by Danielle Bryant BSYA
(published in Health Freedom Magazine, November 2011)
Each day people all over the world awake to their own personal cleansing routine. Quite often, though, the inside of the body is not considered. The ancient tradition of Yoga on the other hand has considered internal purification of the human body in great detail and offers cleansing practices called shuddhikriyas to help to achieve total purification of the body.
Yogis believe that organs which come into contact with external matter regularly, where there can therefore be a lot of impurities, require these cleansing practices to become purified. Some of these practices have been adapted for modern day use as they are especially effective in today’s climate where there are many man-made chemicals that come into contact with our bodies and increase our toxic overload.
Body cleansing removes the waste materials and toxins held in our bodies which the normal elimination processes cannot remove. Toxins can drain the body of energy and make you more susceptible to disease and infections. Everyone is exposed to toxins, no matter how healthy they are, and everyone can benefit from a regular detox. Eastern medicine understands that toxic accumulation leads to many degenerative diseases, and many conditions can and have been relieved or even cured with some of these practices. They have been adopted by thousands of people, including those in the medical profession all over the world who are finding great benefits from their practice, proving to be valuable additions to their regular routine for increased health and well-being.
The main practice which has entered our modern lives and is regularly used by medical professionals and hospitals is Vasti. Vasti is basically what we call today enema, the act of cleansing the bowel with a liquid solution which is taken in and expelled out through the anus. Usually water is used but prescribed herbs, supplements and remedies can also be added to the enema liquid. Traditionally in Yoga instead of using a bag or can to hold enema fluid and a tube to administer the fluid into the colon, the practitioner would suck water or even air in through anus to cleanse the colon (impossible as this may seem!). The benefits of removing putrifying faeces from the colon go way beyond relieving constipation. Also relieved are IBS, food intolerances, toxic overload in the body, candida, leaky gut syndrome, low energy levels, even skin conditions are just some of the ailments that can benefit from taking occasional home enema or the more professional colon cleanse.
Rather than get too scatalogical we will move on to another extremely beneficial cleansing technique and one that is becoming more and more popular. The practice is called Jala Neti and is the act of cleansing the nose with a neti pot. It is known by satisfied users for its many physical and psychological benefits. The nose is the body’s primary anti-pollution filter that cleans and warms the air we breathe into our delicate lungs. If the nose is not kept in clean working order then it will stop functioning properly, just as a vacuum cleaner ceases to perform when its filter is blocked or needs replacing. Blowing the nose is usually the only way we try to keep this vital life sustaining filter healthy, and many people have even picked up the habit of by-passing this filtration process completely by mouth-breathing! When cold, unfiltered air enters our lungs it will worsen or even cause conditions such as asthma and many other chronic chest and upper respiratory complaints. Our lungs find it difficult to expel toxins so it is of utmost importance that we use our nose properly!
Clearing the nasal cavities and restoring a healthy nasal environment can be the beginning of the path to better health. Nasal Cleansing can help sufferers of allergies such as hayfever and dust as the minute particles are washed away from the nose stopping them building up and causing problems. Of course, ENT problems will also find benefit, as will headaches, migraine and mental tension, even depression can be helped as Jala Neti has a cooling, soothing effect on the brain. Jala Neti also cleanses the tear ducts bringing sparkle to the eyes and can be of huge benefit to contact lens wearers (like me!!). I personally have also found my sense of smell to be very acute since practicing Jala Neti (for over 12 years) and I have heard reports that practicing at bedtime has even helped relieve snoring!
The benefits do not stop there, as the cleansing is so very close to the Third Eye chakra (energy centre) called the Ajna Chakra so it is believed that its practice can stimulate better powers of visualisation and concentration, aiding meditation by awakening higher states of consciousness. This is believed to be the main reason for Jala Neti in traditional Yoga.
There have also been studies on its effects when practiced by those who are giving up smoking, claiming that it re-sensitises the nose to the actual pollution of ingesting smoke, and thereby de-programming the brain of the physical and psychological addiction.
WHICH LIQUID TO USE?
Salt water is a great cleanser. Think of how good you feel after a swim in the sea or breathing crisp sea air. Salt water and salty vapours clear your head and clear out the junk. Nasal Cleansing scientifically has exactly the same effect. If using salt water for Neti, it must be at least isotonic (that is as salty as your own body) and this ratio was traditionally used. However there are medical benefits more recently discovered in using a hypertonic solution (saltier than the body) as impurities and fluid from internal swelling which is the most popular cause of a blocked nose (no it is not a build up of ‘snot’!) is drawn out into the neti solution by osmosis – remember your biology lessons in school?
In tradition, saltwater was not the only liquid used. Milk (called Dugdha Neti) and even a dilution of one’s own urine (Swamootra Neti) was used, both having their own benefits, especially the latter – believe it or not! Swamootra Neti works in a similar way to homeopathy, where “the ingestion of like cures like”. As it passes the olfactory nerves in the nasal passage, waste products in the urine can educate the brain on the body’s overall health gradually re-programming it to fine-tune the body’s metabolism and making this a very potent healing process. This must only be practiced in conjunction with a specialist diet so as not to harm the delicate nasal passages.
A “Neti Pot” is a specially made jug, a little like a teapot but resembling “Aladdin’s lamp” . As I previously mentioned, the practice is fast becoming more popular, but to give you an idea on the scale of this; 10 years ago you could normally only buy a Neti pot from a Yoga teacher who had been to India! Now you will find many styles and types of neti pots on the internet, and my shop alone must have sold tens of thousands since opening over 7 years ago!
Many modern devices have recently come onto the market, created by doctors and medical professionals who have adapted the traditional Neti pot to become syringes, squeezy bottles and even children and baby nasal cleansing products. In comparison, these devised really take away from the relaxing and comfortable traditional practice, however there are physical benefits especially for those with blockages or neck problems who may find it difficult to use a traditional neti pot.
The chosen vessel is filled with body temperature water and your measured salt (or desired liquid), and the spout of the pot is inserted into one nostril, the head is placed horizontally and turned to the side and the water flows in one nostril, up around your sinuses and flows out of the other nostril. Once the Neti pot is empty, the process is repeated on the other side. Once both nostrils have been cleansed, there is a simple but very important drying process that clears any moisture left in the sinuses.
The technique is not as uncomfortable as it seems. With the correct salt ratio and water temperature you will not even feel the solution in your nasal cavity. If you ever try it I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised, and once you have become accustomed to it the entire practice takes about the same time as cleaning your teeth (the practice of which also originated in the Yoga tradition!).
Owning a natural health shop which specialises in body cleansing & detox, and being a Yoga teacher myself, I have found many benefits to my health, energies and spiritual growth in detoxing my body through some of these cleansing practices. Of course in holistic healing, health complaints are often brought out in order to be healed, making it a challenging but very rewarding journey that still continues for me. However I was very pleased to have had my results recently from a toxic mineral analysis that showed toxic levels that were either negligent or below the calibration level, so it shows me that the hard times of my journey are worth it! But as I always teach my Yoga students, you must not focus on the end of the journey too much, or you will miss the scenery as you go along!