Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
‘Sitting in Utkatasana, navel deep in water, insert a tube in the anus and contract the anus. This method of cleaning the intestines with water is called Vasti Karma’ – Ref – Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:26
Vasti Karma is one of the 6 procedures of Shat Karmas as advocated by Hatha Yoga. Vasti Karma or Vasit Kriya is used to cleanse the colon or large intestine. In this procedure, water is sucked into the large intestine through the rectum and is later thrown out. The Vasti Karma explained in Hatha Yoga is of two types i.e. Pavana Vasti and Jala Vasti.
Vasti Karma is a procedure which is a part of Shat Karmas or 6 purificatory measures mentioned in Hatha Yoga. It is intended towards cleansing of bowel.
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Meaning of the term Vasti
The term Vasti means ‘to hold’ or ‘that which resides within a cavity bound by four walls’. Vasti or Basti is also the term used to describe the organ urinary bladder. In Ayurveda, Vasti or Basti is the method of giving enema or medicinal fluids through anal, urinary or vaginal route. In general terms Vasti means enema.
Even in the Vasti Kriya or Vasti Karma mentioned in Shat Karmas, air or water is pushed into the colon or large intestine with the intention of cleansing the colon. Even in this procedure, the water or air resides in the colon for certain time before being expelled, while cleansing the colon in the process.
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Types of Vasti Kriya
Vasti Kriya or Vasti Karma is basically of 2 types i.e. Pavana Vasti and Jala Vasti.
Other names – Sthala Vasti, Shushka Vasti, Vata Vasti
In this, the Apana Vayu is pulled (drawn) upwards into the colon while doing Nauli Karma. The apana vayu which has been pulled into the colon is circulated all through the colon by giving movements to the abdomen and abdomen muscles. Pavana Vasti should be thoroughly practiced to perform or practice Jala Vasti. If one cannot do Pavana Vasti perfectly, he or she cannot do Jala Vasti properly. In Jala Vasti, the water is drawn into the colon through Pavana Vasti itself. Vata is synonym of Pavana, both means air. Therefore Pavana Vasti is also called Vata Vasti.
Sthala Vasti – This word is used interchangeably with Pavana Vasti. Sthala means ground. Sthala Vasti is a procedure in which one stands on ground and sucks air into the anus instead of water. This is also called as Shushka Vasti. Shushka means dry. Since the air which is pushed or sucked into the rectum or colon is dry in nature, this form of Vasti is considered as a dry form of enema, hence the name Shushka Vasti.
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How to do?
- Sthala Vasti, Pavana Vasti or Vata Vasti is performed while lying on the back.
- For this, the person should assume Vipareeta Karanai Mudra posture. The back should be positioned at an angle of 60 degree to the floor.
- The knees should be brought down to the chest.
- The sphincter muscles of the anus should be pushed out and in so as to enable sucking of air into the colon.
- Sthala Vasti can be performed in Pashinee Mudraa or Paschimottasana postures, while performing Ashwini Mudra.
- At the beginning, Uddiyana Bandha also will be required.
- The air drawn into the colon through the anus is circulated in the intestine by providing circular movements to the abdomen muscles.
- Later the air is expelled out through the anus.
Jala means water. Jala Vasti is a practice in which one sucks water into the colon, through anus. The procedure is done in water in contrary with Vata Vasti which is done in air.
Other Name – Vari Vasti (Vari is synonym of Jala, both mean water)
In this, water is pulled upwards into the colon through Pavana Vasti procedure and is circulated within the entire length of colon so as to cleanse it.
How to do?
This procedure can be done in two ways –
i) Tub Method –
This method of Jala Vasti is practiced by sitting in a tub filled with water. Alternatively a bucket or basin filled with water is used. Traditionally it was practiced in river water.
- A long tube of approximately 6 angulas in length, which has a lumen and cavity which can fit the little finger into it is taken. It can be a rubber / plastic tube or catheter or a tube made up of thin bamboo hollow from inside. Beginners will have to start by inserting a 0.8 cm catheter into the rectum. Traditionally a bamboo tube was used. The tube should be at least 13-15 cms long, preferably smooth and hollow.
- The whole tube is made unctuous by smearing it with ghee or oil. It can also be lubricated with beeswax or some non-irritant oil, ex, Vaseline.
- This smeared tube or catheter is gradually introduced into the rectum up to 4 angulas length.
- After the introduction of catheter, the person is made to stand in navel-deep water or sit in Utkatasana in knee-deep water filled in tub or basin or bucket.
- Now the person is asked to suck the water into his large intestine through the tube while exhaling and doing Uddiyan Bandh.
- The water is sucked through the method of Pavana Vasti. With the help of Nauli Karma the abdominal movements are done and the water is circulated throughout the large intestine. If the water is not sucked into the colon, Madhyama Nauli should be done to hold the water. If one cannot suck the water even through this method, he or she is advised to suck the wter by doing Vama Nauli or Dakshina Nauli.
- When the person can no longer hold the Kumbhaka, remove the catheter without exhaling. Later the water is thrown out of the intestines through the same tube. To do this, the patient is advised to stand up and exhale slowly through the nose. When the person wants to expel the water, he is asked to squat over the toilet because along with water the stools in the intestine also may get expelled.
- Make sure that the person expels all water.
- The person is made to lie in Shavasan on a blanket.
- Gradually he is made to assume Pashinee Mudra, placing the knees behind the ears and balancing or the backs of the shoulders, hands clasped behind the knees. This releases air from the bowel and induces a bowel action if there is any water remaining in the colon.
- He is allowed to get released from this position. Once again he is made to lie in Shavasana pose and fold the knees to the chest. He is advised to hold the knees and slowly rock from side to side, or rock the arms stretched out to the sides at the shoulder level.
- Once again he is made to lie in Shavasana.
- Bhujangasana should be done for 3-5 times. This exerts pressure on the lower intestines. This releases remaining water or air. If possible the person is advised to perform Mayurasana.
It is a matter of practice. After thoroughly practicing Jala Vasti, there will be no need of the catheter or tube to suck water into the colon. One will be trained enough to suck the water directly by squatting in the water.
ii) Enema Method –
As the name suggests, this form of Jala Vasti is administered through enema method. This procedure needs enema apparatus.
- Warm water is taken in an enema pot.
- A little amount of salt or lemon juice is added to this warm water.
- The pot is placed on a raised platform, at a higher point from the position at which the patient is lying.
- Small quantity of water is allowed to flow out through the nozzle of the enema apparatus so as to remove the air in the tube.
- The nozzle is smeared with oil.
- The patient is made to lie on his left side.
- 1 and half inch length of the nozzle is gradually inserted into the rectum.
- The water is opened and let into the intestine.
- The patient is asked to exercise while deep breathing.
- The water will go into the intestine.
- About half liter of water should be allowed into the intestine.
- Later he is advised to shake the abdomen while changing sides so that the water circulates freely in the intestine.
- He is advised to hold the water and lie down in the same position for about 10-15 minutes.
- Later he is advised to go to the toilet and throw the water.
- Following this he is given with light food when he feels hungry.
Caution – Enema should essentially be done on empty stomach.
Precautions to be taken while performing Jala Vasti
- The water used in Vasti should be clean and sterile
- The water should neither be too hot nor too cold
- The catheter should be cleansed and sterilized before and after use
- Jala Vasti should be avoided as far as possible in cloudy, rainy, windy and stormy weather
Benefits of Vasti Karma
- It is a remedy for all sorts of diseases arising from vitiation of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vasti helps in expelling the morbid doshas causing diseases and damage in the body and helps in bringing equilibrium of doshas. Thus, Vasti karma helps in promoting health and immunity in the body.
- After Jala Vasti, the appetite increases, the body glows, excess doshas are destroyed and the dhatus (tissues), senses and mind are purified. (Hatha Yoga Pradipika)
- Enlargement of liver, spleen and glands and dysfunctions related to glands are cured by Vasti Karma.
- Vasti while cleansing the bowel removes harmful bacteria, old accumulated stools, worms and heat from the intestines.
- Vasti cures digestive disorders. It mainly cures constipation, controls nervous diarrhea and strengthens Solar Plexus.
- Vasti improves blood supply, purifies blood, strengthens nervous system and tones up the muscles.
- It is useful in treating colitis and dysentery, especially the chronic ones.
- It cures Pleeha (spleenomegaly, spleen enlargement), Mutrakrichra (urinary disorders, dysuria), Gulma (abdominal diseases, tumors) etc
- Jala Vasti is good for mind and sense organs
- Vasti Karma gives glow, good texture and tone to the body
Shankha Prakshalana, traditional ways to cleanse the intestine
Shankha Prakshalana, though not similar to Vasti, serves the same purpose. It is one of the traditional Yogic ways to cleanse the intestine. It involves drinking about 5 liters of slightly warm saline water. The salt water doesn’t get absorbed by the intestines. Instead it drips down all the way in to the rectum. While dripping down, it cleanses the entire digestive tract from top to bottom, including the stomach, small intestine, large intestine and rectum. It separates any waste or food particles stuck to the lining of intestine and expels them. Thus it imparts ‘Vasti like action’. It should not be done very regularly. It shall be done once or twice in a year.
A variant of Shankha Prakshalana called Laghu Shankha Prakshalana is a simpler technique than the former. It can be done regularly, as frequent as once in every two weeks. Here one drinks only 1.5-2 liters of salt water. Then the entire water is expelled from the anus in few sittings. This too has ‘Vasti like effect’, and hence is discussed in this context.
Suggestions and Precautions
Suggestions and Precautions for Vasti Karma
Vasti Karma shall be done only under the supervision of a physician or Yoga teacher
- Ideally Vasti should be done early in the morning and when the stomach is empty
- After the completion of Vasti Karma one can take a cup of milk or take light and digestible meals
- Vasti can be done while standing in a river
- Vasti should not be practiced by anyone with high blood pressure, hernia or any serious digestive disorders
- Precaution should be taken regarding the equipments and water used in the procedure and their sterility should be double checked before use
Just Before Finish
Vasti Karma is beyond the concept of Enema. It provides comprehensive body-mind health, cures many psycho-somatic disorders and provides long lasting immunity. Vasti is explained in terms of Ardha Chikitsa or ‘half of all treatments of the world put together’. This shows the significance of Vasti. It is preventive as well as an effective curative procedure. Vasti has also been used as a part of Prakriti Chikitsa or Nature Cure therapies with essential modifications. In this article I have touched upon the Vasti Karma which is a part of Shat Karma cleansing procedures mentioned and explained in Hatha Yoga.
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