The Yogic: Detox and Cleanse for Your Body
The spring is soon knocking on the door on the northern hemisphere, sun is shining more and days are getting longer. This is naturally bringing us to the point where it is nice to dust off the winter and welcome the warmer part of the year. I personally notice that I start to crave different kinds of greens and sprouts in the spring and warmer and sunny days feel very uplifting for my mind.
In this article I am going to describe some of the best detox and cleanse methods in a tantric yogic way. The methods I will describe here belong – mostly – to the yoga kriyas.
From the word kriya there are some different interpretations, but here it means “cleansing technique”.
The methods I’m going to describe here are:
- Tongue scraping
- Nasal cleanse
- Eye rinse
- Oil pulling
- Intenstinal wash
So let’s dive straight in!
On the top of your tongue
Copper tongue scrapers for the whole family!
The natural tendency of our body is to try to expel as much toxins as possible. This is of course happening all the time through breath, sweat and excretions, but our body is working on cleaning duty while we sleep as well. One of the obvious and easy-to-access places to do a cleanse is our tongue. Most of us were taught to brush our teeth in the morning, but otherwise the mouth is left unattended, and we then swallow the collected mucus back to our bodily system along with a cup of coffee or something else.
Tongue scraping is best done first thing in the morning. The easiest way to do it is to use a specific tongue scraper, as shown in the photo. This is most often made out of copper or stainless steel, but I personally prefer the copper one. It is a bit wider and sharper from the middle, curved part. Very simple to use, you just need to pull the scraper on top of your tongue a couple of times, and you will see what comes out. Sometimes there can be more mucus, sometimes less. It is important not to over-do it, so just a few times is enough. And it’s better to do it lightly, not to cause any damage to the tongue.
I have been doing this for years, and sometimes there are times when there’s a lot of mucus and sometimes almost none. I haven’t been able to recognize what it depends on, but it feels good to get it out of the body anyway.
You can also do the scraping with a spoon or even a fingernail, but I think the scraper is very convenient way to do this kriya.
The tongue is associated with the sense of taste, and to pay attention to the tongue will help you to balance your second chakra, the Svadisthana chakra.
Blocked nose no more
This is absolutely my favourite cleansing technique! When I first started using the neti pot for nasal cleanse, I used to have a blocked nose all winter, and usually one or more flus. Since using the nasal cleaning, my nose is always open and rarely catch any flu.
To do the nasal cleanse, you will need a neti pot. These come in all materials and all sizes. The first one I used was a real beauty, it was a brass neti from India. There are pots made of porcelain and ceramic, and of course plastic.
The brass pot I used to have was rather big and clunky, so it was not really suitable for traveling. The ceramic pots can be a bit heavy as well, and may break if you pack them too tightly. Plastic does not feel so nice, so the optimal solution would be to have a really nice one for home use, and a plastic neti for times away from home.
To irrigate your nasal cavity with plain water would not feel very good, so you need to add some salt to the water. The amount depends a bit on the type of salt you would be using, but a good general measure would be one teaspoon or 5 ml of salt for half a liter of water. If it feels uncomfortable in your nostrils, you can try to adjust the amout up or down until you find a comfortable proportion.
It is recommended to use plain sea or rock salt without any additives. In my opinion sea salt works better – it dissolves easier to water.
The water temperature should be near your body temperature, so that it does not feel too warm or too cold.
Once you have mixed the salt with water, simply run the water from one nostril to the other. You need to experiment a bit to find out a proper angle for your head so that the water does not run all over you when you do the neti. As often in our tantric yoga practices, I start from the left side of the body, that is, from the left nostril. If your nose is blocked, you may need to try a few times before the water runs freely.
If you have a big neti pot, you can stop the flow halfway through and change the nostril. If you use a smaller one, you can run the whole potful of water trough and then make a new salt-water mix for the other nostril.
This kriya is also best done in the morning, so that the water will be dried out from the nasal cavities during the day. It is also a good idea to dry out the nose by strong nasal breathing once you have finished the flushing.
Nose and smelling is connected to the first or the root chakra, the Muladhara chakra.
Wake up your sight with cold water
While doing the two previous and very important kriyas, it is easy and convenient to do eye rinse as well. The eyes and sight are associated with our third or Manipura chakra, so this action will help you to balance and strengthen that aspect of your being.
Simply take some cold or cool water on your cupped hand, and rinse your open eye with that small amount of water. Blinking will most likely happen, it’s all fine.
Swishing and swirling with oil
Oil pulling one is not a traditional yogic kriya, but it is quite popular auyrvedic practice and seems to be useful as well. To do this, you will need a tablespoonful of good quality coconut or sesame oil (most often used). Sip the oil in your mouth and swish it around for 5 to 15 minutes and then spit it out.
The oil is said to collect and absorb impurities from your mouth. It would be nice to see a research done on this, how does the oil actually change when you do the cleanse. Whether it absorbs toxins or not, it feels good to do it from time to time.
Shankaprakshalana Excuse me, shanka… what?
At first, this word can look like gibberish, but it simply means intestinal wash. This is a major kriya, and will require some time to perform. It is very effective and very healing, but if you’re not used to do such cleanses on your own, a good guide or teacher would be helpful for the first time. I will not go in to all the details here but give you an overview of the process.
There are various versions of this practice, but the one I have most often done is coming from the Bihar School of Yoga and you can find the detailed instructions from their comprehensive yoga book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. This is quite easy to do once you have done it a couple of times. It will require some hours or up to half a day, and it’s a good idea to take it easy afterwards.
In the process, done first thing in the morning when the stomach is empty, you will prepare about two liters of lukewarm salted water. The salt is important, for it prevents the water from being absorbed in the colons and allows it to pass through the entire digestive system.
First you will drink two big glassfuls (about six desiliters) of the salt water. Then there are five asanas (learn more about Tantra & Yogic terms ) to perform in a certain order. This is opening the different valves in the body to allow the salt water to move on. Once you have done the round of asanas, you will drink another two glasses of water and repeat the asanas. This is done three times in total.
The asanas performed are:
- Tadasana (palm tree pose)
- Tiryaka tadasana (swaying palm tree pose)
- Kati chakrasana (waist rotating pose)
- Tiryaka bhujangasana (twisting cobra pose)
- Udarakarshanasana (abdominal stretch pose)
If you know and feel your body well, you can feel the exact locations these asanas are working on. It’s really like science!
Once you have done the set of asanas with salt water three times over, you will feel – or will soon feel – an urge to run to toilet. The water will be flushed out and clean the entire digestive channel. Depending on the amount of goo in your system, you may have to run to toilet for several times.
If you do the full version of this process, you will keep on repeating drinking water and doing the asanas over and over, until the liquid that comes out is pretty clear. This can take many hours and many liters of water, and it can be a bit draining process for the body. Afterwards you may feel tired, but later on you definitely can feel the difference.
When doing the short version of this practice, take a rest for an hour or so and then eat normally. For longer version there’s a special type of meal that is recommended, kitchari. It’s a mixture made of rice, lentils and ghee, which is easy to digest and helps restoring a good intestinal balance. I have noticed that the body can get a bit chilly when doing the cleanse, so I would not do it during the colder winter months.
Other considerations for staying in the flow
Keeping the body healthy and supple both physically and energetically is important in many ways, everyone knows that. The three first kriyas on this article can be a great help towards healthier body and clearer mind. In the beginning the practices may feel cumbersome, but if you persist, they will become a routine like brushing your teeth – you really want to do it on a daily basis.
In Finland, where I’m coming from, we have a wonderful tradition of bathing in sauna. The exact number of saunas is not known, but it is estimated to be between 2 and 3 million. It is noteworthy that there are about 5,5 million people living in Finland!
In Finnish type of sauna, the air is pretty hot, often 70-80 degrees celcius, and this is really pushing the sweat out of the body. Naturally this is an excellent way to cleanse and keep the body well.
I will not go to details of any specific diet, but in our view of the world there are some toxins that block the energy channels in the body and generally are not good for you. Not surprisingly, these substances are the ones that many are craving the most. You can guess what they are…
Yes, you got it right: alcohol, coffee, sugar, chocolate, tobacco. A small amount every now and then won’t probably do harm, but if you’re addicted to any of these, it could be a good idea to see what it is that you’re missing in your life that you are trying to substitute. Know yourself!
In two previous blog posts I have been writing about the tantric massage. This, or any other type of energetic body training can be helpful in maintaining a balance in your body and life in general.
Here you go! Spring is almost here and the world will wake up from hibernation. If you have a favourite body cleanse method, or if you have anything to ask about the methods I wrote about, please leave a comment below. I will be more than happy to discuss and help however I can.