Archive for The Yogic Shat Karma

Kapala Bhati

Kapala-Bhati is the latest in the list of the Shat-karma i.e. the six processes of cleansing the Nadis. This practice holds a considerable spiritual value also. It is a breathing exercise but not a Pranayama in the strictest sense. There is no regular Kumbhaka in this practice. The exercise consists only of Rechaka and Puraka. A regular practice of it keeps the body fit and old age is delayed. Two distinct processes of Kapala-Bhati are in vogue. They are given as under :-

 

Process No. I :- ‘Slow Method’

Fill in the air through the left nostril and breathe it out through the right; then again taking through the right and breathe out through the left. This process should be continued for about five minutes in the beginning and then gradually increased. The breathing should be slow and gradual without holding of the air inside (i.e. without performing the Kumbhaka). In other words as soon as complete breathe has been taken in, the process of breathing out should begin.

 

Process No. II :- ‘Rapid-Method’

In this process the Rechaka (breathing out) and Puraka (breathing in) are rapidly don’t through both the nostrils simultaneously like the bellows of black-smith. However, Rechaka (exhalation) is the principal part of the exercise, while Puraka (inhalation) is only the supplementary.

A vigorous practice of Kapalabhati for few minutes will vibrate every tissue of the body. In Kapalabhati there is a play of abdominal muscles and diaphragm. They are suddnely and vigorously contracted, giving an inward push to the abdominal viscera. The diaphragm then recedes into the thoracic cavity which expels all the air from lungs.

In normal respiration inhalation is active while the process of exhalation is passive. In Kapalabhati this is reversed. Rechaka and Puraka are performed in quick succession by a sudden and vigorous in-stroke of the abdominal muscles. This is instantly followed by a relaxation of these muscle. Rechaka occupies about twice the time of Puraka. The relaxation is passive act, while the contraction is very active one. No time is allowed between these acts until a round is completed. In the beginning one should have ten to twelve expulsions in each round. Generally three rounds are performed at each sitting, a sitting being performed twice each day, morning and evening. As a rule ten expulsions may be added each week until about 40 expulsions can be done at each round.

Between successive rounds normal respiration is allowed to afford the needed rest. Those who feel themselves fit are permitted to double the usual number, but the minimum should be three rounds of three minutes each at a sitting.

 

Being a nervo-cleaning process as well, it is also practiced for awakening certain nervous centers which make the practice of Pranayama more efficient by quieting the respiratory centre. A few rounds of this practice should be performed daily before doing Pranayama. Five minutes is sufficient to induce a state of trance when one has fully developed the art of Kapalabhati.

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Trataka

Gazing at a minute point with wink-less eyes till the tears appear is called Trataka.Its practice make one efficient in Shambhavi Mudra which shall be explained in the chapter of mudras. It is an excellent exercise of the eyes and improves their sight. The process is as follows :-

Make a black circle of one inch diameter on a wall at the height of 2.5 feet above the floor. Sit in front of it at the distance of about two feet and begin gazing at it with wink-less eyes and concentrated mind. After a few minutes, tears would appear. Shut the eyes for a brief rest. The process may be repeated two to three times. The daily practice of the Trataka would make possible to look at the black spot for a pretty long time and with this the mental concentration and visual power would improve.

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Siddha Jala-neti

This process is taking water in through one nostril and expelling the same through the other. Get a feeding cup or a small sized tea-pot. Filling it with cold or luke warm water, insert its nozzle into either of the nostrils and bend the head a little to the other side. Suck in the water very lightly and let it pass out through the other nostril. The water will start flowing in a continuous stream after some practice. Beside cleansing the conjunction of the nostril, the water, in this process, exerts some pressure on optical, auditory muscles and gives them strength.

 

The fore-going neti practices prove very effective in curing chronic catarrh and the diseases caused by cold. Weak sight also improves and spectacles can be removed. For the improvement for the eye-sight, sutra-neti followed by Vyutkrama and siddha Jala-neti processes done with milk, to which some drops of almond oil are added, would prove extremely beneficial.

 

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Indian Nation (BAPU JI), was a great advocate of Jala-Neti. In his latest book on health, “The Key to Health”, he writes, “Just as we wash our mouth every morning, the nose should be cleaned. Clean water, cold or luke warm, is the best agent for that purpose. It should be taken in a cup or in palm of the hand and drawn up through the nostrils. It is possible to draw the water up through the nostril, the other remaining closed and expelling it through the other by opening it and closing the former. This process should be carried out gently so as to avoid discomfort. In order to cleanse the back portion of the nose known as nasopharynx, water should be brought out by the mouth or even swallowed.”

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Shitakrama-Jalaneti

The ‘Shitakrama’ process of ‘jalaneti’ is the reverse of the ‘Vyutkrama jalaneti’ and it needs a longer practice to master it. It consists in taking a mouthful of water and then closing the lips tightly, so as not to allow the water to flow out of the mouth, expelling it through the nostrils. Take in a deep breath when the water is still in the mouth and with the effort of exhalation plus the same upwards and let it come out through the nose. Or, while holding the water in the mouth, touch the tender membrane in the nose with a light feather or a thin cord and produce the necessary sneezing to allow the water to escape from the nostrils. After a few attempts this process becomes easy and voluntary. Its benefits over and above the ‘Vyutkrama jalaneti’ are as follows:-

  1. Its vigorous action expels successfully and object, in form of dust or dried mucous, that may be still adhering to the cavities, more completely than is possible through the Vyutkrama process.
  2. The upward pressure of the water has a healthiest effect on the sinuses and the eyes.
  3. Its constant practice enables the ‘sadahka’ to carry the water into the eyes through the duct connecting the nose and the eyes. The process is extremely useful for vision and optical hygiene.
  4. The force exerted for throwing out water and the pressure of the water itself stimulate the Eustachian canal, remove the congestion of air in it and thus help the sense of hearing, the ear.

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Vyut Krama Jala-Neti

This is simplest kind of Neti. Take a cup of water (cold or luke warm)*. Put some salt according to taste and hold it in front of the nose so that the nostrils dip into the water. Then gently inhale the water and it will very easily pass through the nasal canal and come into the mouth. If the first attempt is not successful, the second or the third attempt if done with a strong will must carry the water into the mouth. The first two three draughts of water must be expelled through the mouth and then the water may either let pass into the stomach or thrown out as liked. The quantity of water that we thus suck may be gradually increased up to half a litre.

 

This process besides cleansing the nasal canal has the following benefits:-

  1. This process loosens the clogged up mucous in the air-passage which works as nasal obstruction to free movement of air.
  2. It stimulates the tiny nerves and the tender mucous membrane in the nostrils, and the many fold and narrow passage of the nasal surface that warm the air as it passes over them.
  3. It aids in supplying the necessary moisture to the mucous membrane which is so useful in catching dust. Thus the filtration of the air is greatly improved and the breathing becomes easy, natural and health giving.
  4. It cools the brain and also the air in the sinuses and consequently one begins to feel fresh.
  5. It removes the defects of vision caused by overstraining the eyes.
  6. It makes the tender nasal passage proof against the irritation caused by external elements which causes hay-fever and watery catarrh.
  7. If practiced with cold water, the nasal cavities become cold-proof and hardened and even the cold wintry winds will no longer seem irritant and cold producing.

This kind of ‘Jalaneti’ is popular even among Western Natural Therapeutics and Dr. Lindlahr, an authority upon the subject, has placed this above all preventive methods in hygiene and has therefore included it in his daily regimen. He remarks that, “Water sniffing is an excellent means for cleansing the nasal passage of all obstructions. It is the best treatment for catarrh and a splendid natural stimulant to the membranes and nerve endings in the nasal passages. Through the stimulation of these nerve endings it has a tonic effect upon the brain and the nervous system.”

 

The Ayurvedic system of hygiene has also appreciated this process. Such eulogizing remarks as follows are often found in its text books:**

One who drinks water through the nasal path, having got up in the morning everyday, becomes intelligent, hawk-eyed: and free from wrinnkles, grey hair and all kinds of diseases.

 

This process is, however, advised to be practiced with cold water in summer and with luke warm water in winter or according to the nature of the sadhaka (practitioner).

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Jala-Neti

The sutra-neti must be followed by Jala Neti or nasal wash. It is of three kinds –

  1. Vyut-krama
  2. Shita-krama
  3. Siddha Jala neti

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Gharshana Neti

When one has been doing sutra neti for some time and the nasal-lining has been fairly hardened to bear the string rubbing across it, one would be able to do the next process of ‘gharshana neti’ also. Under this process we do not simply draw out the string through the mouth but holding each end, one outside the mouth and other in front of the nose, we thoroughly rub the nasal canal with the neti string by pulling and re-pulling its ends and then, after a few rubs, it is drawn out through the mouth. The Gharshana neti is to be done through each nostril by turns.

 

The Sutra-neti must be practiced under the guidance of an expert, for this is a bit of complicated practice and cannot be learnt merely by reading; and further in the absence of proper guidance, the tender lining of the nose might get adversely affected. This, however, is not, in the least, to be taken to imply that the Neti is in any sense dangerous or less important. On the contrary it represents the best, most complete, through and scientific way of nasal cleansing hitherto investigated.

 

Summing up the benefits of the sutra neti, the Hatha-Yoga Pradipika says:-

“This purifies the skull and makes it sight very keen. It also removes the diseases of the limbs above the shoulders.”

The Gheranda Samhita describing its benefits remarks,

“By means of Neti, one gets siddhi in Khechari Mudra. It also removes phlegmatic diseases and also gives sharpness in the sight.”

The investigation by a French medical authority also goes to confirm the true value and scientific importance of the Neti process already known to the Yogis thousands of years back. Thus “the dilation of the nasal passage by passing from nostrils to the throat a succession of probes of gradually increasing dimensions as an effective cure for deafness, headache, asthma and snoring, sinus, eyesight etc., was hailed by the French Academy of medicine as a marvelous research; and its inventor Dr. Glorger Gantier computes that about 70% of the people in this world stand in need of this method.”*

 

The sutra neti is literally a panacia for the diseases resulting from cold and catarrh:-

  • In the first place it cleanses the nasal passage so thoroughly which is not possible for the water net to do owing to the sticky nature of the mucous.
  • It gives a regular massage to the inner muscles of the nose and thus by toning their strength makes them proof against falling victims to germ attacks and climatic changes.
  • By stimulating the nerve endings, it benefits the eyesight, the senses of hearing, smelling and tasting.
  • The neti string passes in close proximity to the tonsils and over the adenoids. It is therefore ensured that a neti doer will never have to suffer from the enlargement of eitehr of them.

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Sutra-Neti

The Hatha-yoga pradipika, a well known treatise on Yoga, defines the sutra neti as follows:-

The Sutra neti is described in the Gheranda Samhita as to

“Draw up the nasal canal a soft string 8 inches long, and draw it out through the mouth.”

This string is specially prepared, as described under. Take a fine cotton thread about 15 meters long and make it nine fold yarn with the help of an assistant and twine it into a rope of three folds taking precautions that all the three folds be smoothly beside one another and do not overlap. Secure the ends of the string by passing each through the twister loop. Trim the loose ends and strongly rub the string with a piece of clean cloth to make it smooth and soft. The string is now ready for use.

 

Now take a jug full of water. Make the string wet and insert its one end into a nostril. Go on slightly rotating the string for keeping it stiff while you push it up the nose. When the string has gone in about four inches, you will begin to feel its end behind the palate. Catch hold of that end with two fingers of a hand put into the mouth and pull out the string slowly and cautiously. Wash the string thoroughly after it has been drawn out and repeat the same process through the other nostril. This is the ‘samanya’ or simple process of Sutra neti.

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Rubber Neti

When cleansing of nose is done with a rubber catheter (available at medical store), the process is called Rubber Neti. Catheter is a flexible rubber tube of varying thicknesses. Its closed end is put into the nasal passage of one nostril, then pushed in slowly till it reaches the mouth/upper part of the throat. Holding the end in the mouth with the help of our long two fingers, it is pulled out of the mouth. Then holding one end outside the nostril & other outside the mouth (as shown in the picture), it is rubbed in and out to liquidate any large septum or fold of skin. Finally after 8 to 10 rubs, it is pulled out of the mouth leaving the nostril end free. The entire mucous sticks to the rubber catheter, which is washed under running water and the process is repeated for the other nostril. This leaves our mucous free, removes any septum/fold of skin and enables us to breathe clean air comfortably and freely.

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Neti

The fourth of six Shat-karmas is Neti. This aims at cleansing the nasal passage completely by means of a rubber catheter, string and water. These are respectively called Rubber Neti, Sutra-Neti and Jala-Neti.

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