Cleansing techniques from India

Cleansing techniques from India

As I promised before, I have gathered a few of the cleansing techniques that I learned in India. There are a few quite extreme ones but I also added some easy and absolutely usable techniques as well. First, I must mention shatkarma kriy, which is part of hatha yoga and its aim is to balance the body and the mind. One of the shatkarmas is neti. Jala Neti, which is a nasal cleansing technique with water. For this practice you’ll need a neti pot that you fill with a mixture of lukewarm water and Himalayan salt. (Use half a litre of water and a teaspoon of salt.) Stand squarely, with your legs apart, tilt your head to one side. Breath through your mouth and insert the nozzle into the uppermost nostril and tilt the pot so that the water can flow through your uppermost nostril and leave through the other one. Use half of the water, then remove the nozzle and centre the head to let the water run out of the nose. Blow on your nose gently to remove the remaining water and mucus then repeat the process on the other side. Start with your active nostril. When you are done rest in downward facing dog or chair pose. Jala neti removes mucus and pollution from the nasal passages and sinuses but it’s not recommended when the nose is blocked, or when the weather is too hot.

Illustration from Swami Satyananda Swaraswati: Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha

Another form of neti is sutra neti which is nasal cleansing with thread. I got a thread for this purpose with my neti pot but fortunately we didn’t get around trying it. The teachers might have seen the fear in our eyes and decided we were not ready. I wasn’t for sure 😀 Sutra neti is not the most shocking of the shatkarmas. There’s also the cleaning your stomach with a stripe of textile or vomiting and other specialities that can be practiced with a teacher only.


Illustration from Swami Satyananda Swaraswati: Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha

Luckily, we don’t need a teacher for all the ayurvedic and yogic cleansing practises. Tratak, or concentrated gazing is one of them. For beginners it is recommended to use a candle or a dark dot on white wall. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine erect with the candle flame at eye level. Gaze at it without blinking for 7 minutes than close your eyes and try to meditate. At first, it can be quite uncomfortable and you’ll probably experience runny nose and tears so have some tissues on hand. It will get better eventually and once you are comfortable with seven minutes you can do it for longer. Advanced practitioners should do it for as many minutes as old they are.

Jala neti, nose cleaning thread, tongue scraper

Another cleaning technique that you can use (although, it’s not a shatkarma) is the ayurvedic practice of oil pulling. Before I gave it a try I did extended research on the topic  but I didn’t find any scientific proof that it works but as it is completely safe I wanted to give it a try. I haven’t been doing it for long enough to draw any conclusions but my mouth does feel cleaner after oil pulling. It is supposed to pull out toxins from your body, remove plaque and whiten your teeth, so…. The best time for it is in the morning. You can use different oils but I read that coconut oil is the best and as it’s easy to find it was an obvious choice for me. Put a teaspoon of oil into your mouth and swirl it around for 10-20 minutes then spit the content of your mouth into a bin. Rinse your mouth with warm (salty) water then brush your teeth as you would do normally. I repeat it every second day.

Now that we are talking about oral hygiene I must mention tongue scrapers. They’ve been used for centuries in India and are getting more and more popular in the west. It is even approved by dentists and you can buy westernised, plastic tongue scrapers online. Mine is  from India and made of copper and I use it every morning. Scrape your tongue from the back 7-14 times then brush your teeth.

Although, some of the techniques I mentioned are quite extreme, oil pulling, tongue scraping, tratak and jala neti are safe if we are healthy and do them the right way. I know reading about these practices can be overwhelming (or at least I often wonder how people have time for all these things in the morning) but if you introduce a few small changes into your morning routine they are totally doable. At least tongue scraping and oil pulling and I do tratak in the evening anyway. So if you feel inspired give these techniques a go and see how they can improve your health.