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