What Are Kriyas?
Kriyas in Yogic tradition are cleansing or purification techniques, and are intended to be done every day. It is important to keep the body clean, inside and out.
Saucha, or purity/cleanliness, is the first of five Niyamas, ethical observances of the yoga practitioner.
Have you heard of 'the body is a temple'?
Please pair these techniques with whatever healthy diet serves your body best.
Please also recognize moderation here - these are not absolutely mandatory. Use your critical thinking skills. Not all of these techniques will be accessable or work for everyone. I personally only observe four of the following six traditional kriyas.
These 6 main traditional kriyas are:
Dhauti - Vastra Dhauti: Internal Cleansing of Stomach and Esophagus
and Danta Dhauti: Dental Cleansing
Basti - Enema
Kapalabhati (this is also a pranayama) - Shining Skull Breath
Neti - Nasal/Sinus Cleansing
Trataka - Eye Exercise
Agni Sara & Nauli - Abdominal Pumping and Churning
Let's look at each of these kriyas individually.
Dhauti means cleansing in Sanskrit and has many sub-categories. I will explain the two most common types of dauti here.
Vastra Dhauti (a subset of Antara Dhauti - Antara meaning internal) is a method of internal cleansing in which the student swallows part of a long piece of gauze, which soaks up stomach acidities and impurities and excess phlegm, and then removes it. This is often what people are referring to when they just say 'Dhauti Kriya.' I DO NOT recommend doing this, certainly not unsupervised. This is a traditional method that in modern day is quite extreme.
The other common use of the word Dhauti is Danta Dhauti, which simply means to brush your teeth. 'Dental Cleansing.' (This type of Dhauti I highly recommend.)
Basti Kriya is equivalent to a modern-day enema. Irrigating the bowels to remove left-behind waste. Do your own research to see if this is something that is suitable for you.
Kapalabhati or kapalbati is both a pranayama technique and a cleansing technique. It translates to Shining Skull. This practice cleanses the lungs and bronchials and is said to vibrate every cell in the body. It also cleanses the brain, when done with extensive repetition, hence the name Shining Skull.
Do not practice kapalabhati during pregnancy or during an anxiety attack.
To practice, sit up tall and take a deep inhalation and exhalation. Then take a partial breath in and forcefully exhale through the nose by contracting the abdomen, pulling the belly button toward the spine, quickly and forcefully. The inhalation that happens after that forceful exhale will be passive and light, also through the nose. Exhale at a pace of once per 1 - 1.5 seconds. (Faster will feel like hyperventilating - don't do that.)
Begin with three rounds of eleven exhalations like this. Ideally this practice is done under the supervision of someone with experience. It is very very important that pranayama techniques be learned gradually.
Some advanced practitioners may work their way, gradually, up by elevens to three rounds of 110. (This is when one might feel the brain cleansing effect of the 'shining skull.'
Be smart! Use your best judgement and don't hurt yourself, okay? That goes for all of these kriyas. Just because they exist doesn't mean they are right for you and your body right now.
Perhaps the most familiar of all these traditional kriyas, sinus cleansing is done using a Neti Pot. Warm water with salt and baking soda is poured into one nostril, cleanses the sinuses between, and exits the other nostril.
Think of all the air pollution we are breathing in all the time, not to mention seasonal allergies potentially clogging things up.
There are plenty of neti pot options and other similar devices out there. The idea is to clean the sinuses in any way that is comfortable or doable for you.
Or also called Tratak, is an eye cleansing technique in which a person stares without blinking with unfocused eyes, often at a candle flame, until the eyes begin to water. This cleansing technique is also a favourite meditation of mine.
Agni Sara & Nauli
These two methods are done first thing in the morning, on a stomach completely empty except for some (lemon) water. These practices benefit the digestive system, stimulate appetite, cleanse internal abdominal organs by massaging them, and relieve constipation.
Agni Sara is a pumping of the abdomen. And Nauli is a churning of the abdominal muscles.
Please please do not try this if you have eaten. A practitioner must first develop an awareness of the deep abdominal muscles, and then learn to manipulate them.
I would suggest trying out a couple Youtube tutorials and remember, this is a skill that can take years to develop.
Have any more questions about Kriyas? Talk to me here, or connect with me over on Instagram, where I will be sharing my personal experience with kriyas.