Shatkarma In Yoga Texts
In Hatha Yoga Pradipika
In Hatha yoga tradition, Yogis follow shatkriyas (shatkarma) before pranayama when they have blockages in their body systems. Blockages can be in any form such as excessive mucus, undigested food, wind problems or any other disorder hampering higher practices of Yogis. Shatkarma – 6 yogic techniques are for cleansing, for purification, for detoxification of internal body systems given by the rishis as the solution.
In Ghrenda Samhita
Ghrenda Samhita, another text of yoga is on the foundation of Ghat yoga comprising the seven limbs. And the first limb is Shatkarma even before the asana and other yogic practices. The concept of Ghat Yoga is “Body is a Ghat- a pot”. So to add anything to pot, it should be cleaned first. A dirty pot can ruin the contents added to it. Like we clean the utensils before adding food to them. Thus the importance of Shatkarma is very much confirmed by these ancient yogic texts.
To make sure that body functions properly one must clean the systems time to time.
What is Shatkarma
Shat and karma are the two root words combined to make shatkarma, ‘shat’ means ‘six’ and ‘karma’ is ‘action or kriya’. These 6 actions (shatkriya) are Dhauti, Basti, Neti, Tratak, Nauli and Kapalbhati. Shakarma are the techniques for detoxification that should be performed whenever there is need to take out excessive vata, pitta, kapha and thus balance the doshas. And to take off all the impurities from the body.
The six yogic detoxification techniques are:
The image depicts the Vastra Dauti. Cloth is eaten and taken out with all mucus and bile in the digestive tract.
Caution: Learn and do under the guidance only.
There are number of dautis in mentioned in yogic texts. In brief it cleanses the digestive tract, removes the excessive mucus and bile from the stomach. Commonly vaman dauti and vastra dauti are practiced more. Other than that Danta Dauti, Antar Dauti, Hrid Dhauti and Mool Shodhana are there for cleaning teeth, throat and rectum.
Hatha yoga pradipika shared two types of basti – Jala basti and sthala basti. Basti is yogic enema technique. Jala basti means enema with water and sthala is dry enema. Basti is for cleaning the large intestine. It removes the harmful bacteria that grow up in intestine. It is very much helpful in chronic constipation and improves the absorption of nutrients.
Left side image shown is of Jala Neti. It cleans the nasal passage. Water enters from one nostril and come out of another. Breathe from mouth while doing neti.
Two types of neti are quite popular and used. They are sutra neti and jala neti. Sutra neti is done with the help of thread and jala is done with lukewarm water. Sutra or jala passes through the nasal passage and cleans the blockages over there. It relieves in migrane, headaches, inflammation of nasal passage, sinuses.
Other than these two, dugdha neti and ghrita neti are also there. Dugdha means ‘milk’ and ghirta is ‘ghee’. So milk and ghee replace water in these techniques.
Neti is followed by kapalbhati for drying up the nostrils. On practice of jal neti add few drops of ghee to each nostrils to lubricate the passage.
Tip: Do it before sleeping in night. One will have sound sleep and many door of unknown inner world will get open.
Gazing steadily on an object. Generally gazing object is ghee lamp, which has other benefits too but one can do tratak on any object of choice. Concentration, high focus, calm mind are the benefits which further opens the deeper states of mind. On physical level it is beneficial for eyes. As it is a tool to concentrate mind hence very much helpful for students. With the help of tratak we can cure anxiety, insomnia, depression, and other psychosomatic issues.
Also known as Lauliki. This practice is about rolling the rectus abdominal muscles, the muscles around the area of naval (nabhi). For nauli one must be the practitioner of uddiyana bandha first. Only after that one should go into this practice.
It massages & tones the digestive organs. Nauli helps in mandagni, indigestion, laziness, heaviness, urinary disorders and hormonal problems. It gives control over appetite, strengthens body organs, balances the solar plexus and thus enhances willpower.
Forceful exhalation is the key, and when we do that stomach will go inside as depicted.
Kapalbhati is for cleaning frontal brain, Kapala. The techniques is based on forceful exhalation. In kapalbhati, inhalation is passive and exhalation is active. It stimulates different areas of brain and throws out more carbon dioxide and other gases than normal.
Ayurveda, Shatkarma and Detoxification
According to modern science style shatkarma purifies the internal body systems. While in Ayurveda, it is in terms of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha Dosha. In case of imbalance of Vata, pitta, and kapha, one can harmonize tridosha with the help of yogic cleansing techniques. Vaman Dhauti, Neti and Basti are very much popular rituals in traditional ayurveda.
One of the oldest health science, Ayurveda says Vata (wind), Pitta (bile) and Kapha (phlegm) are the tridosha which cause diseases when get disturbed. So when there is vikriti of any one of these, or two at a time, or all three then an individual suffers from number of diseases.
The numbers of diseases caused when only one dosha is imbalanced are:
- 80 by vata vyadhi (imbalanced Vata) only.
- 40 by the imbalanced Pitta alone.
- 20 by Kapha Only.
Vata is responsible for movement, pitta for transformation and kapha for structural formation & lubrication. Imbalance of Vata creates imbalance in pitta and kapha too if not treated on time. Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Ghrenda Samhita have outlined the six practices to maintain tridosha so that one can free from diseases to continue the higher practices of yoga.
In other words, when one is having
- Excess of mucus in respiratory tract
- Undigested food in stomach
- Bloating and gas by wrong eating
- Ama in stomach
- When one is not able to concentrate and more…
should take help of these detoxification techniques mentioned in Ancient Yogic Texts.
When to do detoxification?
A yogi knows body is the medium and it needs to be disease free, strong and balanced. In order to keep this medium good in health one should practice these techniques called shatkarma time to time given by our sages and yogis. However, these should be practiced only when needed. These are helpful to those who have imbalance of dosha or one having some disorder in the internal systems of body, not otherwise. If one is in the good health and systems are working perfectly then there is no need to practice. In conclusion, when tridoshas are in harmony one must not practice shatkarma.
Shatkarmas are the powerful practices for detoxification and purification of body. They give marvelous results on practicing. Although there are many videos and texts explaining the techniques yet these shatkriyas must be learned properly by the experts only. These practices were kept secret since ages for a reason. So one should practice them under the proper guidance. Once you got mastery in these only then you should try these on your own. Else a small mistake and lack of knowledge would lead to big problems.
Benefits of Shatkarma
- As a cure, these techniques detoxify the body organs like stomach, colon, nasal passage etc. and remove the impurities from the body.
- They bring the proper and smooth functioning of body systems.
- They improve the concentration and bring the clarity. Tratak is the shatkriya in which one focus on diya or any object. Kapalbhati also helps in clearing the illusion of mind as it calms the mind and cleans the frontal lobe (Kapala).
- Flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide gets easy after neti kriya. As a result, more oxygen to body, more pranic energy and more vital capacity.
- To sit in for further practices of Yoga one must follow these to have strong body, calmness of cluttered mind and to balance body & mind.
- Shatkriya is helpful to channelize the flow of Prana in Nadis.
- Throw excess of mucus, bile and wind out of the body.
- Basti is a method of washing large intestine. It relieves from the chronic ailments of large intestine and constipation.
This is the overview of shatkarma from the yoga texts. We will explain the shatkriyas in detail further.