He who is of weak constitution and phlegmatic, subject to kapha disorders, should first practice
shatkarma. Those not suffering [constitutionally] from the [main] disorders due to vata, pitta, and
kapha do not need it. Shatkarma is dhauti, basti, neti, trataka. nauli, and kapalabhati.
Svatmarama “Hatha Yoga Pradipika”
The most important section of Hatha yoga are Shatkarmas. Every yoga practice should start with these exercises, if the body experiences an imbalance of energies. Shatkarma translates as “six actions”, which means regular exercises, allowing the practitioner to maintain his or her body healthy, learn how to manage the internal organs’ functionality and balance doshas.
But in addition to the cleansing effect these exercises give energy, change the quality of the mind, making it more stable and controlled. One after mastering Shatkarmas begins to think differently and to treat him- or herself differently. You’ll see it yourself :)
Ancient texts clearly indicate that these techniques should be kept in secret:”These six practices, which cleanse the body, should be carefully kept secret because they induce numerous wonderful results and are therefore held in high esteem with the great yogis….” “A yogi who is desirous of developing siddhis should keep the hatha yoga strictly secret, for only then will he have success. All his efforts will be in vain if he reveals everything without discrimination” (Hatha Yoga Pradipika).
So the exercises are:
1. Kapalabhati. A cleansing technique for the respiratory tract. Also has energizing effects like “waking up” the body. It’s good to do it in mornings, or at the beginning of any trainings.
Technique: make strong exhalations (through the nose) with short and fast abdominal muscles contraction. So do a smooth inhalation and then a strong and fast exhalation. Make 12-54 cycles. Among other things, this exercise makes abs more muscular. Please note that during the respiratory movements of the abdomen, pelvic floor muscles should be kept toned.
2. Nauli (wave). One of the most important practices in Shatkarmas. Has almost no restrictions (except for women during their period, pregnancy and people with acute diseases of the abdominal organs), leads to doshas’ balance. Svatmarama says: “Nauli is the main practice of purification in Hatha Yoga. It ignites the digestive fire, eliminating digestive disorders and disorders of all doshas and creates happiness” (Hatha Yoga Pradipika). Anyone who can perform 200-1000 cycles of Nauli daily can make sure this statement is true.
In Yoga, there are certain techniques that can be stated as secret ones. One of them is Nauli. In the ancient yogic scriptures it’s said that one who received the knowledge of these techniques must keep it in secret – that’s the only way they will be effective. And this is true, because people thoughts are material and are able either to interfere the practice or to help us. I advise you to become a master of each of this kriyas (action) to keep them secret from others, and only after mastering them, start sharing your experience with those who want to learn yoga. One should not demonstrate yoga techniques just for the sake of ego gratification.
With Uddiyana Bandha we massage the internal organs and increase metabolism.. It’s not necessary to dedicate special time for Uddiyana Bandha. You can perform it even while sitting at a workdesk, just do it with your stomach empty.
Our next step in the development of Nauli is the formation of “waves” of the abdominal muscles. Initially “Madhyama Nauli” (a fixation of a muscular “wave” in the center of abs). Almost everyone is ready to do this exercise and no additional muscle or ligament training is needed. The main thing to learn is a muscular control – learning how to create right signals from the brain to the muscles. The only way to do this is repeat the practice over and over again. Just as we learn to walk: first we fall … but soon the desired coordination is achieved. Adults, of course, learn not as fast as children, but they have more experience in learning.
For healthy people the practice of Nauli is not limited. The only limitation is that you should do it with an empty stomach. Nauli should not be performed during acute diseases of the abdominal cavity, during menstruation and during pregnancy. Nauli and Uddiyana are very powerful exercises in yoga that can redirect the energy in the body in a special way. The number of times that we do it in group classes, is perfectly safe and very helpful (108-216 times). If necessary, it can be increased up to 2000 times in both directions (1000 times in each direction). Doing Nauli so many times daily may be dictated by the lack of the intestine innervation and as a result – constipation. Or, for example, if you decide to get rid of excess belly fat.
In “Gheranda Samhita” scripture this practice is called Lauliki. Lauliki comes from the word “lola” which means “rotation” or “stirring, shaking.” Nauli, that is fixed in the middle (Madhyama Nauli), is also used in Tantra yoga to control energy flows. This is a powerful exercise that can raise the energy from lower chakras. Madhyama Nauli is also used in a mysterious practice of Vajroli. Vajroli is more related to the Tantric tradition (although mentioned in Pradipika). It is strictly used in individual, not group, practices.
Nauli (wave) – is the most important of Shatkarmas. It leads to a balance of doshas and is the main practice of purification in Hatha Yoga.
Technique: It is much easier to learn Madhyama Nauli standing on legs slightly bent, with hands leaned firmly on the knees. You can also take a vajrasana pose. While performing the Uddiyana Bandha and not breathing, we isolate and strain rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles) while keeping the obliques relaxed. There are no special secrets of mastering this movement. If you can not immediately perform Nauli – do not worry and keep trying. On average, the mastery of this exercise takes from one day to two weeks. At least 20 approaches should be done daily. Remember that mastering any new coordination requires some time and effort. After Madhyama try learning Vama and Dakshina Naulis. They are the practice of moving waves to the right and to the left sides. Always finish your practice with Vama Nauli – the movement of the waves to the left side.
3. Bhasti. A colon cleansing technique.
Please note that if you have no bowel disorders, don’t practice Bhasti often. You can learn the exercise and use it in the case of any bowel disorder happen or when you need to clean the body. Technique: Sit in waist deep water on your haunches. Relax pelvic floor muscles and perform Madhyama Nauli – as a result of the abdominal vacuum water will begin to rapidly fill the intestines. Suck in as much water as you can and release. Repeat till you see the outcoming water is clean. If it is difficult to relax the anus, then yogis recommend to use a tube (Indian yogis use a bamboo tube, but you can find any other handy, made of a suitable of the material). Using a tube, some yogis manage to pull water from a bowl or a small bucket, so there is no need to get into the bath or water. Yogis say that this exercise creates a powerful energy flow from the bottom up, which reflects on a physical level as water lifting up the intestines.
There is an old proverb saying “the shorter the intestine – the longer the life.” In this case, of course, we mean not the actual length of one’s intestine, but how fast a person is able to excrete waste products. In large intestine nutrients are not absorbed (this process takes place in a small intestine), only water is. Those who have mastered Bhasti can confirm beneficial effects not only on the body but also in mind. And again, it should be performed mainly to eliminate bowel disorders.
4. Dhauti (other names – Baghi, Kunjala). A stomach cleanse. It is well known that a stomach has several functions: motor, secretory (release of enzymes), and excretory. We are interested in excretory function in this case. Funny to know, but toxins from blood get into the stomach. This can be confirmed by doctors: even with gas poisoning paramedics first preform gastric washout, as toxins from the blood have already moved there. Is it a nature’s mistake? Why do toxins go to the beginning of a digestive tract rather to its end? But no mistake here:) This is as a natural cleansing procedure. In addition to direct physical impact Dhauti has a prominent psychological effect of liberation from stress after experiencing difficult situations, conflicts, etc.
Technique: drink 1.5-2 liters of luke-warm water. Evoke the gag reflex by stimulating the root of the tongue with your fingers till you vomit with water. At first, it may seem not so easy – you will be sneezing, coughing… but on the tenth try the gag reflex will be as easy as swallowing reflex. As Basti, Dhauti can be performed mainly if prescribed. Skinny people should avoid frequent Dhauti performance.
5. Neti. Sinus cleanse. Yogis recommend to use a special neti-pot (looks like a regular teapot with a “nose” that could fit in one’s nostril). Salty water is usually used for this type of practice. Please note that you shouldn’t do Neti during the cold season before going outdoors, and especially during frosty weather. It is also not recommended to do Neti during inflammatory and/or purulent processes in sinus in order to avoid getting an infection in the inner ear through the Eustachian tube.
Technique: pour water through a neti-pot into the left nostril, while keeping your head tilted to the right so the water pours freely from the right nostril. Then change sides. Use body temperature water. Also interesting to know that some yogis do tougher version of cleansing – Sutra Neti. They use a special thread instead of water, which is threaded into nostrils to clean the mucus out.
6. Trataka. This exercise is also a contemplative yogic exercise, though has a prominent cleaning effect. According to known scientific data, we detoxify our bodies through tears as well, so it if very good for the health to evoke tears.
Technique: fix your gaze at any point and try not to blink. You can look at anything – running water, a candle flame, a leaf, or defocus your gaze. We must not blink till the tears come. Should be practiced 5-30 minutes. By the way, Trataka helps to achieve Citta Vritti Nirodhah (the state of clear mind). Yogis also used Trataka for entering the state of Dhyana that leads to Samadhi and self-knowledge.
Source: Kiyev Vajra Yoga School