“These Shatkriyas which effect purification of the body are secret. They have manifold, wondrous results and are held in high esteem by eminent Yogis.”
‘Shat’ means six and ‘Kriya’ means action. The Shatkriyas are the six cleansing practices of Hatha Yoga.
According to the early Yoga Upanishads, Hatha Yoga originally consisted solely of these purification practices.
Perhaps only later did the tradition expand to encompass further elements, such as Asana, Pranayama and Bandha.
One of the main objectives of Hatha Yoga is to balance the energy system of the body. This is achieved by creating harmony between the two main energy flows of the body, ‘Ida’ and ‘Pingala’ and also between the three ‘doshas’ – Kapha – mucus / Pitta – bile / Vata – wind.
According to Yoga, imbalance between these energy flows or excess in one of the doshas causes lack of vitality and illness.
The Shatkriyas are powerful practices designed to bring about an energy and dosha balance within the body.
For higher yoga practices such as Kriya Yoga and intensive pranayama practices it is important to have a reasonable balance within the body and to be free from excess waste and toxins. This ensures safe and steady progress.
The Shatkriyas should be used with discretion and under the guidance of a teacher who has practiced them. Not one who has read abut them.
Shatkriyas are prescribed according to individual needs.
Traditionally they would be the first practices a yoga aspirant would be asked to undertake!
The six Shatkriyas are as follows:
NETI – Cleansing of the nasal passages in two ways
JALA NETI – using liquid
SUTRA NETI – using thread
DHAUTI – A group of four practices designed to cleanse the entire elementary canal from mouth to anus
SHANKAPRAKSHALANA – intestinal wash
AGNISAR KRIYA – fire cleansing
KUNJAL KRIYA – stomach washing
VATSARA DHAUTI – cleansing with air
NAULI – Abominal massage practice
BASTI – A form of Yogic enema
KAPALABHATI – A breathing practice to clear the frontal lobe of the brain
TRATAKA – Intense gazing at a single point to clear the mind and develop concentration