Kriyas or Shat Karmas
Kriyas or Shat Karmas are techniques to cleanse the respiratory, digestive, eliminatory and nervous systems. As with many practices in Yoga, the practices are meant to bring balance and health to the body. There are many variations to the techniques and practices as they were adapted from ancient yoga texts and evolved over time.
The six cleansing techniques are; Neti, Kapal Bhati, Dhauti, Basti, Nauli and Trataka.
Ok so you might, or might not, want to look up these kriyas. I found some very interesting videos and descriptions online!
Here is what they are, to me, so far:
Jala Neti is using water in a Neti Pot to cleanse the nasal passages. The benefits are cleansing the nostrils of excess phlegm and may reduce symptoms of allergies or colds.
I bought my Neti Pot at Choices. They are easy to find at pharmacies, amazon and health food stores.
My first experience with my Neti pot was at home using boiled water. It was terribly uncomfortable, like a burning in my sinuses. Then I bought distilled water and had the same result. Once we practiced the Neti Pot as a group in Teacher Training, I realized how important it is to add salt and/or baking soda to the lukewarm water. I still had the burning sensation, but it passed when I found just the right head tilt. Once you find the right ratio of salt and/or baking soda and the perfect temperature of the water, the experience is quite pleasant. For me, I have opted to only do Jala Neti every other day or so. I find that I still haven’t quite figured out the perfect head tilt and so I feel very congested and a little uncomfortable in my ears when clearing my nose. Another teacher informed me that she does not use the Neti Pot when she is ovulating, as it bothers her ears. I am not sure if this was the case for me, but interesting to note. In a 2 cup Neti pot, you would add ½ tsp of salt and ¼ tsp of baking soda.
There are 3 other methods to cleansing the nostrils, but they are not techniques I am comfortable with. If you are curious, Vyut Krama Neti is sniffing water up nose from a bowl and expelling out the mouth. Sheet Krama Neti is drawing water through mouth and out nostrils. Sutra Neti is inserting a string up the nostrils until it appears at back of throat and then “flossing the string”.
Here is a video to watch:
- Kapalabhati Pranayama: Also know as Shining Skull Breath or Breath of Fire.
In this Kriya the focus is on Breath, specifically, a forceful exhale and a passive inhale. The purpose or benefit of this breath is to prepare for other pranayama or breathing techniques. It is believed to clear the nasal sinuses, purify the blood, remove phlegm, tone the abdominal muscles, stimulate liver, spleen, and pancreas, improve digestion and encourage bowel movement. Kapal Bhati Pranayama is not recommended for people with high blood pressure or pregnant women.
To perform Kapal Bhati, sit comfortably (I like Hero’s Pose). Perform one cleansing breath (inhale and exhale), inhale half a breath and then exhale quickly while contracting the stomach muscles in a pumping action in and up. It is easiest to think of a panting dog with your mouth closed. Kapal Bhati can be performed in rounds of 11.
I first learned this technique and performed it with too much emphasis on the force of the exhale, more recently, I have found that it is more enjoyable to slow it down and make the exhale softer with less force. If I don’t go slower and softer, I find it harder to inhale. You can’t exhale if your inhale doesn’t come first!
Here is an audio file to listen to (by the warmest and most loving human, Mugs):
- Dhauti: Dhauti is to wash, clean or purify.
Danta-mula- Dhauti: is Tooth purification: brushing and flossing with whatever products you prefer. You could also try oil pulling (google it).
Jihva-Sodhana: is tongue cleaning. Most commonly, we use a tongue scraper or our toothbrush to cleanse the tongue.
Karna-dhauti: is ear cleaning. There are many products to try including oils that can be dropped into the canals. It is also considered a benefit to listen to beautiful sounds like nature or music. Chanting, ear massage and ear candling are all purifying.
Kapalarandhra-Dhauti: is cleansing of the frontal sinuses by rubbing or massaging the face around the nose and eyes. There are also oils to drop into the nostrils. Many pranayama techniques also cleanse the sinuses.
Oil massage or bath: (mmmmmmmm! Warm up your favorite oil like almond, coconut or sesame and massage it into your whole body). Add essential oils to stimulate the olfactory senses too!
Dry brushing: use a loofah, bath mitt or bristle brush to sweep the dry skin off and toward the heart.
Healing Touch: any kind of loving, healing touch that is received or given.
Eye Washing or Drops: depending on your needs or circumstance. The most natural wash is to cry, letting the tears flow and wash out the ducts!
Eye Exercises: this can involve challenging the eye muscles or staring at specific points.
- Trataka: candle gazing or single point focus until tearing occurs
Eye Weight: use an eye pillow or cover at night or for deep relaxation.
Color and Light Therapy: surrounding yourself with light and colour that is pleasing.
Decluttering: having things simple and organized around your living and working space.
The only Dhauti that I am not comfortable with, currently, is Vamana Dhauti and Vastra Dhauti. Vamana Dhauti is throwing up (on purpose) and Vastra Dhauti is swallowing a gauze cloth into the stomach and then pulling the cloth out.
- Basti: This is basically an enema. Jal Basti is usually done once or twice a month to strengthen the abdominal muscles, assist in urinary and digestive disorders or chronic constipation. Jal Basti involves pulling water into the anus and then expelling. If you are interested, look it up. I gracefully bow out, until necessary.
- Nauli: these 3 exercises isolate the rectus abdominus muscle and help to purify and strengthen the abdominal muscles and the digestion.
Uddiyana Bandha: a full exhale and then keep the air out as you pull the belly up under your ribs to hold. This technique is used in many of the more advanced asana postures to help with the upward lift of the body.
Agni Sara: is Uddiayana Bandha with the additional of a pumping of the abdominal areas.
Nauli: this is Uddiyana Bandha with the churning or rotation of the abdominal muscles.
I was surprised to find that I enjoy these practices and had no problem making them a morning practice. Since doing so I have found it easier to use Uddiyana Bandha in my Asana practice.
Here is a video to watch for Nauli and Agni Sari and Uddiyana:
Right now, I am finding that some of these practices come easier than others. I have a pretty consistent practice of:
Waking up to brush, floss, tongue scrape.
Drink warm lemon water.
Neti Pot (every few days or when I feel it will be beneficial)
Nauli (3 rounds of each technique).
Kapalabhati (usually before I practice Asana)
Analoma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing, usually before meditation or Asana, almost always done while staring at fireplace or candle).
I enjoy dry brushing and oil bathing with massage and essential oils before bedtime. I also use an eye pillow for helping to go to sleep. I hope to add the oils to the ears and nose, but first I must order the products I can trust!