Hatha Yoga Kriyas
by Vishwaguruji Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda
Hatha means 'to do something', where you need a lot of self-control and discipline. Hatha Yoga has six techniques, also known as shat karma. In the West, people wrongly believe that Hatha Yoga consists of practicing asanas, but those are part of Raja Yoga. Pranayama breathing techniques are also part of Raja Yoga, except for one specific type of pranayama, which is one of the six Hatha Yoga techniques.
1. JAL NETI
The first technique of Hatha Yoga is the daily cleaning of the nostrils with a warm, salty water. It is done with a special pot, which looks like a teapot. The spout of the pot is put gently into the left nostril first. Water flows in and comes out from the right nostril. Then on the other side, from the right nostril to the left nostril. It is very pleasant. It is very good for your eyesight and sinuses, and for people who have headaches or tension in the forehead. This technique is called jal neti – jal means water and neti mean cleaning. It also helps greatly with all kinds of dust and pollen allergies. It takes only a few minutes; you can do it in the bathroom. It is very, very good, a blessing for your health - especially for people who work in an office and sit in front of a computer.
2. KAPALA BHATI
After doing jal neti, we have to do a pranayam technique called kapala bhati. Kapal means forehead, including the sinuses. When we do jal neti, some water remains inside, so we have to remove it with kapala bhati. Specific to this breathing technique is more emphasis on the exhalation, with effort in the abdominal area – not the chest. You tilt your head each way and blow out strongly through the nostrils, which some pressure in the abdomen. All the water comes out. Repeat for just one minute. You can close one nostril and blow with the other nostril. When you do this, you will feel pleasant for the whole day. The whole head will be very relaxed, especially the face muscles, vision will be much better. Always you will look like you are smiling.
The third technique is dhauti. It comes from the observation of nature. A yogi was sitting by a lake in the forest. He saw a restless elephant came to the lake. With his trunk, the elephant took a lot of water. He then stepped out of the lake and with his trunk he blew the water into his mouth to clean out his stomach. The yogi observed this and realized that the elephant obviously had a lot of acidity in his stomach and in this way he was cleaning it out. The yogi had also hyper-acidity, so he also drank water and vomited it out. Immediately he felt very pleasant. All tensions from the stomach were gone; no acidity any more.
So, anyone who has problems with acidity or bad digestion, the best treatment is to practice kunjal kriya – also known as dhauti. It should be done only in the morning, with an empty stomach. You need one or two liters of body temperature warm salty water. Drink it all as quickly as you can, then lean forward on your bathtub or wash basin, press deeply in the root of the tongue with two fingers while bending forward. All the water will come out. You will not believe all that comes out and you will be so happy. The whole day you will have such a beautiful feeling. Also, it can help you with asthma, allergies and breathing problems. It is not a miracle, only a yoga technique. It is something that helps, and that we all need.
4. BASTI and SHANKA PRAKSHALAN
The fourth technique is basti or shanka prakshalan. In modern medicine, an enema is similar, except that shanka prakshalan cleans whole digestive tract, not only the colon. It takes two or three hours of alternately drinking water and practicing specific postures. During this time you should drink from 5 to10 liters of water. As clear as you drink it, that clear it should eventually come out. Shanka prakshalan should be practiced four times a year at the beginning of each season. If you do it regularly, you will never have any problem with digestion – no constipation, no gastric problems and you will be able to eat as much as you like without gaining weight.
Then comes nauli. It is a little bit difficult to learn. It is practiced on an empty stomach, so we can make a turning of the stomach muscles and intestine. It is very beautiful. It takes time to master but is the most beautiful technique. It can cure 36 kinds of disease. Those yogis who are practicing this technique every day will never get cancer, diabetes or high blood pressure, nor many other problems. But it has to be practiced. The discipline is essential.
Finally, we come to the technique of concentration – tratak. Concentrating on the top of the flame – we need a candle that burns without smoke. It is practiced in the evening with the windows closed. First, we concentrate on the flame for one minute, then we close the eyes. You can see an impression of the flame inside. Tratak will calm down your thoughts, daily stress will reduce, your memory will develop. For young children, from 4 till 12 years, who have a problem with wetting the bed in the night, it is like a miracle. If they do tratak only once in the evening, their wetting will stop for always.
So these are the six techniques of Hatha Yoga: Jal Neti, Kapalabhati, Dhauti, Nauli, Basti and Tratak. Regular practice can bless you with the most perfect health, which we rarely see in the modern world. And it is best to upgrade it with asanas and pranayamas.
According to original Yoga, there are three different kinds of exercises: first is called yoga vyayam – body warming exercises; then comes stretching – to remove tension from the muscles; and finally the postures – psychosomatic movements. This will keep your physical, mental and subtle bodies in control. You will control your emotions and intellect.
To have complete benefit from Yoga, you should practice one and half hours every day. Just 10 minutes or half an hour is better than nothing, but it is like fast food. It is not good. Morning is the best time for practicing Yoga. Get up a little earlier and do your Yoga exercises. Then enjoy your breakfast and go to work. You will be relaxed and feel divine. That is the essence of helping yourself. It is the Yoga postures that will improve immunity.
The difference between sports or gymnastics and Yoga is that Yoga is done slowly and keeping relaxed. After such practice, you can meditate and concentrate. Then you'll have your healthy nourishment. Eat organic vegetarian food, that will give you good health. Drink good water, less beer, and less alcohol. With that knowledge from Yoga in Daily Life, everything depends on you – your life is in your hands. A healthy life is a happy life and an unhealthy life is a life of suffering.
Vishwaguru Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda
11/09/2009 Sarajevo, Bosnia