6 Types of Yogic kriyas and Their Benefits You Need to Know

Learn about the 6 different types of yogic kriyas (Shatkarma) or their benefits and how they can improve your overall health step-by-step guide .

6 Types of Yogic kriyas and Their Benefits You Need to Know

What is Shatkarma(Yogic Kriya)?


The Sanskrit term Shatkarma(Yogic Kriya) suggests six actions, which are also referred to as Shatkriyas. This concept is an integral part of traditional hatha yoga practice, serving as a preparatory stage for the purification process that leads to liberation (moksha) of the body. Diversifying into this area can be the precursor to living a healthy life without a wide range of diseases as it will help in eliminating different harmful impurities and toxins which can be really harmful to the body. Additionally to the effect of Shatkarma(Yogic Kriya) that is cleansing and health-oriented. According to  "Hatha Yoga Pradipika'', it is highlighted that these six techniques of purification (Yogic Kriyas) are essential in clearing the channels and smoothing the flow of vital force (Prana) in the body. The practice of shatkarma(Yogic Kriyas) will make one absolutely ready for pranayama and meditation as it cleanses the body internally which helps the body to achieve maximum potential. Therefore, one must learn and practice Shatkarma(Yogic Kriyas) only under the guidance of an expert yoga teacher who has a great experience in the subject.

Types of Yogic Kriyas(Shatkarmas) and their benefits:


Let us take you into the details of the six Shatkarmas(Yogic Kriyas) techniques and their health benefits. The Shatkarma(Yogic Kriya) is a preparation to purify the body and mind for higher practices in Hatha Yoga. Each technique has a specific purpose and health benefits. 

  1. Neti: Nasal Cleansing

  2. Dhauti: Cleansing of the Digestive Tract

  3. Nauli: Abdominal Massage

  4. Basti: Colon Cleansing

  5. Kapalabhati: Frontal Brain Cleansing

  6. Trataka: Concentrated Gaze

1. Neti: Nasal Cleansing


There are 2 types of Neti:

  1. Jala Neti(saline water cleansing): This is the most popular neti practice, which is done by using a saline water solution through the nasal passage to gently flush out. The saline solution is  prepared by mixing the non-iodized salt in lukewarm water.

Purpose: Jala neti is a process of nasal cleansing, which helps to remove blockages of nasal passage and improve the flow of air.

Method: A small neti pot container with a long spout  is typically used for Jala Neti. The practitioner tilts their head to one side over a sink, places the spout in the upper nostril, and gently pours the saline solution, allowing it to flow through the nasal passages and out of the lower nostril. The process is then repeated on the other side. This method helps clear out mucus and debris, facilitating better breathing and reducing the risk of infections.

Benefits:

  • Jala Neti is beneficial for relieving nasal congestion and allergies.

  • Alleviates symptoms of sinusitis, allergies, and colds.

  • Improves the sense of smell and overall nasal health.

  1. Sutra Neti (Nasal Cleansing with a Thread): Sutra Neti is a more advanced nasal cleansing technique that uses a soft, sterilized cotton thread or a rubber catheter instead of a saline solution

Purpose: Sutra neti involves the deeper cleansing of the nasal passages, which can help remove blockages and improve the flow of air.

Method: The thread or catheter is gently inserted into one nostril and then carefully pulled out from the mouth or the other nostril. This technique requires more skill and should ideally be performed under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

Benefits: 

  • Sutra Neti helps to remove mucus and blockages more effectively than Jala Neti, making it particularly useful for those with severe nasal or sinus issues.

  • It is also said to have a more profound effect on improving nasal clarity and is beneficial for the health of the nasal passages and sinuses.

2. Dhauti: Cleansing of the Digestive Tract


Types of Dhauti:

  1. Antar Dhauti (Internal Cleansing): This category can be further divided into four types:
    1. Vatasara Dhauti (Air Cleansing): Involves swallowing air and then expelling it to cleanse the stomach.

    2. Varisara Dhauti (Water Cleansing): Also known as "Shankhaprakshalana," this involves drinking large quantities of salted water and performing specific exercises to cleanse the entire digestive tract.

    3. Vahnisara Dhauti or Agnisar Kriya: Focuses on the abdominal area. It involves vigorous movement of the abdominal muscles in and out while holding the breath, which is believed to stimulate the digestive fire and cleanse the organs.

    4. Bahiskrita Dhauti: This is a more advanced practice, involving the expulsion of fecal matter from the rectum by sucking water through the anus, and is rarely practiced in modern times due to its complexity and potential risks.

  1. Danta Dhauti (Teeth Cleansing): This involves cleaning the teeth, tongue, ears, and forehead. It is subdivided into:

    1. Danta Moola Dhauti (Teeth and Gums Cleansing)

    2. Jihva Dhauti (Tongue Cleansing): Tongue scraping to remove accumulated bacteria and toxins.

    3. Karna Dhauti (Ear Cleansing)

    4. Kapala Randhra Dhauti (Forehead Cleansing): Rubbing the frontal sinuses to cleanse them.

  2. Hrid Dhauti (Cardiac or Heart Cleansing): This is further divided into three methods:

    1. Danda Dhauti: Swallowing a soft, long strip of cloth to clean the esophagus and stomach.

    2. Vastra Dhauti: Similar to Danda Dhauti but using a piece of cloth. This practice is rare and should be performed under expert guidance.

    3. Vaman Dhauti or Kunjal Kriya: Voluntary vomiting to cleanse the stomach of impurities.

  3. Moola Shodhana (Root Purification): This involves cleansing the rectum and lower intestines, sometimes using a soft turmeric root or finger for gentle insertion and rotation.

Purpose: Dhauti focuses on cleaning the digestive tract from the mouth to the stomach, removing toxins and impurities.

Benefits:

  • Promotes healthy digestion and prevents digestive disorders.

  • Cleanses the esophagus and stomach, reducing acidity and gastritis.

  • Enhances the absorption of nutrients from food.

3. Nauli: Abdominal Massage


Performing Nauli involves a series of movements that massage and tone the abdominal organs. There are four main types of movements within Nauli Kriya:

  1. Madhyama Nauli (Central Nauli): This is often the first type of Nauli that practitioners learn. It involves isolating the central abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis. To perform Madhyama Nauli, the practitioner stands with the feet apart, bends slightly at the knees, and places the hands on the thighs. After exhaling fully and holding the breath out (in a state known as Bahya Kumbhaka), the practitioner contracts and isolates the central abdominal muscles, causing them to protrude forward.

  2. Vama Nauli (Left Nauli): This variation focuses on isolating and contracting the muscles on the left side of the abdomen. It targets the left side of the abdominal muscles, specifically the obliques and transversus abdominis, to stimulate the left side of the digestive tract and associated organs.

  3. Dakshina Nauli (Right Nauli): Contrary to Vama Nauli, Dakshina Nauli targets the right side of the abdominal muscles. This action stimulates the right side of the digestive system and is believed to activate the solar (Pingala) nadi, enhancing energy and warmth in the body.

  4. Chalan Nauli or Nauli Kriya (Rotating Nauli): This is a more advanced stage where the practitioner rotates the isolated abdominal muscles in a circular motion, moving from Madhyama Nauli to Vama Nauli to Dakshina Nauli and back in a continuous, fluid motion. This rotation provides a deep massage to the internal organs, promoting better digestion, stimulating blood circulation, and enhancing the body's detoxification processes.

Purpose: Nauli is an abdominal massage technique that involves the rotation and churning of the abdominal muscles.

Benefits:

  • Stimulates digestive fire, improving digestion and metabolism.

  • Strengthens and tones the abdominal muscles.

  • Helps in detoxifying the internal organs.

4. Basti: Colon Cleansing


Basti specifically targets the removal of accumulated toxins and waste materials from the intestines and colon, promoting better digestive health and overall well-being.

There are two main types of Basti, each with its own method and purpose:

  1. Jala Basti (Water Basti): This is also known as "water enema." It involves the introduction of lukewarm water into the colon through the anal passage. The practitioner first squats in water or stands in knee-deep water and then, using a specially designed tube or simply by contracting the anal muscles, draws the water into the colon. After holding the water for a period, the practitioner expels it, removing impurities and accumulated waste from the intestines. Jala Basti is known for its ability to cleanse the lower digestive tract, stimulate bowel movements, and alleviate constipation and gas.

  2. Sthala Basti (Dry Basti): Unlike Jala Basti, Sthala Basti does not involve the use of water or any liquid. Instead, it relies on the suction created by the practitioner's own body. In this practice, the individual assumes a specific yoga posture (such as Paschimottanasana or Uttanapadasana) and performs a series of muscular contractions and relaxations to create a vacuum effect that helps in expelling gas and toxins from the intestines. Sthala Basti is considered more advanced and is practiced by those who have already mastered basic Hatha Yoga techniques and have good control over their abdominal and pelvic muscles.

Purpose: Basti entails the cleansing of the colon through the introduction of water or herbal solutions into the rectum.

Benefits:

  • Helps in detoxifying the colon and removing waste material.

  • Alleviates constipation and promotes regular bowel movements.

  • Can improve the health of the gastrointestinal tract.

5. Kapalabhati: Frontal Brain Cleansing


The term "Kapalabhati" is derived from two Sanskrit words: "kapala" meaning skull, and "bhati" meaning shining or illuminating. Thus, Kapalabhati is often called the "skull shining breath" due to its reputed cleansing effects on the brain and clarity it brings to the mind.

Kapalabhati involves forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations. Through this process, the lungs are thoroughly ventilated, and the blood is oxygenated, leading to improved organ function and the removal of toxins from the body. While Kapalabhati is primarily known as a single technique, it can be categorized based on the pace and intensity of the breaths, as well as the focus and purpose of the practice. Here are three broad types of Kapalabhati:

  1. Vatakrama Kapalabhati: This is the most common form of Kapalabhati, where the focus is on forceful exhalations through the nose, and the inhalations are passive. The abdominal muscles are used to push the air out of the lungs with each exhale. This type is primarily used for its cleansing effects on the respiratory system and to energize the body and mind.

  2. Vyutkrama Kapalabhati: This variation involves snuffing water into the nostrils and then expelling it through the mouth. Though less commonly practiced, it is considered a cleansing practice for the nasal passages and sinuses, similar to the effects of Jala Neti but performed through a slightly different method.

  3. Sheetkrama Kapalabhati: This is the reverse of Vyutkrama, where water is taken in through the mouth and then expelled through the nostrils. This method is also aimed at cleansing the nasal passages and sinuses, along with cooling and soothing the body.

Purpose: Kapalabhati involves forceful exhalations, which helps in cleansing the frontal regions of the brain.

Benefits:

  • Improves respiratory function and oxygenation of the body.

  • Enhances concentration and mental clarity.

  • Stimulates the brain and invigorates the nervous system.

6. Trataka: Concentrated Gaze


Tratak Kriya, often referred to as Trataka, is a yogic cleansing and meditation technique that involves steady gazing at a particular point or object without blinking, to develop concentration and stimulate the third eye or Ajna Chakra. The practice is known to enhance mental clarity, improve vision, and promote spiritual awakening. Trataka can be broadly categorized into two main types based on the focus of the gaze:

  1. Bahya Trataka (External Trataka): This form of Trataka involves focusing the eyes on an external object. The most common practice within Bahya Trataka is to gaze at a small, steady flame from a candle or lamp placed at eye level and at a comfortable distance, usually around an arm's length away, in a dimly lit or dark room. The practitioner tries to maintain a steady, uninterrupted gaze until tears are produced, at which point the eyes are closed, and the after-image of the flame is visualized at the third eye location (the space between the eyebrows). Other objects can also be used for Bahya Trataka, such as a black dot on a white wall, a small crystal, the moon, or the image of a deity.

  2. Antar Trataka (Internal Trataka): In Antar Trataka, the focus shifts inward. After practicing Bahya Trataka, or as a separate practice, the eyes are closed, and the practitioner visualizes an object in the mind's eye, maintaining as clear and steady an image as possible. This could be the after-image of the flame from Bahya Trataka or any other object, symbol, or deity. The goal is to hold the visualization in the mind without wavering, which requires a high degree of mental concentration and control.

Purpose: Trataka is the practice of gazing at a single point or object to cleanse the mind and improve concentration.

Benefits:

  • Improves visual clarity and eye health.

  • Enhances mental focus and concentration.

  • Induces mental calmness and reduces stress levels.

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