The art of cleaning your insides

Can you name a few things you put in your body which you are not sure you should be putting in there? OK OK, I know this is all starting to sound a little wrong but hang on in there… and don’t start saying too many of them out loud!

Modern society provides us with all sorts of weird things to consume, and many of us do so happily, but we are often a little more shy when it comes to detoxifying our bodies. If you think you might be willing to try some ancient Indian detox methods then read on… who knows, you might end up with very clean nasal passages!

Just try to think of the difference you feel when trying to breathe through a blocked nose, or breathing through completely clean nostrils. Being able to inhale deeply, you can feel so much more space in your lungs, belly, back. Having space in our bodies makes us feel lighter.

In ancient tradition, yoga is more than just yoga poses as many of us practice today. The Indian philosopher Patanjali wrote about 8 components of yoga. I wont mention them all in detail now, but the first of these 8 is known as Shatkarma.

Shatkarma involves the cleaning of the channels and passages within the body. Just as we regularly clean the outside of our bodies, so we also need to clean our insides from time to time. Shatkarma translates as six (Shat) processes (Karma). These six techniques involve cleaning all those parts of the body where waste is built up; the nasal passages, intestines and stomach.

To prepare the body to do the yoga poses, it is beneficial to first clean and balance the body. The yogic philosophy is that by cleansing our bodies we are opening the channels to allow ‘Prana’ or life energy to flow through.

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of medicine that believes that disease is caused by imbalances in the body. Purifying our bodies therefore helps us to rid the body of disease. The easiest way to imagine this is through the metaphor of a tree. The roots of the trees are the things we do to and for our physical body. The makeup of our diet, eating at the wrong time or eating either too much or too little can be some of the ‘roots’ of this imaginary tree. The trunk of the tree is moderation and discipline while the branches represent diseases such as skin disease, asthma and constipation. Taking medicine for constipation might cure the symptoms of constipation, but according to Ayurveda, the roots of the tree still exist and the disease may come back at a later date or in a different form. If the roots of the tree are the cause of disease, cutting the branches is not the solution.

Undigested food in the intestines spreads toxin and disease into the body. So by knowing our bodies, and learning how to balance and purify them, we can end up feeling a lot better.

During my 5 weeks of training in India, we learned and practiced the various methods of Shatkarma. Starting simple, cleaning our noses with a neti pot, and going all the way to cleaning the nasal passages with a catheter tube or puking out a liter of water.

Some of the beginning cleansing techniques are Kapalbhati. Kapalbhati literally means shining skull and it is divided into three methods.Shining skull, hallelujah!!

Lets start simple. For those of you who are intrigued and want to give it a try I’ll explain how to do one of the kapalbhati methods below.

For Sheetkarma Kapalbhati or mouth to nose cleaning:

First of all some contraindications; don’t perform this if you suffer from chronic nose bleeds or have a serious sinus infection or if you have recently undergone surgery.

For the first attempts of this practice  you are going to want to be somewhere where you can make a bit of a mess and keep some tissues handy. Sheetkarma kapalbhati is performed standing and involves the passage of salty water from your mouth to your nose in order to clean the nasal passages.

  • Add about half a teaspoon of salt to half a litre of water. Taste it, it should taste like ‘not salty soup’ as my teacher in India called it. If its too salty, or has too little salt, it may sting your nose.
    Take a big sip of this water and hold it in your mouth.
  • Lock your chin. Do this by tucking your chin in towards your chest, press down on your chin with two fingers and gaze downwards. When you swallow you should feel a ‘closing’ sensation in your throat. You have now locked your chin 🙂
  • Bend forward slightly, keeping a straight back and pull your cheeks in.
  • Push the water up towards the roof of your mouth using your tongue and exhale through your nose. If you manage to find that sweet spot where the mouth and nose connect, you will start to feel it flowing out.

It’s okay if the water doesn’t come out of both nostrils in the beginning. Some days one nostril will be more open than the other. Once you have used up all the water you mixed or you are feeling good and ready, you can move on to the final steps.

  • Keeping slightly bent forward, tilt your head from side to side and exhale short sporadic breaths from your nose to dry your nasal passages. Do 5 to 10 exhalations for each nostril.
  • Lastly place yourself on the floor in childs pose and stay there a minute  to let the nasal passages dry. It’s important to let them dry properly as any remaining moisture can lead to infection.

If you want to know more about Shatkarma and the Kapalbhati methods, feel free to email me about it. I can even show you how to thread a spaghetti from your nose to your mouth 🙂 Picture below,  don’t look if you are squeamish!

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