By Brando Lee Lundberg
Whether it’s a particular holiday season or the tilt of the earth that provides motivation to renew, cleanse, let go of, or cultivate, there is a natural tendency to change the habits of the body and mind, just as the hemispheres undergo changes each season.
One of the kriyas, or yogic cleansing actions, used to promote internal purity on the physical and subtle levels is called Shanka-Prakshalana. This technique cleans out the entire gastro-intestinal tract. It involves drinking lukewarm salt water and performing specific asana postures in a dynamic fashion until the urge to defecate arises. One relieves oneself a number of times until the entire gastro-intestinal tract has been cleaned – evidenced by clear evacuations that look much like water. While there are other techniques for achieving the same result of this kriya – such as eating only watermelon for four days or more until what emerges is of a similar color to watermelon, or heading to a local wellness center for colon hydrotherapy also known as colonics – Shanka-Prakshalana is one of the quickest and cheapest ways to achieve the same result in 45 minutes to one and a half hours.
Shanka-Prakshalana is recommended in cases when one slips into following a particularly unhealthy diet, in which case, the kriya is recommended once every few months for a system reset. If one is following a vegan diet with few processed foods and not overeating, this technique may not be necessary. Consult a medical professional if there are any doubts.
Having completed two Shanka-Prakshalana kriyas, each spaced apart by approximately one and a half years – the first upon switching to a vegan diet and the second after a particularly unhealthy holiday season eating extravaganza – I have compiled the following notes for those considering this kriya technique.
Preparing the saltwater:
- Add one tablespoon (15 milliliters) of sea salt or Red Himalayan salt to one quart (.95 liters) of room temperature or warm, filtered or spring water. It’s important that regular table salt not be used, as it is less pure than the kinds listed above. Prepare at least two quarts. Mix well.
Drinking the saltwater and performing the yoga postures:
- Drink down the first quart. Some find that holding the nose helps get the salt water down.
- Try to drink the entire salt solution (the first quart) within 15-20 minutes. Some will be able to get it down within five-10 minutes. Others will vomit if they take it too quickly. If you’re super sensitive, try to get it down within 30 minutes.
- After drinking the first quart, carry out some gentle yoga postures. The following are recommended: Tadasana variation, Tiryaka Tadasana, Katti Chakrasana, Tiryaka Bhujangasana and Udarakarshanasana. Further instructions on these asanas can be found via Swami Googlenanda: http://www.jalanetipot.com/asanas1.html
- Following the asanas, listen to the body, deeply. If the body is telling you that it needs more rest before starting to drink the salt water again, rest on the left side. If the body is telling you that it could drink more, fill another one quart with the saline mixture. Drink one cup at a time, and then repeat the exercises for two minutes before drinking another cup until you feel you can longer drink anymore. Rest on the left side until the body lets you know you can continue drinking and doing the exercises or have to use the bathroom.
- Continue this cycle of drinking, yoga postures, resting on the left side, and evacuating until your evacuations are clear as water.
- Occasionally, some people have to drink up to a gallon of water before evacuations run clear, so plan accordingly. It took me two quarts and two cups (480 milliliters). Others need less than two quarts, however. Each body will be different.
- Sri Dharma advises resting for 45 minutes after the evacuations are complete and not planning anything that will require much exertion for the rest of the day. The first time I performed this kriya I had a nice calm energy afterwards and was comfortable moving around the house, preparing a simple meal, et cetera. This second time around I was more fatigued and dehydrated immediately afterwards. After drinking enough coconut water and filtered water to quench my thirst I rested for an hour. The calm energy appeared after I got up, and I was fine with moving around thereafter.
- Once one has sufficiently rested and is ready to consume some food, Sri Dharma recommends preparing a simple lentil soup, green peas or starchy grains. One may also consider consuming only watermelon or fruit juices, or to fast all together for a day or more after performing this kriya. Use your intuition.
Good luck and much OM!
Brando first came across some yoga postures in 2002 as part of a six month get into shape program presented in Outside magazine. For the next 10 years, yoga served the same purpose – strength and flexibility. In February 2013, this changed upon meeting Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu.