It was almost a year ago when I decided that I should attempt the full ‘colon cleansing’ technique called "shankhaprakshalana" (SP). I heard about this technique almost fifteen years ago when I was trying to find a yogic way to help me with my constipation problem.
When I look back, I recall that I had been dealing with constipation right from my school days. In those days I used to drink one or two cups of tea first thing in the morning to help me with bowel movement. Sometimes even after two cups of tea I would have to wait about a half hour before the tea would have its effect.
Â Laghu Shankhaprakshalana (short version of colon cleanse)
It was in the mid to late nineties that I learned about the "laghu shankhaprakshalana" (LSP) technique. The word "laghu" means short or abbreviated; so LSP is a much shorter version of the full SP technique. Around 1997 I tried LSP and it seemed to give excellent results. I gave up on my morning tea and started the LSP practice each morning. Within a few days I started feeling much lighter and more energetic since now my stomach felt very clean and I developed a much healthier appetite. Since then I have continued the practice of LSP every morning.
So, what is Laghu Shankhaprakshalana (short version of colon cleanse)? I found details about the technique in a book from the Bihar School of Yoga. incidentally, I am really fond of books from BSY; they have books on almost every aspect of yoga and they are all extremely well written. Essentially, LSP involves drinking four to five glasses of lukewarm, saline water, first thing in the morning. After drinking water, you are supposed to do a sequence of five postures, each eight times. Within a short time, this routine helps in bowel movement. As I mentioned, I have been practicing the LSP routine on a daily basis for nearly fifteen years. Even though the text strongly recommends using salt water, I have been using plain, unsalted water since I am on medication for high blood pressure and I feel using salt water can do some harm to my BP situation.
Shankhaprakshalan (Deep Colon cleanse)
Now coming to my experience of the full SP (full colon cleanse) routine. The word Shankhaprakshalana is a composite of two words – shankha meaning "conch" and prakshalana meaning to wash completely. The word shankha is used to represent the stomach which is roughly the shape of a conch. In practice, however, shankha represents the entire alimentary canal from mouth to anus. This practice is also known as "varisar dhouti", dhouti being one of the six cleansing routines mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Shankhaprakshalana is the process to cleanse the intestinal tract by removing the impurities with lukewarm, saline water.
As I mentioned above, I started thinking about it almost a year ago. However, given that the whole procedure takes 3 to 4 hours and then the whole day you can’t do any physical activity, I kept postponing it until I could find that ‘perfect’ day that I could devote just to this activity. So, it was Friday two weeks ago when I had no planned commitment that I finally decided to try it out. Please write to me if you would like to get the full details of the procedure. Here is a brief summary of the procedure:
- Eat a very light, sattvic dinner the previous night.
- Prepare a large amount of lukewarm water, adding about two teaspoons of salt per gallon of water.
- Start the practice early morning, around 6 to 7 AM.
- Drink two glasses of the prepared water quickly and perform the prescribed five asanas (stretching poses), repeating each asana eight times.
- Go to the toilet and try to empty the bowels. If no movement happens, don’t worry, just come out and repeat the process of drinking two glasses of water followed by the five asanas, as mentioned above. Once again go sit on the toilet for bowel movement.
- After a few rounds of this procedure, you will notice that only liquid begins to come out. Initially the liquid is brownish in color but gradually it begins to get clearer.
- The procedure is supposed to be completed when perfectly clear water, similar to what you drank, comes out.
- After completing the procedure, rest for about 50 minutes to an hour. Avoid sleep during this time.
- After the rest period, eat a nice helping of ‘khichari’ a cooked preparation consisting of rice and lentils.
- During the day, you are supposed to eat nothing but another helping of khichari toward the evening.
- For the next full week, maintain a very light, sattvic diet. Avoid milk, yogurt or any other dairy product, any citric juices etc or anything too heavy to digest.
My Own Experience
In order to prepare for the colon cleanse, I had to take a very light dinner the previous night. On that Friday morning, I started the procedure at 5 AM. I started with drinking two glasses of lukewarm saline water and did the full set of the prescribed stretches. At that time I had the regular bowel movement.
I repeated this sequence 3 or 4 times and the results were quick and I was pleased with the cleansing that was happening. In each round the stool was getting softer and after about 10 glasses I started getting the liquid stuff out. However, after about 12 glasses, the bowel movement was not very quick and I had to wait several minutes for results.
After each repetition of the routine, I kept getting brownish colored liquid out. After about 18 glasses, I started feeling a little bloated and the output reduced significantly compared to the intake of water. I was a little disappointed at the end as I did not see "clear" water coming out as mentioned in the book. At the end of almost four hours, I had consumed about 22-24 glasses of water but it seemed as if the last 5 or 6 glasses were still in my stomach. Despite waiting for several minutes, no more water would come out. This is when I declared to myself that the procedure was over and it was time for the prescribed 45-50 minutes of rest.
I have to admit that by the end of it all, I was totally exhausted, physically and mentally. Even though in the beginning the exercises don’t seem too demanding, but when you have to do 8 rounds of each exercise and do the whole routine 22-24 times, it really takes a toll on your energy resources. All I wanted to do at that point in time was to just crash into my bed. Since falling asleep is prohibited as a part of the instructions, I had to make extra effort to stay awake for fifty minutes.
At the end of the rest period, I had the prescribed "khichadi" (a preparation of rice and lentils cooked in ghee or clarified butter). The rest of day I just completely rested, mostly in bed. For the first few hours I didn’t seem to have the energy or the desire to even read anything while in bed. It was later in the afternoon when I started reading a book and also listened to some music.
Because I had consumed much more water than what came out in the morning, the excess water came out through very frequent urination throughout the day. In the evening, for dinner I once again had a bowl of khichadi. As per the instructions, one is supposed to eat nothing but khichadi on the day of the procedure. For the next seven days, one is supposed to avoid all dairy products, fruit juices and anythingÂ that can be considered acidic. Given that I am very fond of milk and yogurt it was quite a challenge for me to stay away from dairy for a whole week.
Now, coming to the best part of the experience. Yes, the overall feeling the next day was pretty amazing. It was a feeling of being light, clean and full of energy. Because I had spent so much time and energy into the cleansing routine, psychologically I did not feel like putting any more "garbage" into my system. In order to maintain that feeling of lightness I was very careful in eating only light and ‘sattvic" food for the next several days. Of course, now I am back to my usual routine diet which includes milk and yogurt.
In the book it is strongly recommended that one should practice shankhaprakshalana under the guidance of a teacher. If you would like to go through this experience, I will be glad to help you with it.
If you have any experience with shankhaprakshalana, I would love to hear about it. I would welcome your comments and feedback.