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Laghu Shankha Prakshalana (colon cleanse – short version)

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Udarakarshanasana

In the classical yoga text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, six cleansing techniques, called Shat-karma, are described. These are:

  1. Neti (nasal cleansing)
  2. Basti (like an enema)
  3. Dhauti (alimentary canal cleansing)
  4. Trataka (for the eyes)
  5. Kapalabhati (breathing technique for purifying the nervous system)
  6. Nauli (abdominal churning)

The practice of Dhauti as given in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika is as follows (chapter 2, verse 24):

"A strip of wet cloth, four angulas wide (i.e. seven to eight centimeters) and fifteen hand spans (i.e. one and a half meters) in length is slowly swallowed and then taken out, as instructed by the guru. This is known as dhauti."

As you can see, this practice is not very easy to do as it involves swallowing a long piece of wet cloth and then taking it out. To do this technique, one needs guidance from a competent guru and a fairly long time to get comfortable with it. As such, it is not commonly practiced as the technique for internal cleansing.

A few alternative techniques have evolved over the years. One of the most popular colon cleansing techniques is known as the Shankha Prakshalana (शङ्ख प्रक्षालन). The word "shankha" means a conch and "prakshalana" means a wash. The abdomen is shaped like a conch. Thus cleansing of the abdomen and the colon is called Shankha Prakshalana (SP). There are two versions of this practice commonly in vogue. One is called the full version and the other is an abbreviated version called Laghu Shankha Prakshalana (लघु शङ्ख प्रक्षालन) (LSP). The word "laghu" means short or brief. The full version involves repeating the short version multiple times.

Laghu Shankha Prakshalana (LSP)

In this article, I will be describing the short version, LSP, in detail.

I learned about this technique around 1997 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.

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) and how to practice it? 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 six 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 over fifteen years now. 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 might aggravate my BP situation. Over time my body seems to have adjusted to unsalted water as I get good results with the practice.

When to practice? It is highly recommended that you practice LSP first thing in the morning.

What do you need? All you need is about six glasses (approximately two liters) of saline lukewarm water.

How often should you practice? If you suffer from constipation, you may practice LSP everyday. As I mentioned above, it has been a daily routine for me for over fifteen years. Otherwise, you may practice once or twice a week, or as often as needed.

How long does it take? The total duration may vary from person to person depending upon how soon you get the bowel movement. In my case, the time to do the practice as well as the bowl movement is approximately one hour.

Contraindications and precautions

  • If you suffer from ulcers, you should practice LSP under expert guidance.
  • If you have high blood pressure, you may reduce the quantity of salt in water, or eliminate it altogether.
  • Once you complete the practice, give yourself about a half hour before eating any food. In my own practice, I practice my yoga routine soon after finishing LSP.
  • It is strongly suggested that you should not, under any circumstances, try to force a bowel movement. Forcing bowel movement is the easiest way to develop piles. The bowel movement should be natural and relaxed.

Benefits

LSP is an excellent practice to deal with digestive problems such as constipation, flatulence, acidity, indigestion and many other ailments related to the digestive tract. Many bodily ailments can be tracked down to digestive issues. LSP helps cleanse the entire colon system of all impurities resulting in better overall health.

Procedure

The technique is quite simple. Drink two glasses of the saline, lukewarm water that you have prepared. Then practice the five prescribed asanas, each eight times. Now repeate this cycle two more times. If at any time during this procedure you get the urge to evacuate, then quit the practice at that time and go for bowel movement.

Shankhaprakshalana Asanas

Given below are the five asanas that you will practice after drinking water. It is recommended that you practice each asana eight times.

  1. Tadasana (standing arm stretch)
  2. Tiryaka tadasana (standing arm and side body stretch )
  3. Katichakrasana (standing twisting stretch)
  4. Tiryaka bhujangasana (twisting stretch from upward facing dog position)
  5. Udarakarshanasana (twisting stretch on tip-toes)

This series of asanas has a special role to perform in the LSP and SP practices. They systematically open the various intestinal valves between the abdomen and the bowels. Therefore the prescribed sequence of asanas is important, and they should be done in the order listed. In this way, the salt water is encouraged to flow from the beginning of the intestines to the rectum. It is for this reason that these asanas are especially incorporated into these two cleansing practices.

These asanas can also be practiced as individual asanas, independent of the LSP or SP practices. They give benefits in their own right, apart from association with these cleansing processes.

Tadasana (standing arm stretch)

The Sanskrit word tada means ‘mountain’. It is also often known as the heavenly stretch pose, because this is exactly what you do in this asana: stretch the body upwards towards the heavens.

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Tadasana (standing arm stretch)

Step-by-step

  1. Stand erect with your feet about 8-10 inches apart. Fix your gaze at a point directly in front or above you. Pick an object that is not shifting its posotion.
  2. Interlock the fingers of both hands. Then, while inhaling, begin to raise the arms and heels together, palms facing upward. Stretch your whole body upwards as far as possible, keeping the arms straight and the hands interlocked.
  3. At first, it may be difficult to maintain balance, but with practice it becomes easier; the important thing is that you keep your gaze fixed on the chosen point.
  4. Remain in the final position for a few seconds.
  5. Then, while exhaling, turn the palms down and begin to lower the arms and heels together. When the heels touch the ground, rest your hands on top of the head.
  6. This is one round. Rest for a couple of seconds.
  7. Now repeat the above movements the prescribed number of times. Try to synchronize the movements of the arms and heels with the appropriate breathing pattern as given above.

Benefits

This asana develops a sense of balance. The whole body is stretched, which loosens up the entire spinal column from top to bottom. Furthermore, the abdominal organs and muscles are toned up.

Tiryakaa Tadasana (standing arm and side body stretch )

You can think of it as the ‘wind-blown palm tree pose’.

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Tiryaka Tadasana (arm and side stretch)

Step-by-step

  1. Stand erect with your feet about 8-10 inches apart. Fix your gaze at a point directly in front or above you. Pick an object that is not shifting its posotion.
  2. Interlock the fingers of both hands. Then, while inhaling, begin to raise the arms and heels together, palms facing upward. Stretch your whole body upwards as far as possible, keeping the arms straight and the hands interlocked.
  3. While maintaining this stretched position, while inhaling, bend your body to the right, keeping both the arms glued to the ears. Try to stay on the tip-toes throughout the stretch.
  4. Then while exhaling bring your body back to the center. Now, while inhaling, bend your body to the left, keeping your arms in line with the trunk, glued to the ears. While exhaling, bring your body back to the center.
  5. This completes one round. Rest for a couple of seconds.
  6. Now repeat the above movements the prescribed number of times. Try to synchronize the movements of the arms and heels with the appropriate breathing pattern as given above.
  7. If you find it difficult to balance on tiptoes for the entire practice then you can do the asana while standing firmly with the feet flat on the floor. When you develop a better sense of balance, you can start to do the practice on tiptoes. However, you should try to balance on your tiptoes for at least a few seconds each time you do the asana, as this will help develop the sense of balance.

Kati Chakrasana (standing twisting stretch)

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Kati-chakrasana (standing twist)

The Sanskrit word kati means ‘waist’ and chakra means a ‘circle’, ‘wheel’ or ‘rotation’. Therefore, in English this asana is the ‘waist rotating pose’.

Step-by-step

  1. Stand erect with your feet about 8-10 inches apart.
  2. Place your right hand over the left shoulder and wrap the left arm behind the back. While inhaling, begin to twist your body to the left, looking down over the left shoulder and trying to look beyond the two heels. While twisting, keep the feet firmly planted to the ground and the legs straight and vertical. Maintain the final twisting position for a second or two.
  3. While exhaling, bring the body back to the center.
  4. Now, place the left hand over the right shoulder and wrap the right arm behind the back.
  5. While inhaling, begin to twist your body to the right, looking down over the right shoulder and trying to look beyond the two heels. While twisting, keep the feet firmly planted to the ground and the legs straight and vertical. Maintain the final twisting position for a second or two.
  6. While exhaling, come back to the center. That completes one round.
  7. Now repeat the above movements the prescribed number of times. Try to synchronize the movements with the appropriate breathing pattern as given above.

Benefits

This asana tones up the waist, back and hip joints. It is particularly useful for removing spinal stiffness. Though it is a simple asana, the mere relaxation and swinging movement of the upper part of the body induces a wonderful feeling of lightness. It is a great stress reliever. Also, if you have been sitting or standing in one position for a long period of time, this is an excellent asana for quickly and effectively removing body stiffness.

Tiryaka Bhujangasana (twisting stretch from extended cobra position)

The word tiryaka means ‘oblique’, ‘sideways’ or ‘horizontal’, and bhujanga means a ‘cobra’. The extended cobra can also be considered as the Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva-mukha-shvanasana) pose.

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Tiryak Bhujangasana (twisting cobra)

Step-by-step

  1. Lie down on your abdomen, face down. Rest for a few breaths. You may keep the feet together or just slightly apart.
  2. Lifting the head up, place the palms on the floor next to the chest with the fingers in line with the shoulders. Slowly begin to lift the head and chest up and then stretch the elbows straight. At this point the hands are vertically below the shoulders.
  3. While inhaling, turn to your left, looking over the left shoulder and trying to take your gaze past both the heels. While turning to the left, keep your right thigh pressed firmly into the ground. Also, try to keep the arms straight and the back relaxed. Try to keep the navel on the ground.
  4. Stay in the final position for a second or two. While exhaling come back to the center.
  5. While inhaling, turn to your right, looking over the right shoulder and trying to take your gaze past both the heels. While turning to the right, keep your left thigh pressed firmly into the ground. Also, try to keep the arms straight and the back relaxed. Try to keep the navel on the ground.
  6. Stay in the final position for a second or two.
    While exhaling come back to the center. That completes one round.
  7. Now repeat the above movements the prescribed number of times. Try to synchronize the movements with the appropriate breathing pattern as given above.

Udarakarshanasana

The word udara means the ‘stomach’ and ‘abdomen’, and akarshan means ‘to stretch’ or ‘massage’. Therefore this is known as the ‘abdominal massage pose.

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Udarakarshanasana

Step-by-step

  1. Take a squatting position, with your feet about 8-10 inches apart. Lift your heels up and place your hands on your knees.
  2. Inhaling, turn to the right side, pushing your left knee to the ground, under the right knee. Try not to move the position of the feet. You can keep your hands on your knees throughout the practice or you can use the left hand to gently guide the right knee in for a deeper twisting experience.
  3. Twist your head back as far as comfortable, looking over your right shoulder. Allow your back to stay relaxed.
  4. Stay in the final position for a second or two. While exhaling, return to the squatting position.
  5. While inhaling, repeat the same procedure, twisting your body in the other direction, pushing your right knee to the floor and looking over your left shoulder. Again, You can keep your hands on your knees throughout the practice or you can use the right hand to gently guide the left knee in for a deeper twisting experience.
  6. Stay in the final position for a second or two. Exhaling, return to the starting position.
  7. This completes one round.
  8. Now repeat the above movements the prescribed number of times. Try to synchronize the movements with the appropriate breathing pattern as given above.

Benefits

  • This is a very useful asana for people with abdominal ailments, because it alternately compresses and stretches the digestive organs, nerves and muscles.
  • If you suffer from constipation, we recommend that you practice this regularly, as it helps to encourage the normal functioning of the large intestine and the anal sphincter.

Do you have a practice of SP or LSP of your own? Please share your experience in the comments section below.

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