, and constipation, conferring a physique “like the god of love”.

5. Kapalabhati​

A breathing technique which means “shining skull.” In this practice, the breath is forcefully exhaled through the nostrils by strongly drawing in the abdominal muscles after which the inhalation happens naturally. This is repeated 20 times in quick, rhythmic succession. 

The breathing technique involves “active exhalation and passive inhalation”. During inhalation the stomach sinks in and vice-versa during exhaling. 

 

  • Vatakrama kapalabhati, a practice similar to the Pranayama technique of Bhastrika, except that exhalation is active while inhalation is passive, the opposite of normal breathing.
  • Vyutkrama kapalabhati, a practice similar to Jala neti, involves sniffing water through the nostrils and letting it flow down into the mouth, and then spitting it out.
  • Sheetkrama kapalabhati, can be considered the reverse of Vyutkrama kapalabhati, in which water is taken through the mouth and expelled through the nose.

Benefits of Kapalabhati:

6. Tratak:

Trataka is also called the blinkless stare, is a technique for cleansing the eyes and improving mental focus. One method involves gazing at the flame of a candle. This is thought to increase blood circulation to the eyes and help strengthen them.

Benefits of Tratak: