Here we will bring a new light and perspective to the idea of purification and pure virtue. Classical Hatha Yoga not only addressed the superficial cleansing of the skin or inner cavities through bathing, fasting, ritual ablutions, "thinking" clean or positive thoughts, or merely eating a clean diet (although these activities may also be an adjunct toward unleashing the full potential of human embodiment), but classical Hatha yoga goes much deeper and more causal as a means to dislodge the accumulations of pre-existing influences of old toxic associations and their noxious influences within the bodymind complex. The body is a foundational starting place to begin this interactive journey, because it is always at hand. Being coarse, physical, and apparently solid, materialists will have no difficulty in acknowledging its presence. Then the yogi begins his/her journey from the coarse to the more subtle (energy systems which govern and hold the network of the living organism in place). Lastly, the relationships between the mind and the energy body and the body will be explored and opened/cleansed. Opening up these pathways which have become occluded is what Hatha Yoga calls purification. This includes eliminating any future conscious or unconscious tendencies, habits, propensities, psychic imprints, or residual karma while actually stimulating the intelligent and innate body/mind dynamics to spontaneously do their job. Such activities not only disrupts, but reverses tendencies toward somnambulance, fragmentation, ungroundedness, and repression of intuitive wisdom, so that a profound and natural effortless synergy is furthered between these mutually interconnected planes of correspondence.
In classical yoga as presented by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras the practice of Saucha (purification activities) is taught as a beneficial aid toward realizing the goal of yoga (samadhi) and as such Patanjali calls it a niyama (a positive activity of body, speech, and mind that is synergistic with the other seven limbs of ashtanga yoga) also recognizing the benefit of cleansing the gross physical environment and the purification of the psychic environment as well.
Patanjali says in Sutra II.40-41. "Through its effective practice of physical purity, attachments to toxins and corruptive forces disappear naturally as natural instinctual or intuitive catharsis or revulsion and as such one rids oneself of their noxious influence directly proportionately as to the development of the inner wisdom. Also through both internal and external purity (saucha) of the body, psychic environment, and through the removal of the occlusions of consciousness, there is achieved balance, cheerfulness, one- pointedness, harmony of the senses, and yogic vision. Here one is no longer attracted by corruptive influences because one has established (and is happily rooted within) an inner energetic freedom."
Hence saucha is defined as having both an inner and outer aspect. On one hand we can engage upon the subtle and inner cleansings of the psychic, energetic (pranamaya kosha), mental and emotional (manomaya kosha) aspects as well as the cleansing of our fundamental belief systems and identifications about self and "reality" (vijnanamaya kosha). On the other (outer or external) hand there can be discerned the more gross or outer practices that deal with the physical body, physical environment, and outer psychic environment. These are interconnected and lead to opening up the previously occluded and blocked passageways, so that our innate primordial pure nature and true virtue may be revealed
The results of both practices (inner and outer) lead toward the same freedom, but the techniques of each is thus necessarily different (according to the system it best addresses). Through functional practice all the negative afflictions of the body, mind, energy system, emotions, habits, past trauma, and belief systems can be cleared. natural inherent healthy tendencies stimulated and activated, and conscious synergistic integration will be realized in one pointed self completion -- as a natural and powerful reflexive response.
Silent sitting meditation ultimately is the great cleanser of the mind along with Mouna (silence), but it is also being the most subtle (or even beyond the most subtle) is difficult to master without foundational practices (kriyas). Mantra and singing Bhajan is the great cleanser of the throat chakra, speech, and energy body along with pranayama and visualization. Devotional practices (Bhakti) and selfless service (karma yoga) cleanses the heart.
Because pranayama cleanses the psychic nerves (nadis), opens and harmonizes the pranayama kosha, and cleanses both the body and the mental waves it is considered a powerful modulator, however because of its deep and powerful influences it requires expert guidance. Swadhyaya, isvara pranidhana (surrender), and tapas (the practice of penning and creating open space) cleanse the vijnanamaya kosha (the thought channels from conceptual limitations).
So here we will begin with the body and hence with the Shat (Six) Karmas (actions) of the Classic Hatha Yoga Kriyas (preliminary activities) which are the great cleansers of the body. Allied yogic activities such as vairagya, satya, asteya, aparigraha, santosha, ahimsa, and simplification of life style also free the negative mental habits and emotional dynamics which negatively disrupt the deeper coursings of the body's energy field. Eventually the mental/emotional habits will have to be confronted and released as they sap our strength, health, and essential energy, thus limiting our creative spiritual potential/embodiment. A natural clean environment of clean air, clean water, clean food, a harmonious and friendly relationship with other animals and sentient beings, harmony with natural flora and whole systems ecological habitats, living in a mutually synergistic ecology, and recognizing the all pervasive primordial Beginningless Source in the innate evolutionary power which constitutes the basis of all will naturally allow pure virtue to flow.
All these activities as a reflection of transconceptual natural process stemming all the way back before time will be revealed to the true yogi. At first such practices will make available a profound mutually complimentary and beneficial intuitive intelligent wisdom (prajna) and energy (shakti) that will contribute positively this empowering alignment. This will also effect santosha (contentment) as well as compassionate lion like action based on a transpersonal wisdom which is sure to come. Once the human bodymind is liberated from noxious hindrances from manmade (artificial) forces of conditioning, negative programming, falsehood, and delusion, then pure virtue will bloom across the land like a hundred billion wild flowers. .
So let us begin the purification of the bodymind. If it is beneficial then such activities will stimulate more creative energy and pranic flow. Health will also accrue as the pathways of one's dormant life energy are opened up -- as the body acts as a transducer in spiritual embodiment most virtuously. In this regard, along with clean food, clean air, bathing, exercise, pure thoughts, visualization or dharana (see chakra purification meditation link below), sweating, fasting, tapas, vairagya, pranayama, asana, meditation, and nature (shakti) all work in harmony as a synergistic whole to quicken the healing and re-integration process which is yoga. In this regard Love and Devotion are the greatest cleansers - love being devotion and surrender to the highest and most central (Hridayam) core principle so that a transconceptual wisdom and energy consciously braces and moves us as our motive force.
Although asana practice also powerfully effects the mind/body, creates lightness, removes dross, as well as serving to overall purify, energize, and integrate body. mind, and spirit. these kriyas are designed to make work synergistically with the asanas, both serving to break up old stagnant energy patterns, Hatha yoga in general developed even more specific powerful cleansing activities that although applied to the gross physical body (annamaya kosha) they also possess necessarily powerful energetic consequences to the mental/emotional (manomaya kosha) and energy bodies (pranamaya kosha) and thus serve to accelerate the overall goal of yoga. These specific activities particularly help remove sluggishness and heaviness (excess kapha and tamas)and create lightness and releasing blocked energy. These purification activities are called Hatha Yoga Kriyas of which the Shat Karmas (the six actions) are the best known. Of these there are also two kinds -- the inner, subtle, and energetic on one hand; and the gross, outer, and more physical on the other hand. These kriyas were given to all beginning hatha yoga practitioners when they began their practice (sadhana) of asana, bandha (energy locks), pranayama, mudra, pratyhara, dharana (concentration and visualization), and meditation (dhyana).
Om swa bha wha shu dha sar va dharm ma
swa bha wha shu do ham
The nature of all dharmas is purity
So my own nature is purity as well.
As the true nature of dharma is pure
This nature pure am I
By True Nature Pure are all Dharmas
Thus by nature Pure I am.
Thus naturally pure am I
Thus abiding in my natural state
Primordially Pure forever I am
Swa ha (so it is)
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The following are links to such cleansing practices as mentioned above:
(Also see the HeartMind main page for more on the subject of Tapas
For a detailed Modern Text on Jal Neti (cleansing the third eye area with water).
For a detailed text and large document on Jal Neti practices in PDF format
For Instructions on Sutra (string Neti)
For a large document on most of the classical Kriyas including the Shat Karmas
For a Concise and Lucid Presentation of the Shat Karmas
A Chakra Purification Meditation
Swami Venkatesananda on the Kriyas (an enlightened discourse on the use of foundational purification activities)
Tapas and Addiction
(New) An article on purification as an essential element in substance abuse treatment, self abuse, detoxification, rehabilitation, and re-Inhabitation
Additional Links about Hatha Yoga on the Rainbowbody Network
How Asana Works: Natural Attunement and Harmonization
The Energy Body, the Five Koshas, and Three Kayas
Chakra Purification Meditation
Hatha Yoga Asana Practice: An Energy Body Approach
The Authentic Context of Hatha Yoga Practice: An Overview
A Sanskrit to English Annotated Glossary
HeartMind Portal Specific to Hatha Yoga Practices
Rainbowbody Articles Index Page
Back to HeartMind Yoga Home Page
Disclaimer: The Hatha Yoga kriyas and Shat Karmas presented on the Rainbowbody Network are intended for historical and educational purposes only. They are not intended for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment for any medical disease. Rather these practices are presented as the testament of ancient yogis utilized as an adjunct for spiritual awakening.
These statements have not been evaluated by the US Federal Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Regulations governing the use of any of the above procedures will vary accordingly by nation, state, province, and city, hence it is the individual's duty to determine whether any of these procedures are relevant to their own situation. It is advised that before engaging upon any activity, please consult with your own governing personal health care authority