Shuddhi Kriya

Shuddhi Kriya – Different Body Cleansing Techniques

Shuddhi Kriya is a process of cleansing the body from inside.  Hatha Yoga has given great importance to Shatkarmas (6 processes) or Shuddhi kriyas for the body and mind purification. Without purification of the body one will not be ready for the practice of yoga. Shatkarmas cleanses and activates all vital organs of the body especially the digestive, respiratory, circulatory and nervous systems. They are preventive as well as curative in nature. Ones capacity to digest, taste, work, think and feel is enhanced wonderfully. After this practice of asanas and Pranayam becomes more easy and effective

The hatha yoga cleansing processes have been placed into six groups of purification practices known as shatkarmas, ‘Shat’ meaning six and ‘karma’ meaning action. They are described in the ancient texts of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gherand Samhita. The six shatkarmas are neti, cleansing of the nasal passages, dhouti, cleansing of the alimentary canal, nauli, strengthening of the abdominal organs, basti, cleansing of the large intestine, kapalbhati, cleansing of the frontal area of the brain and tratak, intense gazing of a point developing concentration and cleansing the mind. A variety of practices come under these categories. We will look at the following cleansing practices that can be helpful for many problems.

 

  1. Bindu Tratak – Concentrated Gazing on Dot

The bindu, a dot, usually red or black should be placed on the wall at eye level and one should sit in front of it, at about an arms distance. Sit comfortably with the spine erect and eyes relaxed. First close the eyes and relax. Keep the body steady and stable throughout the practice. Open the eyes and gaze steadily at the point. Try not to blink or move the eyeballs, do not strain the eyes. Try to focus only on the point. When the eyes start to get tired or begin to water gently close them and gaze at the after image of the point in chidakash.  When the image disappears open the eyes and repeat the process. Continue as many times as desired. After completing palm the eyes and if needed splash some cold water into the eyes.

2. Jyoti Tratak – Concentrated Gazing on Flame

Light the candle and sit as per bindu tratak, an arms length away from the candle which should be at eye level. Make sure there is no draft in the room so that the flame can remain steady. It is best practiced at night so that the room can be dark and the focus can be directed on the candle more easily. Follow the same procedure as bindu tratak but gaze at the tip of the wick, not the whole flame. Sometimes the flame may flicker but the wick will remain steady. Continue for as long as desired. Finish with palming and/or cold water.

Benefits

  • Helps to remove suppressed thoughts and associated worries
  • Makes the eyes clear and bright
  • Cleanses the eyes
  • Balances nervous system 
  • Relieves mental tension and anxiety
  • Improves memory and concentration
  • Decreases thoughts
  • Helpful for depression
  • Helps remove insomnia
  • Strengthens will power

Precautions & Contra-indications

The flames must be steady, there should be no draught and no strain of the eyes. Bindu tratak should be practiced instead of jyoti tratak for epileptics and those with eyestrain or eye problems. Good lighting should be there for bindu tratak. One should build up slowly with tratak due to its mental cleansing effects so that one doesn’t become disturbed.

Duration

Beginners should start with a few minutes in total. Later it can be practiced for up to 15 minutes.

3. Kapalbhati – Frontal Lobe Cleansing

Kapalbhati is related to the breathing process but is classified under cleansing techniques. First sit in any comfortable sitting position with the hands on the knees. Relax the body and breathe naturally. Bring the awareness to the breath and abdomen. Inhale deeply and exhale with a forceful, but never straining, contraction of the abdominal muscles. The next inhalation will occur passively as the abdominal muscles relax and expand. There should not be any effort to inhale. Continue with the active exhalation and passive inhalation, which is the opposite of what we normally do. If necessary have a break, breathe naturally and then continue.

Benefits

  • Strengthens and exercises the muscles of the respiratory system
  • Clears the air passages
  • Increases the efficiency of the lungs
  • Purifies the respiratory system
  • Increases the supply of oxygen in the blood
  • Purifies nadis
  • Removes sensory distractions and energises the mind
  • Strengthens the nervous system due to its action of reversing the breathing process.
  • Improves digestion and metabolism

Precautions & Contra-indications

If there is any dizziness stop the practice and breathe naturally. Recommence when ready but with less force. If it continues seek guidance. Avoid if there are heart problems, high blood pressure, lung problems, recent abdominal surgery, stroke, vertigo, epilepsy during pregnancy and menstruation.

Duration

It is said that the ideal ration for kapalbhati is 120 repetitions per minute. Practicing faster than this is not advisable. If one cannot practice that speed they should do what is most comfortable for them.
The amount of repetitions can slowly be increased as per the individual’s capacity and strength. One may start with 2 rounds of 20 repetitions and slowly build up to 2 rounds of 120 repetitions. After some time one can build up to 500 repetitions.

4. Agnisar Dhouti – Fire Breath

Stand erect with a distance of 1 to 1.5 ft in between both the feet. Inhale. Bend the legs, place both the hands on the knees and exhale. The pressure of the shoulders should come onto the knees through both the hands.  After exhaling completely contract the abdomen and bring it inwards, towards the spine. Immediately release the abdomen and continue the contraction and expansion in a rapid manner until you feel that you need to inhale. Stop the process and gradually inhale as you stand up, raising the arms upward and then exhaling lower the arms. This is one round. After completing as many rounds as desired lie down in shavasan and give a gentle clockwise massage to the abdomen.

Benefits

  • Increases the circulation of blood to the digestive organs
  • Removes impurities and improves the efficiency of all the organs.
  • Digestion is improved and the agni or digestive fire is lit.
  • The appetite is stimulated
  • Removes digestive troubles
  • Massages and strengthens the abdomen 
  • Increases prana in general and stimulates all 5 pranas in the body.
  • Removes tiredness and depression.
  • Helps remove fats
  • The pancreas is given a good massage which helps with insulin production and therefore diabetes.
  • Massages bladder

Precautions & Contra-indications

The movement of the stomach should not be jerky but should be done rhythmically. Avoid if there has been any abdominal surgery, high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, diarrhoea, menstruation, hernia, pregnancy and acidity. Always practice on an empty stomach and if possible, empty bladder and bowels.

Duration

3-4 rounds can be practiced, slowly increasing the amount of repetitions per round. 100 strokes per practice is a good amount to aim for.

5. Jal Neti – Nasal Cleansing with Water

In a jug mix 1 teaspoon of water with 500 mls of warm water. Fill the neti pot with water. Usually the neti pot holds 125mls.  Bend the knees and place one hand on the knee. Tilt the head to the side and insert the spout into the upper nostril. Keep the mouth open and breathe naturally through it. The water will naturally flow out of the lower nostril. Sometimes a little water may flow down the throat or face. In this case adjust the position of the head. Everybody is different and when the correct position has been found then it becomes very easy. Once all the water from the pot has gone through the nostrils repeat on the other side. This can be practiced twice if the pot holds 125mls otherwise use 500 mls of water. After practicing it is important to dry the nostrils. To do this lean forward and swing the head in a half rotation from side to side, exhaling forcefully but without tension as the head moves downwards, inhaling as the head comes up. If you feel there is still some water inside then till the head forward for some time then try blowing your nose, remembering not to strain. 

Benefits

  • Helps to purify the breathing path right from the nostrils to the throat
  • Removes mucus and pollution from the nasal cavities
  • Helps in reducing allergies
  • Helps to prevent colds and sinus problems
  • Cleans the eyes and ears
  • Improves nasal functions, sinuses and brain
  • Awakens Ajna chakra

Precautions & Contra-indications

Those with blocked nostrils should not practice jal neti as it may cause a blockage of water inside the cavity. It is best as a preventative so instead practice when both nostrils are flowing. If you are prone to nose bleeding then again it is not recommended without advice. Placing a drop of warm ghee in each nostril before the practice can help. Also for some people they may have a structural blockage preventing the flow of water out of the other nostril. Ask your doctor about this.

Duration/Frequency

It can be practiced everyday if necessary but for a normal healthy individual once a week is adequate. If one has allergies then it can be practiced daily.

6. Danda Neti – Nasal Cleansing with Tube

Take a comfortable position, sitting or standing. Relax the body, breathe normally. Take your rubber tube and dip it in a few drops of ghee. Place the tube into one nostril. It is best to start with the nostril that is flowing first.  Slowly and carefully continue to insert the tube. It will reach the nasal cavity and then one will be able to feel it in the throat. It is very important to go slowly here. Sometimes the tube will not go and one needs to gentle twist the tube until the correct position is found. There should never be any pain or discomfort. When the tube reaches the throat insert the index and middle finger into the throat to hold onto the tube. It will be very slippery at this point and may take some time to get a hold of. It is important that the fingernails are not long so that they do not scratch the throat. Once the tube is held very gentle move the tube to and fro, to gentle clean, and then slowly remove the tube from the mouth. Repeat with the other nostril.

Benefits

  • Same effects as jal neti
  • Also increases the blood flow to nasal passages which makes the nose function better
  • Has a friction effect which can be helpful if there are any fleshy outgrowths preventing the free flow of air.
  •  It helps with excess mucus/kapha so indirectly helps tonsillitis.

Precautions & Contra-indications

Don’t practice is one has a deviated nasal septum or has nosebleeds. Always follow with jal neti to flush out any impurities or particles. It should always be practiced under guidance to begin with. There should never be any kind of pain or discomfort.

Duration/Frequency

Can be practiced weekly or if needed a few times a week.

Bindu Tratak

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Jyoti Tratak

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Kapalbhati

Kapalbhati-pranayama-steps

Agnisar Dhouti

agnisara-kriya

Jal Neti

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Danda Neti

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