The extreme yoga exercises banned in Europe
Everything you need to know- this is not for the faint-hearted. Yoga can be weird sometimes.
Note: Please do not attempt to carry out these exercises independently without a trained professional in attendance.
There is more to yoga than first meets the eye. Yoga has a lot more finer elements to it hidden away in the back of the textbook, and yogis are often really cautious to reveal the secrets. I thought it would be useful to summarise these exercises. Although, I may do a future article evaluating the evidence behind their use.
It’s important to adapt these exercises to the requirements of your body. The exercises may seem a bit far-fetched, but they can improve health if performed correctly. Wim Hof has made a living creating a recent trend in deep-breathing exercises, but some of the yoga exercises described in this article may just be the best exercises to never hit the main stream. People interested in biohacks and maximising longevity should carefully evaluate the evidence behind these bizarre exercises and then consider implementing some of them into their routine if they are relevant. Every single purification exercise in the yoga manual has been described in this article for your reference.
The banned exercises
These exercises are not actually banned, but are merely too strange to be advertised and accepted by the general public. They deviate significantly from common medical opinion and can be dangerous if not performed with caution. Hence, you will almost certainly not find them taught in a commercial yoga class.
The exercises are known as the Shatkarmas, which are a set of yoga purifications within the physical practice of Hatha yoga. The purifications were originally designed to remove impurities from the body, cure disease and prepare the body for breathing exercises. These exercises are also known as Shatkriyas or sometimes Kriyas for short.
Note: Kriya can have multiple meanings in yoga, but is also more generally taken to be any action taken to achieve a desired outcome
1. Neti- cleaning the nasal track
Neti involves the purification of the nostrils and the nasal track from mucus and other impurities. Studies show that breathing through the nose is scientifically superior than through the mouth, so it is important to keep the nostrils clean.
Neti can involve four different types of medium to clean the nostrils.
- Jala Neti: passing lukewarm water through the nose. The water is pre-boiled (to ensure it is sterile) and salted with a pinch of himalayan salt before being used.
- Dugdha Neti: passing milk through the nose
Jala and Dugdha Neti require a Neti pot. Both exercises are performed whilst breathing through the mouth.
- Sutra Neti: passing a soft thread through the nose
- Ghrita Neta: passing warm ghee through the nose. Ghee is a type of clarified butter from ancient India. Unconcentrated edible oil with no added chemicals can be used instead of the ghee.
Dugdha Neti using milk is apparently useful for those who have chronic nose bleeds or find salt water irritating. The milk can either be passed through the opposite nostril as in Jala Neti or swallowed as demonstrated in the video below.
Studies have shown that upper respiratory tract infections can be reduced by carrying out Neti, as well as reducing inflammation caused by sinusitis.
2. Dhauti — washing the internal structures of the human body
Dhauti means washing or cleansing. Yogis believe that the body cleanses its own internal structures autonomously, but over time residue builds up which causes illness. Just like we shower to wash the outside of the body, the internal organs occasionally need the same care. The techniques were learnt from natural observations, such as when elephants spray undigested food out through the trunk. There are different types of Dhauti for different parts of the body. Dhauti is divided into four areas of the body.
- The throat to the stomach region (Hrid Dhauti)
- The lower part of the stomach region, including the large intestine (Antar Dhauti)
- The mouth and head (Danta Dhauti)
- The end of the large intestine (Moola Shodhana Dhauti)
2.1 Hrid Dhauti
There are three types of Hrid Dhauti to clean out the upper stomach organs.
2.1.1 Danda Dhauti: A banana stem, turmeric root or now more commonly a catheter is inserted into the windpipe (from the mouth) to remove mucus from the oesophagus. If a catheter is used, approximately a litre of water is initially drunk. The water will then be removed from the body by the syphon action of the catheter once it is placed in the windpipe.
2.1.2 Vastra Dhauti: A special cotten cloth is first dipped in saline water or milk and then almost completely swallowed. It is then pulled out by the practitioner to remove extra mucus from the windpipe. A bit of honey is sometimes placed on the cloth to reduce the urge to vomit when the cloth is initially swallowed.
2.1.3 Vamana Dhauti: “Vamana” means “to vomit” in Sanskrit. It is performed by yogis only when they feel indigestion following a meal to get rid of indigested particles on the stomach lining. Approximately one litre of lukewarm saline water is drunk as fast as possible several hours after eating. Vomiting is then induced using the fingers following a series of abdominal movements to aide cleansing. After completing the exercise, the practitioner relaxes for 10 minutes in corpse pose and does not eat for at least an hour.
Alternatively, Vamana Dhauti can be performed on an empty stomach, particularly in the morning, and is then known as Kunjal Kriya or Gaja Karani. This exercise mimics how elephants expel water in the wild from their trunk to clean the stomach.
A lot of felines, such as cats and tigers, induce vomiting by eating grass in the wild. Elephants often drink water and then spray it out. Similarly, certain animals in the wild take this a step further, such as sharks and frogs, and evert the stomach to clean out their insides.
A side effect of chronic migraines is vomiting. Performing Vamana Dhauti has been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of chronic migraines over time.
As a word of caution, there is a mental health condition known as Bulimia. Some people induce vomiting after a binge. The highly concentrated stomach acid can permanently damage the teeth over time, unless the stomach is filled with liquid. Similarly, people have been known to carry this out after drinking too much alcohol in an attempt to reduce the effects of alcohol.
2.2 Antar Dhauti
Antar Dhauti involves washing the lower part of the stomach region, which includes the large intestine.
2.2.1 Vatsara Dhauti literally means “ to drink air”. The exercise involves cleaning the intestines with air. This is done by shaping the mouth into the the form of a beak. Air is then sucked in through a series of successive gulps to fill the stomach, as if drinking water. The air will then pass out through the intestine in its own time. This exercise is conducted in an inverted seated position.
2.2.2 Shankha Prakshalana (Varisara Dhauti) involves washing out the entire digestive tract using lukewarm water whilst performing a selection of yoga poses. Around sixteen glasses of warm saline water are drunk and subsequently evacuated through the bowels.
A series of five specific yoga positions are performed after every 2 glasses: mountain pose, swaying palm tree pose, spinal twist pose, twisted cobra pose and abdominal stretch pose. After every two glasses, the asanas (yoga positions) are performed followed by a trip to the toilet until water starts flowing out of the large intestine.
The indication of clean water means that the stomach and intestines are perfectly clean and the practice can be stopped. A saltless liquid mixture of cooked rice, mung dal, and ghee is eaten to fill the stomach 45 minutes after completing the exercise. There are specific dietary restrictions to be observed for at least one week after the practice under expert guidance.
The kidneys are not a part of the digestive tract and so this method will not damage the kidneys as the water used in the exercise (and other Dhauti exercises in fact) does not have time to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Laghoo Shankha Prakshalana is a shortened form of Shankha Prakshalana involving a smaller volume of water intake.
2.2.3 Vahnisara Dhauti, also known as agnisara kriya, roughly means “to ignite fire”and is a practice which creates heat in the lower digestive tract. The practice involves conscious movement of the abdominal muscles and organs to induce internal heat.
The exercise is performed sitting and breathing rapidly in and out, while simultaneously expanding and contracting the abdomen up to 25 times , whilst advanced practitioners can perform 50–100 repetitions.
2.2.4 Bahiskrita Dhauti involves pushing the large intestine outside of the body whilst standing waist deep in water and cleansing it in the hands. This technique apparently takes years to learn. Air is sucked in using crow seal (kaki mudra) and this air is held in the stomach for 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, the participant stands in clean water, and the air in the stomach is pushed downwards towards the intestine, which causes the intestine to be drawn out of the body. The participant washes the intestine with the hands and then draws it again in the abdomen.
This is an extremely tough procedure and one needs to master it through constant practice. However, a large number of toilets in the world have some sort of cleaning device anyway, such as pots found throughout Asia and Africa; squirting hose jets in parts of the Middle East, the European bidet or buckets.
2.3 Danta Dhauti
These exercises are concerned with the internal structure of the head.
3.1 Danta Mula Dhauti involves cleaning the teeth . This is an older way of brushing the teeth that involves the dantun, the twig of a tree, rather than a plastic toothbrush and paste. The twig is chewed until it frays, which can then be used to brush the teeth. The roots of teeth can also be rubbed either using acacia resin or clean earth, although this can damage the teeth. The fingers can then be used to massage the gums from the base of the teeth all the way down to the lower jaw. Do this uniformly all around the roots of your upper and lower teeth.
Twigs are quiet popular across the world in fact. For example the Miswak, another type of chewing stick is highly popular across the Middle East as a tool for oral hygiene in place of the common toothbrush. Toothbrush bristles become a breeding ground for germs, which is why a twig may be a good alternative as it is thrown away after being used.
Toothpaste has a high environmental impact, particularly due to plastic packaging involved. The ancient yogis always made their own tooth powder out of catechu, alum, myrobalan and the ash of burnt coconut shells. The rind of a lemon can also be rubbed up and down on the teeth and gums. A modern day alternative is making homemade toothpaste from baking soda, which avoids the mixture of synthetic chemicals present in toothpaste to which the long term effects are unknown.
2.3.2. Jivha Dhauti involves cleaning the tongue before breakfast on an empty stomach. Yogis believe that cleaning the tongue improves the sensation of taste. In addition, a layer of debris and dead cells forms on the tongue during sleep known as ama. The activation of the salivary glands and the secretion of saliva in Jivha Dhauti leads to the removal of mucus. The technique also stimulates the gums, nerves and promotes the active circulation of blood. Jivha Dhauti can be also used to stimulate appetite.
In this technique, the index, middle, and ring fingers are joined together and used to rub clean the tongue from the base of the tip, whilst throwing any phlegm out, in a manner that is often described as “milking” the tongue. You can gargle water to wash out the mouth during this process. The human fingertips are very delicate and a toothbrush cannot provide this level of stimulation. As always, please make sure that all hands are thoroughly cleaned before performing any exercises involving their use.
The tongue can then be washed and rubbed with butter. Oil pulling is a further ancient technique which could be used in an attempt to extract further toxins. This involves swirling edible oil in the mouth for up to 20 minutes at a time.
The dantum used to clean teeth previously can also be split in two and used to clean the tongue. Metal scrapers can be bought online, but be mindful to not be too rough on the tongue. Alternatively, a plastic spoon can be used instead or floss.
2.3.3 Karna Dhauti involves cleaning the ears with the middle finger in order to remove wax. It is performed usually after a shower or bath on a weekly basis. It is not recommended to use anything smaller than the middle finger. Make sure that the finger is clean, but a tissue can be placed on the finger for instead.
2.3.4 Kapal Dhauti
Kapla means the skull or head, and this kriya involves massaging the front head with the fingers to reduce phlegm. This kriya is performed after waking up in the morning, in the evening, and after night meals. According to yogis, it reduces stress, insomnia, and increases the quality of vision.
The massage can be accompanied with cold water and this is known as Kapal Rhandra Dhauti. .
2.3.5 Chakshu dhauti (also known as Netra neti or Netra dhauti)
This is an additional ancient technique used to cleanse and rinse the eyes with saline water, and involves the use of eye cleaning cups.
How to bath the eyes?
1. Place eye cleaning cup at eye level on table
2. Fill up with normal temperature clean water
3. Add one small pinch of iodine free salt
4. Hold both open eyes in the water
5. Rotate eye ball clockwise/ anti clock wise or blink 10 times
2.4 Moola Shodhana Dhauti
Moola Shodhana Dhauti kriya means “purification of the root” and is the cleansing of the end of the large intestine using a soft turmeric root or the middle finger. It is used to cure constipation. The practitioner inserts the middle finger or turmeric root into the end of the large intestine and rotates it clockwise and anticlockwise around 10 times in each direction. It clears the extra feces from the large intestine. The exercise is conducted using olive oil. This technique is performed whilst in chair pose.
3 Basti- lower abdomen and urinary tract
This yoga practice of colon cleansing has two parts:
3.1 Jala (water) basti: water is sucked in through the large intestine and expelled by tensing and relaxing the sphincter whilst squatting in navel deep water with a special pipe (normally catheter).
3.2 Sthal (dry) basti: air is sucked instead of water, but this is performed identically to Jala basti apart from not being in a bath.
4 Nauli- abdominal muscles and toning of internal organs
Nauli is an abdominal cleansing technique which serves to massage the internal organs of the body using the abdominal muscles. In this technique, the abdominal muscles are isolated and churned. Please only perform Nauli on an empty stomach, this is most useful in the morning after having been to the toilet.
4.1 Uddinaya bandha: This is formed when there is a complete vacuum in the stomach, which causes the abdomen to get drawn in by the suction pressure extending from the throat. It can be performed standing or cross-legged on the floor, and can be performed immediately if following the instructions
- Place arms internally rotated on the thighs
- Exhale fully with the mouth whilst leaning over to fully exhale all the air
- Keep your mouth closed, pull up your pelvic floor (root lock) and bring your chin to your chest (throat lock)
- Open ribcage whilst taking a false breath to draw your stomach in
- Release your stomach, then you can release your chin and finally the pelvic floor
The rest of the following Nauli exercises take some practice and experimentaton.
Once you have this mastered, you can try uddinaya bandha contractions where you rapidly release and draw in the abdomen up. Make sure to only inhale and stand up once you have fully released the neck and pelvic floor, as it can be dangerous if not done due to the vacuum pressure with the stomach.
4.2 Madhyama Nauli: muscles are isolated through the middle.
To do this, you simple press and place pressure on the thighs using both hands, whilst trying to bring the top of your ribcage down to the stomach
4.3 Dakshin Nauli: abdominal muscles are isolated to the right.
Release the pressure of your left hand, whilst leaving the pressure of your left hand on the right thigh.
4.4 Vama Nauli: abdominal muscles are isolated on the left.
Opposite process as for Dakshin Nauli: Place weight of left arm on left thigh whilst releasing the pressure of your right arm from your right thigh
4.5 Nauli kriya: the wavelike circular movement of the central muscles of the abdomen.
By manipulating and shifting the pressure of your two hands on the thighs, you can create the illusion of waves in the stomach, known as Nauli kriya.
5. Kapalabhati- a breathing technique to detox the respiratory system and lymphatic system
This is an intense breathing exercise that also functions also as a pranayama to bring clarity to the brain.
Kapalabhati has three different components:
- 5.1 Vatkrama Kapalbhati involves a set of forceful exhalations. Each forceful exhale is conducted using the abdomen and is followed by a passive inhale. There are typically three rounds of increasing increments, followed by a breath retention at the end of each round. It is not recommended to go over 100–150 repetitions.
Round 1: 50 breaths, 40 s retention
Round 2: 60 breaths, 50 s retention
Round 3: 70 breaths, 60 s retention
- 5.2 Vyutkrama Kapalbhati involves sucking water in through the nose and expelling it through the mouth.
5.3 Sheetkrama Kapalbhati is the reverse of vyutkrama. In this practice, you take a mouthful of warm salty water, and expel it through the nose using pressure.
6 Trataka- eye exercises
Trataka is a yoga exercise for the eyes, designed to strengthen the eye muscles and improve concentration. It involves steady and continuous gazing at a point of concentration. It is further subdivided into;
- Antar (internal) Trataka is carried out with the eyes closed whilst concentrating on an imaginary symbol in the mind
- Bahir (external) Tratak is normally carried out in a dark room whilst staring at a candle for up to 10 minutes. Be careful to not be too close to the candle if you want to attempt this.
Yoga to incorporate into your daily life
The Shatkarmas described will seem extreme to many, so here are some more manageable aspects of yoga that you can incorporate into your daily lives:
- Squat (malasana) when watching the television, using the telephone or reading.
- Squat even when using seated toilets. At some point in your life, you may encounter a squat toilet, so get ready for this.
- Vajrasana, thunderbolt pose, is the most useful yoga pose after eating. Stay in this pose for 10 minutes to aide and speed up digestion. You can read a book if you want or have a conversation with someone.
- Palming: Rub the palms of both hands together until they are hot. Place the palms over the closed eyes. Feel them warm up the eyes. Repeat 2 or 3 times. This practice helps to relax the eyes.
- Distant and Near Viewing: Focus your eyes on the tip of the nose and then on an object in the far distance such as the horizon. Focus on the tip of the nose again. Repeat this as many times as possible, then close the eyes. This practice is very useful for exercising the eye muscles and involves changes in the length of focus.
- Face-training: Warming up the face and eyes when you wake up using various movements
- Neti — cleaning the nasal track
- Dhauti — washing the internal structures of the human body
- Nauli- massage of the abdominal muscles
- Basti — cleansing of the large intenstine,
- Kapalbhati — purification of respiratory system
- Trataka — Eyes strengthening technique
Here is a useful site that can be used to find practical instructions to complete a few of these exercises: http://vishva-ayurvedaha.com/shatkarma/