Cleanliness was always important. Indian yogic system recommended several techniques to clean the special parts of human body. In Sanskrit, Shatkarmas means six actions. These are the six group of purification mechanisms which help in improving concentration and enable flow of Prana into the organs and the Pranic meridians or Nadis. Shat Karmas aims at creating harmony between the two major Pranic flows, ida and pingala, thereby helping in attaining physical and mental purification and balance.
There are six main groups of Shatkarmas or yogic cleansers as under:
Some scholars, also add Kapalbhati Pranayama in the above list. But I have kept it in Pranayama and discussed that article.
Dhauti includes cleaning of the teeth & gums (Danta Moola Dhauti), Jihva moola dhauti (cleaning of tongues), kapal randhra dhauti (washing the skull), Karna dhauti (cleaning the ears), washing the eyes (chakshu dhauti) and cleaning of digestive track. Cleaning of the digestive tract is not common. Two methods are suggested in Hatha yoga for cleaning of digestive tract as under:
Nauli means tube. Massaging the entire abdomen and stomach by contracting and rolling the abdominal muscles. Bending the shoulders forwards, the abdomen should be rotated from right to left and left & right. Nauli removes abdominal ailments, increases digestive fire and bring happiness. Before attempting nauli, one should master ‘agnisar kriya’ and ‘uddiyana bandha’.
Process – Stand with the feet apart, bend knees slightly, lean forward, place the hands firmly on the thighs just above the knees, arms straight, bend head forward, breathe normally in starting position, deep exhalation combined with uddiyana bandha before doing nauli.
Stage – 1 – Madhyama nauli (Central contraction) – correct standing position, exhale deeply, contract the abdominal muscles by doing uddiyana bandha, contract the rectus abdominal muscles & form a central arch running vertically in front of abdomen, hold it as long as possible, relax muscular contraction, breathe in slowly & let the abdominal muscles expand, relax the body, repeat, practice central nauli for weeks / months, then proceed to vama nauli. Practice after gap of five to six hours after meals. Maximum 10 rounds. Nauli should not be done by people suffering from high BP, gallstones, hernia, peptic or duodenal ulcer etc.
Vama Nauli (left isolation) - in this, contraction of rectus abdominal muscles of left side is done, return to madhyama nauli. Then do dakshina nauli.
Dakshina nauli - in this, contraction of rectus abdominal muscles of left side is done. Then do dakshina nauli, return to madhyama nauli.
Stage – 2 - rolling movement of the abdominal muscle from left to right and then right to left,
Basti: Colon cleaning:
Cleaning the colon by sucking in air (Sushka basti) or water (Jala or vara basti) through the anus. Basti is a direct method of tackling constipation. Stand with feet apart, exhale deeply by contracting the abdominal muscles & doing uddiyana bandha, gently pull the anal sphincters apart, suction of water or air through anus, do Nauli (madhyama, rotational) is done, evacuation. Basti should not be practised by people suffering from high BP, hernia or any serious digestive ailment.
Bhalbhati: Cleaning excess mucus:
Bhalbhati is of three types – vartrama, vyukarma and sheetkarma. They are useful for eliminating phlegm and excessive mucus from the body.
Vartrama – Process -inhale from left nostril & exhale from right nostril, then inhale from right nostril & exhale from left nostril; breath slowly & controlled, the drawing water through nose and expelling through mouth. It removes mucus from the nasal cavity.
Vyukarma & Sheetkarma are similar to jal neti.
Trataka (Steady gazing) stimulates the whole system and concentration awakens it. This induces higher sensitivity of pineal gland and greater wakefulness through sympathetic nervous system. All the disturbing thoughts, which reduces receptivity, are blocked out, at least temporarily by the intense concentration.
Concentration is the key to merging in its object. When the mind merges in the form of the Ishta Devata, the self-consciousness is withdrawn resulting into nirvikalpa samadhi. Hence, one should the object of concentration carefully and practise earnestly. Try to maintain awareness of the object of trataka. Awareness is important. One should not force concentration. One should be attentive to the object. Don’t become lost in the stream of thoughts, but merely watch them with the feeling of disinterest. If one does this, then the unwanted thoughts will automatically subsidise, and concentration will arise. Concentration must arise spontaneously.
Stage 1 - Trataka develops the power of concentration and focus. The focusing of mental energy towards one-point leads to peace of mind. It consists of three different modes of practice:
Objects for trataka can be anything such as a candle flame, Om symbol, a flower, shivalingam, Nose tip, Ishta Devata etc.
Stage 2 – Before switching over to stage 2, stage 1 should be mastered. In stage 1, one should be able to gaze the outer object for some time without blinking and in inner trataka, able to see after image. In stage 2 – first practise kaya sthaiyam for a few minutes, gaze directly at the tip of the wick of the candle, practise outer trataka & be totally absorbed without blinking for about three minutes, perform khechari mudra, maintain awareness, practice ujjayi pranayama, while inhaling visualize drawing breath from the flames to eyebrows centre moving backwards through the head, while exhaling visualize breath going out through eyebrows centre to the flame from back of the head. Likewise, practise inner trataka.
Stage III – After mastering stage II. Practice kaya sthairyam. Throughout the practice the inner image has been visualised and projected at the eyebrow centre. Keep the image steady, then simultaneously be aware of the breath and the sound of the breath cause by ujjayi pranayama, feel that the image is moving backwards and forwards, look intently at the image & try to probe its shape and nature. Trataka cuts off the continual bombardment of negative emotions & reactions to inner & external events, by centring attention at one point.
Reference: A systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya – by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Nada means the flow of sound and Yoga means Union. Nada is called by different names - shabda, surat, nam, akashwani, dhun, nad-i-asmani, vani, logos, sraosha (in Zoroastrianism) etc. Nada Yoga is the process of the union of the individual mind with cosmic consciousness through the flow of sounds. Nada is also called Shabd or word and is produced either by striking two objects known as Ahat Nad or without striking two objects which is called Anahat Nad.
Nada Yoga as such is yogic practices which use sound to expand awareness. It is a powerful practice of tracing sound back through its psychic and subtle manifestation to the source. Nada is sound of chidakasha. It is a technique to turn the perception of hearing inwards to listen the pure sound of your inner spirit. This sacred sound practice also utilizes chanting Sanskrit mantra and listening to meditative external music like Indian classical music.
Pythagoras conceived that the whole universe and each individual is connected with the single string, the lower end to gross matter and at the upper end to pure consciousness. Modern science has postulated that everything in the universe is composed of wave forms, vibrating at different frequencies.
Different levels of nada:
The following fourfold classification has been given in the ancient texts:
Nada Yoga, an ancient Spiritual practice:
Sri Gorakhnatha (a great yogi) described various types of laya yoga (method of raising the kundalini). Amongst these nadanusandhana (discovering the source of nada) is the best. By this the brahma granthi is pierced and a wonderful bliss arises from the void. A tinkling sound can be heard emanating from the anahata chakra. Nada yoga is an important sadhana of many sects such as Radha Soami Satsang, Kabirpanthis etc. it is praised in Adi Granth (holy scripture in Sikhism).
In early stages of the practice, the aspirant hears gross, loud sounds. Gradually more subtle sounds are heard. The sounds are like those of the ocean, clouds…. Nada Bindu Upanishad. The nada from the flute is heard which arises from the underlying consciousness. The preferred time is midnight. The practise of Nada Yoga is done as follows:
Technique - I
Technique - II
Technique – III – Shanmukhi mudra (the attitude of the seven gates)
There four stages of attainment of the practice: beginning, continuation, ripening and culmination. In the beginning stage, brahmagranthi (associated with mooladhara chakra) is pierced and bliss appears from voidness. A sound like tinkling ornaments can be heard in the anahata chakra. Then the vishnugranthi (associated with anahata chakra) is pierced and bliss arises together with the sound of the bheri and vimarda (two kinds of musical instruments). In the last stage the prana enters the ajna chakra and pierces the rudra granthi and the sound of vina (flute) and a flute can be heard. The awareness should be fixed on the sound until it becomes soundless. This is the state super consciousness.
Reference: A systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya – by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Antar Mouna (Inner Silence)
Antar mouna is a meditative technique that leads to inner tranquillity and silence. Antar mouna helps in attaining pratyahara (withdrawal of the mind from the sense objects), the fifth stage of raja yoga. Muni is the person who has attained the state of inner silence. Antar mouna is the process of rooting out impressions (Samskara) deep in the subconscious mind. This leads to a speeded-up process of removing tensions from the mind. Generally, it is practised in the form of no speaking while carrying of normal life. If one stop talking but still remain concerned with the practice. One’s interaction with the world will merely flow out through the sense organs of eyes, ears, etc. instead of mouth. Try to be detached. From things around us.
Many people find that in the beginning a lot of strong negative emotions and thoughts arise. This can make one unhappy but this is necessary part of the process of purging the mind, but it should be done more slowly. The duration of mouna can be increased as the mind becomes more harmonised. It induces pratyahara (sense withdrawal, cutting off perception). Regular practice of antar mouna brings about a gradual release of pent-up mental tension and suppressed emotions. In Buddhism, the practice is called as ‘Vipassana’.
Stages of Practice:
The practice has six successive stages. One should devote at least one month at each stage. The best time to practice it is before going to bed or early morning.
Samadhi is a state of mind, when the consciousness about him/her is lost and only objects remain. Steadiness and tranquillity of mind is essential for Samadhi which is achieved by observing eight limbs of self-discipline.
There is a difference between Sleep and Samadhi. In Samadhi manas (मन) is retired from the attachment of all sensual pleasures and is fully restrained. In sleep, manas is oblivious of the world but is not fully unattached to sensual pleasures. Sleep is tamsika. In Samadhi, manas is fully unattached to sensual pleasures.
Limbs of Self-Discipline:
The great Patanjali rishi prescribed eight limbs for self-discipline of Yoga to eliminate distractions of mind called as chitvritti viz. Yama (Self-restraints), Niyama (observances of rules), Asana (postures), Pranayama (regulation breath), Pratyhara (abstraction), Dharna (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Samadhi (trance). (A separate detailed article on Patanjali yoga darshan is already published under the category of Philosophy)
Samadhi with open eyes:
Dispassion and steadiness of mind need to be achieved, while performing the worldly actions. In case, the mind is unsteady when the eyes are open, it is insentient Samadhi. Rishi Vishwamitra remained in Samadhi for sixty thousand years but when he opened the eyes, he fell in glamour of Menka.
Gopis used to go in state of Samadhi with open eyes. When Udhav ji explained the concept of Nirgun & Nirakar Brahman to Gopis and the need to meditate on it, Gopis said to Udhav ji that they see Shri Krishna everywhere and meditate him with open eyes. What is the need to meditate on Nirakar Brahman?
Types of Samadhi:
Samadhi is of two types’ viz. Samprajaatah Samadhi and Asamprajaatah Samadhi.
Samprajaatah or seed Samadhi: When distractions/modifications of mind are fully destroyed, this state is called Samprajaatah Samadhi or Samadhi with consciousness. Samprajaatah Samadhi is of four type’s viz. Savitarka Samadhi, Nirvitarka Samadhi, Savichar Samadhi and Nirvichar Samadhi.