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Shatkarma, purifying the body and mind: Dhauti Kriya.

In our previous articles, we discussed the philosophy of Hatha yoga and learned about its goal of bringing unity in the body, mind, and soul by balancing the energy flow. We learned that this energy, called Prana, circulates in the body through Nadis, or channels. When balanced, it flows freely through the Sushumna Nadi, allowing the yogi to reach higher states of consciousness and eventually experience Samadhi, a state of clarity and self-realization.
Different practices allow the yogi to reach Samadhi. The eight limbs of yoga, which we also detailed in previous articles, are the steps with which the practitioner gradually trains his body and mind to sustain a prolonged meditative state and flow into Samadhi.
The Shatkarmas, which we will talk about, are also an essential component of yoga because they clean the body and mind to facilitate energy flow.

Nadis and chakra organisation in the human body.

Generalities of Shatkarma
Imagine the energy as a liquid flowing in a system through a multitude of canals. All of these canals are connected to a major one. Our goal is that all of that liquid passes through the central canal. Now, imagine that some canals are blocked entirely or partially by impurities. Our liquid flows much slower, and some of it won't even be able to reach the central canal. To ensure proper liquid circulation, we need to clean the canals and ensure they are free of impurities.
In this image, Prana is the liquid, the canals are the Nadis, and the main canal is Sushumna. The Shatkarma, also called cleansing processes, are the ways that we will use to clean our canals or Nadis. They are essential to reach the unity sought by yoga.

Considering the previous image, it is easy to understand that these practices must be performed before any other. If the pipes through which the liquid flows are blocked, we can practice any activities to make it circulate; the liquid won't move to its full capacity.
Translating it into the yogic system, we can practice yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana as much as we want; if our body and mind have impurities or diseases, our Prana won't flow freely through the Sushumna Nadi, and we won't be able to reach Samadhi.

The Shatkarma practices keep the obstacles away from the spiritual path by maintaining the purity of our Nadis. They keep the body free from diseases so the yogi can focus on his spiritual realization without distractions.
There are six types of Shatkarma practices, each regulating the function of an internal organ and cleaning the body and mind from waste. Not all of them have to be performed regularly, and most of them need the supervision of a professional until the practices are mastered. In this article, we'll dive deeper into the first Shatkarma practice: Dhauti Kriya.

Dhauti Kriya
Dhauti is the first of the Shatkarma practices and is an internal cleaning of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the colon. It helps evacuate the excess of mucus and residues in the esophagus and the digestive and respiratory systems. It removes harmful bacteria and stimulates healthy and efficient digestion by increasing the production of digestive fire. The practices also stimulate the frontal brain by promoting an accurate perception through clean senses.
The Dhauti kriyas are divided into four categories: Antar Dhauti, Danta Dhauti, Hrid Dhauti, and Moola Shodhana, each cleansing a specific part of the digestive system.

Antar Dhauti
Antar Dhauti purifies the lower part of the digestive tract, the stomach, and the intestines. There are four types of Antar Dhauti;
Human digestive system
Disgestive system
  • Vatsara Dhauti is the cleaning of the stomach and intestines with air. It is performed by swallowing air via the mouth, passing it through the whole digestive tract. The air is held in the intestine for a period and released through the anus.

  • Varisara Dhauti, or Shankhaprakshalana, cleans the digestive tract with water. It is performed by drinking lukewarm salt water and performing a specific set of asanas. That combination of water and postures stimulates the process of elimination, and the water is expelled through the anus. The process is repeated several times until the water going out is clear.

  • Vahnisara or Agnisara Dhauti is the cleansing by stimulation of the digestive fire. In this Dhauti, the yogi sits in Vajranasa, rapidly contracting and expanding his abdominal muscles. The contractions can be accompanied by fast breathing. These rapid movements increase the production of digestive fire and stimulate digestion.

  • Bahishkrita is cleansing the small and large intestines with air and water. This practice is the hardest one and is not accessible to everyone. It is practiced by slowly sucking air in the intestines through the mouth and holding it for about 90 minutes. Then, the yogi stands in water up to his navel and pulls his intestine out gently. He washes the intestine in the water and then draws it again in his abdomen.

Danta Dhauti
Danta Dhauti purifies the head region to ensure an accurate perception of the world through the sensory organs. There are also four types: Dantamoola (cleansing of the teeth and gums), Jihvamoola (cleansing of the tongue), Karnarandhra (cleansing of the ears), and Kapalarandhra (cleansing of the upper head region through massaging the forehead). These are easy practices already performed in most people's daily lives.
Hrid Dhauti
Hrid Dhauti cleanses the heart region, esophagus, lungs, and stomach. It is divided into three practices :
  • Danda Dhauti cleanses the esophagus with a stick. The yogi passes a banana stem or turmeric root through the throat slowly and then takes it out, removing all the phlegm and mucus from the esophagus.

  • Vaman Dhauti cleanses the esophagus and stomach with water through vomiting. To perform this Dhauti, the yogi drinks water in excess and then puts his fingers in his throat to induce vomiting. The mucus, phlegm, and indigested food are expelled through the mouth.

  • Vastra Dhauti cleanses the esophagus and the stomach with a cloth. The yogi performs it by slowly swallowing a wet cloth through the mouth while sitting in Utkatasana. Once the cloth is almost entirely inside, he stands up and creates abdominal movements by contracting his abdomen. The cloth can be kept inside for about 5 to 10 minutes and a maximum of 20 minutes, then the yogi sits back in Utkatasana and pulls the cloth out slowly. All the mucus and waste matter comes out with the cloth.

Vaman Dhauti and Vastra Dhauti

Moola Shodhana

Moola Shodhana is the cleaning of the rectum. It is performed by inserting the middle finger or a turmeric root in the anus and rotating it. It is performed in Utkatasana and removes the feces stuck in the rectum.

The practices of Dhauti Kriyas are maintaining good health of the digestive system. It prevents and treats indigestion, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and hyperacidity.
The Dhauti Kriyas and other Shatkarmas keep the body and mind pure and ready for spiritual practices. Apart from the Danta Dhauti practices, the guidance and supervision of a guru are essential.
At Japam, we teach Shatkarma practices. Our teachers are experienced in practicing and teaching them. Don't hesitate to contact or visit us for more information or to make an appointment.

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