Traditionally, Hatha Yoga included only six internal cleansing yogic practices! They were known as Shatkarmas; literally the SIX PRACTICES; and their combined aim was to cleanse the body so that it was kept pure and efficient. (This was till around 500 years back – however in the modern Yoga context Hatha Yoga refers to an overall physical practice.)
The YOGIS spent considerable amounts of time and focus to keep their bodies clean and pure. In fact no system in the world can rival the Yogi’s understanding and maintenance of the internal body! Yogis understood that to go beyond the body; they needed to ensure that it was functioning at its optimum so that it would not cause any pain or discomfort – thereby not causing any disturbance to meditation.
The 6 Shatkarma practices are:
1) Jala Neti & Sutra Neti to cleanse the Nose and Sinus tracts
2) Tratak – to cleanse the eyes and lachrymal glands
3) Vastra Dhauti and Kunjal Kriya – to cleanse the alimentary canal
4) Agnisaar Kriya and Nauli Kriya – to cleanse the intestines
5) Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana – to cleanse the colon
5) Basti – to cleanse the colon and excretory organs
JALA NETI – Nasal Cleansing
Jala Neti is the most useful practice to cleanse the nasal passages and sinus tracts. It is fairly simple to perform and to practice it will only take a few minutes in the morning. It only looks difficult – but most yoga students are able to get it right the very first time.
> Get a Jala Neti (pot with a nozzle)
> Fill the pot with lukewarm water and mix a pinch of salt so that the water is slightly saline.
> Now stand with your feet apart and tilt the face to look upwards and sidewards.
> Remember that you must breathe IN and OUT through your mouth at all times (very much like while swimming)
> Gently tilt the neti pot so that the water starts to flow through one nostril. If you maintain the mouth-breathing; the water will pass through the cavity above the bridge of the nose and will pass out through the other nostril. Let half the water in the neti pot drain out like this. REMEMBER; to maintain breathing through the mouth.
> Now repeat the practice on the other side with the other half of the water.
> Once you have finished the water – it is very IMPORTANT that you drain out all the water droplets from the nose. To do this block 1 nostril and blow out forcefully through the other about 10 times. Repeat on the other nostril. Now, blow out all the water from the nostrils – performing Kapalbhati Kriya. No water should be left inside the nostrils.
— The first time it may seem a little overwhelming – so practice this under the guidance of a yoga teacher. With practice you will become comfortable with the practice.
Contra-Indications: If you have serious sinus and other nasal allergies please consult a doctor before practicing.
Frequency: You can practice Jala Neti everyday; or at least once a week or even once a month.