Yogic Cleansing Practices

neti pot

“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.” Eckhart Tolle

In our yoga classes this year we have been working with the Kapalbhati pranayama which serves to cleanse the lungs and nasal passages besides many other benefits. At this time of year with lots of colds around it’s good to try to keep ourselves as ‘pure’ as we can and this does mean cleansing the insides of our bodies – maybe just keeping hydrated with plenty of fresh water or perhaps following a few yogic techniques if we feel it’s right.

Another practice we have done in class is the Lion’s Breath which stretches the tongue, cleanses the throat and gets all the breath out of the body in one long roar! Fun and cleansing too – well it makes me laugh!

Jala Neti
You can also use salt water (saline solution) to cleans the nostrils with the aid of a neti pot. This is particularly useful if you have a blocked nose, cold, sinusitis and can be helpful to relieve tension in the face and brow. “The breath is the most vital process of the body. It influences the activities of each and every cell and, most importantly, is intimately linked with the performance of the brain.” (Sw Satyananda Saraswati, APMB) Anything that impedes air from circulating around our bodies will have a far reaching impact upon our health, so it’s worth doing what we can to keep the air flowing.

The practice of neti can be performed at home by anyone – except if you get regular nose bleeds. A special pot will be required – these are readily available from the internet. Always prepare boiled water mixing 1 teaspoonof salt per pint of water. Don’t be tempted to use less salt – this ratio is the same as our tears and is what the body is used to. If you use pure water it will sting. Allow the water to cool to blood heat.

Fill a neti pot with the prepared water, tie hair back and lean over a basin. Begin to breathe through your mouth. Close the eyes and relax the body, tilt the head over to one side and gently insert the nozzle of the neti pot into the upper most nostril. The water will trickle through to the lower nostril and out into the basin. It may be a small trickle at first but it will unblock gradually. Once half the water has passed remove the pot and blow the nose gently. Repeat on the other side.

Now the nostrils must be dried thoroughly – this is where some people make the mistake of skipping the process and that can result in worsening the problem not improving it.

Stand up straight and close one nostril, blow the other nostril into a tissue 5 – 10 times in quick succession – rather like we do in Kapalbhati. Repeat on the other nostril. Now repeat on both nostrils again.

Bend forward so that the trunk is horizontal, turn the head to the left for 5 breaths and then blow the nose rapidly as you straighten up to standing. Repeat turning the head to the right.

Finally repeat the bending forward but keeping the head centred – 5 breaths still and then blowing the nose through both nostrils as you return to standing.

The whole process takes about 10 minutes to complete and can be done daily until the nose is unblocked. If you get regular nose bleeds then don’t do this practice. If you find that the water does not run out of the nostrils then it’s best to see your doctor for further investigation as you may have a structural blockage. If you are unsure, work with a yoga teacher – there is instruction on line but often it omits the drying stage which is vital.

Yoga Hangover Rescue

We all overindulge from time to time – at Christmas especially we tend to get into the ‘swing’ of things and let our hair down. Also, at this time we can be enticed to try something other than our usual tipple – but then it’s more difficult to notice the effects until it’s too late.

While the best way ever to relieve a hangover is to not get one in the first place – if you halo does slip then yoga practices can come to the rescue.  Take it slowly and be fairly deliberate with each pose – even if it is a rest – as that’s what your body needs.

Kneeling – Vajrasana

Settle yourself (use a blanket under the shins and/or blocks under your bottom to enable you to sit here comfortably). Watch the breath for 10 x in and out.

Recite your favourite mantra, ‘OM’ or “I try to find the right balance in all things” (a mantra for moderation – better late than never!) 10 times.

Gentle Marjariasana

  

Work very gently to mobilise the spine. Follow the breath sinking the tummy down into the inhale and then as you exhale lift the tummy and lower the head. All movement should be slow and deliberate. This exercise will help to ‘breathe’ the body increasing the exhale process and getting rid of toxins and relaxing the muscles of the neck and back. Practice up to 10 times.  If this exercise doesn’t feel right for your tummy or head tough, skip this and the down dog and go to straight to the Staff pose.

Down Dog

Headstand and handstand are the classic cure for headaches. However, if you have never done one before now is not the time to experiment. To do either of those postures takes many years to build up the correct strength in the whole body – and actually, you can get most of the benefits by doing the Down Dog. The way these postures help is to increase the blood flow to the head and neck areas (blood that has increased oxygen from the exercise before).  So if, after the Marjariasana you are feeling OK, from a neutral position (hands and knees with the back neither up or down), take a breath in and on the out breath push your bottom back and up to make a triangle position. Keep your head sandwiched between your upper arms. Breath smoothly and slowly about 5 times and then lower down to hands and knees and then to kneeling.

Staff pose

Settle the body once more. Take 10 smooth breaths in staff pose, ensure the shoulders are over the hips, shoulders are relaxed and crown of the head facing up towards the ceiling.

Seated Spinal Twist

Twists have the effect of ‘wringing’ out the fluids in your abdominal area and are a great way to get toxins moving out.

From the Staff pose, cross one foot over the other leg. Hug the knee into the chest with the opposite arm and breathe in deeply. As you exhale twist the body around and place the free hand on the floor behind you. You can turn your head around too depending if this feels comfortable for you head and neck.  Stay in the pose for around 5 deliberate breaths and then unwind on the inhale. Sit in the Staff pose for 5 breaths before taking the twist on the other side.

Complete the sequence with 10 breaths in the Staff pose.

Long term…

When you practice yoga regularly you become closely tuned in to your body and are more able to read the signs of when enough is enough. Your tolerance to alcohol may actually lower due to the purification aspects of the practices. Yoga affects us in many different ways – some you appreciate and come to expect straight away but others you just don’t see coming and can be amazing. Do let me know if this sequence works for you.