"We are like springs of water which no longer run because they have not been watched and have gradually become choked with rubbish."
Albert Schweitzer, "The Decay and Restoration of Civilization" translated from the German by C. T. Campion, Macmillan, 1932
What are these ancient purification exercises called the shat (six) karmas (activities) or sometimes more simply called the kriyas (preliminary purification activities) which open the pathways of the body, the nadis, the energy body, the mind, and heart?
Following a discussion of these ancient yoga techniques will be described in a practical method as they were taught in India for over a thousand years. These purification practices are mentioned in many ancient yogic texts such as the "Hatha Yoga Pradipika", the "Gherand Samhita", the "Siva Samhita", the "Satkarma Sangraha of Raghavira", and many others. Originally they were taught as part of the ancient hatha yoga oral tradition, from adept to student.
Repression, inhibition, and perversion of the five koshas, the vayus (winds), three doshas, and the innate intelligence in relation to the Shat Karmas
Coughing, sneezing, vomiting, spitting, shitting, urinating, crying, sweating, and "evacuation" in general are basic functions that are generally culturally repressed' i.e. we are trained to control them, not to mention them, and often they become swear words or acts of disrespect, yet it is their cleansing activity which they share in common. A commonality which is to be respected rather than despised, avoided, or denied in a healthy society.
In traditional yoga, yogins are given the shat karmas in the very beginning. This helps to unplug the repression of cultural conditioning, open up the energy channels, activate the energy centers, and also unburden the physical body of accumulated obstructions and toxins.
Hence it is clear that the shat karmas are NOT simply physical cleansing exercises, rather they utilize specific bodily dynamics, evolutionary lifefunctions, energetic and psychic smechanics in order to remove emotional, mental, and energetic blockages and hindrances. They affect the physical body, the energy body, the mental/emotional body, the creative thought processes and the pathways of embodiment and relationship in a positive way.
To be sure the shat karmas are not merely for kapha (phlegm) diseases. Indeed, in the Ayurvedic system similar purification practices are most often given for the removal of excess phlegm and indeed the shat karmas accomplish this as well. But Ayurveda medicine differs in many regard to classical hatha yoga in regard to the location and action of the 10 vayus and winds and they also differ as to the value of the shat karmas. In short the shat karmas help remove the obstructions/hindrances (kleshas) and in that very basic way they remove ignorance. All practicing yogins in the classical hatha yoga tradition accept that they have afflictions and are dedicated in removing them. It is to that end that the shat karmas act as effective adjuncts.
For example the benefit of the upward vayu (wind) that controls the coughing instinct is to clear congestion in the lungs or throat (mainly lungs). If this is repressed or inhibited in daily life, as lower instincts often are, then that natural vayus becomes disordered/disturbed, distorted, or demeaned. Disease then can easily follow hen this vayu and health preserving instinct is perverted.
Similarly a full sneeze helps clear the sinus and activate the energy of the head, a vomit is to clear the abdomen of poison, urination (the bladder/kidneys), shitting (the intestines), sexual function (the sexual organs become activated), sweating (the skin is activated), tearing cleans the eyes, and so forth. A repression, inhibition, or any such attempt to control or demean any of these functions have severe body/mind repercussions in that spirit's creative vital intention remains disembodied and unheeded/ignored. All inhibitions and repression leave a neural and energetic patterned imprint (samskara) which for the most part have to become entirely destroyed and placed under the control of living spirit (the nondual true Self. Hence the shat karmas are a step in this overall process of surrender to the all pervading Self, isvara pranidhana.
Naturally, the intelligence governing these natural functions when left alone to do their jobs will keep the body healthy, the mind unashamed, and the creative juices flowing. When suppressed then various mental, emotional, energetic, and/or physical diseases arise. Again it is not only in kapha diseases which arise from such dumbing down of the instinct and intuition, but the entire manifestation body, energy, body, and mental/emotional body suffers as well as the creative function. On an en energetic level these inhibitions distort the energetic balance of the body creating disorders of the doshas and vayus (pranas), On a physical body level these disease manifest in the imbalance of the elements, organs, and glandular functions as ell as the increase in ama (toxins) which further irritate and aggravate the various physical systems. Such can manifest in a myriad of physical diseases such as listlessness, sloth, lethargy, dullness, excess mucous, phlegm, soreness, low back pain, stiffness, headaches, asthma, and a wide variety of dysfunction, inhibition, and disease ad infinitum.
These body, breath, wind, energetic, mental/emotional, psychic, and consciousness relationships are known by those who know the body, the winds, energy, mind, emotions and true self, not by those who ignore it. Hence, the shat karmas help us to know this.
Ideally human culture and civilization would not demean, suppress, or inhibit natural vital life functions but rather encourage such. For those whose inner wisdom is not subverted, demeaned, repressed, ignored, or disconnected – those do not need the shat karmas because they are already in sahaj samadhi.
The Special Relevance of the Hatha Yoga Kriyas Today
In ancient times it was believed that the human mind and body becomes negatively programmed and conditioned through negative experiences that reinforce ignorance and confusion (avidya). The object of this conditioning then becomes seduced and aligned to this perverse and polluted orientation and attitude. As a result addictive dependence upon bad habits, tendencies (vasana), negative emotions (kleshas), and further negative karma become reinforced in a cyclic pattern called bondage. Key to these negative propensities toward suffering and bondage are the kleshas, which are the negative emotions or mind toxins. This mental pollution also has physical correspondence in the human body.
Since yoga is a spiritual practice that reconnects all of “reality” body, mind, breath, nature, and Source as an intimate wholistic synergistic synchronicity, a major practice has been to remove that which was blocking/obstructing these connections. Thus the many yogic techniques were thus designed to break up blockages, obstructions, and poisons of the bodymind. While negative conditioning creates further afflictive emotions because man’s normal behavior is governed by the normal mind governed by kleshas and karma, a purified bodymind creates positive karma and is no longer governed by kleshas or toxic thought.
Especially today, the earth is polluted, our food, air, water, physical body as well as psychic atmosphere is polluted. Why? Because the common man’s mind and heart has become polluted and corrupted through negative programming. That negative programming is what hatha yoga is designed to reverse. A tremendous aid in that respect is the shat karmas. The link between man’s pathological destruction of the earth and hence his pathological attitude to his own external life support systems is of course intimately linked to his pathological attitude toward his body (his inner life support system). It is this inner and outer harmony which hatha yoga harmonizes organically. It is not only because of man’s blood stream is toxic which in turn toxifies the nervous system and brain, but this toxic state extends to man’s social institutions in general extending to his coarse and careless unfeeling treatment of other life forms as well (his fellow man and all other species including habitat). This destruction attitude of the immature man toward his environment is a reflection of his low state of spiritual evolution. Yoga on the other hand is designed to quicken this evolution through augmenting man’s inherent abilities toward self purification, self activation, and Self integration.
In short hatha yogis found that the processes and techniques of hatha yoga produced a genuine purification which positively affected the body, the nervous system, the brain, the mind -- opening up man’s heart and eventually opening up the previously blocked channels between heaven and earth – between spirit and nature – between mind and body – crown chakra and root chakra, and the like. Dormant evolutionary circuitry were unearthed, resurrected, and opened up, activated, and integrated.
As such the purifying effects of asana, pratyaya, pranayama, dharana (concentration), and meditation (dhyana), the yam/niyams, life style changes, and so forth all acted synergistically to augment the process of complete and final union beyond practice (samadhi). As such the hatha yoga kriyas were seen as a great benefactor in speeding up this process, while in many schools of hatha yoga it was seen as an essential prerequisite.
In Ayurvedic medicine as well in yogic therapy, these kriyas were also applied for a wide variety of ailments of the body/mind. Within yoga therapy and Ayurveda the kriyas are especially beneficial for those who suffer from symptoms created by irritations (such as the presence of toxins (called ama in Ayurveda) as well as stagnant diseases which are the result of obstructions of any kind such as what are called diseases caused by an excess of kapha.
Today there is widespread pollution of mother’s body (the earth), chemicalized food, toxic air, toxic water, toxic bodies and toxic dysfunctional minds. Are foods that have been irradiated, chemicalized, denatured, pesticide ridden, chemically colored, textured, and genetically modified healthier? No such evidence supports such a claim, but rather the opposite. Do genetically modified foods produce better yields? No, the evidence is that intensive organic farming methods, permaculture, double digging, and biodynamic farming produce a higher yield of food as well as much higher quality, but such methods are more labor intensive to harvest and produce. Here man’s unemployment and separation from the earth can be healed in moving towards a clean agri-culture reflecting a cleaner culture as a whole. A cleaner culture in turn reflects a purified heartmind. “real work”
What comes first, a toxic mind, leading to toxic behavior, which in turn poisons the body as well as the environment; or does it start with a toxic body, blood stream, and nervous system?
Does social and environmental “disease” start with a toxic body and work backwards toward toxic activities or really aren't’t all these processes interconnected, due to man’s alienation from natural creation and the creative spirit which underlies it?
Hence we get back to ignorance and confusion – a disconnect from the grandeur of Reality as it is in its vast boundless Integrity being the same cause for all man’s afflictions. Thus by respecting and honoring our own inner environment by helping the body to rid itself of toxins, we also pay respect to mother nature and other life forms as well, This way we can truly understand at a gut level how nature cleans and heals herself from toxic influences and how we can help ourselves as a team by helping her. Nature as God’s creation has great intelligent wisdom behind it, and that same wisdom is found within man as a apart of nature. When man finds himself disconnected from creator/creation, that limited knowledge is called ignorance (avidya). It is within that wholistic context where the hatha yoga shat karmas finds its basis. Indeed the testimony of the yogis is that such is a powerful catalyst.
Today the pollution not only emanates from a toxic and denatured food, toxic and conditioned air, toxic and altered water, toxic psychic environments, vaccines, and polluted allopathic medicines, but also from manmade electronic pollution (prompting some to make life style changes to a more natural and clean environment). But can we really escape from this manmade madness? Indeed in nature one finds quiet; one’s sense organs are bombarded less, the mind is quiet (as long as we have not become addicted to the noise). Just as focused radiological techniques can disrupt and kill cancer cells, just as laser surgery used intelligently can be a sanguine tool, just so can irresponsible and reckless misuse of electronic radiation create a toxic environment. What we can do is make the best of what we can to avoid pollution in the first place, and then utilize intelligent and customized purification techniques.
These shat karmas yogic practices are meant to wake us up and get over “the hump” -- they remove obstacles. They are not designed to be used exclusively, but rather are kriyas (preparatory activities) that are intended to be integrated with the other practices such as yam/niyam, asana, meditation, pranayama, and the rest of the yoga practices capable of creating a profound synergy and synchronicity (of body, nature, breath, mind, and spirit). These kriyas create space in the human temple for living spirit -- they detoxify the body, the blood stream, the nervous system, brain, nadis, mind, thought patterns, and negative tendencies. By opening up these pathways, less distracting energetics are present and more positive, healing, and evolutionary creative energy is able to flow. The kriyas thus serve as power synergists in the purification of the bodymind, its activation, and integration.
Thus the benefits of opening up and clearing out accumulated toxins from the body, irritants, physical impurities, energy channels (nadis), mental thought patterns, toxic thought, and negative emotions (kleshas) are even more valuable today than ever, not just as an augmentation of hatha yoga asana practice where the body can move more freely and unobstructed, but toward opening of the energy body, activating our creative/evolutionary potential, alleviating the past resistances to the clear thinking of a open mind, and the enlightened activity of the unburdened and boundless open heart. It is to that end that this book is ultimately dedicated!
"These kriyas, as an indispensable tool, lighten the burden, quicken the cells and atoms, bring brilliance and dance, transform the dross, and pave the highway with gold.
The kriyas heighten our sense-ability, they strengthen the nerves, and open the HeartMind. Thus the inner wisdom shines forth on its own. I bow down to the inventor, Siva, the master of Yogis, the indwelling Source within All of Creation."
Purification is a central theme in yoga, along with empowerment, activation, and integration. As such it is abides at the first stage of yoga, but also at the last, simultaneously. This is a lab book to the inner laboratory -- to mother's holy child born out of sacred wedlock with Infinite spirit -- thus the manifestation in Reality of infinite love. May this love be widely known.
This is a book about purification, not only of the body and the psychic nerves, but also of the mind, the kleshas, the vasana, and past karma. The ultimate kriya being the burnt offering of all karmic existence as a surrender to the natural spontaneous all encompassing universal Self or Divine Leela. It is here which the kriyas emanate and it is to here the kriyas lead. It is her extremely intelligent dalliance and brilliance which is revealed, as Siva's mate. It is mother Durga of infinite radiance who shines through illuminating the entire earth and cosmos with her innate goodness.
Simply put, when our past conditioning and programming no longer dominate and limit our present creative potential, we are then allowed to be engaged in and enter upon the sublime portal of the sacred present having become completely liberated from the energetic dynamic bonds of the past. Because yoga does not validate the separate existence of body, mind, nature, and Spirit these yogic cleansing activities work on both the body and mind simultaneously as well as our relationship with creation, causation, our future karma, and spiritual well being.
In particular hatha yoga kriyas stimulate and accelerate body/mind/spirit change and evolution so we become a more powerfully embodied vehicle of evolutionary love, healing, and consciousness. Here the dross of the body, the impurities, and constrictions of the nervous system and psychic nerves (nadis) are washed away. These practices will be found specifically valuable to asana, pranayama, and meditation students because spiritual and physical progress can be severely hampered in the presence of physical toxins, irritants, impurities, congestive/constrictive habituations, pathway (nadis) blockages, contractions around imbedded irritants, and other similar obstructions of the energy body or physical body. As these processes affect the blood stream in a sanguine manner, a burden is lifted from all the organs including the brain and nervous system allowing them to function more efficiently and with greater lucidity.
As the asanas liberate evolutionary energy permitting them to circulate in the activated or evolved body/mind, the presence of toxins will cause shut down systems while in many cases create disease patterns unless eradicated. This is obvious in severe cases of liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal syndromes, but it can be applied to the health or stress upon any cell of the body, since the blood stream is affected.
Some areas and systems that have been asleep, de-energized, or not used for along time may be atrophied, congested, full of toxins, or in need of being flushed and cleaned out while other areas are sources of chronic irritation, inflammation, stress to the immune system, anxiety, mechanical sources of spasm, clumping, and contraction, and the like until their associated obstructions or toxins are loosened and excreted. The hatha yoga kriyas (cleansing activities) are specifically designed to clean the body, energy body, and chakra systems quickly and painlessly. They are often broken down into six or eight divisions of action such as the shat (six) or ashta (eight) karmas (actions).
Most of these purification exercises are designed to remove stagnant internal toxins, inner filth, or inner blockages (called ama in Ayurvedic medicine) consisting of both matter and its associated energy, but they also correspondingly clean out energy paths (nadis) and allow more energy to flow within the body/mind complex. The kriyas will sometimes also release and thus expunge some negative emotional contractions (kleshas) and holding patterns (vasanas) such as pride, fear, anger, greed, jealousy, possessiveness, secretiveness, neurotic desire, attachment, and so forth.
On a physical level accumulated physical wastes are eliminated. Their presence irritate the nerves, slow down function, numb sensitivities and higher function, and burden the energy body by inviting unwanted parasites whose presence create unusual cravings and demands for additional nutriments as well as creating nervous agitation. So with mere physical removal of accumulated toxins the body becomes less sluggish, lighter, less agitated, and more sensitive as both the afferent and efferent nerve impulses are less burdened. Along with these physical cleansings many of the kriyas specifically work on certain nerve plexi strengthening and activating them increasing function. Other kriyas (such as nadi shodhana) restore balance in the psychic energy channels (nadis) clearing away causal obstructions which govern the health and balance of the entire nervous system including the brain. In general, the hatha yoga kriyas such as the shat karmas (six actions), open up obstructed energy pathways, enliven previously sluggish or stagnant areas, activate dormant circuitry and function, and in general augment the transformation process of hatha yoga in order to allow the evolutionary healing and creative energy its natural expression.
It is not necessary for everyone to do all of these procedures, as each of us is unique. By experientially performing these, certain effects will be experienced and one who has become even slightly attuned to their own energy will know soon afterwards (through their innate awareness) to which specific exercises they are specifically well suited. How do we know which kriyas will be best unless our inner wisdom is opened? Indeed such is an excellent question. Yoga answers it thusly. Yoga is not a religion, a set of blind belief, mechanical rules, a dogma, or ideology. Rather yoga says that the answers are inherent in the practices. Just try it and you will see for yourself. Indeed a wise and suitable diet along with an active asana practice is meant to along with these kriyas. All together such yoga practices are designed (along with meditation) to disclose the secret which abides in the "the field".
"Arjuna said: 'Oh Krishna, I wish to know Nature Prakrti) and Consciousness (Purusha), the field (kshetra) and the One who Knows the field (kshetrajna), wisdom, and what should be known.'"
"Krishna said: 'This body is the field (kshetra), Oh Arjuna. He who knows this is called the One who knows the field by those who truly know. Know Me as the One who knows all fields. I am the knower of the field in all fields. This wisdom of the field and the knower of the field, that is true wisdom. Wisdom of the field and of the one who knows the field of all fields constitute true wisdom, said Krishna.'"
Bhagavad Gita Chapter XIII.1-2
Often in the beginning, the specific kriyas that provokes the most aversion are the very kriyas which are the best for us. If you experience a specific revulsion against one, it will be instructive to observe where this repulsion, aversion, fear, or feeling is coming from. Indeed many areas of the body and their mechanisms are closely keyed into old habits, fears, emotional patterning, and often hold what are called samskaras (psychic imprints) which when they are being dislodged and exorcised (purified) their corresponding emotional associations also may be loosened. According to yoga and India's ancient Ayurvedic medicine, the ability of the kriyas to remove heaviness, sloth, fatigue, dullness, confusion, torpor, chronic illnesses associated with imbalances of excess kapha and/or tamas, deficient pitta and/or rajas are common reports. At the same time these exercises calm excessive pitta and rajas thus leading the practitioner to a balanced (sattvic) state. Lightness, buoyancy, happiness, acuity, clarity, peacefulness, suppleness, concentration, and poise are accelerated. In this sense the kriyas are self instructive, opening up the disconnected pathways from the body to the mind. It is all interconnected, but the brain is mostly not listening (ignorant) and needs to be instructed (by the body).
Modern Western man has for the most part become dissuaded, distracted, and externalized outside of their body -- "out there" somewhere. We rarely live inside of it and pay attention, but the kriyas call us back home -- they open us up -- they make room -- they empty us so that we may become filled. Spirit lives in the body, your body, as long as we are alive; but if our consciousness is preoccupied outside, always escaping the reality of the body, then we act as inattentive hosts.
While body negative and nature negative ideologies proposes that we escape death by escaping life -- by fleeing from the vicissitudes of nature and embodied existence through ignoring, denying, or demeaning the body and nature -- authentic yoga sees the body as a necessary and natural ingredient of embodying spirit. Again this is not saying that we are only the physical body, but rather that the body is part of an all inclusive creative spirit which is not only essential for embodied existence, but which exists as creation's evolution from Source. As such it a sacred vessel and representative of the creator when it is viewed in context of its true history and place. (See the essay on neti neti at www.rainbowbody/HeartMind/netineti.htm and also Toward an Earth Inclusive Spirituality ).
More detailed philosophical details about the kriyas and purification in relationship to spiritual evolution, healing, and well being is the profound topic of another book that was completed in the seventies, but has not yet been uploaded. Additional context may be helpful, but the author here wishes to present the primary practices in an easily accessible manner. The kriyas and purification have been a fundamental part of authentic hatha yoga for over a thousand years which combine synergistically with diet, asanas, pranayama, bandha, meditation, lifestyle changes, self study, and sometimes Ayurvedic procedures to catalyze our evolution into an integrated body/mind -- into wellness, wholeness, and the sacred integrity of All Our Relations.
The father of Western medicine, Hippocrates, used purification such as emesis, enema, purgation, sweating, diet, fasting, hydrotherapy, and massage as a first line of defense. Hippocrates resorted to herbal medicine only if the disease was already too far neglected. So too did the other physicians of ancient Greece and Egypt as well as the ancient Romans, Hebrews, Arabians, American Indians, and indigenous physicians and shamans from around the world for millennia. Such a fundamental idea of inner pollution and obstructions of energy flow has been considered a primary cause (or at least a primary breeding ground for disease) since the earliest of times and thus the use of purification methods to rid the body of this burden has been a dominant theme of medicine everywhere up until the twentieth century.
It is not surprising to see the external manifestations of modern man's misguided mind-set caused in part by inner pollution and inner energy ignorance be reflected in environmental and political situations where humankind is poisoning their own air, water, food and body (environment) and fighting wars about energy resources and usage instead of valuing and conserving their own expenditures or moving toward earth friendly, nonpolluting, nontoxic, less dangerous, and renewable methods. Indeed it is rare to find anyone who is clean inside of body and mind who will defile nature, the environment, or others.
In order to practice these ancient kriyas effectively, we need to implement profound balance, sensitivity, and awareness. Like authentic asana practice never force these exercises, but rather explore their possibilities as an opening to life's healing energies. To be effective we must stop taking in or creating poisons. This means that we must eat pure foods, drink pure water, inhale pure air, ingest only pure medicines, listen only to sattvic sounds, and think pure (sattvic) thoughts. This includes not exposing ourselves to toxic mouthwashes, soaps, toothpaste, clothing, solvents, fumes, perfumes, chemicals, or situations that cause stress, upset, or a toxic reaction. In other words to be successful we must surround ourselves within a sattvic environment and we must exercise purification techniques in our daily life by not suppressing sweat or mucus with chemical suppressants, antihistamines, chemical deodorants, etc. We should not suppress the urine, feces, instinctual emesis, deep breathing, sneezing, coughing, and other natural instinctual purification processes that are healthy for the body. Likewise we should wisely drink adequate pure water and eat a diet containing adequate natural fiber by avoiding denatured, artificially colored, pesticide ridden, refined, preserved, and otherwise adulterated food. We must not only eliminate waste products in a timely manner to avoid self intoxication of the bowels, blood, lymph, tissues and cells but also we must pay attention to the food combinations that are easily digested and do not cause toxic indigestion.
The major organs of purification are the lungs (through the throat and nose), tongue, skin, sinuses (through the nose), large intestine (through the rectum/anus, and the kidney (through the urethra and bladder). We can also discharge toxins through the eyes, ears, or genitals. Usually when we detox through pustules, lesions, or swellings which can be located internally or externally we are suffering from a toxic overload or elimination crisis which may be helped greatly through judicious use of the following kriyas. A major source of toxins is negative emotions (adhis) and they in turn not only affect our prana but also create disease (vyadhis) often in the form of toxins.
In our practice of the following kriyas, approach them in a light hearted manner -- not that you are dirty, bad, or that something is wrong, but rather with a sense of humor and a positive happy mood.
Procedure: Place the pad of the thumb of the right hand on the third eye with the nail pointing down and the four other fingers pointing straight up. Vibrate and massage the third eye region pressing firmly but with no strain or pain. Keep the scapula from raising up toward the ears, but rather allow it to release down toward the sacrum. Keep the armpit/chest open and the occiput raised so that the chin falls down and in toward the notch above the sternum (in a relaxed jalandhara bandha). This will keep tension out of the neck, Sandalwood oil or paste although not at all necessary is often used as an adjunct.
Variation: Lying prone on stomach with the forearms or palms crossed on the ground palms facing down, lay the forehead on the knuckles or wrist bone of the top hand and press without any strain or pain (be careful of any neck stress) so as to massage the third eye region, faux cerebi, and fascia under the frontal bone. Here the fascia of the scalp may also be stretched and mobilized.
This practice is called kapalarandhra (cleaning the orifice of the skull). Kapala is skull and randhra means orifice or opening. Here one places the thumbs at the bridge of the nose on the bony cavities above the eye balls, finding its hallow or crater. Place pressure there or massage (be careful not to put any pressure on the eye ball proper). This helps the optic nerve, astigmatism and other diseases of the eyes. It is excellent for sinus headaches and to relieve sinus congestion. This is also the name of a similar skull massage technique that creates a self massage at the temples. Some say that it refers to the massage at the top of the skull at the bregma and/or lamda spots.
Benefits: This awakens and purifies the third eye region, is stimulating, clears congestion of the head and sinus, improves circulation, clarity, energy, and the eyesight.
A similar practice is called kapala randhra prayag which stimulates the third eye region by massaging cold water on the forehead, temples, and bridge of the nose.
Traditionally these ajna kriya exercises are performed daily.
Karna Dhauti or ear cleansing is performed simply by inserting a well manicured finger (usually index finger) in one ear and vibrating it rapidly. This effect can be augmented by placing the palms over the ears and gently massaging in clockwise and counterclockwise circles. Similarly special herbal lavage are syringed into the ears as well as ayurvedic herbal oils. An ancient Indian cleansing technique utilizes special metal utensils administrated by skilled practitioners who mechanically remove the build up of wax and other waste materials that may have become deposited in the conch of the outer ear.
Care should be used as to the correct amount of pressure or force. This is best learned from a qualified practitioner.
Karna dhauti traditionally is performed when needed or on a weekly basis.
Affects the ajna chakra or third eye. It is a preliminary for sambhavi and unmani mudras (see mudra appendix). Tratak is defined as focusing the eyes or "gazing" at an object for a prolonged period without blinking. This creates tears to flow in many people, thus washing and cleansing the eyes from the inside out, without the need for eyecups or eye washes. The usual and sufficient procedure is to stare at a candle for three to five minutes without blinking. At first you will feel like blinking, but you will soon get used to it after some practice.
Techniques: Tratak is most often preformed on a candle placed about three feet in front. Gaze steadily without blinking at the candle-flame without blinking or moving for 20 minutes (average). If the eyes feel strained visualize a light moving from the center of the ajna chakra above through your eyes to the candle. Relax the eyes and rest the mind.
One may mentally repeat if need be: "Just the flame. Just the candle. Just the breath. Just the light. Just this breath. Relax. etc" Afterwards close the eyes and look for the subtle form of the candle inside (antara). This is said to help lead one to antaranga taraka.
Begin with external objects which will steady and strengthen the eyes while increasing the power of dharana. If an image appears to move, bring it back to the central space without moving the head or eye balls. Other objects besides a candle can be used such as the ishta devi (personal deity), a yantra, AUM symbol, third eye (ajna chakra), the sun, etc. Make sure that the object is sanguine. After trataka bring cupped palms to the eyes and and apply a soft inward motion around the eye (cupping them but not creating any pressure on the balls of the eye).
Tratak is also often performed on the setting sun or rising sun, on one's shadow at noon, on a black point, on the written symbol, om <(see illustration number ???), on other mystic diagrams, or on other objects such as a candle, color, or for example samyama on a blue colored object to relax one in meditation or on any religious object, deity, picture, symbol, or artifact. Tratak also aids the concentration. Breathe deeply and naturally and always stop before pain or strain while allowing the eyes to water and tear.
Do not stare at the sun unless it is low in the horizon (sunrise or sunset). Tratak is similar to dristhi, but with the exception that our intent here is to purify the physical eyes while not blinking. Hatha yoga asana practice also provides other exercises for the eyes such as the eye circle movements which also increase circulation to and purify the eyes. For more discussion on dristhi see the second chapter immediately preceding the asana section for details.
If at noon or when the sun is at a higher elevation, expose only the whites of the eyes to the sun. Move the whites in a circular movement keeping the pupils looking away by staring up to the third eye, low down, or extremely to one side or the other never looking directly into the sun (except sunset and sunrise). Another similar practice is to do eye circles looking into the sun, but with the eyelids closed. This latter exercise can be done for ten minutes maintaining direct sunlight to shine on the closed eyelids while rotating the eyeballs.
Remember that unless you have gained expertise under tutelage of an experienced sun gazer, it is only safe to stare into the sun directly (eyelids open) only at sunrise and a few minutes before sunset when the sun is low on the horizon, for a minute or less. Normally one starts at 15 seconds and works up everyday 10 seconds in duration and only when the sun is very low in the horizon. Never look directly at the sun when it is above 25 degrees above the horizon.
There are two general categories of tratak bahiranga trataka (external) where one fixes their gaze on an external object and antaranga trataka (internal) where the gaze is at the third eye (inward and upward) or the inner celestial spaces such as chidakash or hridayakash. Of these two, there exist an enormous amount of specific practices including but not limited to specific colors, diagrams, and dynamic method.
Benefits: When the eyes do not blink, the eyes tear, and are thus cleansed, washed, and stimulated. They thus appear brighter and clear. Trataka stimulates the activation of the ajna chakra. Trataka helps focus and calm the nervous system and mind. It aids in concentration and will power, thus expediting dharana siddhi (the entering into the more subtle awareness of antaranga yoga). Tratak not only cleanses the yes but rather removes the coverings of the third eye (gnosis).
Always spend a minute or two cupping the eyes with the palms daily especially after trataka.
Chasua dhauti refers to the washing of the eyes through bathing it with water, special herbs, and/or Ayurvedic oils.
Tratak is done daily in many hatha and yantra yoga practices.
Kapalabhati affects the third eye and crown chakras as well as the manipura chakra. Kapala means skull and bhati means shining. Kapalabhati is thus the skull shining exercise. It purifies the nasal sinus area with its rapid and forced exhalations through the nose, the lungs, blood, tissues, and abdomen. Kapalabhati is a hatha yoga kriya, but also is included as a pranayama as well. It is like bhastrika except that with kapalabhati the emphasis is completely on the exhalation, the chest does not move at all, there is only a passive inhalation after the breath is rapidly forced out, and there is no retention (kumbhaka) of breath at the end of a round. Although Kapalabhati stimulates the navel chakra as well, but it is less warming than bhastrika because of its emphasis on exhalation. Remember something that is hard can not move. The belly thus must soften in order for the navel to move toward the spine. Perform kapalabhati in a way that the belly softens, melts, and warms up.
Technique: In kapalabhati all the emphasis is done on the exhalation. The abdomen is drawn inward toward the spine on the exhalation working in concert with the diaphragm which moves upward from the abdomen to force out the air in the lungs. This forms a vacuum in the lungs which then automatically sucks in the air to equalize the internal and external air pressure. As soon as eh lungs fill, then they are immediately to emptied through the inward motion of the abdomen toward the spine as above. This is repeated in a comfortable and rapid rhythm with emphasis on the exhalation only.
At first the abdomen muscles will get tired. After a few weeks of practice that will not bother the practitioner ever again. The lungs or throat may become become uncomfortable. Perform the practice with the least amount of friction and noise. The breathing is through the nose. The belly goes inward on the active exhalation and fills out on the entirely passive inhalation. Although the chest may shake from action occurring at the belly, in kapalabhati try not to to breathe from the chest, but rather have all the motion come from the abdomen.
To start, clean the nasal passages if necessary. For some it is helpful to perform sutra neti first. Then sitting in siddhasana, half lotus, padmasana, or similar inhale deeply, exhale fully pressing the abdomen back toward the spine as in uddiyana bandha, then inhale, then exhale fully and rapidly with the motion of uddiyana bandha moving the navel toward the spine. Work yourself gradually without force to three rounds of 108 exhalations at the rate of two per second. Mastery is reached when one can do an infinite amount of kapalabhati with no effort and in full comfort.
Cautions: Stop before pain or tightness occurs. Avoid tightness in the throat or belly. Do not make loud or hard sounds at the nostrils. Do not violently shake the body, tilt the pelvis, or work the chest during kapalabhati. Feel free to stop or slow down at anytime if tightness, soreness, or irritation occurs and then come back into the practice when that sensation clears. Daily unforced practice at first will lead to rapid mastery.
Benefits: Cleanses and opens the third eye and the manipura chakra
Kapalabhati is more purifying and less stimulating than bhastrika, being only slightly warming it is much safer. See kapalabhati and bhastrika in the appendix II (Pranayama and Breathing Exercises).
Viparita Karani Kriya: This is the same as kapalabhati, but upside down in viparita karani mudra (see asana section for description). Kapalabhati can be done with alternate nostrils closed (see nadi shodhana below). As such it is good to dry out the nasal passageways after jal neti (see below). Generally kapalabhati is classified as, vatkram, or a kriya which uses air for purification.
Kapalabhati traditionally was done daily (stabilizing at three sets consisting of 108 breaths per set).
Nadi Suddhi purifies and balances the psychic nerves (nadis) and clears up kapha disorders. Although a kriya, it is often also listed as a pranayama. Notice that there is no breath retention (kumbhaka) in nadi suddhi (also called nadi shodhana). Nadis means psychic channel where the prana flows and suddhi means to purify. It is valuable to practice this before beginning pranayama practice, but it is helpful at any time to open up the psychic pathways. Here through nadi suddhi we are working directly on the energy body in the pranamaya kosha to effect chang, but yes we are utilizing physical technique. This also balances the nervous system and removes congestion and imbalance in the entire system. It is often called alternate nostril; breath. This practice like agni sara and kapalabhati are often given as a pranayama technique, but such properly belongs as a kriya because its purpose is primarily cleansing. As nadi suddhi kriya directly affects the nadis and energy body, it also directly purifies and balances the mental patterning (citta-vrtti).
Preliminary Techniques: Various techniques exist, but the following is the most common. It is also called sukha purvaka (comfortable and easy breath). Traditionally one first learns Vishnu mudra with the right hand folding the index and middle fingers upon the main crease of the palm while extending the ring, baby finger, and thumb. Extending the ring finger is often uncomfortable at first, but this becomes easy after practice. A popular alternative is to place the index finger and middle finger at the third eye instead.
In either case, the ring finger (with the aid of the baby finger) of the left nostril is placed with a very slight pressure unto the outside flare of the left nostril. The thumb is used to close off the right nostril gently also with the least amount of pressure. The right elbow is held slightly raised and out to right in order to prevent the tendency to close off the lungs and heart. This position of the elbow may be exaggerated (by raising the elbow up) in order to expand lung capacity in the thoracic region.At first the arm will get tired, but be careful to not to raise the scapula to keep the arms raised in position, rather let the scapula sink toward the sacrum at all times. Eventually this will also become easy.
There exist two basic common ways to start, Some schools start first with a deep exhalation through both nostrils, followed by an inhalation through the left nostril, Another school starts the practice with a deep full and comfortable inhalation through both nostrils followed by an exhalation through the right nostril. Please see what your own system prefers and feel free to explore your energetic response on your own.What you will find eventually that the left nostril represents the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response) associated with the right brain (ida nadi), while the right nostril is associated with the pingala nadi, the sympathetic nervous system, and the left brain. The purpose here is to find balance, synergistic synchrony, harmony, mutual support, fullness, and abundance.
The most common practice is to simply switch nostrils after the inhalation (puraka). After the exhalation (rechaka) one inhales back in (puraka) through the same nostril as the exhalation, then switch nostrils by switching the fingers exhaling through the opposite nostril. Let the breath flow freely and deeply with the least amount of resistance. Allow the chest to fill out and raise completely especially as the diaphragm goes down into the abdomen while inhaling. Keep the inter-costal spaces expanded and lifted, while the subtle energy is allowed to flow in and out of the nares. Be aware of the spine lengthening and connecting the crown with the tail bone throughout. Bathe in the prana with awareness in this way.
One round consists of two inhales (one left and right) and two exhales (one left and one right). Three rounds will actually make a large difference. try it now. Three rounds of three rounds even more difference. this practice of conscious breathing (we are conscious of the breathing process but are not consciously directing it) is very simple but powerful and profound.
Precautions and hints:
In beginning nadi suddhi the ratios of the in-breath and out-breath are not critical. the main thing at first is to observe the incoming and outgoing breath while one nostril is closed, simply being present and noting the changes going on in front of one as if one were lost in wonder. No control other than to change the nostrils are necessary. Thus no disturbances can arise.At first one may attempt to allow the breath to lengthen (slow down) in nadi suddhi. Only after one begins proper pranayama practice does one attempt to change the ratios of the in-breath (puraka) and the rechaka (exhalation) and eventually add retention (kumbhaka).
Here the process must be easy and comfortable (sukha purvaka). In the beginning if there is discomfort at the shoulders while keeping the fingers in place, stop and rest or try switching arms.
Benefits: used in asthma treatment, lowers cardiovascular rate, reduces stress, calms the mind, reduces anxiety, positively affects the kidneys and adrenals, prepares the mind for meditation, cleans and opens the nadis (psychic channels), strengthens and balances the nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic), pre-requisite for pranayama,
Later in pranayama practice these basic elements of nadi suddhi can be combined with visualization of the prana as it enters and traverses the body as well as ajapa japa (conforming and directing the sound of the breath to various mantras such as soham, hamsa, ah-hum, etc.) But here we are mostly concerned with the powerful cleansing, balancing, and healing effects of nadi suddhi so that the breathing process itself becomes full, unforced, comfortable, and joyful (sukha).
Nadi Shuddhi traditionally is done daily in three sets (three rounds per set). One round consists of a complete cycle of alternating the exhalation and inhalation of each nostril.
Neti is used to cleanse the entire area above the chest. Classically there are two types, jal (water) neti and vastra or sutra (string) neti. Jal neti is especially designed to clean out irritants in the nose and upper pharynx and to rehydrate and moisten the delicate goblet and ciliated cells of the nasal passageway, while sutra neti is a great stimulant of the nerves in the sinus, nose, ears, eyes, and throat greatly relieving congestion and stagnant mucous conditions of the sinus, eyes, ears, throat, and head. Sutra neti being more stimulating is best done in the daytime or morning. It works on the ajna and crown chakras and is beneficial for success in pranayama.
The Anatomy and Function of the Nose.
The function of the nose is to warm, filter, moisten, clean, and smell the air, testing for any noxious materials or danger (such as fire) and/or giving us vital information about food, herbs, plants, weather, people, or other animals. These functions can be drastically altered during colds, sinus congestion, illness, stress, excessive dry weather or cold weather, the presence of environmental toxins, poor diet, extreme weather, grief, etc. When the function of the nose is compromised, the risk of contracting other disease is greater.
Yogis for centuries have claimed by treating the nose, diseases of the eyes, ears, sinus, throat, and head can be strongly and positively affected. The yogis also developed a tremendously intricate science called swara yoga, based on the fact that the characteristics of the breath at the nostrils (called swaras) are powerful channels of both bodily and cosmic information, the left swara corresponding to the Ida psychic nerve and the right swara to the pingala nerve. Paying attention to and manipulating the dominant swara and its subtle shapes and characteristics becomes both a portal of great information and a means of success for the swara yogin, whose science depends upon the healthy functioning of the nose. It is here at the top of the throat where the powerful sensory organs of the ears, nose, eyes, and tongue come together (if one adds khechari mudra (the tip of the tongue being stretched backward and upward into the nasal pharynx).
In a normally functioning nose, the air is moistened, warmed, filtered, cleansed, smelled, and analyzed as it travels smoothly and otherwise relatively unimpeded to the very back of the two nasal passageways at the posterior nasal apertures called the choanae. Here the many left and right nerves of the cranium can be accessed such as the olfactory, the ethmoid, the nasopallatine, etc. At this special point the ethmoid, bony palate, maxillary, lacrimal, vomer, and sphenoid all are immediately accessed. Not coincidentally but rather synchronistically at the back aperture of the nose, there exist two valves which allow the air to enter into the back of the upper throat (pharynx) above and behind the soft palate. From here the air goes down the pharynx where it eventually enters into the larynx through the opening at the epiglottis and from there to the lungs. When one or both nostrils appears to be clogged or impeded it is most always often due to the swollen condition of these two valves at the back of the nasal passageway. Indeed the condition of these two valves both modulate our breathing and provide valuable information about our body, nervous system, mind, emotions, health, and inter-relationships with the outside world.
The openings of the nose (nostrils) of which we are most familiar are called the nares. The two long narrow passageways (the nasal septum) that connect them to the back of the upper throat (pharynx) are lined with very sensitive specialized ciliated (hair like) tissues which move in wavelike motions moving the mucous generated by the goblet cells (which create approximately one pint of mucous per day) providing cleansing lubrication for this specialized function.
A healthy condition of mucous to provide the optimum moisture to the incoming air and its optimum filtering function should be not too dry (crusty) or too thick (clogging the sinus drainage or disrupting the pressure balances in the ears or eyes on one hand, or too thin and watery on the other hand (usually as a toxic reaction in a cathartic attempt to cleanse the region creating post nasal drip). The healthy color of the nasal mucous is clear, but in various altered conditions and dysfunction it can be white, yellow, green, blue, black, gray, or red. This very vital region should be kept clean, non-irritated, open, decongested, and tonified while the powerful sensory and motor nerves to this area must be neither over stimulated, deadened, nor imbalanced.
In addition to the pharynx at the end of the long narrow nasal passageway (the nasal septum), the eustachian tubes leading to each ear are found. Further in toward the front nostrils and on both lateral walls of the nose, we also find the two openings of the tear duct, which is why when people cry they need to blow their nose, and conversely why when we inhale a pungent smell like pepper or onions the eyes tear. Also it is also in these two nasal septi that we find the openings to all the sinuses (which are also lined with goblet and ciliated tissues). This is why the nasal area is called Sapta-patha in Sanskrit i.e., the seven paths (bilateral openings to the ears, eyes, sinuses, and the unilateral opening to the throat). The nerves and tissues are specially designed to provide us with our sense of smell are located in the superior part of the nasal septum.
The function of the sinuses and other specialized ducts, receptor sites, tissues, glands, and nerves (such as the nervis terminalis which terminate widely in the nasal cavity) are not yet understood by modern scientist, but were well known to the ancient yogis. Any blockage in these openings can adversely affect the harmonious healthy draining, pressures, and inter-relationships in and between these important organs. Indeed we will find that neti has been used for millennia to positively affect the health and psychic development of this entire region.
An in-depth study of the anatomy of the nasal septum area will expose the most accessible and concentrated area of the body in terms of important individual bones such as the two nasal bones, the inferior nasal concha, vomer, the two palatines, the two lacrimal bones, the floating sphenoid bone, ethmoid, frontal, the many maxillae, and the two zygomatic bones, The nasal septum region through its rich connection to all the various sinus cavities such as the ethmoid, frontal, sphenoid, and maxillary sinuses is the harmonious and energetic fount of a labyrinth of pranic energies in the skull.
For instance in the back of the ethmoid sinus there exists a permeable membrane in direct contact with the pineal gland often associated with the third eye in mystical traditions, while the sphenoid sinus is adjacent to the powerful pituitary gland. The posterior ethmoid sinus is closely associated with the function of the optic canal and optic nerve. The sinuses directly interact with many bones at once, such as the ethmoid sinus which is formed by the dynamic interaction of the ethmoid, frontal, maxillary, lacrimal, sphenoid, and palatine bones. Contrast this to the sphenoid sinus which resides entirely within the floating sphenoid bone considered the pivot bone of craniosacral therapy. The sinuses themselves can be tremendously multi-layered such as the ethmoid which can contain as many as eighteen chambers per side in some individuals. Although the function of the sinuses are not understood by modern anatomy, their importance and function appear to be well understood by the ancient hatha yoga practitioners of asana, bandha, pranayama, and mudra, (See picture number ???)
When the irritants of the nose and sinuses are removed the air passage ways may reflexively relax and open no longer sensing potential toxins, irritants, or toxins. When the nasal passage ways are re-sensitized we can notice the subtler characteristics of the air as it passes through the septum such as which nostril is more open, swollen, or congested and whether the air is pressing more toward the roof, the floor, the lateral or medial walls of the septum. Is the air moving in a clockwise gyre or counter clockwise helix? What are the other characteristics of the swirling and spiral pressures and vectors that are involved? What is the song and/or mantra of the breath? How does the mind and emotions come into deeper contact and partnership with it? This investigation is not just to help us focus, but is the beginning of an advanced psycho-physical practice called swara yoga.
This is a simple washing of the nasal septi by slightly saline water made by adding approximately 1/8 teaspoon of pure salt to a cup of warm water. If the salt is very coarse you might need to use as much as 1/2 teaspoon. If this is done at an optimum ration, not only will there be absolutely no burning in the nose, but rather on the contrary the salted water will be experienced as very soothing and pleasurable. If the water temperature is too cold, it will contribute to congestion as the tissues in the nose swell, but if it is too hot it will irritate the mucous membrane linings. Thus the best temperature is between 70-100 degrees F, the closer to body temperature the better.
Jal Neti can be done in a simplified form at a basin or outdoors by simply and gently closing one nostril off by the same side index finger or thumb, slightly bending forward while tipping the cup or glass of salted water close to the edge toward your left nostril and gently sniffing the water (and some air) in the nose until you feel it at the back of the throat, at which time you can spit it out. Do this three or more times per nostril. Do not worry if you swallow some water, but make sure that you do not become over zealous and sniff it into the lungs, in which case you will cough uncomfortably. This simplified version of jal neti can be easily done at anytime with a cup or glass especially if the air is dusty or polluted, the weather and nose is dry, or there exist any irritation, inflammation, or soreness in the naso-pharangeal area. This version of jal neti (called vyutkarama kapala neti) is a bit more stimulating than the traditional version, but it may not be as thorough as the following traditional type (see end of this section for more).
Traditional Jal Neti is done with a special neti pot, of which a common garden watering pot can work if the inside diameter of the opening is not larger than the outside of the nostrils. Again make up your saline solution as before and place your head over the basin or sink (if indoors) with the chin slightly tucked in and to one side. Point the expelling nose down and forward while placing the spigot of the neti pot into the up-most nostril. Slowly tilt the neti pot full of salted water into the raised nostril allowing the water to flow out of the bottom nostril. If nothing happens make sure that the bottom nostril is tilted slightly forward and downward so that gravity will force the water into the basin. Use one cup to bathe one side and then switch to the other side. If you are doing both netis, do jal neti after sutra neti.
Similar to water neti, is the Ayurvedic medical practice of oil nasya which applies warm medicated oils into the nose while lying on the back with the chin and nose are lifted up (neck slightly compressed). A pillow or two under the upper thoracic region and shoulders will allow the back or even the crown of the head to rest on the earth or bed helping to facilitate the flow of oil into the back of the nose. One may also find that this may be a good time to do the headstand.
Five to eight drops or more of a warmed medicated oil per nostril is the most common dosage of which vacha (a sesame seed oil extract of calamus root) and Brahma (a gee extract of gota kola) are perhaps the most common preparations. One can also apply errhines (counter-irritants) which consist of short term irritants, such as cayenne and other peppers. They are frequently used to stimulate, purify, and tone the area. In order to be sure that your preparation is not too strong, it is safest to start with a prepared Ayurvedic errhine from a respected pharmacy. Allow at least a few minutes for the oil to soak down into the posterior head region before assuming an upright position. Preparations are tailored to one's own constitutional needs. Nasya treats the throat, nose, sinus, ear, head, eyes, and disorders of prana.
Related to nasya is the Ayurvedic nose massage practice of dipping a clean well manicured little finger into medicated oil or ghee and then inserting it into the nasal passageway as far as is comfortable creating a massage first by moving the fingers in clockwise and then in a counter-clockwise motion.
Further a related yoga practice called dugdha neti and ghrta neti utilizes milk and ghee respectively instead of water. Vyutkrama kapalabhati neti (see above) is one name for the process of sniffing warm slightly salted water in a cup by blocking off the opposite nostril with one finger. Simply dip the open nostril into the cup and suck up the water so that it gurgles in the nose and flows over into the mouth. Then spit it out. Sheetkrama neti is similar but more difficult for most. Here the water is sipped into the mouth and ejected through the nose. After jal neti it is best to do rapid kapalabhati or alternative nostril kapalabhati in order to dry out the area (especially in winter or damp climates).
The term vyut kram neti refers specifically to the inhalation (sipping in) of water through one nostril at a time while spitting out the water through the mouth. Sheet kram neti refers specifically to the opposite, sucking water in at the mouth and expelling it through the nose while doing matangini mudra.
Jal neti is traditionally done daily or more often in dry and dusty, dirty, polluted, environments. In wet, damp, and/or cold environments and one's constitution is kapha dominant, then jal neti may be discontinued in favor of sutra neti or nasya (using medicated oils instead of water).
Sutra Neti is also one of classic Shat Karmas (Six Cleansing Activities) of ancient Hatha Yoga. Its benefits are extolled by the great treatises on Hatha Yoga and Yoga Hygiene as an important synergist in accelerating the yogic process. Although water cleansing or bathing of the nasal cavities mechanically removes dust, irritants, and impurities from the nasal passages and is thus beneficially soothing, Sutra Neti goes further in stimulating and tonifying the nerves, glands, and organs of the entire nasal and cranial area including the eyes, sinuses, ears, and cranium. For centuries it has been a specific treatment in India for sluggishness, sinus headaches, congestion, eye and ear complaints, heaviness of the head, excess kapha (mucus), lack of alertness, opening of the third eye, and the like.
Care of the Sutra Neti String:
The more common strings are made from one foot long cotton thread or string half of which is dipped in beeswax stiffening it in order to allow its insertion into the nasal cavity without balling up. The beeswax can not undergo sharp bends without cracking, so it is suggested that it is kept wrapped or protected alongside a long stick, stick of cardboard, or similar stiff strip to prevent accidental sharp bends, hence cracking the beeswax. If extra care is undertaken a single string can easily be usable for over a month even with daily usage and rinsing, thus 10 strings or less can be used the entire year if great care is exercised. Otherwise, simply learn how to dip your own by taking 1/16" - 1/8" (2-3 mm) pure soft cotton string approximately one foot (30 cm) long and then dipping approximately half of it into a pot of pure melted beeswax. The string will stop dripping within ten seconds. Allow to harden with a clothes' pin and line or on clean piece of paper making sure that the bottom tip has not become too fat or sharp. If a sifter string is desired melt in some cocoa butter with the beeswax. If there still is resistance or irritation apply coconut oil to the tip of the string just before insertion.
Hemp strings approximately 1/16 - 1/8"" (2-3 mm) thick are the perfect stiffness and texture thus not requiring beeswax. They are tougher and last longer, but also should be rinsed or wiped and then dried straight after usage. The hemp is much rougher on the nose than the cotton, thus providing more of an errhine like long term counter-irritant effect and stimulation thus more greatly provoking the faster elimination of mucous, however for some with sensitive noses, cotton is better tolerated especially at first. Make sure that whatever string you use are not treated with preservatives or anti-fungal agents. The preferred choice are 100 % organic unbleached products free from any additives.
A third alternative, the use of a soft rubber catheter is by far the easiest to slip through, however it gives the least amount of friction and stimulation. These one foot (30 cm) long 1/8" -- 3/16" (2-3 mm) thick catheters can be cheaply obtained at any surgical supply or medical supply store. They are also very easily cleaned.
Before and after usage it is advisable to rinse the string or catheter in warm water (or in specialized cases medicated oils). Then place the beeswax string straight to dry. In case of deviated septum. polyps, or other diseases of the nose consult your physician or yoga therapist. One exception is to not wet the hemp string except at the very tip as it will too easily wilt. Hemp strings can rarely be reused.
Curve the tip of the string slightly pointing down (like a small hook shape). This will help the string curl under the soft palate toward the mouth when it enters the upper back of the throat (upper pharynx), so that you can more easily grab it with your middle and index fingers. The string is slowly, gently, and with conscious feeling (non-mechanically) inserted along the nasal cavity floor without any pain. The nasal cavity is like a long cave which narrows at the roof and is widest at the floor, thus keep the string pointed toward the back of the throat, slightly downward, and slightly medial (inward) so that it will smoothly slide through the widest passageway available toward the back opening of the nose. The goal being that it should pass easily and smoothly through the valve (swollen lip) at the back of the nose (the choanae) into the upper back of the throat (nasopharynx) near the Eustachian tubes, then curling under the upper palate (roof of the mouth) where it can be grabbed by the index and middle fingers of the opposite hand (forming a tong-like appendage). For maximum effect it is grabbed and gently rocked back and forth a few times before it is pulled through and out the mouth. It is not necessary to grab it as most of the work is to massage the walls, roof, and floor and tonify the nasal septum, sinus openings, tear ducts, the posterior aperture, the area near the Eustachian tubes, nerves, and glands of the entire region.
Under no circumstances should pain be experienced during the insertion. If pain occurs, it is a sign of going too fast, the string has become pointed in the wrong direction, and/or is caught up against the nasal wall, or some other obstruction exists. In this case back off the pressure immediately and twist the string in one direction or the other until you can thread a clear unobstructed passage through the cave is found. Soon this misty and mysterious dark cave will become a bright and clear one. After basic awareness of the nasal septum and posterior apertures are established then feel free to explore the upper conchae and other landmarks of the nose as well.
Also do not suppress the gag reflex. If you feel like gagging when the string comes through the nose and hits the back of the throat, that is normal. Back off the string into the nose or before the gag reflex is activated just breathe deeply with the string in place and relax the area. When the body knows that it isn't going to suffocate it will allow you to continue. Otherwise back off from the throat and back through the valve. Simply going back and forth through the valve of the nose, 99% of the benefit can be gotten with no gag reflex. Consistent suppression of the gag reflex will be counterproductive causing unwanted tension in the throat.
Hints and Kinks:
If there is any difficulty in getting through to the posterior nasal aperture, it may be helpful to smooth and straighten the tip of the string while maintaining a slightly downward orientation of the tip throughout the insertion, so that when the tip goes under the medial bottom lip of the nasal-pharyngeal valve at the entrance to the throat, it points downward toward the mouth, but otherwise is not too curved so as to curl under before it reaches its exit (at the posterior nasal aperture).
Some people have an exaggerated soft palate and an easily triggered gag reflex which may make it difficult to grab the string or stick anything near the throat. Try to breathe smoothly and fully throughout. If the gag reflex makes grabbing the string impossible, you should know that it is not necessary to grab the string with the fingers and pull it back and forth through the nose. 99% of the benefit is obtained by simply passing the string up to and through this posterior nasal-throat valve while gently massaging the nasal membranes which reflex back to the powerful group of nerves which serve in common the entire cranium. For some just the presence of the string in the back of the throat let alone inserting the fingers to grab the end of the string easily triggers a gag reflex which after gentle and loving practice of just simply going to the posterior aperture and back out the nose will eliminate. The key is to go gently, slowly, kinesthetically, while breathing consciously and fully. The entire procedure can take less than ten seconds after proficiency has been attained.
Some people can perform this cleansing activity (kriya) completely on the very first try, while others may take up to a month or longer to master. At first allow at least 5 minutes for the initial exploration with a good supply of tissues handy, if a copious mucous flow is activated. Take your time, very slowly and gently easing the string forward, enjoying its' cleansing effects, and always breathing deeply. It is normal to feel tickled and to sneeze much at first and to eliminate copious mucous from the sinus so have handkerchiefs or tissues handy. As the mucous membranes, nerves, glands, organs, and tissues of the nose, throat, ears, eyes, sinuses, and cranium become tonified, stimulated, invigorated, and purified, the body's reaction becomes less dramatic. After basic kinesthetic awareness is gained, feel free to explore the middle and upper conchae. For kapha constitutions and beginners try sutra neti daily. If after regular practice, the beneficial results dwindle, then one may cut back their practice accordingly.
Sutra Neti is one of the most powerful and beneficial, yet one of the most simple, of the Hatha Yoga shat karmas. It is best performed soon after rising in conjunction with the rest of the morning cleansing activities.
"Pull a thread 12 inches in length through one of the nostrils. Pull it out through the mouth. This is neti. It cleanses the skull and makes the eyes sharp. It also removes diseases that are above the shoulders."
from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika of Swami Swatmarama, Chapter 2 (Purification of the Nerves) verses 30-31
"A smooth braided string of fine threads, a cubit (18 inches) in length should be introduced into the throat through the nose. One should rub slowly."
from the Satkaramasangraha of Raghavira
"Pass a thin thread measuring about 10 inches through the nostrils and pull it out through the mouth. This is called neti-kriya. Through this practice, Khechari siddhi is obtained. It eliminates the disorders of phlegm and produces clairvoyance and clear sight."
from the Gherand Samhita of Gherand, chapter 1 verse 50-51.
Benefits: Sutra netis is especially good before pranayama because of frictional massage the membranes are strengthened and able to work more efficiently, in their function of warming, cleaning, humidifying, and disinfecting the air. this conditions the air in a sanguine manner before it enters the lungs. Also in regard to pranayama the blood supply to the nerves of the air passages have a;ready become energized through the sutra neti. It is believed that many infections as well as the diseases of asthma and emphysema are aggravated or created when people breathe through their mouths because their noses are too blocked, thus neti is beneficial. Many yoga practices cannot be performed correctly without being able to breathe through the nose.
Mainly sutra neti is excels in removing catarrh, snot, phlegm, kapha, and the like. Sutra neti stimulates the nerves and related brain functions of the eyes, tear ducts. sinus, ears, and head. Albeit it increases mucus at first as it catalyzes a catharsis, flushing out the secretory glands and removing stagnation of the lymph, blood, and nerves of the area and thus increasing resistance to infection. Sutra neti also clears away dried up mucous deposits and foreign bodies by stimulating fluid from underneath the deposits to help in the flushing process (inside out) but is best followed by jal neti to flush out any residue. At a more subtle level, sutra neti stimulates the ajna chakra.
Both jal and sutra neti can be done daily with benefits.
For more on neti see
A Large General Handbook of Jal Neti Practices in PDF format
More Detail on Sutra Neti including how to make the strings
A Modern Jal Neti Detailed Text in plain text
Jal Neti Portal (Australia) an excellent site devoted to Jal Neti with an excellent article archive
This works on the talu chakra, kurma strota, the base of the skull, the throat, palate, jaw, and throat chakra. In ancient times the tongue was rubbed by inserting a well manicured and clean ring finger, middle, and index finger deep into the back of the tongue rubbing out the impurities at the root of the tongue slowly, gently, and deeply. This can be more easily accessed at first by inserting the index finger underneath the tongue, then gently moving over to one side toward the back root of the tongue at the root of the jaw. One can also massage the inside of the lower jaw this way. Be sensitive to any bumps, swellings, adhesions, hard spots and so on massaging in a gentle circular motion. Use of a finger cot insures any sanitation issues, although one's sensitivity decreases as a result.
One can also grab the upper part of the tongue with rounded tongs or with a clean handkerchief or bandana drawing it out slowly, elongating it, and milking it. This removes impurities as well as creates a long tongue for khechari mudra if practiced twice a day (see below).
Today tongue scraping in India is part of daily oral hygiene often utilizing a tongue scraper made out of silver, copper, or stainless steel which is inserted on the back most part of the tongue with a light but firm pressure and then brought forward skimming off any surface scum, mucous, dead cells, toxins, food debris, microbes, and other impurities until the entire upward facing surface of the accessible tongue is cleaned. One technique is to start at the back of the tongue, working progressively with gentle but firm strokes from back to front starting until the whole surface of the tongue is cleansed. This action can be repeated many times until the residue is greatly diminished or removed. This cleansing can also be done with an ordinary picnic plastic spoon turned on its edge (as many people do not like metal in their mouths) or else one can purchase a modern plastic tongue scraper sold at most natural food stores.
The lateral contour, color patterns, topography, tone, and overall shape of the tongue and the characteristics of the fur of the tongue, its colors, densities, consistencies, and other debris characteristics have long been used for diagnoses in both ancient Indian and Chinese medical systems. Like the ear, foot, and hand, the tongue not only is considered to reflect the overall body's condition, but also act as two way street, being capable of positively altering these conditions if approached intelligently.
Benefits: Stimulates the back brain, throat chakra, throat, cleans the breath, increases digestion, reflexes positively to swadhistana chakra, prevents tooth decay, prepares for khechari mudra.
Another similar technique is tongue milking. massage, and stretching done in preparation for the gross form of khechari mudra (see below under "upper palate massage", khechari, danda dhauti, and in the yoga mudra chapter). Here the tongue is grabbed by a well manicured and clean thumb, index finger, and middle finger and kneaded and massaged. This is also called dohana kriya, jhiva mool dhauti, or jhiva sodhana especially when it is stretched (usually by grabbing the front part with a clean handkerchief (in order to prevent slipping) and gently pulling and twisting for a few minutes. A similar technique is performed with a special tongue pulling tong. When one twists the tongue, pulls it, and then pushes the tongue back past the soft palate toward the uvula, it is called chalana kriya. Similarly see the discussion of khechari mudra below in the "upper palate massage" section.
These tongue kriyas are classically suggested to be preformed on a daily basis once or more times per day.
Simply take clean thumb of the right hand and massage the back of the upper palate toward the uvula (called the bhalarandhra). (Also see khechari mudra below). Modern day osteopaths, chiropractors, body centered psychotherapists, and deep fascia body workers also often massage and adjust the upper palate starting with the front (hard palate) and working toward the soft palette and the uvula. For some this is a very powerful therapy and can be self induced by searching for abnormalities, sore spots, bumps, lack of tone, lesions, energy cysts, distortions, tension, etc.
Benefits: The ancient texts state that this kriya is helpful due to diseases caused by kapha/pitta/vata imbalance, mucous imbalance, skin irritation and sensitivities, headache, dryness in the throat, lack of apana, etc. The energy is helped to flow along its normal course between the torso and the brain, and vision is improved. Cleanses and opens the throat chakra (visuddha) and the back brain.
This kriya clears away mental fatigue, clears the mind, relaxes tension in general, relieves sinus congestion, and releases the jaw and throat.
Khechari mudra is an advanced hatha yoga practice that accomplishes the benefits of above two as well as many of the benefits of sutra neti. With khechari mudra the back of the uvula is massaged as well as the upper pharynx, the area behind the nostrils, and the area below the pineal gland (at the top of the naso-pharyngeal cavity. This alleviates sinus congestion completely, clears, the throat, esophagus, and lungs. It is best learned from a skilled practitioner as most people's tongue's are not normally long enough to retract all the way behind the uvula and up back into the upper reaches of the naso-pharyngeal cavity which rests below the pituitary gland.
A deep massage at the root/bottom of the tongue (not the top of the tongue) toward the bottom and back of the jaw as in jhiva kriya is of great benefit in lengthening the tongue and opening up the saliva glands. This also releases tension in the jaw, tongue, and throat while improving the quality of the voice. Be sensitive to any bumps, swellings, adhesions, hard spots and so on massaging in a gentle circular motion. Use of a finger cot insures any sanitation issues, although one's sensitivity decreases as a result. Also pushing the upper part of the tongue backwards with a clean index finger toward the uvula is both stimulating to the head region and also lengthens the tongue.
See the related discussion on danta dhauti, ajna kriya, tongue cleansing, neti, and tratak above for related mouth, ear, mouth, nose, tongue, and teeth purification practices of the skull. These kriyas can be done daily.
One uses the stiff hairlike fibres of the neem tree or babool tree to clean the teeth and the spaces between the teeth. Neem tree twigs (called dentoon in certain parts of india) contain a special herbs and resins created by the neem tree. One chews on the end of the twig until it becomes soft and hairlike (many fine bristles), then first insert the stiffer bristles between the teeth and then rub the teeth and gums like a tooth brush. Today most people use tooth brushes, picks, or special appliances but the point here is to stimulate the gums as well as the nerve roots of the teeth while taking advantage of the special herbs available by the plant, rather than to only mechanically clean, disinfect, or manage the PH of the mouth, tongue, and teeth. Neem twigs (Dentoon) is available via mail order at http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/product/dentoon.html
It is recommended to massage certain oils and herbal powders directly on the gums utilizing well manicured finger nails and a clean thumb and index fingers squeezing, gently wiggling, and manipulating the teeth and gums, thus gently stimulating the tooth roots and nerves of the region. In this respect utilize a clean and well manicured index finger to massage the base of the gums all the way to the floor of the jaw. This lower gum/jaw massage will also impact upon the tongue and throat (see jhiva kriya) and will increase the quality of the voice. The upper gum massage will prove to be quite a bit less complex than the lower, finding any tense or congested areas and gently stimulate them with the index finger. Be sensitive to any bumps, swellings, adhesions, hard spots and so on massaging in a gentle circular motion. Use of a finger cot insures any sanitation issues, although one's sensitivity decreases as a result.
In regards to the health of the teeth, sitkari pranayama is very beneficial to the gums, as the air is drawn in through the mouth through the clenched teeth while the lips are drawn wide open and up exposing the teeth to maximum oxygen contact.
These danta dhauti activities can be done once or more daily.
First one must master uddiyana bandha (see Bandha and Mudra Appendix III).
Technique: After uddiyana is mastered, then central (madhyama) nauli is mastered. Then left (vama) nauli and right (dakshini) nauli are learned individually. Later all three are put together in a flowing sequence of abdominal churning and massage (nauli chalana or lauliki).
Standing with legs about hip width apart or wider, palms resting on lower thighs above the knees, find mulabandha and swadhi bandha first (see the chapter on hatha yoga bandhas). Bend the knees slightly while rotating the front top of the pelvis forward (anteversion of the pelvis) while not rounding the upper back. Take a few deep breaths. Then rapidly exhale all the breath through the nose with sustained external retention (bahya kumbhaka). Draw the region four finger widths below the navel inward toward the lumbar spine allowing any anteversion of the pelvis (lumbar arch if any) to release and move into a natural retroversion (cat tilt), sinking the sacrum and tail bone. This eventually creates a deep cavern in the belly as in uddiyana bandha). please note that it is essential to master Uddiyana Bandha before nauli.
Resist hunching the shoulders toward the ears or rounding the upper back. Keep the back of the neck also long (jalandhara bandha). Allow the arms to assist in making the torso and back long off the pelvis, taking jalandhara bandha (see the chapter on hatha yoga bandhas) while increasing the space in the abdomen. Keep the air held out externally (bahya kumbhaka) and then bring the navel further in (straight back toward the spine) without lifting the navel. This will create a deep hollow cavity in the belly toward the navel which has moved toward the spine. Keep the rib cage lifted and the scapula dropped in back toward the sacrum. Succinctly this is uddiyana bandha, which is the first part of learning nauli and must be learned first (again see the hatha yoga bandha chapter for more details). Again a deep full physical uddiyana bandha is to be perfected before going on to nauli so not even a hint of strain appears in the practice. Nauli is very easy for lean people, but obese people with extended bellies will find it impossible. For the latter, they should practice uddiyana bandha, agni sara, asana, the other kriyas, and dietary regime first. It is not only excess fat that impedes success in nauli, but also excessively tight abdominal musculature as well.
Madhyama or central nauli: there is much of confusion about nauli because it is an internal process often difficult to describe and because the terminology often is inexact in its description. Thus there is often some misinformation about it in print. When one side of the belly is drawn in to the spine, the other side stretched forward and outward. So with central (madhyama) nauli the central part of the belly is stretched and drawn forward away from the spine, but the left and right belly muscles remain drawn back (contracted in the opposite direction toward the spine).
Starting from a deep uddiyana bandha, then press the hands down on the thighs equally drawing the central belly forward while still sucking in the left and right sides. In madhyama nauli, a central vertical protrusion (relaxation) of the contents of the belly is drawn forward as the arms press forward equally onto the thighs. Hold as long as comfortable and then resume normal breath. When doing madhyama nauli the left and right deep hollowness (concavity) of at both sides of the belly is maintained and drawn backward toward the spine, but the central aspect is allowed to be drawn forward.
For many people central nauli is the most difficult to sense, so feel free to go on to left and right nauli regardless. It is difficult to describe in words. Central, left (vama), and right (dakshini) nauli can only be learned only after uddiyana bandha is mastered; while left and right nauli are not deeply efficient without first mastering central nauli. If the left side is contracted so that the left side protrudes forward, then the left hand presses on the thigh and the trunk moves slightly forward and to the left. The opposite applies to the right side, i.e., when the right hand presses onto the right thigh drawing the right abdomen forward and out, the left side stays contracted inward toward the spine. To prevent confusion the terminology left or vama nauli refers to the drawing out the fascia to the left side, while the inward draw is on the right. Similarly right nauli (dakshina) is defined as the drawing inward toward the back of the left side while the abdominal contents move out to the right. Thus the names right and left pertain to the outward protrusion (as the belly protrudes and moves around right (dakshina) and left (vama).
Procedure: Left (vama) and right (dakshina) nauli are performed by first engaging a full deep uddiyana bandha. Maintaining the draw of the belly backward and inward to one side (deep uddiyana bandha) while drawing out and releasing the central and opposite side (guided by the pressure exerted by the hands on the thighs). When one presses forward with the arms on one thigh, that presses that side of the belly forward while the practitioner holds the opposite side contracted back (inward). This creates a stretch and loosening of any abdominal tension or adhesions.
For example perform uddiyana. Keeping the left side concave (inward), and direct the process by gently exerting guidance with the arms so that the left side stays concave, but the central and right sides are drawn outward and to the right. That is dakshina nauli. In vama (left) nauli reverse the process maintaining the contracted concavity inward on the right side, simultaneously allowing the central and left side to be drawn out, forward, and to the left using the guidance from the arms which are contacting the thigh to help direct the movement. That is a brief outline of right (dakshina), left (vama), and central (madhyama) nauli in a nutshell.
Then combine these motions sequentially right, central, left -- right, central, left, and so forth while the breath is held out (bahya kumbhaka) continuously. Know that beginning action comes from first drawing in uddiyana bandha to one side, then the drawing out follows. After a little practice a smooth left/right rolling motion or churning is achieved, but that is not yet the full lauliki or nauli chalana proper.
At first nauli may appear inscrutable, but after consistent practice over a period of a week (less than 5 minutes/day) the movements will start to become revealed through practice and focused attention as the fascia of the abdomen are re-educated, invigorated, and toned. It is important not to hold the breath too long so that you have to gasp for new breath. Do not be discouraged if nauli appears complicated to the intellect, but rather it comes easily and intuitive after practice. One develops a natural feeling for it.
Between rounds of uddiyana bandha and nauli rest long enough for the breath to come back to normal. Avoid rounding the back or tilting the pelvis, but rather maintain mulabandha and lift the torso and spine off the pelvis keeping the spine long. In between rounds, it is corrective to perform tadasana with a slight backward extension of the hips and torso as a counterpose (especially valuable if one tends to round the back).
The arms and slight flexion at the torso act as guides directing the motion, but avoid any possible tension. One side will tend to push while the opposite side tends to pull.
For example in dakshina (right) nauli where the left side of the belly is drawn back toward the spine, one bends the torso slightly toward the right bringing the abdominal contents to the right and forward. Conversely, when doing vama (left) nauli where the left side of the belly is drawn inward and the right side drawn outward one exerts more weight onto the left side bending the torso slightly toward the left thigh.
Thus to accomplish central nauli place the weight on the hands equally while maintaining left and right inward draw backward, will draw forward the contents of the abdomen to the central belly. The pushing down onto the thighs by the arms draws the contents of the belly forward (and to that side) creating more space in the opposite side to go inward and back. this loosens up tension in the belly. Don't worry if you don't get it the first time. Explore nauli daily.
Here we get the feeling of nauli through practice. To be successful we have to learn how to explore inside and experiment receiving internal feedback in a responsive manner. We have to learn how recognize our internal energy states and inner body language. In nauli one side of the abdomen is activated and drawn back more than the other (the motion is thus not in the arms, but rather the arms can aid and direct it.
After the pathways are opened one will be able to do nauli automatically without effort. Since we are re-programming and re-conditioning the area, at first there will be minor resistance such as weak and uneducated muscles. Do not force it, but practice at least three times a week for ten minutes or daily for five minutes until it becomes easy, one feels the invigorating benefit, and it is mastered. Then use when needed or at least once a week to maintain the mastery.
After central (madhyama), right (dakshini), and left (vama) nauli are mastered (they can be done individually), then combine them in a churning manner, first dakshina or right nauli (the contraction, vacuum, and concavity is on the right), then madhyama (central) nauli (the inward contraction is on both sides equally while the central is drawn out), then vama or left nauli (vacuum on the right side), then right, central and left -- i.e., from right side to left repeatedly before fatigue is felt. This is preparatory to nauli chalana or simply lauliki proper. Churn three or more times and then relax letting the breath return to normal. Repeat two more rounds, if one suffers from constipation attempt ending the nauli session in the motion of right to left (the motion of peristalsis). This should be a sufficient for a normal daily practice.
Some say that one activates the internal obliques to suck in the left and right muscle groups, while one isolates and rolls the rectus abdomini muscles left and right in a wavelike motion; but I suggest that the movement requires cooperation from the entire abdomen and pelvis as a whole. I suggest that it is more efficient to at fisrt approach the muscle aspect of nauli as a sideways pressing movement where the muscles help move the abdominal contents around via the directive force of the arms.
"Here you should contract the right side of the abdomen and allow the left side free. You will have the muscles on the left side only. This is called Vama Nauli. Again contract the left side muscles and allow the right side free. This is Dakshina Nauli. By having such gradual practices, you will understand how to contract the muscles of the central, left and right sides of the abdomen. You will also notice how they move from side to side. In this stage you will see the abdominal muscles only in the central, right or the left side. Practise this stage for a week.
Keep the muscles in the centre. Slowly bring to the right side and then to left side in a circular way. Do this several times from the right to left side and then do it in a reverse way from the left to right side. You should turn the muscles always with a circular motion slowly. When you advance in the practice you can do it quickly; but you can derive full benefits of this Kriya when you do it very slowly and gradually. This last stage of Nauli will appear like ‘churning’ when the abdominal muscles are isolated and rotated from side to side."
Swami Sivananda, "Kundalini Yoga"
Lauliki and Nauli Chalana Proper:
Instead of moving left to right (left nauli, central nauli, right nauli) or right to left (right nauli, central, and left nauli) linearly and laterally, these motions should be made circular. Start low down in the belly at the lowest point possible and move in a circular manner. For example start off in the lower left deeply in and then move more deeply upward, (releasing the lower left slightly), then move across the center top, then right side top, right side bottom, and then returning back to central low bottom. Do three or more circles. Rest and repeat three times (rounds). That is the normal cleansing motion, but if one has diarrhea then the direction may be reversed for balance. Health depends on inner wisdom and inner wisdom depends on balance!
Benefits: Nauli massages, invigorates, and tones the abdomen and intestines aiding both digestion and elimination. It invigorates the appendix and opens the iliocecal valve. It stimulates the digestive fire. It is an adjunct in cleansing the abdomen especially in basti and vamana dhauti. It massages all the organs in the abdomen most notably the intestines, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, spleen, prostate, ovaries, and bladder. Nauli and uddiyana bandha especially affect the manipura and swadhistana chakras. Always do nauli with mulabandha and after uddiyana bandha. Traditional yoga therapy considers nauli to generate heat in the body, stimulating digestive fire (agni) helping to remove toxins, increasing digestive fire, stimulates the immune system, removes lethargy and aids in the remediation of diabetes. Nauli helps create flow and warmth in the manipura (navel) chakra and aids in creating a feeling of self confidence, strength, and well being. Nauli also works on the pranamaya and manomaya koshas strongly, creating mental clarity and power.It is said to awaken the kundalini shakti (evolutionary energy).
Caution: Never strain or hold the breath so that you must gasp for breath. There should never be any pain. Always practice on an empty stomach (wait at least four hours after a heavy meal). Best done in the morning. Do not do if suffering from advanced abdominal injuries such as hiatal hernia, bleeding ulcers (peptic or duodenal), ulcerated colitis, heart disease etc. For other abdominal conditions see a yoga therapist. In yoga therapy nauli is recommended for many ailments of the abdomen as well as for diabetes.
In traditional yoga ashrams nauli kriya is recommended daily until mastered. Then once or twice a week is ample to maintain its benefits.
"Sitting on the toes with heels raised above the ground, and the palms resting on the ground, and in this bent posture the belly is moved forcibly from left to right, just as in vomiting. This is called by adepts the Nauli Karma.
It removes dyspepsia, increases appetite and digestion, and is like the goddess of creation, and causes all happiness. It dries up all the disorders. This is an excellent exercise in Hatha Yoga."
from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika
In another translation of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika the author says in Chapter 2.33 and 2.34
33 Lean forward, protrude the abdomen and rotate (the muscles) from right to left with speed. This is called nauli by the siddhas.
34: Nauli is foremost of the Hatha yoga practices. It kindles the digestive fire, removing indigestion, sluggish digestion and all disorders of the doshas and brings about happiness.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
This is the fire wash kriya practice which is none other than many repetitions of uddiyana bandha performed continuously one after the other without breathing in-between. Agni sara dhauti is perhaps more often called agni sara kriya or vahnisara kriya. Agni of course means fire. Sara means to wash. Dhauti here refers to the digestive tract. Agni sara kriya washes the abdomen by generating heat or fire (augmenting the fire chakra or manipura chakra), thus it is most often called simply , the fire wash.
Agni sara dhauti is like kapalabhati or bhastrika pranayama except there is no breathing during its performance, rather the air is held out in external retention (bahya kumbhaka) throughout. Agni Sara thus sometimes looks much like a slightly slower kapalabhati except there is no breathing at all (it is done by holding out all the breath in external retention (bahya kumbhaka). It is one of the shat karmas (six cleansing activities of hatha yoga). Most prefer to do this sitting in siddhasana or sukasana , but to start one may want to stand with knees softly legs bent and bending slightly forward at the navel (the navel folds in toward the spine). First one must have already learned the physical performance of uddiyana bandha, since agni sara is a continuous series of many uddiyana bandhas performed fast or slow (the speed is optional). Succinctly put, agni sara is the same as uddiyana bandha except that it is done repeatedly (in and out) and rapidly while holding the breath out (bahya kumbhaka). Try to master uddiyana bandha first to enhance the effects of agni sara.
Technique: Start either sitting (say in siddhasana) or standing. Place the hands on the thighs with the palms down. Extend the torso and back lifting the ribs up off the pelvis. Inhale and exhale. Then inhale halfway and then exhale all the breath out with uddiyana bandha and mulabandha, Apply jalandhara bandha. The breath is held outside (bahya kumbhaka) throughout, without any breathing. The uddiyana bandha is relaxed, then drawn back in, then relaxed again, then drawn back in, etc. Initiate the movement from the area four finger widths below the navel inward and upward. Move the navel region back and forth many times in that manner.
This is repeated many times before any strain so that one may take in a fresh breath. Then let the breath come back to normal (or do kapalabhati or bhastrika pranayama to re-oxygenate) and repeat as above up to two more rounds. At first the normal practitioner who is not used to uddiyana bandha will only be able to do five or so agni sara back and forth motions on one breath. Later with practice, it is easy to do 30 or 40 on one breath without straining depending on your capacity. Some rare people do 108 quick agnisara kriyas in one breath/sitting but their breath retention abilities and uddiyana bandha are superior.
There are two types of agni sara dhauti. One is fast and vigorous. It looks like the abdomen is being pumped in and out very rapidly centered at the navel point. This is the one that appears to generate the most heat. Working up to a round of fifty is usually adequate but the classic teaching is 100 or 108 on one breath. That will give complete mastery of agni sara kriya. Beginners might want to start with 5-10. That is one set. It is often recommended to do three sets, but if you are already doing 50 or over one set will be adequate. After consistent practice one can work up to 100 rapid back and forth movements without straining for air. It is much easier done immediately after a round of Kapalabhati or bhastrika pranayama because the blood, tissues, glands, and organs are already richly oxygenated and as a result the external retention of the breath (bahya kumbhaka) is easier.
The second type of agni sara kriya is the same as above, but with much slower but deeper uddiyana bandhas. This is like doing many uddiyana bandhas, one after the other. Again no breathing. All is done with external (bahya) kumbhaka (retention). One will find that the slower uddiyana bandha will allow for a deeper inward motion of the abdomen, however it lacks slightly in the warming and melting quality when compare with the quicker version. With the slow form 10 complete movements on one external retention (bahya kumbhaka) would be sufficient. It is the first version which gives off the most fire (agni). It cleanses the navel region, stimulates fire, burns and destroys toxins, and hence stimulates the immune system.
When agni sara kriya is done correctly, the navel region gets soft and strong-- strong but yielding! Fire is generated so that old toxins are able to be burned/purified, thus it is a cleansing activity (hatha yoga kriya).
Mulabandha and uddiyana bandha should be practiced first being sure that the inward motion emanates in from below the navel and below, then inward toward the spine. Even the outside (lateral aspects of the abdomen) are drawn inward toward the retreating navel. The torso and spine should be elongated from the pelvis and lengthened. It is learned at first from standing with the knees softly bent and the feet shoulder width apart. Do not bend the upper back, but rather keep the torso long while fold inward at the navel crease. Once learned standing it can be performed sitting in siddhasana or other sitting postures.
This kriya is said to wash, clean, and energize the fire chakra, stimulate the immune system, powers of digestion, and detoxify the body by increasing the inner fire. A long series of agni sara is much easier to accomplish if performed immediately after a round of kapalabhati or bhastrika. Then simply hold the breath out in external kumbhaka after a full exhalation, hollow out the abdomen, perform mulabandha, swadhi bandha below the navel, and then perform uddiyana bandha bringing the front of the navel area back into the hollow of the abdomen toward the spine. Instead of holding it back as in normal uddiyana bandha) rather let it snap back out forward. Then still holding the breath out, snap it back to the hollow in the abdomen toward the spine and then let it loose again. Repeat this back and forth motions rapidly while holding the breath out so that it is relaxing and invigorating the entire abdomen and spine. Feel the heat and melting in the navel area. End before there is any tendency to gasp for breath or strain.
Some like to do slower and more deep cycles (more like uddiyana bandha), while others benefit from very rapid and numerous (but less deep) cycles of agni sara. One's preferences may change depending on conditions. If we do the quick type immediately after a round of kapalabhati for instance, it is not difficult or unusual to work your way to 50 or more repetitions of agni sara rapidly with consistent practice. Of course the intent here as always is not quantity, but quality in terms of energy, of alignment, of balance, and thus of ultimate integration.
Sequence if done directly after kapalabhati or bhastrika:
Kapalabhati or bhastrika
One can start with ten, then work gradually to twenty, thirty or more (according to our capacity). If one does the slow deep version 10 or 15 are suitable.
Think about agnisara as a melting of any hardness in the abdomen and an energizing/warming up at the navel region and below. Think kapalabhati (see kapalabhati)) without the breath, emphasizing the motion of uddiyana bandha (bringing the lower abdomen back to the sacrum and spine while lifting the torso).
Of course we can also practice agni sara without preceding it by a round of bhastrika or kapalabhati, but it will be less difficult to hold the breath out (external retention in bahya kumbhaka) so the amount of repetitions will be much less. Also if we do the long deep in and outs (contractions and releases), the number per round will almost surely be considerably less. On average try two or three rounds per day until 100 fast repetitions are reached or 15 long and deep. This should provide mastery of the practice and maximum benefit. If you still are getting energy and benefit from the practice (many of us are constitutionally weak in agni) then incorporate it in your daily practice. For others who have sufficient fire, then only periodic practice like once a week or less will prove to be either a preventative or a "check up".
A practical gauge is that if our ability starts to fade after a periodic check up and/or if we receive much benefit from the practice at any given time, then it is advised to explore it more often and deeper or simply put to increase the frequency of practice. Maintain this proficiency or ability in order to keep fit, prevent imbalances, generate the metabolic fire necessary to maintain health and burn up toxins, and thus removing any energy drain or debt that may occur from other internal circuits, allowing and catalyzing the kindling of the deeper integrative circuitry to unfold.
In yoga therapy, agni sara is recommended for most digestive problems, stagnant samana energy, obesity (it removes fat), tonification of the abdomen (especially the kidney, colon, small intestines), brightening of the complexion, tonification of the lower back, most diseases of the colon and small intestine, the removal of toxins from the blood (by tonifying, softening, stimulating, and cleansing the intestines), and thus the indirect enhancement of the immune system and liver.
Caution: Avoid the common mistake of pulling in from the area directly below the sternum (solar plexus). This is the area of the stomach, pancreas, and liver. In other words do not allow the chest to sink and the upper back to round, but rather allow the inward motion to be created at the line of the abdomen near or below the navel after first implementing and holding mulabandha and swadhi bandha, keeping the chest open, and lengthening the spine. Remember that the navel point can go in only if the muscles release and soften. We are not trying to build muscle but rather heat. Relax, soften any hardness and tension, tonify the region with fire or energy, thus burning up stagnant toxins (or moving stagnant chi).
Agni sara is best learned at first like uddiyana bandha, standing with feet shoulder distance apart (especially if we want to do a deep and slower practice of fewer repetitions). However agni sara is also effectively done in virasana, vajrasana, siddhasana, padmasana, or easy sitting pose provided that the pelvis is in a slight anteversion (dog arch). Let the pelvis sink from the torso and spine and find mulabandha. For those with SI joint tension check to see that swadhi bandha (see section on bandhas) is being maintained while pointing the sit bones outward and front hip bones inward if needed. This motion by itself should create a cavern in the space below the navel. Lifting the chest will help create a hollow above the navel. Between these two movements uddiyana bandha occurs naturally after a deep inhale, the exhale is full and complete. After a while you will be able to energetically snap the uddiyana bandha backward, releasing it, snap the navel back again toward the spine, release, snap it back again, release, and so forth, On each snap back allow the sacrum to sink through action at the belly. Heat the manipura chakra! Avoid hunching the shoulders forward or rounding the upper back. Experiment to get in touch with the natural rhythm of movement and synchronize the movement in a flow.
At first the abdomen muscles will get tired and you will have to stop. This impediment goes away automatically with practice. Bhastrika, kapalabhati, and uddiyana bandha practice help in this regard. Agni sara dhauti is done daily as part of one's daily hatha yoga practice.
In ancient Persia, the great alchemist, philosopher, and physician, Avicenna (Ibn Siena 980-1037 AD), wrote in his "Canon of Medicine' Book One- Section 1010, the following which was translated by O. Cameron Gruner, M.D. in " A Treatise on the Canon of Medicine of Avicenna Incorporating a Translation of the First Book (1930)
"Emesis clears heaviness of the head, clears the vision, and removes nauseous dyspepsia. It benefits persons in whom bile is apt to pass into the stomach and decompose the food. For, if vomiting precedes the meal. the latter will always enter the stomach without being contaminated, 5and so the sense of loathing is removed which proceeds from oiliness of food, as also the depraved appetite -- namely, the longing for sharp, sour, or pungent things
Emesis is also beneficial for flabbiness of the body, and for ulcers of the kidneys and bladder. It has a powerful effect in anesthetic leprosy; in persons with an unhealthy color of skin; in gastric epilepsy, jaundice, asthma, tremor and hemiplegia. It is also an effective treatment in cases of impetginous skin diseases in which there are ulcers covered with scabs... Emesis is a great help for persons whose temperament is primarily bilious, an are lean of habit ... Hippocrates advised vomiting to to be induced monthly and for consecutive days. On the second day the difficulty of the first is obviated and that which has entered the stomach is fully emptied. Hippocrates claimed that health was conserved thereby. To exceed this may be harmful. Emesis carried out in this way gets rid of mucous and bile, and cleanses the stomach. For in the case of the stomach there is no cleansing secretions like that of the small intestine, where the bile cleanses the mucous membranes as it passes down the bowel."
Cautions: Not for hiatal hernia, high blood pressure, or ulcers. Do not use cold water.
Technique: This is the cleansing of the esophagus and stomach by quickly drinking approximately one quart of lightly salted lukewarm water, performing nauli kriya (optional), then forcefully evacuating the stomach utilizing uddiyana bandha after having taken a big inhalation followed by a complete exhalation and external kumbhaka. If the vomiting motion is not triggered naturally through this process, use a finger to tickle the upper part of the throat as far back as is necessary to induce vomiting. To be effective the vomiting wave action should be very forceful moving from the bottom of the stomach upward so that all the contents including any old solid matter at the bottom of the stomach are pushed up and out. Don't worry if not all the liquid is evacuated.
Vamana dhauti, also called kunjal kriya, is best done at dawn or first thing in the morning but after evacuating the bladder and bowels. With a little practice the entire quart will come out in a forceful stream in one or two waves taking with it any old mucous or debris, but most of us will require a series of three or more wavelike contractions to eliminate.
Vomiting is a natural and intelligent reflex toward bad food, water, or foreign objects. It is a life supporting instinct that unfortunately is repressed through modern society's anti-nature bias. Many of us were punished as children when we did not control our instinctual natural reflexes such as vomiting, evacuating, fully sneezing, etc. Thus in order to enhance the vital life supporting intelligence of the body we must learn how to let go of our conditioning. The vomiting reflex is a wavelike reverse peristalsis and is thus not meant to be performed willfully, mechanically, or consciously. Simply try to trigger it and surrender to the body's inner wisdom allowing for this cleanse to happen naturally.
Hints and Kinks: In general use pure warm water and non-iodized pure salt if available. The salt is not essential as this wash can be done with plain warm water. Try to finish the entire process from the beginning of drinking the salt water to the final series of evacuation in less than three minutes. Let nature or instinct take care of the evacuation as it can not be done willfully except that we can set the stage to allow for it to happen. Let the wave start from the bottom (pit) of the belly. Just let it out. If there is undigested food left over from last night's dinner, we gain information as to our digestion and food compatibilities This may be acidic and taste and smell "badly" but remember we are getting it out. Try to get the bottom of the stomach emptied, but do not worry if not all the salt water comes out of the mouth. It will come out the other end and serve as a wash there if need be.
After good eating practices and good digestion has been established, there will be nothing but water and slight mucous evacuated in the morning. It is good to do jal neti after vamana dhauti as this will wash away any stomach acids or fluids from the nose and upper throat.
It is best done outside in nature standing on grass in a yoga setting (it’s good for plants and crops and helps everyone to overcome any social stigma). At home, it is helpful that the toilet bowl is clean and pleasant or we can use a big wide pan, the point being that we should not worry and hold back. Take some deep breaths before you start in order to keep the mind from worrying that you do not need to stop because of gasped breath. The uddiyana bandha should be done with the pelvis retroverted (posterior tilt), the abdomen curved in toward the spine (concave), and the wave should travel first in and then move upward while holding out the breath (complete exhale). Keep the attitude cheerful and light hearted. Its often done in groups so that we can laugh at what in most social settings is considered unacceptable, gross, sick, or "bad".
Beginners are often advised to do it daily, but after it is mastered and there are no diseases of the lungs, udana, or prana, then once a week or less often according to your own constitution and unique circumstances. Do not eat anything for at least half an hour after vamana and then make it light, easily digestible, and devoid of spices or possible irritants. If stomach digestion is weakened by the practice, discontinue it and see a yoga therapist. Some do not need the energy that vamana provides. Traditionally vamana has been highly recommended to those suffering from kapha disorders.
Benefits: In yoga therapy vamana is excellent for disorders of udana, prana, samana, vyana, and apana. It cleanses and stimulates the stomach, esophagus, lungs, chest, heart, throat, nose, eyes, ears, and sinus. It balances the vayu (winds) in the body especially the upward moving prana-vayu (the prana that moves upwards). It alleviates depression, sloth, and heaviness. It is a remedy for many kapha and tamasic imbalances, Vamana dhauti is one of the specific remedies in Ayurvedic medicine for stomach, throat, asthma, and lung affliction (along with hrid dhauti). It is counter-indicated in cases of hiatal hernia and ulcers.
Let it be said that especially today with our unfortunate custom of repressing instinct and natural function, the natural vomiting instinct has also been repressed by early childhood memories of disapproval (mess) from peers and parents. Social pressure expected the adult to control and "hold-in" bad, excess, or inappropriate food or poisons even if the body wanted to evacuate it. This repression of our natural healthy instinct if carried on, creates imbalance of natural function.
Another similar kriya is variously called Gaja karani, Bhaghi kriya, or Vyagra Kriya (tiger kriya) which varies mainly in that it is done immediately or within two hours after a specially prepared meal. It is also sometimes called Kunjal Kriya also. It is especially helpful in removing excess mucous of the lungs and throat as well as normalizing pitta (bile secretions). It will not be detailed here as it can be too easily misunderstood as bulimic activity by outsiders who do not understand its purpose and mechanism. It is an intentional and ancient yogic healing practice.
Over two thousand years ago the most respected authority of traditional Ayurvedic medicine, Charaka, wrote in the "Charaka Samhita": Siddhistana: Chapter 1 the following:
"One is considered to have gone through emesis successfully who expels the mucous, bile, and air in succession and who feels that one's stomach, sides of the body, sense organs, and body channels have been cleansed and that one's body has become light.
If the emesis goes wrong, then there occur eructions, wheals, and itching in the body, imperfect cleansing of the stomach and body channels and heaviness of the limbs. Thirst, stupor, fainting, provocation of vata, loss of sleep, and loss of strength etc. occur on cases of over-action of emesis".
In chapter two, Charaka continues: "The following are the conditions where emesis is contraindicated: persons affiliated with pectoral lesions, those who are cachectic, very obese or extremely emaciated, infants, the senile, debilitated, fatigued, thirsty, hungry, exhausted by labor, load lifting, way faring, or those given to long fasting, sexual excess, excess study, exercise and thinking, or those who are emaciated, pregnant women, and delicate persons, or those whose alimentary tract is contracted .... who suffer from hemothermia of the upper region, or from incessant vomiting, or from disorders of the upward flow of morbid vatas, or who take too often evacuative or unctuous enemata, who are suffering from cardiac disorders, misperistalsis, .... etc".
After detailing his reasons for these cautions Charaka goes on to say;
"Even in all these conditions, emesis is not prohibited if the person is afflicted with acute or chronic poisoning, antagonistic diet, indigestion, and predigestion meal chyme morbidity, as these conditions are very quick in their toxic effects on the body."
At first vamana dhauti is recommended daily until one learns to sense the contents of one's stomach and how different foods impact upon it. this is especially helpful on cases where depression of downward flow of prana (apana) is dominant or when upward flow of prana is to be augmented. Once these systems are regulated, vamana may be practiced once weekly or monthly.
Cautions: Same as in vamana dhauti. Do not use a stick or stiff instrument. Do not let go of the end (by always allowing plenty of slack. Do not allow the tube to be inserted for longer than one minute and withdraw before you enter the lower part of the stomach as this kriya is designed to stimulate the the pharynx and esophagus, and indirectly the lungs, bronchioles, heart, stomach, and chest.
Technique: Danda (Stick) Dhauti or Hrid (heart) Dhauti are very similar: The word, hrid, refers to the heart. In the old days yogis stuck a specially prepared flexible and smooth stick made of turmeric, sugar cane, or stalk of banana down the throat, pharynx, and into the esophagus. Then it was pulled out before it entered into the stomach proper. Today modern yogis often use a stomach catheter which is safer, if not less stimulating usually less than three feet long and about one centimeter in diameter. Always use after cleaning and boiling it.
First drink lukewarm saline water, then swallow the tube slowly. If the tube feels stuck (usually there may be some resistance at the glottis, drink some water and the esophagus will open. This is hrid dhauti.
Hints and kinks: Slowly insert the catheter after lubricating it with lukewarm saline water and swallow it in gulps relaxing the throat, neck, and esophagus. Convince yourself that you can breathe deeply even though something is in your throat. Once you relax with the nervous reflex to throw it out in order to breathe), it becomes easy. Draw it back up slowly or induce the vomit reflex if there appears any resistance throwing out any bile or mucous. Be certain that you do not lose the grip at the top end. With hrid or danda dhauti it is not necessary to keep inside the esophagus for more than a a few seconds, but one can move it up and down slowly for added stimulation. Always remove the tube slowly and gently.
Another version of danda dhauti that I have heard is to drink more salted water, and then evacuate all of it through the tube by bending forward slightly letting the water come up the tube via suction. It is advised to alternately suck in and bulge out the abdomen using uddiyana bandha if necessary to get the action. I have not practiced this version, nor do I see any advantage over vamana or danda dhauti.
Benefits: Hrid dhauti is actually more stimulating to the lungs, bronchioles, esophagus, heart, shoulder, and thoracic region of the back, than the stomach which it also stimulates. It is specific for all problems of the thoracic and throat region except those listed in the cautions. In Ayurveda and yoga therapy it is especially recommended for asthma, cardiac restrictions, and other pulmonary problems.
At first three times a week if there is no soreness present. People with asthma and respiratory problems may increase such with doctor's consent. After hrid dhauti is mastered once a month is adequate to maintain its benefits.
Similar to stick dhauti except that one swallows a four finger width (about 3 cm wide) tightly stitched and double hemmed linen cloth that has been dipped in lukewarm salted water which is about three to five meters long (approximately 20 feet). In an abbreviated practice a shorter cloth may be used, limiting the stimulation to the throat, esophagus, chest, and shoulder reflexes.
Cautions: It is extremely important that the cloth be double hemmed so that there are never any loose strands or edges of thread. The cloth should be made out of thin but tightly woven cotton such as linen, yet it should be soft. Always leave at least one foot of the upper end of the cloth free from the mouth and keep your hands on it to prevent any peristalsis from accidentally grabbing the top end out of the hand and into the gut. To my personal knowledge this hasn't happened.
Technique: Wash the cloth in warm lightly salted water in order to lubricate it and keep it rolled unknotted in a small basin. Find a cheerful or humorous attitude. Relax the belly and abdomen while breathing fully. Smooth out the cloth wide and place it on the tongue. Bite gently on the cloth and swallow some saliva and gently move the cloth to the back of the throat. Keep on swallowing generating saliva by biting and swallowing it as you gently push the cloth further back to the throat allowing gravity to help until the cloth is grabbed by the peristaltic wavelike contractions of the throat as you swallow the saliva. Stop to convince yourself that you can breathe fine and give the throat and esophagus time to adjust. Swallow some lukewarm salted water to help move the cloth down. Once the leading end is in the stomach, things will go much easier.
Some people find that they can swallow the entire cloth (except always keep at least the last one-foot not swallowed) the first time while others who have a strong gag reflex (or pharyngeal restrictions) may have more difficulty. After the cloth has been swallowed except for the last one foot, gently and slowly pull it out. Triggering the gag reflex here can help get it out faster (upward peristalsis), but part of the benefit is to gently massage the stomach, esophagus, pharynx, heart region, lung region, and throat chakra.
Hints and Kinks: Similar to stick dhauti. Be careful to remove cloth within five minutes of entering into the stomach to prevent it going through the pyloric valve. Allow yourself a firm grip and plenty of extra length to prevent swallowing the hand held end. Make sure there are no loose threads on the cloth, the cloth is clean, and not ripped. When the cloth emerges it will be filled with mucous so wash it thoroughly afterwards and then hang to dry in the sun.
Benefits: Although obviously a stomach and esophagus cleanser and tonifier vastra dhauti has a powerful cleansing effect upon the sternum, chest, heart, throat, shoulders, upper back, and especially the lungs. It also removes excess mucous from the stomach and tonifies its cells and glandular abilities. It is specifically used in yoga therapy for asthma and lung afflictions while tonifying the voice. In Ayurveda it is said to bring both pitta and kapha doshas back into balance.
Vastra dhauti is traditionally practiced after vamana dhauti three times a week until mastered (unless there is an organic disease which calls for a shorter lapse in duration. After vastra dhauti is mastered, once a month is adequate to keep up its benefits.
There exists different forms of vatasara dhauti. Here we give one form which is drinking the air from the mouth and swallowing it, then churning it around through the intestines and expelling it out the anus, thus providing an air bath for the entire gastro-intestinal tract. before attempting this form, attempt to master bhujangini mudra below. The above form of vatasara dhauti is also called bashis kriya.
“Shape your lips like a crow’s beak (kaki mudra) and drink air. Let the air swirl in the stomach for some time and then allow it to dispel itself. Vatasara dhauti is a most secret technique to purify the body. It destroys all diseases and increases gastric fire.” Gherand Samhita 1: 15 - 16
Technique: First one needs to learn kaki (crow beak) mudra shaping the mouth like a beak by pursing the lips, relaxing the tongue, then breathe in deeply and very slowly Perform kaki mudra; assume a meditation position, placing the hands in either jnana or chin mudra and relax consciously. With the eyes open, focus on the nose tip (nasikagra dristhi); avoid blinking. Make the mouth into a beak by pursing the lips, relax the tongue, and breathe in slowly and deeply through the “crow’s beak” (kaki mudra).
Through practice you will learn how to carry the air into the stomach and not the lungs, by closing the epiglottis with a sudden push, a little air is allowed into the stomach. Thus when the air is brought very low by opening up the epiglottis gulp the air down by swallowing. (it will sound like a gulping noises) When one swallows the air into the stomach, expand the abdomen Repeat this sequence ten times until the belly is fully distended. Then perform an inverted pose that can create pressure on the abdomen such as plough pose (halasana) and let the knees fall to the ears (karanapidasana). Then fold the hands between the knees in pashinee mudra (the folded psychic gesture) squeeze the air out through the anus.
Bhujangini Mudra. The gulped air as above is churned in the abdomen via nauli kriya but burped out from the mouth is called Bhujangini Mudra. Some call this vatasara dhauti also. Master bhujangini mudra first (air washing the stomach then belching) before attempting vatasara dhauti.
Kaki mudra by itself is relaxing and cooling to the body/mind, stimulates the gastric fire, and purifies the blood.
Pashinee mudra by itself creates a santosha (peacefulness and contentment) in the body/mind bringing forth a natural pratyahara/ It stretches the spinal cord, the spinal muscles, deeply massages the abdomen, while activating the throat chakra.
For many this is an advanced practice, although some people do this easily and perfectly the first time. If there is any bloating, then discontinue and consult a yoga therapist, Ayurvedic doctor.
Another name for this kriya is varisara kriya, yet another name is sahaj basti kriya. Prakshalana means cleaning outwards, and shanka means a conch. This washes the entire gastrointestinal tract very quickly by drinking salt water and performing special synergistic cleansing asanas together in sequence. The full version is recommended at yoga ashrams to be performed no more than twice a year, though an experienced yoga therapist may recommend it more often. It cleanses out the entire gastrointestinal tract with salted water.
It is most successful if the stomach is already completely empty. Eat a light dinner the previous evening or better yet forgo the previous evening meal altogether. Also it is best that the food eaten the previous day was not spicy, sharp, rough, or woody. this practice is most excellent before or after a short fast if the vital energy is not already weak. Make sure that there is nothing else on the agenda for this day as you will most likely need to rest the entire day as the full version of this practice will create a temporary need for absolute rest.
Technique: There are a few minor differences in techniques from one school to another, but they all consist of drinking lukewarm saline water and then performing a sequential set of asanas to move the water through the valves and crevices of the stomach, the small intestine, iliocecal valve, and the large intestine. This cleanses the entire GI tract. One drinks more water again, repeating the sequence of specially designed asanas, and so again drinking water then performing the asanas, and again, in this repetitive manner until the intestines have been completely washed (clear liquid comes out from the anal opening in the end). Needless to say, free access to a toilet or an open private field is necessary.
Mostly the various versions of shanka prakshalana kriya vary slightly as to the choice of asanas, their amount, and sometimes the order of the asanas. The first series of five asanas that is presented in the following is less widespread than some others. We will present three variations altogether, all of which reflect the same general procedure and intent .
First drink anywhere from one half to one liter (approximately 1 quart = 1 liter) of warm saline water (salted about one tablespoon/liter) . Some schools add the juice of two lemons. Then immediately practice these special five asanas:
A) Twisting sarpanasana (snake) or twisting cobra pose (bhujangasana). Twist to the right then to left. Come down and repeat two more times.
B) Side rolling posture (Dwiparsvasana): This is simple rolling left and right on the abdomen in a non-activated bow position (dhanurasana). Laying on the abdomen with the thighs and heels together, simply grab the ankles and roll over the abdomen to the left, back to center, and then to the right. Do this after a deep breath and retain the breath in (internal kumbhaka) during the rollings. Exhale, relax, let the breath come back to normal and then repeat two more times.
C) Pavana muktasana (gas releasing pose or one knee to nose posture) lying on back bring one knee in toward the head. Grab the upper shin with both hands folded while raising the head or nose up to touch the knee. Alternate left knee, right knee, then both knees three times total.
D) Viparita karani mudra (half shoulder stand): See the asana chapter for description. Hold for approximately one minute.
E) Padahastasana - Sitting grab both big toes with both hands and raise them above the head. Balancing try to touch the head to the knees. This is often called urdva paschimottanasana. Hold for ten seconds and repeat for a total of three times.
Repeat these in cycles three or four times until the bowels begin to move. This is one cycle. Then drink 1/2 quart of warm salted water again and repeat the asanas until the bowels move again. Drink 1//2 quart of warm saline water after each asana cycle again and again until only clear water is discharged. End the practice with vamana dhauti (kunjal kriya).
Allow plenty of time in your schedule to complete this procedure and rest afterwards in shavasana for at least forty five minutes. Take only light non-spicy food with ghee that day. After the shavasana wait at least one hour to eat. In yoga ashrams the preferred food is kidcheri (well cooked rice and dahl) with plenty of ghee which is soft, moisturizing, and lubricating. If you are not too weak, feeling depleted, and the bowels are not liquid, then fasting with pure water or diluted fruit juices might be preferred.
Know that some schools insist that one eats solid food the same day, because of possible depletion of energy. If you do eat solid food the same day, eat light, non-spicy, non-woody, sattvic, not sharp, and non-acidic foods for at least the next few days. A standard fare at Indian ashrams is kidcheri (steamed rice with yellow mung beans), however if one is used to vegetable soup or vegetable juice and the weather is warm, such may be more suitable. Avoid this kriya if you are suffering from diseases of cold, if the immediate environment is very cold, or one is already fatigued or debilitated.
Another more popular version of shankha prakshalana kriya is as follows: First drink 1/2 quart (1/2 liter) of lukewarm saline water.
1) Perform tadasana with heels raised up over toes and arms stretched up over head. Walk around like this forward and backward, left and right for one minute.
2) Standing in sideways tree swaying pose (triyaka tadasana) or sometimes called standing sideways half wheel (ardha chakrasana): Keep the weight of the body equal on both feet throughout. Left the right hand over head and allow the left arm to move toward the knee. Sway to the left keeping the scapula toward the sacrum and chest open. Return and raise the left arm over head, letting the right arm dangle toward the right knee, and sway to the right. Return and repeat to total anywhere from three and up to eight times.
3) Kati Chakrasana: From tadasana spread legs apart wider than hip distance (about 2 1/2 feet), then twist over to the left placing the right hand on top of the left shoulder wrapping the right arm across the body in back. Twist the lower abdomen all the way over as possible and return to center, and repeat to the right side reversing the arms (so that the left arm is on the right shoulder and the right arm is wrapped around the waist in back). Then come back to center. Repeat three to eight times total for this cycle.
4) Triyaka bhujangasana (twisting cobra) or twisting snake (sarpasana). Twist to the left, go back to center twist to right, go back to center, go down. Repeat three to eight times total.
5) Ardha matsyendrasana both sides (see asana section). Repeat three times to eight total.
6) Pavana muktasana -- wind releasing pose. Lying on the back, bend the right knee and bring it to the head and raise the head to the knee. Then release the right leg to the ground and raise the left knee to the head and head to the knee. Then simultaneously raise both bent knees to the head and the head to the knees. Repeat three to eight times total.
7) Udara Karshanasana (the abdominal massage pose): This dynamic exercise is also sometimes called chalana. Squat with legs spread one foot apart sitting on the heels and the heels on the ground as the typical squat. If this is not possible or there is a strain use a rolled up towel to raise the heels so undue stress is not created at the toes, foot, ankles or especially the knees during this exercise.
First bring the right knee to the ground toward the outside edge of the left foot as far as possible. The right heel will necessarily raise but try to keep the left heel grounded. Then twist the whole body especially the lower belly to the left as far as possible placing the arms over the lateral edge of the left thigh with the palms on the ground. Especially stretch the stomach muscles. Return to center. Repeat the same process with the opposite leg and foot to the right side. Return. Then repeat both processes for a total of three to eight times.
Another less strenuous variation of udra karshanasana is the same as above but keeping the hands on the knees. The former version is not strenuous to those who are already loose. In either case do not strain.
Most westerners will need to raise the back of the heels with a rolled towel so that they can do this posture comfortably without placing all the weight on the toes or otherwise stress the toes, foot, ankles, or knees. For those who are obese or out of shape start off slowly and do the first few only halfway until the muscles become relaxed.
8) Then evacuate the bowels only if there is an urge to do so. Do not strain. This is one complete cycle. In either case drink another 1/2 quart (1/2 liter) of warm saline water and repeat steps 2-7 above. Evacuate the bowels if the urge arises. Drink again 1/2 quart (1/2 liter) of warm saline water and repeat until you have done this whole process (drink then exercise) four more times (cycles) or until only clear liquid comes out.
At first you will pass normal feces, then water and feces combined, then the water will get thinner and clearer, eventually passing only clear water. Keep the mind positive and in good humor. After only clear water is being passed, clean the hands thoroughly and end the procedure with vamana dhauti to empty the stomach of any remaining salt water and to balance the upward and downward winds. Then perform jal neti to cleanse the mucous membranes of the nose. Then do shavasana for at least forty five minutes with a blanket to keep warm, during which time do not repress the urge to get up and evacuate some more if coaxed. Lubricating the anus and lower rectal area with ghee or oil may be helpful.
Do not eat anything for at least one hour after the shavasana avoiding any spicy, hard, stringy, sharp, or rough foods. For this reason kidcheri (overly cooked rice and dahl) with generous amounts of ghee are recommended at yoga ashrams because they generally will both lubricate and act gently upon the gastro-intestinal tract, while providing nourishment.
There are even more versions of this kriya, but most include udara karshanasana (chalani), twisting snake or cobra, and wind releasing pose. If you still have trouble evacuating try adding chakrasana (urdva dhanurasana) quickly followed by mayurasana (peacock) at the end. A version that the Vivekananda Yoga Kendra uses is to do only 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7 asanas and then only three times each while the Bihar School of Yoga uses 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7. The point here is that all the abdominal valves and corners are opened i.e., the pyloric valve, the iliocecal valve, the sigmoid colon, and the two necks of the transverse colon.
In any case do not try to do anything that day except rest as in most cases (especially the first time) you may feel light headed and weak. Absolutely eat only soft, smooth, and lubricating foods without spices or you will risk irritating the gastrointestinal tract. On the other hand, shankha prakshalana is excellent to do before starting a long fast.
Benefits: Cleanses and tones the entire gastrointestinal tract. Excellent for excess tamas and rajas, very cooling in summer, lightens the mind and attitude, good for depression, removes toxic conditions of the blood and tissues that are caused by intestinal waste product fermentation, putrefaction, and decomposition thus increasing the function of the intestines, It thus relieves flatulence, constipation, acidity, indigestion, menstrual cramps, asthma, acne and boils etc. It also prevents urinary infections and the kidney stone formation through lightening the load on the adjacent lymph glands and nerves. Light eating or fasting (preferable) greatly enhances its efficacy. It counteracts bad habits of sluggish bowel due to a previous diet of refined foods or a sedentary lifestyle.
The reflex to the shoulder girdle releases tensions there. The mind is clearer, torpor, slthfulness, and diseases of excess tamas are removed.
Caution; Not recommended for heart patients, the very debilitated, and those suffering from high blood pressure, edema, ascites, and serious diseases of the intestines without supervision of a yoga therapist.
Laghu means short. As above and always on an empty stomach, but do the poses three times only and the whole cycle only three times. Do this and then go to evacuate. This brings on a gushing bowel movement and also much urination. If you do not evacuate after three rounds, do more asanas but do not drink more water. This shortened procedure can be done in a short period of time without much disruption in the regular agenda. Being less drastic than the full version it can be done more frequently, say even as much as once a week when supervised by a yoga therapist.
Drinking 2 liters of salted water (2 tsp/liter). Drink two glasses quickly. Do the asanas above or one round of the special short asana sequence below. Then drink another two glasses quickly. Then repeat the asana sequence. Repeat until all the water is finished. Then sit for toilet, do not strain. If no action repeat another round of asana.
The five laghu (short form) shankha prakshalana asana sequence consists of:
Shankha prakshalana is perhaps the most drastic of the kriyas, and in order to avoid any of its possible pitfalls such as addiction or abuse, it is to be approached judiciously but at the same time when it is performed it should be done with a light heart, in a positive mood, with no worry, with cheerfulness, and with a sense of good humor.
Poor early toilet training is an insidious cause of later psychological and health disturbances related to repression of our instincts and a disconnect from the earth chakra connection. We are brought up that nothing is dirtier than our shit, yet we carry it inside ourselves (many of us too long). Much difficulty would be avoided if we learned to listen to the signals from our bowels and relieve them in a timely fashion, not just when it is convenient or absolutely necessary. Also if we learned to pay attention to the body and bowels more we would learn how foods and conditions affect us pro and con, rather than be aloof and ignorant of the body, treating it as a machine until it "mysteriously" breaks down one day.
The lower bowel or the large intestine can tell us many stories. It's contents have been the study of all the great medical systems of the past and even modern medicine today recognizes to some extent the value of stool samples even though they pay little attention to other characteristics. The health of the large intestine has been foremost in the history of medicine from the beginning of record keeping and still is in extant oral traditions. It is only in the twentieth century that this tradition has become ignored. We find in ancient Egyptian, Cnidian, Chinese, Tibetan, East Indian, Native American, African, Arabian, Unani, Hebrew, and European native traditions the highest regard of purification of the body especially through the use of the enema to both prevent and cure disorders.
In a nutshell within all these indigenous and natural medical systems clean diet, clean water, clean air, exercise, clean environmental conditions, as well as clean and natural thought processes were paramount, but when these modalities were subjugated, then disease occurred of which they used such purification techniques such as emetics, cathartics, fasting, enemas, sweating and hydrotherapy their chief therapeutic treatments. Only if the person had contracted a severe and usually neglected disease, that such treatments such as herbs, medicine, surgery, or "magic" were resorted to. Most indigenous medical systems also administered medicine, oils, and sometimes food through enema. In ancient times and according to natural health systems our system is healthiest when the transit time between putting the food into our mouths and evacuating the leftovers at the rectum is under twenty four hours. Although its not always easy to analyze your own stool, usually one can tell by certain colors, pieces of undigested (and unchewed) characteristic fiber, or other evidence. If transit time is considerably more than twenty four hours we may look to causal sluggish bowels, incompatible diets, poor stomach digestion and preparation, emotional interference such as fear, and also with symptoms such as fermentation and gas, poisons in the blood, pain and tension in the abdomen, headaches, stiffness, skin irritation and eruptions, hemorrhoids, dizziness, stress, tumors, and many other symptoms. Simply put, most often one will find that the cause of the symptoms is impacted sludge and similar anomalies upon the once furrowed and tonified walls of the large intestine that are hindering its natural powers of peristalsis and transit. The yogic enema can reverse this cause (toxic colon) which in itself is a symptom, whose cause much also be remediated (through wise diet and eating habits).
The Yogic Enema
Jal basti is the yogic enema using water. The ancient yogis having as few possessions as possible, instead of carrying an enema gourd or pouch, simply carried an enema bone made out of a hollow stick or reed. The yogi would go into a river at navel depth, and after lubricating his anus and rectum with oil, he/she would lubricate and insert the hollow reed through the opening at the rectum and into the colon. Then practicing uddiyana bandha (with the aid of the positive pressure of the navel-deep water), the water would be sucked up into the colon wherein the yogi would then practice nauli kriya to wash the insides of the colon and then evacuate. It is said that one can learn to do this without the use of the reed or enema bone, but I have not met anyone who has done so. There is a similar practice done by yogis with air instead of water (sucking air into the colon through a long enema bone, aerating the colon with nauli kriya, and then evacuating the air).
The Conventional Enema
Native Americans, the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, European Naturopathic medicine, and many other natural wholistic medical systems used colon cleansing as an integral part of their medical treatment plans. Today a drugstore enema bone which is more reliably smooth on the outside than the average stalk fulfills this purpose although many prefer an extra "long" enema bone or colon tube that can be inexpensively purchased at some medical appliance stores. Look for the enema kit that comes, with a smooth flexible rubber tube that fits on the end of the bone. A long rubber colon tube 10 inches or more from the anus can be extended from the normal enema tip so that the sigmoid colon is bypassed (possible tight area spot for some). Some people have also praise modern colonic therapy which simultaneously washes out and flushes the colon while monitoring the pressure and analyzing the characteristics of the evacuated wastes.
What will be described here is the colon cleansing technique based on the common two quart (two liter) enema bag which can still be purchased at any drug store for under ten dollars, although better bags are available elsewhere. The ancients as well as modern day naturopathic doctors have recommended many herbs to add to the enema such as catnip as an anti-spasmodic, acidophilus to help reestablish beneficial flora, and many more depending on the desired affect, but here we will simply assume plain pure warm water, although there may be specific situations that may call for hot, cold, acid, or various herbal enemas.
It is best to evacuate the bowels in the squat position. With a little practice this can be learned by oneself or one may benefit from instruction from a yoga teacher. Learning using nauli kriya during enema is also excellent. One must first master uddiyana bandha in order to do nauli kriya. Also mulabandha is useful along with aswini mudra. The latter will tonify the nerves, muscles, while creating increased circulation to the lower bowels. All these procedures can be learned from an experienced yoga teacher.
First thing in the morning, before basti or enema, please try to evacuate the bowels normally. This makes it easier for the basti, however if constipation occurs, do not worry. The basti/enema will still help.
Cautions: Make sure that you have not eaten anything heavy for at least three hours previous although some fruit juice, tea, or warm water would be OK. Enemas are best on empty stomachs. Make sure that the meals eaten during the past twenty four hours were not highly spiced, coarse (such as popcorn), and were devoid of onions and garlic as these may tend to irritate the freshly cleaned linings of the colon as they enter from the small intestine. The same should be true of any meals eaten 24 hours after the the enema. Always lubricate the bone and tube. Never force the tube nor the water, but stop and check the breathing (which should be deep throughout the process). If using an herbal mixture, always strain it well before using. Stop the incoming water or herbal mixture before excessive pressure is felt, breathe, massage, shift positions, and continue of possible.
Procedure: Make sure that you have at least one hour or more before having to "run out" to an appointment thus allowing sufficient time so that one is not rushed or forced, but rather relaxed, and that adequate time is allowed for the fluids to fully empty. Make sure you have the free and continuous use of a toilet or similar means for elimination readily and easily available. It may be beneficial to drink some warm water a half hour before starting the procedure, but not too much fluid as to create a sensation of fullness in the stomach. Enema is best done the first thing after the morning meditation and before asana practice on a completely empty stomach.
The simplest method is to lie on your back although many recommend lying on the left side. You will thus require a long enema tube (approximately 6 feet or longer) and a two quart enema bag. Avoid vinyl products as they eventually dry out, become hard and brittle and crack. No, this is not said in order to increase the longevity of the enema appliance, but rather because vinyl dries out and cracks over time because chemicals are leached from it which you do not want in your body.
Place a towel on the ground as there will be at least some leakage of water. Place a pad or thick pad under that if you have to lie on a hard surface. Lubricate the enema bone or smooth tube end with pure vegetable glycerin, ghee, cocoa butter, or coconut oil or anything similar which non-toxic. Avoid any petroleum, artificial additives, fragrances, colorings, synthetic products, or irritants.
After filling up the two quart enema bag with pure warm water (you might want to use filtered or trusted source of spring water to avoid chlorine and other impurities found in normal tap water). If you are using stored water, you might have to heat it on the stove before hand, unless the ambient temperature is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Unless specifically instructed otherwise by yoga therapist or doctor, as a safety precaution, the temperature of the water should be only slightly greater than body temperature.
If you are cold, then wearing a sweat shirt, sweater, socks, or having a blanket with you in order to keep warm will be helpful. Otherwise it is easiest without any clothes while the room is made comfortably warm. Put the hook of the bag filled with warm water on the door knob, shower rod, towel rack or something similar so that it will be at least two feet above the abdomen. Lie down and release any tension in the abdomen and rectum.
Lubricate the enema bone, anus, and rectum with the pure oil or butter (see above) using a smoothly manicured and short nailed finger. Some people use finger cots or gloves, but this is not necessary if there are no cuts on the hand and one practices efficient hygienic methods. Insert the lubricated end of the bone gently until it is all the way through the anus into the rectum. Breathing deeply into the lower abdomen is very helpful. Do not hold your breath. Slowly let loose the enema tube clamp or valve to let in some more water slowly. If there is no pressure or discomfort open up the clamp all the way being careful to shut down the flow at the first sign of tightness to avoid muscle reflexive cramping/clamping. When experiencing any cramps or pressure try rolling over to one side or the other, lifting one leg or the other, breathing deeply, abdominal massage, or try a position which you can do a light uddiyana bandha.
Check the enema bag periodically to see that it is emptying. If not, there is a contraction, cramp, or resistance somewhere in the system. Try to move in a direction that relaxes it, but never force or strain. A two quart fill without cramping may take 5 minutes or less, while some people will not be able to get two quarts inside no matter how long they try their first time. Some people benefit greatly from an extra long enema bone (nozzle or tip) or a colon tube available from some medical supply houses or www.enemabag.com in order to avoid any cramping usually at the entrance to the sigmoid colon.
If it takes longer than ten minutes to receive all the water solution and there is noticeable pressure, close the clamp, remove the bone, and try to evacuate. Then try the whole procedure again. Sometimes this clears the path of pre-existing solid obstructions. If one still can not receive the full two quarts, then not to worry. It’s perfectly all right to give it up for the day. Try again in a couple of days. If there is still a problem, consult with a qualified yoga therapist or medical professional.
When all the water has emptied from the enema bag, simply remove the bone from the anus and lie there.
Some people like to stand up and do nauli kriya. Some people do an inverted pose such as viparita karani, chakrasana, other inversions, twists or otherwise move the liquid around the large intestine in order to bathe and wash it on every side.
Hold the liquid in for a few minutes -- if there is no strain -- before evacuating. Some people need to evacuate right away which is excellent also. The average two quart enema can be retained for five minutes (as long as there is no strain) while practicing asana inversions and twists. Allow the evacuation time allotment to take at least ten minutes.
Keep a lighthearted sense of humor. Do not worry if there is much gas and some spray on the evacuations. You can clean it up afterwards. Walk around afterwards not straying too far as the liquidity in the bowels may be difficult to hold back or control at this stage. If you are not sure that everything is out do some of the Shankha Prakshalana Kriya exercises as above especially udara karsanasana. Let everything out that wants to go do so by keeping the area mobile and flexible. Take a shower afterwards and lubricate the anus and rectum with ghee or coconut oil. Try sitting in ardha matsyendrasana asana or vajrasana afterward to relieve any tension at the sit bones, perineum, or thighs. Here again an asana practice afterwards may be of benefit.
Hints and Kinks: How high should the bag be? For gravity to help it must be higher than the hose and the colon. We need both enough gentle pressure to let the water in, but not too much to stress or bulge the colon especially if there is stricture. The most common place for stricture or resistance is at the sigmoid colon (See diagram number ???). This can be overcome usually by an extra long enema bone or tube (see above). Some enema kits come with a soft long tube included. Conservatives say that the bag should not be higher than the chest (if standing). Others place it overhead hanging on a shower curtain rod. You can use a towel rack or other fixture. The rule is to use the minimum necessary height. If the water isn't flowing much then use more height. If its flowing too fast i.e., too much pressure in the colon, restrict the flow in the tube with the tube clamp or even stop it for a few seconds and slowly continue. To get the right height you can tie a strong string to the top of the enema bottle and attaching the top of the string to a hook. Thus by the length of the string you can adjust the overall height of the bottle. The usual height is about one foot above the navel (if standing) or hanging from a doorknob (if lying). Yes, there are many positions including standing or laying on the back with one leg lifted at a time, etc.
The herbal water temperature is generally slightly warmer than body temperature for general effects, but the specific effects of warm, cold, to medium hot enemas all have specific advantages and disadvantages, For further consult a naturopath or yoga therapist.
For more information on:
Please note that all the information that is provided is either a compilation from the ancient literature of hatha yoga and/or from our own experience. It should not be interpreted as a substitute for legal means of diagnosis or treatment for medical disorders, nor can any products or procedures be guaranteed in any way.
At first this kriya can be done daily (especially good during a fast). Then weekly or monthly depending upon one's diet and constitutional needs.
Ashwini mudra has two aspects has two aspects; internal, subtle, and energetic on one hand and coarse, external, and gross on the other. This gross external form is sometimes referred to sthula basti, but here we will simply call it the physical form of aswini mudra, because we will later want to differentiate between aswini mudra and sthula basti. Both aswini mudra and sthula basti however have similar benefits although their techniques differ.
Here we will first describe the more common form of aswini mudra. Aswini Mudra is translated as horse mudra because it is named after the motion that a horse performs with its rectum and anus. It tonifies, cleans, and purifies the nerves, glands, muscles, tissues, and fascia in the anus, rectum, tailbone, and perineum area allowing for better agility and ability in health and asana and especially for the advanced practice of mulabandha. It is often practiced with the internal form of vajroli mudra, simultaneously contracting the muscles and fascia of the entire pelvic floor in and up. Here vajroli works more on the front muscles (urogenital diaphragm) and the ventral portion of the PC (pubo-cocygeal) muscle, while aswini works more on the posterior muscles such as the levator ani, posterior aspect of the coccygeas, the obdurators, gmeli, entire floor of the pelvic diaphragm as well as the pelvic outlet in general. Here it should be pointed out that even the levator ani, is a bulk name for a series of smaller individual muscles with different attachment points and enervations capable of moving individually.To go further it should be emphasized that these muscles do not work simply as a group all at once, but rather when they are toned they can sequence and fire in a wavelike spiraling manner.
Because most people have not learned how to consciously isolate these muscles they are often confused as one muscle group, and also the ability to control these individual muscle actions has thus become confused. These kriyas thus help tonify and purify the area and thus help us to learn individual conscious control. To learn isolation one must learn vajroli, however to learn vajroli one usually is recommended to learn aswini first. (See the section on vajroli mudra for more about this isolation). What must be emphasized here is that we are not after strength or muscle mass here as is gotten in ordinary exercise or even Kegel exercise, but rather we are looking for tone and relaxation. In this regard the muscles that hold the tailbone region and sacrum must not be tight, irritated, or in spasm, but rather relaxed and strong (balanced and tonified).
Also the confusion between aswini mudra and mulabandha will be clarified. In mulabandha we do not tighten the muscles and fascia of the pelvic floor at all. Rather they have to relax, soften, and release in order to "permit" the bottom of the perineum to enter the pelvic diaphragm and move upwards. In mulabandha the perineum folds upward as the pelvic diaphragm is drawn upward through the motion of the pubic bone and tailbone dropping and coming together.
The above makes the subtle distinctions between mulabandha, vajroli mudra, and aswini mudra in order to avoid confusion (see the chapter on mudras and bandhas for more). Now we will describe the aswini mudra practice. For aswini sit on one heel in siddhasana in order to get a good feeling of the perineum region. If there is a strain then sit in any comfortable cross-legged position. Initiate mulabandha and swadhi bandha. Breathe deeply a few breaths. Beginners first can contract the entire pelvic floor at once after a deep inhalation. Retain the in-breath while contracting the entire pelvic floor in and up. You will at first feel the genital region as well as the rectum region both move. The perineum also should fold in and up. Slowly release the breath and the mudra before any feelings of strain either in the breath or in the muladhara. Let the breath come back to normal naturally. Here the recti-ani muscle, the pubo-coccygeal muscles, the pelvic diaphragm, and the urogenital diaphragm move either directly or indirectly are exercised. As the fascia becomes toned, flexible, and elastic; the pelvis softens; and thus the sacrum can also be made to wave back and forth and/or the tailbone flex at its hinge (at the sacro-coccygeal joint).
Procedure: After the breath comes back to normal repeat the above with the in-breath retention (antar kumbhaka), similarly as before by bringing the perineum in and up by engaging these muscles but this time release the contraction at its height, then quickly reestablish it, release, contract, up, release, and repeat before any strain. Then release the breath before there is any need to gasp and release the region of any residual tension or contraction completely. Let the breath come back to normal. This is one round on aswini mudra. Eventually work the back part of the perineum in isolation from the middle and front parts of the perineum by concentrating on the movement of the inner and upper walls of the rectum. Don't worry if the genitals and entire perineum move all at once at first, that is normal.
For advanced practice, perform aswini in-between rounds of kapalabhati or bhastrika after a deep inhale while focusing on the third eye. Work your way slowly, effortlessly, energetically, and with patience too 100 up and downs per retention. Three rounds of 100 is considered to be proficient for most temperaments. Like agni sara, vajroli, and the other kriyas, once proficiency is attained, then perform periodically only if this energy is needed or for preventative maintenance, or a health check up/test.
How many we do at the beginning is not important. Some have to work more on breath retention (kumbhaka) while others have to tonify and energize the perineum and pelvis. The muscular in this area often benefits from such positive reeducation and negative deprogramming. The important caution is to not cause stress or tension and go gently and slowly at first. Eventually the series of contractions and releases become naturally rapid. Always perform aswini after an inhalation and during its inner retention (antar kumbhaka).
Caution: Always relax this area completely.
Benefits: Tonifies and relaxes the rectum area. Prepares for mulabandha and vajroli mudra. The subtle aspect of aswini mudra is accomplished when one can will a wavelike awareness of relaxed energy, openness, and light in the region, eliminating tension, distortion or interference with the dynamic motions of apana.
Sthula basti is often identified as a form or variation of aswini mudra, but its practice is very different. It is often translated as "dry" basti (without water) as opposed to jal basti (standard basti is a water lavage of the colon). However there is another form of dry basti using air (see above under jal basti using air). Here by sthula (earth) basti we take to mean the cleansing of the large intestine opening through earth massage.
Simply sit in dandasana sliding the fascia of the sit bones posterior (backwards) and laterally (toward the side)
Then just slide the pelvis over the femur slightly in forward tilt and backward tilt (dog arch and cat tuck) rolling over the sit bones as a preliminary. Try this also with the weight on one sit bone at a time slightly displacing the opposite foot backward. Its OK to use the hands if you like to aid in the movement taking place at the bottom of the hips especially trying to reach any attachments that may affect the perineum even indirectly.
Then let one hip at a time move forward holding the opposite hip bone back. Basically you are wiggling the hip bones one at a time over the area near the rectum and below the tailbone. Let the legs come long out of the hip sockets. See if you can loosen any fascia, alleviate any tension or old muscle spasms in the area of the upper thigh, sit bones, tailbone, sacrum, pelvis, but especially in the area at eh rear of eh perineum. Continue sliding and alternating one side of the hip and then the other, generating a stimulating and energizing massage with an opening effect to the entire area until the area is sufficiently tonified. This waddling motion from the hips can be wide and one can actually walk along eh ground this way in sthula basti.
Benefits of Aswini and Sthula Basti: Like vajroli mudra, aswini mudra is considered purifying, so it is included in the kriya section (rather than the mudra section). Practiced correctly aswini and sthula basti purifies, removes toxins, removes tension, softens, strengthens (tonifies), and energizes the pelvic floor creating increased resilience and energy flow and thus prepares the area for mulabandha. Sthula basti helps release tension associated with sit bones, tailbone, hip, SI joint, and pelvis as well as the perineum; whereas aswini will affect only the pelvic diaphragm area, tailbone, and sacrum. Aswini tends to reduce apana vayu and increase prana vayu, while sthula basti augments apana vayu. Aswini mudra is a preparation for vajroli mudra and mulabandha.
Do you know what your tailbone is doing now? Is it moving with the cranial sacral rhythm and/or breath. Especially after basti, aswini mudra, and vajroli mudra check in kinesthetically with the tailbone (coccyx) to see if it is moving and/or if you can move it. If it isn't then this most likely may be due to a rigidity from constricted, tight, and/or spastic muscles in the area. Try child's pose (balasana) or squat (malasana) and practice wriggling the tail bone by relaxing and contracting the area actively. Then try wriggling the tailbones with the breath alone. A free, aligned, and mobile tailbone can be used as a bellwether in most every pose. If the tailbone remains free through out the great continuum of day and night many health and energetic benefits will accrue. Keep this area open and mobile.
The ancient scriptures praise this kriya for curing hemorrhoids, prostate, skin diseases, constipation, seminal control, tonification of the genital region, and indigestion. Blood supply as well as waste removal is enhanced. In the classical hatha yoga tradition, the stem of the turmeric plant was used. Although tumeric is known to be antiseptic and healing to the mucosa, today it is usually done with a well lubricated finger cot on the index or middle finger with ghee, coconut, or castor oil commonly acting as the lubricant. This is variously known as Ganesh Kriya, Citra Kriya, or Mulasodhana.
Technique: Traditionally this is done while squatting (malasana) which gives good access for this procedure. Insert the lubricated index or middle finger gently into the anus and rectum area. At first use water to clean the superficial area. Then the lubrication such as sesame seed oil, almond oil, sunflower oil, or the like helps in deeper massage. Explore to see if there are any tensions to smooth out, any tight spots, hard spots, nodules, adhesions, energy cysts, lesions, etc. that you can smooth out, relax, and soften. Only after all traces of tenderness are absent, one may massage more vigorously.
For men the prostate massage can be effected by moving superior and anterior along the wall of the rectum until a small nodule or bump is felt the size of a walnut. In older men it is often enlarged as much as five times its normal size (enlarged prostate) interfering with bladder and sexual function. This condition, premature ejaculation, and also sexual debility very often responds favorably to frequent massage according to yoga therapy. For females the anterior walls of the rectum can provide access to the area of the posterior vagina and ovaries where massage like the prostate massage can also be effected.
This is also a position to adjust the tailbone (accessed on the posterior wall of the rectum) which is hooked by the middle finger and elongated (away from the sacrum). This latter adjustment is difficult to do on oneself but is not uncommon in polarity therapy, osteopathy, and visceral manipulation. For the non-professional simply explore and feel the tailbone area with the inserted finger and place the thumb on the outside of the tailbone. See what direction if any a release of tension may become effected.
Benefits: Mulasodhana cleanses not only physically helps the area to cleanse, releases toxins and tensions in the muladhara chakra, but also releases emotional tensions in the mysterious chakra providing light and clarity. It is the area that is often fraught with fear, left over anxiety from poor infant toilet training, poor sitting habits, sedentary habits, lack of dietary habits, but also because of the generalized tension in the area it is often stressed because of sexual tension and fear of arousal. Opening up the perineum will also open up more energy to the urogenital diaphragm (swadhistana chakra). For those who have not learned to connect the earth (muladhara) and water (swadhistana) chakras together to connect with the fire (manipura) will experience resistance to activating these two lowest but vital centers. As such many will resist these kriyas (or all kriyas), deem them "low", gross, vulgar, or evil, even though these are precisely the areas which are most needed to open. In yoga the goal is arriving into the stage when the non-dual manifestation of spirit and nature, crown and earth, consciousness and being are realized and experienced. this synchronization can not be achieved without the muladhara chakra being activated.
Mulasodhana will help eliminate hemorrhoids, fissures, and adhesions when performed gently. It will stimulate the nerves and nadis at the pelvic diaphragm and muladhara chakra. It will aid in the elimination of constipation and relieve tension in the pelvis.
Afterwards clean the area of any excess lubrication or fluids and then thoroughly wash the hands with a non-toxic soap.
Cautions: Make sure that there are no long or sharp fingernails. The pressure should not be too hard to cause any pain and there is no need for force. Hemorrhoids and fissures in the rectum are favorably improved, but require delicate and gentle maneuvering at first. Gently cleanse and massage such areas gently and gently attempt to push any distended or strained varicose veined tissue back upward into the pelvic rectum. Any signs of fibrous like nodules (especially large) are possible signs of beginning tumors which may then warrant immediate attention through professional help if available.
Mulasodhana Variation Two:
This is similar to sthula basti. The sadhak sits on one heel (be sure not to stress the ankle or knee). The heel is placed either near the ischial tuberosity (sit bone) or in the perineum between the two pubic rami, thus massaging the muladhara area breaking up any tension, adhesions, energy cysts, hardness, etc. This is most often done sitting on one heel or both heels in variations of siddhasana, mahamudra, gomukhasana, matsyendrasana, baddhakonasana, mulabandhasana, janusirsasana, ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana, and the like. One can also use a small ball in variations of virasana, malasana, and other seated postures. Use gentle and kinesthetic techniques to release any tensions, tightness, and old dissipative habits that suck our energy system which have contracted and closed down the energetic system, not to jab, force, or become self adversarial. Here we are forming a dialogue (albeit not in English) and coherent relationship with the vital organs, glands, nerves, and fascia of this important earth/water region. As such a purely linear approach will prove to be futile.
Mulasodhana variation three:
There exists another variation of Mulasodhana kriya which is less intrusive, than the first one, which some claim to be more effective. The area between the anus and the genitals is at first massaged using coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter or similar. gently smooth out, elongate, soften, and vibrate out any lesions, knots, hardness, adhesions, energy cysts, and the like. Especially in the area centered between the anus and genitals create space and tone, so that the fascia can dome upward.
With coconut oil, ghee, cocoa butter or similar one may work all the way posterior from the ischial tuberosity, along the inferior aspect of the ischium forward to the inferior pubic rami, all the way up to the inferior pubic symphysis, working gently on one side at a time. Here the tension and energy blockages associate with the earth and water chakras will be stimulated, thus just as in the above one may resist or fear its activation. It should be emphasized that what one is seeking is not necessarily stimulation, but rather flow of the prana, and in this regard bringing the breath down into this region at this time is very helpful. If one does not know how to move the sexual energy through the swadhistana region, one may create even more sexual tension and the unfortunate desire to discharge it. rather what is needed is for the area to become permeated with prana, activated, and then allow the energy to flow through to the rest of the chakras. For some of us this is easier than for others. Vajroli mudra (discussed immediately following) thus is beneficial in mastering urdva retas. (upward flow).
In tantric and taoist yoga the various forms of mulasodhana kriya are essential in perfecting flow, energizing this region, and preventing discharge/dissipation. If one does not practice tantric or taoist yoga, one must perfect urdva retas through vajroli, while mulasodhana kriya is a wonderful way of differentiating between the pelvic diaphragm and the urogenital diaphragm while allowing synchronized flow. For success there should be no leaks through any of the chakras, but rather they all must be activated and operate simultaneously.
A related practice is sometimes called Bahish kriya (see vatasara above) but this is more commonly called maha dhauti (a variation of prakshalan) which is variously said to be the removal (unraveling) of the lowest part of the large intestine while bathing in waist deep water. This may be a reference to a conscious and severe anal prolapse wherein such walls can be thus externally exposed, manually massaged, and cleansed. I have not been taught the practice nor can I comment further upon its advisability.
Mulosodhana can be done weekly unless a constitutional problem calls for more frequent attention.
For the internal and energetic form see the mudra and bandha appendix. First the yogi masters uddiyana bandha, nauli kriya, aswini mudra, mulabandha, swadhi bandha, and nabhi bandha sitting on your toes (phutakara).
The external form which is not recommended without the guidance of a qualified yoga therapist, medical doctor, nurse practitioner, or master is to insert a sterilized and well lubricated number 5 catheter that is eight inches long about two or three inches into the urethra at first. Increase the length gradually removing the catheter at the first sign of force, before there is any pain. Gradually it is swirled in an orb motion left in, right in, etc. Standard ureter catheters can be obtained at surgical supply/appliance stores.
After some practice increase the size of the catheter to a number 7 or 8. After you can insert six inches of the catheter (males) then drink up water into the bladder. It will be excreted with the urine. Classically when success in sucking up the water (through uddiyana and swadhi bandha) is achieved then practice with increasingly heavier liquids such as milk and oil. Advanced practice is said to be done with a silver tube and with specially prepared mercury as the heavy liquid which maximally increases the suction movement and was also used as a antiseptic. This paragraph is given solely for its historical value although it is obvious that what is intended in this practice the mastery of the vayus and pranas that are involved with the processes of excretion and retention, not just the physical cleansing. It is this mastery of the vayus and energetics of the swadhistana chakra that the subtle and inner vajroli practice confers.
Variations: There is another ancient variation in which a very fine tube is inserted through the ureter an then is threaded into the prostate region of the male (thus avoiding the bladder completely). These external practices are not being recommended here, but simply presented for historical reasons, however the internal form of vajroli is recommended for those of suitable constitution. See the mudra appendix for the internal forms of vajroli which are potentially less harmful.
The basic vajroli form which any one can benefit from is very simple, although still physical or gross. Here only the front part of the perineum or more correctly the urinary diaphragm is isolated and alternatively contracted and relaxed. Like aswini, one may do a set of vajroli mudra immediately after kapalabhati or bhastrika, inhaling, holding the breath in internal retention (antar kumbhaka), performing the three bandhas, and then alternately engage and relax, engage and relax, the urogenital diaphragm repeatedly up to 50 times or more. Always end with a complete relaxation.
One must learn aswini mudra first (see above). Kegel exercises in which the stream of urine is stopped in mid stream through internal muscular action and then and then released help also in getting in touch with this mechanism of the PC (pubo-coccygeal) muscles. This will tonify the region and allow energy to flow through it, not because we are building up muscle mass or rigidity, but because we are flushing the area with new blood, washing away the old blood and lymph, firing and re-educating the nerves in this area, purifying the energy system as well as the physical organs, glands, nerves, and nadis of this area. Then this area can become alive and tonified and its functions not only enhanced and capable of handling a larger charge, but more so that its evolutionary higher function (urdva retas) can be catalyzed. Because of body negative negative conditioning and sexual repression, this area often is shut down and contains tensions, toxins, irritants, and blockage of the nadis that interfere with the flow and balance of the internal pranic circuits and higher potential
After a little practice one will be able to isolate the movements of this muscle group from that of the rest of the perineum as well as from the rectum. After one gets in touch with these energetic relationships, one will be able to focus their awareness upon the various mechanisms of that area and be able to direct them consciously.
Cautions: Completely relax the region removing any residual tension afterwards. Check on the tailbone (see above) to make sure that it is aligned and can wriggle. Even during practice we are looking for an openness not a tension.
Benefits: The external practice of vajroli is said to cure all disorders of the bladder and urethra including irritation, burning, infection, wet dreams, and sexual control. It tonifies the urogenital diaphragm and keeps the swadhistana chakra open. This form of vajroli is commonly prescribed in hatha yoga monastic settings to help in sexual continence and establish upward flow (urdvaretas). Vajroli along with aswini mudra helps perfect mulabandha.
The above discussion has been traditionally prescribed for male yogis, so the practice for women may well have to be customized accordingly. Please see the section on mudras for the internal practice or more subtle practice of vajroli mudra. Briefly put, these external, physical, and gross presentations of vajroli help us to become aware of, energize, activate, deprogram, cleanse, and eventually control the diseases and dissipations of the swadhistana chakra which is the chakra of generation, procreation, fluidity, and flexibility. It is an important neuro-endocrine and energetic area and should not be avoided or ignored. Although the gross external forms of vajroli are difficult to learn and not necessary, they can be preparatory and useful in order to master the internal (antara), more subtle, and energetic form of upward flow (urdvaretas) where the swadhistana chakra is entirely purified and established in its functional modality.
Many thanks to Mike Parr for excellent suggestions and expert help in editing.
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.
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