Thursday, July 30, 2015

Yogic Detoxification

Part of the 300 hours Yoga Teacher Training course


Beginning shankhaprakshalana...


Over the past four weeks, our 300 hour students have studied Ayurveda, nature cure, and holistic health, and have also cultivated increased body and self awareness.  Additionally, they undertook intensive investigation of the various cleansing techniques, the shatkarmas and kriyas, as described in yogic literature. While some of us may turn a skeptical eye towards claims such as heavy metal toxicity, it is undoubtedly true that we all encounter some toxins in daily activities as a result of industrialization and pollution.  The body can remove some of this waste on its own, but much of it remains in our systems, clogging and bogging us down. Therefore, an entire module of our 300 hours YTT course is devoted to learning and practicing a variety of cleansing techniques.

Fun with vamanadhauti, for Stefano at least

Beginning with review of the techniques learned in the 200 hours course, such as jalaneti and karnrandhradhauti, they continued with theoretical exploration of further techniques, sagely espoused by our visiting teacher from Indonesia, Stefano Notarbartolo.  He also shared his practice of nauli,  kapalabhati, and other abdominal and breathing techniques, which were to prove instrumental in the coming days. With this strong theoretical foundation provided by the Gheranda Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the students progressed to practice of sutraneti, vamanadhauti, and even shankhaprakshalana.

Catheters for sutraneti
Trying to find the sutra
Each of these techniques aims to cleanse the internal body of mucus, filth, and other contaminants collected during daily life. Coming from a Western society in which, for example, the nose is only blown when one is ill, these practices proved surprisingly beneficial for day to day activities.  Even the basic practice of jalaneti, or nasal water cleansing, clears and opens the nasal passages remarkably and with little effort.  With this potential in mind, our students dove into the new practices, beginning with sutraneti -- nasal cleansing with string/catheter. As shown above, a sterile rubber catheter was used for this practice. The sensations experienced while inserting this into the nostril, passing it through the nasopharynx, and out the mouth are interesting to say the least, and certainly an exercise in patience and acceptance. 
Sutra successfully inserted! Time to floss
Also valuable from this is the direct experience of anitya -- impermance -- with the knowledge that the sensations, while somewhat strange, were only temporary.  Sutraneti proved even more powerful in mucus elimination than jalaneti, and breath flowed smoothly and easily afterwards, lighting up each student's face.

Glug..glug...glug... while Stefano demonstrates nauli
Stefano chugs his 1.5L very salty water...
Smiling as they oversee the purging students
Vamanadhauti, cleansing of the stomach and esophagus, was the next technique explored which, in addition to further new sensations, involves the consumption of a large quantity of saline water in order to cleanse the stomach and upper gastroesophageal tract.  Theoretical investigation of the process as well as uddhyana bandha and nauli techniques were practiced, which facilitated the cleansing experience.

After becoming aware of the body during morning meditation, and on an empty stomach, 1-2 L of saline water is rapidly imbibed to fill the stomach completely.  The urge to purge naturally arises, and vomiting of the saline-mucus mixture soon commences (aided by nauli and/or manual stimulation). 
This is actually a fairly pleasant form of vomiting, as one is doing so consciously and not involuntarily due to food poisoning or other illness.  Students reported feeling lighter, cleaner, brighter, and more energetic afterwards, though for some it may be a physically tiring practice.

Stefano provides close supervision throughout.

Shankhaprakshalana, the full intestinal wash or master cleanse, was investigated over several sessions, as were the less intense variations of lahgoo shankhaprakshalana (short intestinal wash or partial cleanse) and TTK solution (brief intestinal cleanse). Once more after meditation and on empty stomachs, students consumed saltwater -- though in smaller quantity and of lesser salinity than for vamanadhauti.  A routine of five specific asanas was then performed, followed by further saltwater intake.  This routine was repeated several times in order to flush and squeeze the saltwater throughout the entire digestive tract, fully cleansing every surface of mucus and contaminants.  After several rounds of saline-asanas-saline, students attempt to void their bowels of the accumulated fluid by gradually building up internal pressure until evacuation was achieved. 
Close tally is kept to track each student's progress

Twisting, squeezing, and compressing the abdomen
Timing varies depending on individual physiology, health, and mental/emotional state, ranging from 1.5 to 4 hours for our students, but eventually the water will be passed through the body, ferrying toxins and refuse out and leaving it fresh and new, having shed its old and sullied protective mucosal lining.  Thus, physical rest along with specific dietary limitations must be observed after performing shankhaprakshalana in order to allow the digestive tract to regenerate a new lining and resume normal function.

The staple food for the first few days after completion if khichri, a mushy porridge-type mixture of moong dal and rice mixed with a small quantity of turmeric and a generous helping of ghee (clarified butter).  This dish is a classic in Indian cuisine, and is said by Swami Shivananda to be the only meal recommended by yogis due to its simplicity and completeness.  It offers a balanced combination of easily digestible carbohydrate, protein, and fat from sattivic ingredient, which makes it agreeable and acceptable to the developing digestive system, though it is typically prepared in daily life with other spices and vegetables for a more bountiful dish. Additionally, the ghee aids the digestive tract by providing a temporary protective lining while the body regenerates.

"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food." -- Hippocrates

After consumption solely of khichri, the diet is gradually transitioned to include other foods, beginning with boiled vegetables and thin soups.  Day by day this is expanded to include soft vegetables and dals, and eventually raw fruits and vegetables as the lining strengthens.  Careful observation of the body, including physical and mental conditions, energy levels, and digestive habits are maintained throughout to assess the condition and health of the body.  After approximately one month, regular diet may be resumed though with continued awareness and observance of dietary and digestive habits.

Freshly prepared khichri.  Bon appetite!

Students also investigated theory behind numerous other cleansing techniques, though actual practice is reserved for later studies.  However, the techniques practiced and performed during the 300 hours YTT course here have proved immensely beneficial to the health of each student, with reports of increased body awareness, lightness, digestive function, purity, and heightened sense perceptions.  With proper instruction and guidance, these techniques can all be performed safely and beneficially by nearly anyone at any time, though shankhaprakshalana just once per year. 

If you would like to learn more about these techniques or about our 300 hours Yoga Teacher Training program, please visit our website or the WLYA Facebook page for further details. May you all be happy, well, peaceful, and skillful.  Namaste!

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