Holistic Living - Squeaky Clean Inside Out
by Mansi Agarwal
When your clothes are dirty, what do you do? You clean them with soap and water and dry them. Similarly, yoga, ayurveda and naturopathy offer techniques and measures by which to cleanse and detoxify the body. The body is often bombarded with toxic by products due to our unnatural and stressful lifestyle. Though it does have an inbuilt ability to deal with toxins, constant and heavy abuse can impair it and reduce its ability; leaving us with a sluggish body system. If these measures can be applied regularly, we can prevent disease before it finds a foothold in.
It must be stressed here that all the techniques mentioned below must be learnt under a competent and qualified teacher. Never attempt to teach yourself because unless practiced right, they also have the potential to damage you.
Yoga heals the body from the inside out and helps in slowing the downward spiral of aging. There are many cleansing kriyas in yoga, which are collectively known as shat karma. Shat karma consists of six kriyas developed by ancient hatha yogis with the aim of getting rid of poisonous substances accumulated in various parts of the human body over a period of time. The body constantly excretes waste matter in the form of perspiration, urine, excretion and breath. If this waste matter is not properly and completely thrown out in the regular processes, the body will be loaded with disease-carrying poisons. With the help of shat karma, one can ensure that one’s insides are totally clean and free of toxins.
Shat karma includes nauli, dhauti, neti, trataka, kapalbhati and basti.
This is one of the best kriyas to strengthen abdominal muscles, improve digestion and aid in relieving constipation. One bends forward, exhales, contracts and raises one’s abdominal or rectus muscles and moves it to one side of the abdomen. This is followed by a similar contraction to raise and move the other rectus. This double process is repeated while holding the breath.
Dhauti is a shuddhikriya, which means the act of cleaning. It specifically cleans the stomach. The stomach is one of the main organs in the human body and the health of the human being is dependent on the condition of the stomach.
• Danda dhauti: After drinking a lot of water, one end of a rubber tube is inserted into the stomach. Bend the trunk forward; this siphoning action will bring out the water from the stomach. After all the water has come out, the tube is pulled out very slowly.
• Vastra dhauti: A thin long piece of muslin cloth is inserted through the mouth to the stomach. After inserting the cloth the stomach is churned by doing the nauli kriya and slowly the cloth is pulled out. This dhauti cleanses the stomach by rubbing itself against the inner lining of the stomach wall and removing all the impurities from the stomach.
• Vaman dhauti: This is the easiest of all dhauti kriyas. Drink about 5 to 6 glasses of lukewarm salt water and regurgitate it out by putting the index finger down the throat; the water spurts out, carrying with it, the impurities.
Neti removes all the dirt and bacteria filled mucus from within the nose, helps to drain the sinus cavities and is also good for the general well-being of the eyes and the brain.
• Jal neti: This is done with a special utensil filled with lukewarm salt water. The water is inhaled with one nostril and allowed to run out through the other.
• Sutra neti: A cotton thread is passed through a nostril and brought out through the mouth; the same process is repeated with the other nostril.
It is a technique to still the brain waves and improve eyesight even while the eyes are open. Trataka involves steady gazing on an object or a symbol like a candle, for instance.
Kapalbhati kriya massages the abdominal organs, improves respiration and purifies the frontal region of the brain, partly by oxidizing the blood. It also helps in constipation. Here, warm salt water is taken in through the mouth and snorted out from the nose. This may be a little uncomfortable in the beginning but it gets easier with time.
Basti means yogic enema meant for internal cleansing. Helps cure digestive problems, removes constipation and strengthens the solar plexus. There are many ways to administer basti. In many cases, medicated decoction and oils are passed through the anus, with the help of specially made basti instruments.
The shat karma kriyas are very effective in curing chronic and prolonged sufferings; they also act as preventive measures against all kinds of infections. They are best resorted to early in the morning, especially before breakfast. It is advisable that some solid breakfast should be taken after the kriyas as the stomach should not be kept empty for a long time.
The root cause of all disease in ayurveda is ama. Ama is a general term used in ayurveda for internal toxins produced by improper metabolic functioning. Panchkarma is one of the major healing techniques of ayurveda, which aims at removing ama through classical cleansing and revitalizing therapies which have been practiced for thousands of years. They effectively improve health by strengthening immunity, releasing stress, and slowing the aging process.
Purification in panchkarma begins with proper preparation. This process is called purvakarma. The constitution of one’s body defines the intensity and longevity of each process.
• Swedana or fomentation: Distends the channels, making the expulsion of toxins easier. Reduces stiffness and heaviness. Carried out as one relaxes inside a chamber filled with herbalised steam.
• Pachan: Pachan karma indicates the process of improving the digestion process through herbal intake.
• Snehana or oelation: Involves saturation of the body with herbal and medicated oil via external and internal oelation to make it soft and to disintegrate the doshas.
The process of purvakarma prepares the body for pradhana karma. Pradhana karma, as the name suggests, is the most important part of the entire ayurvedic ritual of panchkarma. The process includes:
• Vamana: This word means therapeutic vomiting. Emetics usually high in fire and air elements are used, although salt water and licorice tea are more commonly used for this purpose. This treatment is best for kapha imbalances as it eliminates the increased kapha from the stomach where it is mainly located.
• Virechana: Virechana deals with elimination through purgation wherein excess pitta substances in the gastrointestinal tract, colon, kidney, liver and spleen are eliminated. A number of safe herbs are used as laxatives, which include castor oil, bran or triphala. While taking these laxatives, it is important to adhere to a restricted diet.
• Basti or enema therapy: Basti therapy is perhaps the most powerful of the five main procedures of panchakarma. Basti is the introduction of medicated liquids into the colon through the rectum; it is best because through this method the medicated oils stay in the body for a longer time. Basti is good for vata disorders.
• Nasya or nasal administration: This treatment involves the administration of herbal liquid concoctions through the nasal passage. It purges and rejuvenates the tissues and organs of the head and neck.
• Raktmoksha or bloodletting: This therapy detoxifies the blood. Classical ayurveda teaches that the body benefits with the removal of a small amount of impure blood at the completion of panchakarma. The theory is that the small reduction stimulates additional deep cleansing and also stimulates the body to produce new clean blood. Deep-seated blood can be extracted with the help of leech application. Only trained ayurvedic physicians are recommended for the process of raktmoksha.
The third stage of panchakarma is paschat karma, which is the adoption of rehabilitative measures after the main treatment. It mainly includes diet, medication and lifestyle.
• Samsarjana karma: Specific diet after completion of sodhana therapy
• Samana prayoga: Administration of medicines required to treat the particular disease after the process of elimination is called samana prayoga.
• Rasayanadi karma: Administration of rasayana and vajeekarana drugs after elimination therapy.
As each person’s constitution is unique, it is important that one chooses the precise combination of techniques that are appropriate in consultation with a practitioner.
Detoxification and cleansing are core naturopathic techniques used to eliminate toxic accumulation within the body and thus stimulate the body’s vital force. Naturopaths are overly concerned with revitalizing the colon and they have a good reason to be. Fecal matter should move through the colon easily and in a given time. When fecal matter remains in the colon for days, the colon becomes toxic and spreads this toxicity into every part of the body. In the bloodstream, these toxins interfere with the delivery of oxygen to the cells and tissues of your body.
Improper diet, insufficient exercise, stress, overeating, and ignoring the “call of nature” can all lead to bowel problems. Most of us, for instance, have had years of poor to average nutritional food. Much of our food is subjected to processing which includes refining, frying and over cooking, saturating the mineral elements of our food with oil or grease. As a result of this food altering, the digestive organs cannot process the minerals efficiently and they are passed out of the small intestine into the colon as waste.
These wastages are ‘toxins’. So to detoxify, is to remove these toxins from the colon.In naturopathy, there are three means of doing this:
By virtue of fasting, the energy of the digestive system is conserved by providing easily digestible food and this also prevents the addition of toxins in the already loaded colon. So, the excretory system gets a chance of excreting this layer of toxin from the large intestine, which, otherwise, becomes difficult as the body gets engaged in excreting the immediately digested food. But fasting has to be modulated intelligently as per one’s system so there is no specific module of fasting that can be suggested or should be suggested.
A popular practice with all naturopaths is to excite the colon by a pressure difference by using water and cleaning it. The frequency of enema varies as per the level of toxins in the body which can be easily understood by the aftereffects of toxins, such as cough, cold or fever, perpetual fatigue, constipation and several others. A greater degree of this enema is a practice called “basti” in ayurveda, which has now been modernized by a treatment called colon hydrotherapy.
Kunjal and Shankhprakshalan
Though both the practices are more often identified as yogic kriyas, they necessarily complete the detoxification process in naturopathy. In both these practices one drinks a lot of saline water and in kunjal one forcefully vomits, which helps in clearing the excessive kapha, that acts like a toxin in the upper part of the digestive system, while in shankhprakshalan, water is to be drunk followed by some light asanas. One has to continue drinking water and performing the asanas till the time that all the water taken in, starts getting excreted while cleaning the gastro intestinal tract. Water has to be excreted constantly till the time clean water starts coming out.
Besides this, various mud treatments help in improving the health of the digestive system so as to avoid the deposition of toxins.
• One of the methods is to make the person lie chin deep into a pool of mud as thick as soft pulp.
• Thick slabs of moist mud are prepared and kept on the stomach to ease the digestion process.
Some of the water treatments are also helpful in re-energizing the excretory system so as to excrete better. The above processes may seem complex to a beginner, but with regular practice one can master them all.
Inputs from: Dr Meher Singh,consultant ayurvedic physician, Batra Hospital: 09810170402; Mallika Bhanot, naturopath: email@example.com;
Dr Suresh Bhandarkar, yoga trainer:09350107102
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