3 Yogic Methods For Cleansing
The purification therapies in yoga work to open and clear the pathways in the body and mind. Those pathways include the seven gates of the head, the nadis (energetic pathways that transport prana), the srotas (channels that transport dhatus, or tissues), and marmas (energetic points). They have been practiced for thousands of years, and are written about extensively in some of the classic yogic texts such as Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gherand Samhita. Here are 5-meethods for cleansing practiced in yoga.
The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system and carries a clear fluid called lymph toward the heart. The lymph fluid is an important component of the immune system and also contains waste from cells, bacteria and protein. Our lymph is moved through the body via the breath and skeletal movement, which is part of why the breathing practices in yoga are so powerful at cleansing the body and stimulating the lymphatic system. Kapalabhati pranayama is one of the most powerful methods for cleansing the lymph.
Kapalabhati Breath: Skull Shining Breath increases heat and reduces stagnation through detoxification. It moves lymph and encourages weight loss. This breath helps to stimulate and move kapha dosha, as imbalanced kaphas can become lethargic, overly materialistic, and clingy. It is good to do this early in the morning before 6:00 A.M., when kapha dosha starts to increase. Kapalabhati breath can provoke both pitta and vata. The quick movement of prana can irritate pitta dosha and increase vata. Both of these constitutional types should only pursue if in balance. Alternatives for them include alternate nostril breathing and ujjayi breathing.
Kapalabhati Breath Instruction
Sit in a chair or on the floor, and breathe through the nose for five breaths to calm the central nervous system.
Begin Kapalabhati Breath:
Inhale through the nose, while keeping your mouth closed.
Push the breath out of your nose with the contraction of your belly. Exhale through the nose in short bursts.
Allow your body to reflexively inhale as your belly expands.
Keep your attention on your breath expulsions and belly contractions.
Continue until you feel comfortable, and increase the pace.
Safely expel about 80 breaths a minute.
Stay steady. Be sure to get appropriate oxygen. Continue to break as needed.
* Contraindicated for excess pitta and excess vata. Use deep breathing instead.
2. Trataka for Cleansing the Mind
Trataka develops the power of meditation and concentration through steady eye gazing. It is most often practiced by placing a candle flame about three feet in front of the practitioner, who stares at it without blinking for three to five minutes. Initially, the desire to blink is strong. Eventually, the eyes will start to water. The water is believed to cleanse the eyes from the inside out, remove blockages from the third eye, and increase extrasensory perception. After a period of mastery over shorter intervals of candle flame gazing, the practitioner works up to a steady period of about twenty minutes without blinking.
Trataka focuses the mind, calms the nervous system, and develops the willpower and stamina required for advanced yoga practices. Meditation practices that enhance concentration have confirmed yogic theories in clinical settings. Other forms of trataka involve sun gazing when the sun is at the horizon; gazing at external sacred objects, symbols, or images; or inward gazing, either at one’s third eye or specific diagrams, shapes, and celestial spheres.
To Practice Trataka Meditation
Light a candle placed three feet in front of your seat on the floor. Sit comfortably.
Gaze steadily at the flame for 2 to 3 minutes without blinking. Gradually work up to 20 minutes.
Neti is used to cleanse the nasal passageways, sinuses, and ears, but treats the entire area above the chest. Neti pot has been used in ayurveda and yoga to assist in cleansing and preparation for meditation. It is generally well tolerated, and few people have side effects. It has been used to treat headache, facial pain, allergies, sinusitis, cough, and halitosis. Neti pot helps reduce allergy symptoms and rhinosinitus related to saw dust or environmental pollutants. Saline solution is anti-inflammatory and can be a safer alternative to corticosteroids. Overuse of neti however, over a long period of time, can injure the mucosa in the sinus. In general, using neti during the fall and winter months to help increase moisture, during fall and spring when allergy symptoms increase, or during acute illness to assist in mucus relief from the sinuses is safe and effective.
Yogis use neti pot to help prepare for pranayama (conscious breathing) practice. It cleanses the pathways so one can be fully engaged in breathing practices. Prana (life force) courses through our body via important pathways or tunnels called “nadis.” Two of the primary nadis exist out of our nostrils. We take in prana from our breath, the sun, and foods we eat. Practicing neti helps to keep these channels open so that prana can be utilized more fully.
To Practice Jal Neti
Fill neti pot with 1 cup lukewarm, purified water and sea salt as desired (start with ¼ teaspoon).
Standing over your bathroom sink, insert the neti pot spout into your left nostril with your left hand. Relax, and breathe through your mouth.
Slowly let your right ear bend toward your right shoulder. Simultaneously lift your left elbow toward the ceiling. The warm water should enter in your left nostril easily. Continue to relax, and breathe out of your mouth. The water will pour out of your right nostril. Continue until you have used all the water in your pot.
Repeat on the opposite side. Dry nose and face with a towel, and apply 2 to 4 drops of plain sesame or nasya oil to each nasal passage.