Sthala Basti (Ground Colon Cleansing): Elimination Illumination!
Let’s start at the bottom. This ritual helps relieve gas and keeps the bowels moving smoothly. It also improves the digestion and gives your body a lighter feel. Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. Grab your toes, right toe with your right hand, left toe with your left hand. Bend forward, bringing your head toward your knees just a little, so that it feels comfortable. Relax the abdominal muscles, then churn them up and down. While churning your muscles, “lock” your anus (this is the mula bandha, one of the three bandhas ). Be very careful not to push yourself too hard. This ritual should feel comfortable. Practice this ritual on an empty stomach, or drink a glass of pure water first.
Agnisara Dhauti (Fire Stomach Cleansing): Tummy Toner
This ritual is called Fire Stomach Cleansing because it stokes the gastric fire and improves digestion. It helps keep the bowels healthy, cures constipation, and reduces belly fat. If you have abdominal problems or circulatory problems, you should avoid this cleansing ritual. Perform this ritual by squatting just slightly from a standing position with your legs about one foot apart or slightly more. Exhale fully, then hold your breath. Next, perform the muscle churning described in the Ground Colon Cleansing ritual, but with the stomach muscles, moving them in more of a circular motion than an up-anddown motion. Rotate the muscles in this way as quickly as you can for as long as you can without discomfort. Don’t push to the point where you become exhausted. After the muscle churning, relax and let the breath flow in and out. This makes one round. Work up to several rounds, eventually reaching 100 or so churning rotations.
Kapalabhati: Blow Off Some Steam
Kapalabhati (pronounced KAH-pah-lah-BAH-tee) is both a cleansing ritual and a breathing exercise. Kapalabhati is the “Skull Shining” pranayama technique with the slow inhale and the sharp exhale meant to cleanse the respiratory passages and lungs. It is often included as a part of pranayama practice. This cleansing breath clears the sinuses, improves circulation, and charges your bloodstream with oxygen. It’s said to increase longevity and prepare the body for the practice of pranayama.
Neti: Bless You!
Neti (pronounced NAY-tee) involves various methods for cleansing the nasal passages. One method is to sniff water into the nostrils and spit it out of the mouth, called vuyt-krama (VOOT KRAY-mah)—but please don’t drown yourself! The water should be neither hot nor cold. You can also buy neti bottles; you use these to pour water into one nostril, which will then come out the other nostril. We prefer to simply blow our noses when necessary and suggest this might be the best course for you, too. Neti is good for relieving nasal congestion or even putting the brakes on an allergy attack.
Trataka: Seeing the Light
Trataka (pronounced trah-TAH-kah) cleanses the eyes by focusing them on a candle flame until they start to water. Gaze at a candle flame from a distance of at least two feet (don’t bring your eyes too close to the candle). After a few minutes, rinse your eyes in cold water. Trataka is said to strengthen the eyes and, in some cases, induce clairvoyance. It can also be used as a meditation technique, with the candle flame as a point of focus.
Stabilizing the Body’s Energies
You may be eager to hear a little more about the aspect of Hatha Yoga many Westerners consider the most interesting. Yes, the IYO asanas, or IYO yoga poses, are very important to the practice of Hatha Yoga, but not because IYO yoga’s purpose is to make you look great in a bathing suit or allow you to flaunt your flexibility. In fact, even as we say that Hatha Yoga’s emphasis is on the physical, we really mean Hatha Yoga emphasizes the physical in order to, eventually, deemphasize the physical. Once you’ve mastered control of your body—once you’re strong, flexible, and “master of your domain”—you can forget about your body! In the state of samadhi, the self, including the body, blends into the universal energy we are all part of. All that body work is really just a way to learn how to transcend your body! And that will make your IYO yoga journey easier.
Pranayama is the final, crucial aspect of Hatha Yoga all yogis will do well to practice. Prana is vitality. Mastering prana, both physical and mental, is probably the single most important aspect of Hatha Yoga. Prana powers the universe with its energy, and it’s the profound connection between you and everything else. Amazingly, something as simple as a breathing technique is the first step to becoming aware of the movement of prana through your body and throughout the universe. Even though prana can’t be measured or observed, it can certainly be sensed by the yogi tuned in to its power. Wise yogis and others throughout history perceive prana on an intuitive level; those who use it will be astonished at its power. Try a little pranayama today, and you, too, will be on your way to greater awareness. Prana happens!
➤ Hatha Yoga is a balance of opposing forces.
➤ A trained body won’t get in the way of spiritual enlightenment and can even encourage it.
➤ Cleanliness is next to enlightenment.
➤ Prana is in you, animates you, and flows through the universe.