Yoga is therapeutic
We all know this. We experience its benefits every time we practice, whether at home or in a weekly class. In the Satyananda system of Integral yoga, in addition to favourites such as Yoga Nidra, we have a set of practices that cleanse our bodies, and clear our minds.

We need therapy to counteract disease. If disease manifests in the physical body we often emphasise physical therapies. Similarly if disease manifests in our minds or emotions we seek out mental or emotional therapies. But because all these layers of our being are inextricably linked, we usually need to address our disease from as many levels as possible in order to clear it from every level. All forms of pranayama can be helpful because they work through the pranic body – the bridge between body and mind.

The digestive system is the base of many diseases. When we have faulty digestion from poor production of digestive juices (commonly caused by eating the wrong foods at the wrong time, or by stress) then we have the potential for huge amounts of toxins in the gut. These, along with toxins from our environment and the effects of our own negative thinking, result in toxicity that is a playground for disease-producing organisms – hence our susceptibility to viruses, infections and so on. A healthy balance of flora (bacteria) in the gut is essential to good health and can be assisted by regular cleansing of the gut through Yoga cleansing practices.
These cleansing practices also help to maintain the health of the gut wall – an important part of the prevention of allergic reactions. Poor digestion is behind many allergies such as hay fever, skin rashes, allergic asthma and even some forms of arthritis.

So how can yoga help us get rid of toxins and maintain a healthy gut?
The body releases toxins via the breath, the skin and the bowels. We therefore learn practices to increase detoxification through these channels. These "cleansing practices" were the original techniques of Hatha Yoga and include:—

Jala Neti – (nose cleaning)
In this practice one cleans the nostrils using warm salty water from a special container or neti pot.
A neti pot is filled with luke warm water. The spout is placed into one nostril, so that it sits tight. The head it held at an angle so that the water runs by itself in through one nostril and out the other. This is a pleasant practice, it's true! and thousands agree. Once learnt, it can be easily practised at home as often as necessary.

This practice has many benefits and has been found to: –
  • Help to relieve headaches and hay fever
  • Help to relieve the symptoms of head colds, sinusitis & ear infections
  • Relax the eyes
  • Remove drowsiness
  • Help to relieve sinus congestion
  • Help to counteract the effects of dry indoor air & environmental pollution
  • Help one breath easier
  • Its use before breathing practices makes a huge difference to the effectiveness of these practices

Kunjal Kriya - (stomach cleansing)
In this practice you clean the stomach by drinking warm salty water and then regurgitating it.
You drink until the stomach is full – the water has a tendency to come up again by itself. Now most people's reaction is "How revolting!", because the only time we have ever vomited was when our stomach was full of something our body wanted to get rid of fast! – and it was not a pleasant experience. But with kunjal we are only bringing up salty water – and it is not unpleasant. It is a simple and quick process followed by a feeling of well-being and deep relaxation.

This practice has been found helpful to: –
  • Tone and stimulates the abdominal organs
  • Eradicate halitosis
  • Release pent-up emotions
  • Manage asthma and migraine – the technique can be particularly useful in preventing early symptoms developing into a full-blown attack

Shankhaprakshalana (full intestinal cleansing)
In this practice one cleans the whole of the digestive tract.
Intestinal cleansing is done by drinking warm salty water and performing six simple asana (yoga postures), which help to move the water through the intestines. One continues to take the salty water followed by the asanas until the water that you pass is as clear as what you are drinking. It is traditionally practised twice a year in spring and autumn, and brings a wonderful sense of lightness and well being. The cleansing is followed by special food to promote the proper balance of intestinal flora, and then by at least a week of bland vegetarian diet to promote continued cleansing and to rest and heal the gut.

Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana – (short intestinal cleansing)
This is a shorter version of the practice that can be practised more frequently without dietary restriction and it is used by people recovering from an illness. It should be practised before attempting the full practice.

Both practices are followed by Kunjal – (stomach cleansing) and Jala Neti (nose cleansing).

Shankhaprakshalana helps to: –

  • Relieve indigestion, gas, acidity and constipation
  • Tone the liver and other digestive organs and glands
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Bring a wonderful feeling of lightness and well-being

Trataka – (concentration gazing)
The practice of Trataka involves gazing at a point or object without blinking the eyes. It is a method of focusing the eyes and in turn the mind on one point to the exclusion of all others. It is the steppingstone between physically oriented practices and mental practices, which lead to higher states of awareness. Traditionally it is part of Hatha Yoga but it may also be considered a part of Raja Yoga. Trataka develops concentration and peace of mind.

Kapalbhati – (purification and vitalisation of the frontal lobes)
Kapalbhati is a technique of pranayama, which massages the abdominal organs, improves respiration and purifies the frontal region of the brain (partly by oxidising the blood). It is also a powerful method of waking up the mind.
After ten rounds of kapalbhati it is impossible to sleep.

Both of the above techniques are practised to clear the mind. They make a wonderful preparation for other meditation practices that can help us with negative thinking and feelings.

Please note that we do not suggest that these practises replace therapies proscribed by your doctor. Should you be suffering from a serious condition you should first seek the advice of your doctor. This article is not a full description of the practices and one should not perform them without prior instruction from a competent yoga teacher.