An important aspect of the meditational sciences is the practice of Shatkarma. Commonly understood as a set of practices which help to purify the body from within in order to prepare the body to attain the ultimate objective of yoga, which is moksha or spiritual enlightenment.
First propounded in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, six shatkarmas have been identified as being essential–Neti, Dhauti, Nauli, Basti, Kapalbhati, and Trataka. There are two additional purificatory practices which are Cakri and Gajakarni. While each of these practices has its own end, together these shatkarmas are directed towards removing the impurities from the body and mind, providing relief from a number of disorders, prepare the body for the practice of pranayama, all to ultimately guide the practitioner on the path to moksha.
Neti: A process to cleanse the nasal tract, it involves use of a neti pot to clear the air passages in the head.
Dhauti: Cleansing of the entire digestive tract. The process helps in restoring the natural balance and vitality of the body.
Nauli: Another shatkriya which is used to clean the abdominal region, including the various digestive organs and the small intestine, through a rigorous self-administered abdominal massage.
Basti: Through colonic irrigation, the impurities in the digestive tract are extracted to provide a thorough cleaning.
Kapalbhati: Literally translated as ‘skull shining’ (kapal = skull; bhati = shining), this is a breathing exercise which energizes the chakras and balances the nadis through which the vital energy circulates within the body.
Trataka: It is a method of meditation whereby the eyes are purified and cleansed. It involves staring at a candle flame or a small point without blinking until the eyes begin to form tears, indicating the completion of cleansing. This process helps to energize the Ajna chakra or intuitive abilities.
Shatkarma has been found to provide a number of benefits to practitioners, imparting a thorough physical, mental, and spiritual cleanse. Additionally, the practice of Shatkarma helps manage such ailments as high blood pressure, blood glucose levels, respiratory and cardiac problems, as well as improves muscle strength and flexibility.