Shatkarma part 2: crying and digestive cleansing
Classes were cancelled yesterday for a full day of complete digestive cleansing (varisara dhauti), something I crudely called ‘shit day!’ This practice encourages bowel movement through the consumption of salty water. The participant has to drink 2 glasses of warm salty water (quickly) before performing 5 yoga postures, 8 times each. They then continue to drink more salt water and repeat the asana practice until an urgent dash to the toilet becomes necessary! This process of ‘drink, yoga, shit repeat’ is continued until more water and less solid stall is excreted. Usually it takes 6-8 rounds before cloudy yellow water and then finally, almost clear water is excreted. Following the practice, you must only consume khichdi (plain lentils and rice) for two days and beyond this there are several month-long food restrictions including no spicy foods, non-vegetarian foods, alcohol, dairy, chocolate, sweets and acidic fruits. It is also important to rest up and do very little after the practice because it typically makes you feel very weak and tired.
Khichidi (or khichri) is the food I ate when I was sick, as it is great for settling an upset stomach. As you can see, it's very bland and simple, so it also helps with withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara):
As you can imagine, getting ill in India put me right off this practice. Having spent almost a week sat on the toilet, I didn’t fancy self-inducing diarrhea once again. In fact, my system had taken almost 2 weeks to get back to normal, so the thought of upsetting the balance unnerved me to say the least! Thankfully, this practice is not recommended for people who are recovering from recent illness so sadly I was not able to partake in shit day (sigh!) Whilst varisara dhauti (or shankhaprakshalana) wasn’t compulsory, it was encouraged for those who were in good health because it apparently does wonders for the digestive system, removing blockages and strengthening the immune system. Around half the group decided to give the digestive cleanse a go and whilst the responses were mixed, the majority of people didn’t feel much different, just a little lighter! Whilst I can’t personally comment on the effect of this practice it is comparable to the regurgitative cleansing practice that I tried out last week (click here for shatkarma part 1). I felt that it was both unnatural and unnecessary to ‘clean out’ my insides in such a dramatic way, particularly when following an incredibly healthy, balanced diet. But as with everything, each to their own! For me, the best way to detox my mind and body is to immerse myself in nature. So instead of doing the digestive cleanse I decided to go on a solo trek to Triund (blog post to follow!)
Trataka (concentrated gazing) is the final purification practice and is unlike any of the others I have tried so far. For beginners, this practice involves staring at a candle flame for 2-5 minutes, trying not to blink. Eventually tears will come, helping to keep the eyes clear and bright. This concentration exercise is also supposed to help with mind control and mediation. I absolutely loved this practice as the flame really helped to focus my attention, as like most people, I find fire mesmerising. Following the practice I was able to meditate for a whole 3 minutes without fidgeting or thinking about food, so I can really vouch for the benefits of candle gazing! Which is why we should all try and keep and open-mind when learning about new things, as it would have been far too easy for me to write off all of the shatkarma practices after a couple of uncomfortable experiences. Whilst I wasn’t a fan of the vomiting or the pooing, I really enjoyed trataka and will certainly be lighting a few more candles when I get home!
Trataka is a method of meditation that involves staring at a single point such as a small object, black dot or candle flame:
For 'Shatkarma part 1: Yogic Cleansing class' please click here!
-'Trataka: yoga to develop the power of concentration'- http://www.yogicwayoflife.com/trataka-yoga-to-develop-power-of-concentration/
-Khichdi Recipe: http://indianhealthyrecipes.com/dal-khichdi-recipe/
-A personal account of digestive cleansing- http://yogawithsubhash.com/2012/02/16/shankhaprakshalana-colon-cleanse/
-Yogic diet and withdrawal of the senses: https://trueayurveda.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/yogic-diet/