Are you a yoga kriyas fan? Have you been practicing asanas (postures) and pranayamas (breaths) for some time? Have you ever heard of Shatkriyas or Shatkarmas? Do these names vaguely remind you of something? These are personal hygiene techniques that have been used in the 200 Hour yoga course in Rishikesh for millennia.
Procedures of purification with Yoga Kriyas
According to the classical texts of Hatha yoga pradepika, 6 procedures of purification of the body are:
- Trataka: concentration and purification of the eyes by observation without blinking.
- Neti: cleansing of the nasal and sinus passages.
- Dhauti: cleaning of the mouth, ears, and digestive system.
- Kapala-Bhati: revitalization and purification of the respiratory tract.
- Nauli: abdominal massage.
- Basti: colorectal cleansing.
At first glance, these yoga kriyas activities may seem surprising to you or even leave you perplexed. It is normal to feel a certain reluctance when reading these little-known practices in the Western world.
Yet, these techniques performed by our Indian neighbors for centuries have the power to keep the physical body young and vigorous.
No wonder a large portion of men over the respectable age of 100 use these methods of purification. It is true that some methods have been and still are controversial.
Yoga of the eyes – Trataka
The eyes are perceived by many as the reflection of the soul. It is the organ that allows us to assimilate the images we observe and thus better understand the environment surrounding us.
In addition to the mouth, it is also through the eyes. We release the emotion that lives in us and communicate it to others. So many reasons to keep this vital organ healthy and take care of it.
Observation of the flame of a candle in a dark room.
- Make yourself comfortable in a quiet, dark place.
- Close your eyes. Inhale gently through your nose and exhale for a long time through your throat, keeping your mouth closed. Repeat this cycle at least three times to relax.
- Place the candle 50 cm from your face. Bring your gaze to the heart of the flame, more precisely between the wick and the flickering flame.
- Keep your face relaxed, and don’t blink. Let yourself be hypnotized by the glow of the fire. Breathe gently.
- Without ever blinking, focus on the details of the flame, its intensity, color, edge, and brightness, for about 15 long seconds. Then close your eyes for a few moments.
- Repeat this cycle at least 3 times.
Nasal rinse – Neti
Suffering from allergy, rheumatism, or continually having difficulty breathing through your nose can be very bothersome, especially when practicing yoga kriyas! When we have a cold or the flu, we usually use a pre-made saline solution to clear the nasal passages of multiple impurities.
However, we often wait until we are in pain before resorting to cleaning our nasal walls. In the case of the Neti technique, it is preventive.
It, therefore, eliminates flu and nasal discomfort of all kinds. In doing so, to ensure its effectiveness, it is better to do it diligently every week. For this practice, you will need a Jalaneti pot (also called lotas in Sanskrit),
Yoga Neti Cleaning method
Cleaning the nasal passages by letting saline water flow from one nostril to the other.
- Prepare your saline solution by adding a teaspoon of sea salt to two cups of water. Make sure the water is at a temperature of around 37 degrees (body temperature).
- Pour the saline water into your jalaneti pot. Start with the left nostril. As you lean over the tub or sink, let the solution flow into your nostril opening and turn your head to the left so that your right nostril is the part closest to the sink or sink bath.
- You will feel the water making its way through the nasal and sinus passages and out through the right nostril. To avoid choking, continuously expel air through your mouth in a jerky fashion throughout the exercise.
- When your jalaneti pot is empty, and the water flow has stopped from your right nostril, blow your nose several times if necessary to let out as many impurities as possible. Make sure your nose is completely dry when you stop expelling bacteria.
- You can now repeat the same process with the right nostril.
The breathing of the luminous skull – Kapala-Bhati
It is called cranial enlightenment pranayama. Its regular practice fills the vital center between the two eyebrows (the third eye or 6th chakra of intuition) with energy and allows a calming light to be emitted into the mind and the skull, hence the origin of its name. This method of cleaning the lungs, rib cage, and brain cells is known to yogic followers as a breathing technique.
The abdominal wall repeatedly activates rhythmically and powerfully through this practice, and the air expels through the nose.
In addition to balancing and strengthening the nervous system, it allows practitioners to cleanse their respiratory system, stimulate brain activity and awaken consciousness. It improves digestion, strengthens the abdominals, the diaphragm, and the heart.
Beyond the physical benefits, this kriya/pranayama helps to expel psychoemotional impurities from the brain. This technique is complete, simple, and easy to perform. It requires neither preparation nor accessory.
On the other hand, it is contraindicated to use this method if you suffer from hypertension, heart problems, or epilepsy.
Kapala-bhati Yoga Cleaning Method
Activation of the abdominal walls and expulsion of air through the nasal passages.
- Sit comfortably cross-legged (Indian style) or on your heels (Japanese style). Make sure your back is straight, and your stomach relaxed.
- Take a long, deep breath through your nose. Then start to exhale air through your nose simultaneously, contracting your abdominals inward. The expulsion of air through the nose occurs in a short and forced way. You can put your right hand on your stomach to feel the power of the contractions produced by the lower part of your abdomen.
- Like a bellows, the stress is put on the exhalation and the jerky rapid evacuation done from the bottom up by a thrust of the abdominal muscles. After each exhalation, the inhalation takes place automatically, like air entering a bellows again.
- Start with cycles of 10 to 15 consecutive exhalations. And then gradually increase the pace until you reach about sixty repetitions on the exhale.
- When you finish your practice, be sure to take at least three deep breaths through your nose and exhale at length through your throat, keeping your mouth closed. It will help you calm the nervous system and regain a natural heartbeat.
By practicing the following shatkriyas, you will consolidate your yoga kriyas. Exploring these different cleansing techniques allows you to tame the first foundations (yamas and niyamas) of yoga, which bring us back to the balance between a healthy body and a serene mind.