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Purification techniques in Hatha yoga. Shatkarmas

In the ancient treatise Yoga sutras Patanjali classification of Yama and Niyama as principles of moral and ethical behavior of the yogi. One of the principles of Niyama is shoucha, which can be interpreted as Purity. The concept of purity can be seen broadly as purity of body and mind. Later treatises such As Hatha yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita describe specific exercises that are designed to create and maintain the very purity (Shoucha) mentioned by Patanjali. This exercise is called Shatkarma (SKT. Sat-karman: shat-six, karma-action). Six actions implies 6 types of exercise, goal which is maintaining healthy hygiene concrete organs and a specific for these wide psycho-emotional and energy impact.

This is what is said about Shatkarmas in Hatha yoga Pradipika:

Sloka 21. When fat or mucus is excessive, pranayama should be preceded by shatkarma.

Sloka 23. Shatkarma is a secret practice with miraculous results.

These shatkarma practices that purify the body are secret. They give many results and are highly appreciated by outstanding yogis.

Shatkarma practices are very powerful and cannot be learned from books or from inexperienced people. In India, there is a tradition-other people can be taught only by one who, in turn, was trained by the guru. If people learn from an unqualified teacher, they are likely to make serious mistakes. The practitioner will also make mistakes if he practices on his own without the guidance of the guru. Shatkarma practices are said to be secret because the practitioner must receive personal instructions about what they really should be done and how to perform them — all according to individual needs. To do this, it is important to have a qualified and experienced teacher. Shatkarma practices have never been designed specifically for healing, but only to create harmony in body and mind and to prepare for further practices.”

There are the following types of sadarm:

  1. Dhouti - a set of techniques to cleanse the digestive tract
  2. Basti - method of washing and toning the large intestine
  3. Neti-a set of methods for cleansing the nasal passages
  4. Trataka-the practice of contemplation that cleanses the tear ducts, strengthens the eye muscles and optic nerves
  5. Nauli-abdominal massage
  6. Kapalabhati is a technique of cleansing the nasal passages and brain stimulation

Let's look at each type of technique in more detail.


Dhouti is aimed at cleansing the gastrointestinal tract. This type of practice can be divided into the following subtypes:

Antar dhauti (internal)

  • Vatsara dhauti – pushing air through the anus
  • Varisara dhauti (shankhaprakshalana) – the pumping of large amounts of water through the intestines
  • Agnisara (agnisara) dhauti – quick expansion and contraction of the abdomen
  • Magistrate dhauti – washing the rectum in the hands

Danta dhauti (tooth)

  • Jihva –tongue cleaning
  • Karna – ears cleaning
  • Cephalanthera – cleansing of the sinus passages
  • Cakṣu – cleansing of eyes

Hrid dhauti (heart)

  • Danda dhouti-inserting a soft banana trunk into the stomach
  • Vastra dhauti – swallowing a long thin rope
  • Vaman dhauti – izvergaya stomach contents

Mula shodhana (rectal cleansing)

We will consider the most affordable and effective method – Vaman dhouti, which is also called kunjala.

Step-by-step technique of Vaman dhouti:

  1. Prepare a salty solution of warm water about 1-2 liters per person (Proportion ~1 liter of water/ 1chl salt)
  2. Drink the solution in quick small SIPS (on an empty stomach)
  3. Make a soft version of agnisar dhouti
  4. Bending over the bath or sink, cause a gag reflex by pressing your fingers on the root of the tongue.
  5. Remove stomach contents to the outside. Press down on the root of the tongue as many times as it takes to completely drain all the water.

Effects and indications for use of Vaman dhouti

Sloka 25 Dhauti cures many diseases. There is no doubt that cough, asthma, diseases of the spleen, leprosy and twenty other diseases caused by excess mucus are eliminated through dhauti karma.

The main effects of Vaman dhouti are:

  1. Elimination of excess mucus from the respiratory tract (colds in the stages of completion, bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic sinusitis, allergic reactions)
  2. Stimulation of the stomach, intestines. Stimulation of secretion of gastric juice and pancreatic enzymes (with insufficient activity of digestion)
  3. Regulation of the biliary tract, gall bladder, pancreas (bile duct dyskinesia, gall bladder hypofunction)

The procedure is best done in the morning, on an empty stomach. The regularity of the procedure is due to the personal characteristics of the body. On average, the procedure can be carried out with regularity once a month or daily courses to obtain a rapid sustainable effect.

Contraindications Vaman dhauti:

  1. Acute and exacerbations of chronic inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract (gastritis, peptic ulcer disease)
  2. cirrhosis
  3. tumors of the digestive tract
  4. cholelithiasis
  5. tendency to hypersecretion of the stomach and low Kapha levels according to the Ayurvedic Constitution (relative contraindication)

Special instructions for performing Vaman dhauti

If when performing Vamana dhouti, the water coming out of the stomach has a reddish tint, there are blood clots or solid blood particles – this indicates that the gastric mucosa is damaged. In this case, it is necessary to interrupt the execution and take measures to restore the gastric mucosa.


Basti is a yogic enema aimed at cleansing the lower digestive tract. There are two variants of implementation:

  • Jala (water) Basti-absorption of water into the colon through the anus and then ejection of the contents of the intestine
  • sthala (dry) Basti-absorption of air into the colon and ejection of the contents of the intestine.

Let's take a closer look at Jala Basti, which has the most powerful effect on the human body and mind.

The main difference between Basti and enema is that when performing an enema, water is injected under pressure and the intestinal walls are stretched, which can lead to constipation and stagnation of venous blood. Basti is performed by creating low pressure in the abdomen by performing madhyama Nauli, which trains the bowel muscles and prevents stagnation.

Step-by-step Basti technique:

  1. fill the bathtub with water, squat (can be performed with a basin, put the basin on a chair)
  2. lubricate the anus with oil or cream and insert a tube with a diameter of 5-15 mm
  3. perform madhyama Nauli
  4. when the water stops entering the intestine, close the tube hole with your finger
  5. restore breath and repeat p. 3, 4 several times
  6. when the intestine is sufficiently filled with water remove the tube from the anus
  7. to perform several agnisara of dhauti or Vama-Nauli Dakshina
  8. to empty the bowel
  9. Repeat the procedure until the water starts to come out completely clean and transparent.

Effects and indications for use Basti

Sloka 27. The enlargement of the glands and spleen, and all diseases arising from excess of wind, bile, and mucus, are removed from the body by the practice of Basti

Sloka 28. As a result of practicing Jala Basti, the appetite improves, the body warms up, excess doshas are destroyed and dhatu, senses and mind are purified.

The main effects of Jala Basti are:

  1. Cleansing of the rectum, sigmoid and colon
  2. Stimulation of bowel activity (constipation)
  3. Stimulation of the pelvic venous system (in remission hemorrhoids, chronic prostatitis, other chronic inflammatory diseases of the pelvic organs)
  4. Calming effect (neurasthenia, insomnia)

Short courses of Basti for preventive purposes can be carried out 1-2 times a year. When indicated, can be carried out daily.

Contraindications for Basti:

  1. Exacerbation of hemorrhoids
  2. Acute inflammatory diseases of the abdomen and pelvic organs
  3. Malignant tumors of any localization
  4. Pregnancy, monthly

Special instructions for the practice of Basti

In the event of intestinal bleeding, Basti should be stopped and measures should be taken to restore the intestinal walls.


Neti is a technique of cleansing the nose.

There are two types:

  • Jala Neti-washing the nose with salty water solution.
  • Neti Sutra - cleaning the nose with a cotton cord or rubber catheter.

Let's examine both these techniques in more detail.

Jala Neti is a nasal wash with salt water solution

Step-by-step Jala Neti technique

  1. Solution ~1chl salt per liter of warm water
  2. To shed (from the kettle) or retract (bowl of) water one nostril.
  3. remove water through the other nostril (kettle) or pharynx (bowl), tilting the head and breathing through the mouth
  4. Do p. 2,3 for the other nostril
  5. Clear the sinuses with the kapalabhati / bhastrika exercise with the mouth open, rotating the head

Effects and indications for use of Jala Neti

Sloka 30. Neti clears the cranium and bestows clairvoyance. It also destroys all diseases that manifest themselves above the throat.

  1. Cleansing of the nasal passages (sinusitis, sinusitis)
  2. Stimulation of the circulatory system and nerve endings of the nasal mucosa
  3. Improving brain function (insomnia, premenstrual syndrome)
  4. Stimulation of mental tone and memory

Contraindications for Jala Neti

Contraindications to this technique may be numerous punctures of the maxillary sinuses, which can cause inflammation when salt water enters the sinuses.

Neti Sutra - cleansing the nose with a cotton cord.

Step by step technique of Sutra Neti

  1. Drip 2-3 drops of vegetable oil into the nose a few hours before the procedure
  2. Lubricate the rubber catheter or cotton cord with vegetable oil or place in a saline solution of water
  3. place the tip of the cord in the nostril and gently push until the cord enters the nasopharynx
  4. hook the cord with your fingers and bring the end of the cord through your mouth
  5. Several times to pull the cord back and forth, stimulating the mucosa.
  6. To do p. 3-5 for the other nostril or to simultaneously do two cords

Effects and indications Sutra Neti

  1. Cleansing and stimulation of nasopharyngeal mucosa (chronic sinusitis, sinusitis)
  2. Improvement of capillary circulation and local immunity (headaches of vascular origin, migraines)
  3. Stimulation of the nerve endings of the nasal mucosa
  4. Improvement of the brain (functional disorders of the menstrual cycle, sleep disorders)
  5. Stimulation of mental vitality and memory (decreased mental tonus, fatigue, expressed intellectual load)
  6. deviated septum

With these indications, the technique should be performed daily. For prevention enough to do 1-2 times in week.

Contraindications for Sutra Neti

  1. tumors and polyps of the nasal passages
  2. nosebleeds of unknown origin


Trataka is the training of the eyes by fixedly fixing the eyeballs in a particular position.

Allocate 2 types of Trataka:

  • bahiranga, or external Trataka
  • antaranga, or inner Trataka.

Bahiranga is easier to practice, because in it you just have to look at an object or symbol, and antaranga Trataka involves a clear and steady visualization of an object. As an external object of fixation can be used for eyebrows, nose, the flame of a candle, river, rising sun, etc.

Let us consider the execution of Trataka with the fixation of the flame of a candle in the combination of the 2 options of execution (external and internal concentrations)

Step-by-step Trataka technique

  1. put the candle at eye level
  2. contemplate the candle flame until:
  3. abundant watery eyes, eliminating twink
  4. light burning in the eyes with occasional rare blinking
  5. close your eyes, observing the light spot, preventing his movement and razdvigaya
  6. warm palms cover the eyeballs, increasing the brightness of the light spot
  7. contemplate the light spot before it disappears
  8. p. 1 - 5 repeat 2-3 times

To practice Trataka can be continually from 5 until 20 minutes on daily basis of in the absence of contraindications.

Effects and indications of Trataka

Sloka 32. Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and laziness; it closes the way for the emergence of these problems. It must be kept secret like a Golden box.

  1. Cleansing of nasolacrimal canals
  2. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation, calm)
  3. Eye muscle relaxation

Contraindications to Trataka

  • Glaucoma
  • Acute inflammatory eye diseases


Nauli is a massage of the internal organs by reducing and isolating the rectus abdominis muscles.

Introductory techniques for Nauli is agnisara of dhauti and udiyana Bandha.

There are 3 types of Nauli :

  • Madhyama Nauli-isolation of the median tourniquet of the abdominal muscles
  • Vana Nauli-contraction of the left rectus abdominis muscle (rotation from left to right)
  • Dakshina Nauli-contraction of the right rectus abdominis muscle (rotation from right to left)

Step-by-step technique of performing Nauli

Sloka 34. Nauli is the main practice of purification in Hatha yoga. It ignites the digestive fire, eliminating digestive disorders, sluggish digestion and all disorders in the doshas, and also gives birth to happiness.

  1. exhale, delay
  2. retraction of the abdomen with blocked throat slit
  3. isolation of rectus abdominis muscles
  4. contraction of the left rectus abdominis muscle
  5. contraction of the right rectus abdominis muscle
  6. relaxation of the abdomen
  7. breath

Effects and indications for use Nauli

  1. Improvement of venous outflow (in varicose veins)
  2. Stimulation of the large intestine (with constipation of the atonic type)
  3. Strengthening of respiratory muscles
  4. Stimulation of peripheral blood circulation
  5. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (calming, relaxing)
  6. Reduced blood pressure
  7. Improvement of blood circulation in the pelvic organs
  8. Stimulation of the endocrine system (hypofunction of the pancreas and liver)
  9. Stimulation of excretory systems
  10. Choleretic effect (bile duct dyskinesia, gall bladder hypofunction)

In the absence of contraindications Nauli can be fulfill daily, measured number of times in every side.

Contraindications to Nauli

  1. monthly
  2. pregnancy
  3. uterine fibroids (bleeding or growing)
  4. acute infectious diseases of the abdominal cavity and pelvis
  5. exacerbations of chronic digestive diseases (gastritis, ulcers)
  6. thromboembolic disease
  7. malignant tumors of any localization


Kapal means "skull" or"forehead". The word "bhati" means "light" or "brilliance, splendor", as well as"perception and knowledge". Kapalabhati is a pranayama technique that powers the entire brain and awakens the dormant centers responsible for subtle perception.

According to the Gherand Samhita, there are three forms of kapalabhati:

  • wickrama - rhythmic breaths, focusing on exhalation
  • vyutkrama – the retraction of the nostrils with water removal through the mouth
  • sacrame – retraction water mouth with the breeding through the nose.

Let us consider the technique of wickrama.

Step-by-step kapalabhati technique

Sloka 35. Quickly follow the breaths like a (blacksmith's) bellows. This is called kapalabhati, and it destroys all the disorders caused by mucus.

  1. Active light rhythmic exhale by pulling the stomach
  2. passive inhalation
  3. to repeat comfortable number of times. It is recommended to start mastering from 30.

It is important to perform kapalabhati in short cycles with compensation in the form of complete yogic breathing or breath retention to prevent hyperventilation.

Effects and indications for use of kapalabhati

  1. activation of the sympathetic nervous system (hypotension, fatigue, obesity)
  2. massage the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, excretion of mucus (chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, sinusitis, frontal sinusitis, etmoidit)
  3. stimulation of blood circulation the respiratory system and brain (for headaches associated with an imbalance of the vascular bed, migraines, mental fatigue, functional deviations of hypothalamo-pituitary system)

Perform kapalabhati can be daily in the absence of contraindications.

Contraindications to kapalabhati

  1. pregnancy
  2. monthly
  3. arterial hypertension
  4. serious brain diseases including injuries
  5. epilepsy
  6. acute inflammatory diseases of the organs adjacent to the diaphragm, abdominal cavity
  7. thromboembolism

The cumulative effect of shatkarma on the body can be summed up in one word — purification. When the various systems of the body are purified, the General result is that energy can flow freely through the body. The ability to work, to think, to digest food, to taste, to feel, to experience, and so on increases, and greater awareness develops. And it is not surprising that yogis who have attained perfection and know the real extent of human abilities, very highly appreciate shatkarma.

It is no exaggeration to say that, having mastered these yoga exercises, the practitioner will be able to harmonize his physical and psycho-emotional state. It is necessary to master these techniques gradually, "without fanaticism". You need to be mentally prepared that some techniques will not work from the first and even from the second time, but with regular practice and the proper degree of perseverance you will definitely achieve a positive result. It is important to remember about contraindications and, if something goes wrong, in any case do not need to "shove ahead" and torment his body, remember Ahimsa, the first principle of Yama. Signs that you need to stop can be, for example, bleeding, acute pain, severe dizziness, fever. However, to give up if something just does not work, too, you can not otherwise you will not succeed.

Posted in Shatkarmas on Sep 09, 2019