Shatkarma – Yoga's Six Purification Techniques

In the Hatta Yoga Pradipika, there is a mention of the six kriyas (cleansing techniques) that will help with purification of the body, which in turn will encourage purity of the mind. These six techniques collectively are also known as shatkarma, in which shat means “six” and karma means “process”. These purificatory processes are both preventive and curative.

The shatkarma activates all vital systems in the body – digestive, circulatory, nervous and respiratory system and gives equal attention to individual organs of importance, such as the eyes, lungs, colon, stomach and ears.

The shatkarmas are used to balance the three doshas in the body – vata (wind), pitta (bile) and kapha (mucus). According to ayurveda, any imbalance in the three dosha can lead to illnesses. Therefore, it is important to balance the doshas as they will facilitate bodily functions.

The shatkarma (or sometimes known as shatkriyas) are as below:

  1. Neti (Nasal Cleansing)

Neti is the process of cleaning the nasal passage. There are various ways of doing so – with water, saline water, thread, ghee and even milk! There is a specially designed pot for this purpose, which is called the neti pot.


  • Preventing and eliminating colds
  • Clean and increases efficiency of nasal passageway
  • Helps with sinusitis
  • Overcome migraine, depression, tension issues
  • Improves intake of oxygen and removal of carbon dioxide

2. Basti (Colon Cleansing)

Basti is a  technique that is intended to serve the purpose of enema – that is, to expel accumulated waste in the colon.


  • Removes excess mucus on intestinal walls
  • Helps relief constipation
  • Reinforces immune system

3. Dhauti (Digestive Tract & Intestinal Cleansing)

Dhauti consists of a series of yogic practices that cleanses the stomach and digestive tract. It is most effective to be performed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.


  • Helps eliminate stomach ailments ie constipation, indigestion
  • Eliminate toxins from the body

4. Nauli (Abdominal Massage)

Nauli is a technique for abdominal massage of internal belly organs by circular movements of the abdominal muscles. According to Hatha Yoga Pradipika, it is said to stimulate digestive fire which in turn helps to expel toxins, indigestion and constipation.


  • Helps overcome constipation
  • Increases general vitality of the body
  • Improves function of digestive system

5. Kapalabhati (Detox Breath)

Kapalabhati consists of two words – Kapala which means “Head” and Bhati which means “Shine”. Hence it is a cleansing technique to clear away the impurities in the cranium portion so that it can shine with purity.


  • Helps with sinusitis
  • Increases alertness of the mind
  • Good cure for respiratory issues such as asthma
  • Relaxes the facial muscles and nerve

6. Trataka (Blinkless Gazing to Flush Eyes)

Trataka translates as “to gaze” and is a cleansing method for your eyes. It is also a meditation technique used to help the mind focus and curb its oscillating tendencies.


  • Good for eye problems
  • Overcome insomnia, depression, anxiety
  • Increase focus and memory power

Tammy Lim, YTT200 (Sep’17-Weekend)

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