Nizha Periaswamy

Your yoga practice will not be complete without these six purification techniques, known as Shatkarma. The purification techniques in Hatha Yoga is practised to purify the body, and prepare for the main work of yoga towards 'moksha' (liberation).

Shatkarmas of Shatkriyas, mean "six actions" in Sanskrit, which are the preparatory steps towards the higher practises of pranayama, and meditation.

By practising Shatkarma, one can free the body from diseases, get rid of toxins and blockages, clean the body, and improve concentration and strength.

These are the six purification techniques and their benefits:

1) Neti

This common method is to clean the nasal passage of blockages and prevents infections around the passage. It is quick and easy to do, even for beginners. This practice includes Jala neti, which uses lukewarm salted water, and Sutra nethi, which is done using waxed cotton thread. Both these methods require the practitioner to flush out mucus, allergens, and irritants out of the body to promote its proper functioning.

2) Trataka

One can use this technique to purify the mind and increase concentration. It needs the practitionet to continually gaze at a fixed point, to cleanse the eyes and improve awareness. Frequent practice of this technique can help one gain control over the mind and earn abilities like hypnotism and telepathy. Trataka also keeps the eyes healthy, beautiful and disease free. However, one is advised to carry out some eye strengthening exercises prior to doing the Trataka, which is perfect for students and those who lack concentration.

3) Kapalbhati

The next technique on the list is Kapalbhati, which is also known as pranayama, or breathing technique. This is the most practised yoga kriya, and it is used to help stimulate and cleanse the frontal loves, the lungs, and the cardiac region. It requires one to inhale passively and exhale in a short, forceful way. This stimulates the frontal lobes and avoids blockage or clotting in the skull. The tightening and relaxing of the abdominal muscles during this exercise also controls the body's cardiac and respiratory functions. Besides, Kapalbathi is also believed to bring glow to the face, and boost the anti-ageing factor.

4) Nauli

Nauli is a Shatkarma method that cleanses the abdominal organs. It removes impurities from the digestive system and shed toxins from our body. This technique, which requires the practitioner to contract, roll and rotate the belly by massaging the intestines and lower abdominal muscles. Nauli can also be jointly performed with other purification techniques such as kunjar kriya (a significant digestive purifying process through vomiting), which purifies our mouth, esophagus and the stomach. Combining the kunjar kriya and Nauli will purify the gastrointenstinal tract and cleanse the digestive system.

5) Dhauti

The next Shatkarma is Dhauti, which translates into "root washing". This method helps clean the digestive, as well as the respiratory tract. There are four types of Dhauti - Antar Dhauti, Danta Dhauti, Hrid Dauthi, and Moola Shodhana. In this technique, one is required to swallow a strip of cloth made moist with water of pure ghee, by holding the tip of the cloth at the mouth. This will clean the entire respiratory and digestive tracts, and remove harmful bacteria from the mouth, nose, intestines and anus, among others. However, this practice needs to be done under the supervision of a guru, to avoid injuries or accidents.

6) Basti

Finally, Basti is a series of cleansing techniques used for internal cleansing. This technique, which is one of the hardest to master, is used to cleanse the lower digestive tract, which is also known as colon cleansing technique. Basti also removes extra heat from the system, which is mainly generated during the yoga practise. Basti strengthens the abdominal muscles, increases appetite and helps relieve constipation and other stomach ailments.

It is advisable to get advice and guidance from experienced yoga teachers prior to performing any of the above-mentioned techniques, to avoid any unwanted consequences.

Nizha Periaswamy is a yoga instructor and freelance writer.