“The shatkarma that effects the purification of the body is a secret and has manifold and wondrous result, it is held in high esteem by eminent Yogis.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 2:23
The science of Yoga gives importance to both cleansing process as well as Pranayama and Asana. Without a proper and regular cleansing of the system, a person cannot achieve the benefits of the yoga practice and without a purified body, one will not be able to achieve higher levels of consciousness.
The cleansing of the body occurs through shatkarma, also called the six purification techniques that are important for maintaining both mental and physical health. These are highly powerful techniques and also assist in curing internal disorders, the six basic group of shatkarma are as follows:
1. Neti: nasal cleaning, including jala neti and sutra neti.
2. Dhauti: cleansing of the digestive tract.
3. Nauli: abdominal massage.
4. Basti: colon cleaning.
5. Kapalbhati: purification and vitalisation of the frontal lobes.
6. Trataka: blinkless gazing.
Each of the above group has more than one practice including Jala Neti, Vaman Dhauti, Moola shodhana etc. These are excellent practices aimd at purifying the whole body and good health along with bringing clarity and harmony to the mind.
Shatkarma also known as Shatkriya is a word made with two elements namely Shat meaning six and karma meaning Art or process. The word Kriya has a special role in Hatha Yoga as it is related to the techniques of cleansing. These have been grouped into six categories and both the Gherand Samhita and Hatha Yoga Samhita provide twenty-one practices under six sub-headings. The Shatkarma Samgraha depicts 46 such processes as Vamana, vireehana, gandusha, udgara and raktasrava.
The Sharkarma activates all the vital points in the body especially the respiratory, circulatory, nervous as well as digestive system. The purification techniques used are both preventive as well as curative. Shatkarma is a powerful practice that cannot be learned or taught by inexperienced people but only those given instructions by a Guru can teach others. One is bound to make mistakes if they do not have adequate experience or are teaching this without a Guru.
Those looking forward to learn the art of Shatkarma, they have to find a guru of Hatha Yoga as such teachers are expert in this art. Basically there are three humors in the body that includes Kapha (mucus), Pita (Bile) and Vata (wind) and in Yoga these are called Tridasha. An imbalance in any of these three leads to development of various ailments due to overheating in the body and before commencing Pranayama any imbalance of these should be removed.
The ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ is the only authentic work that limits exactly to the six cleansing practice, ‘Pranatoshani’ refers to only five purificatory practices. ‘Bhakti Sagram’ of Charana Das describes the shatkarmas and mentions four that it does not describe. Dhauti, basti, neti, trataka, nauli and kapalbhati are the six traditionally known processes.
The effects of the shatkarma can be described in one word – purification. When the different systems of the body are purified, energy can then flow through the body freely. A person’s capacity to work, think, digest, taste, feel, experience, increases with better awareness It is no wonder that the yogis who have attained perfection consider shatkarma with great esteem.
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