Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Shankha Prakshalana is a process or procedure to cleanse the intestinal tract so as to remove its impurities by oral administration of salt water.
Shankha Prakshalana is a term made up of two words.
Shankha = Conch
Prakshalana = Wash or cleanse
In this context, the term Shankha is a word used to represent the entire digestive tract starting from the mouth and ending at anus.
Shankha Prakshalana means cleansing the stomach thoroughly. Laghu Shankha Prakshalana is identical to Shankha Prakshalana, but the cleansing is done in a minimum proportion (laghu=less, light, the quantity of saline water given is less than that given in Shankha Prakshalana).
Shankha Prakshalana is a variant of Dhauti Karma, one among the Shat Karmas explained as a part of Hatha Yoga. It t is a synonymous with ‘Varisara Dhauti’, a subtype of Antar Dhauti or internal body cleansing procedure. Since both the procedures are not exactly similar, Shankha Prakshalan can be considered as a variant of Varisara Dhauti.
Shankha Prakshalanam is also a part of Kaya Kalpa, an Ayurvedic technique for purification and transformation of the body. (Kaya = Body, Kalpa = Transformation).
Laghu Shankha Prakshalana is a subtype or variant of Shankha Prakshalana.
Salt water preparation –
The salt water should be kept ready before conducting the procedure. 2 teaspoons of salt should be added to 1 liter of water and mixed thoroughly. This is the ratio. More salt water should be kept ready because Shankha Prakshalana needs one to drink adequate and saturating quantity of saline water. Juice of 1 lemon can be added to the water (optional). Sugar should not be added to the solution.
Choice of Place – Shankhaprakshalana shall be done in a garden or in open area with fresh air. The place should be equipped with adequate toilet facilities in the vicinity.
Time of start – Shank prakchalan shall be started in the early morning, between 6-7 am and not later.
Shankh Prakshalan, the main procedure
One should drink about 16 glasses of warm saline water and should evacuate it through the bowels.
Initially drink 2 glasses of salt water quickly, in sitting position. After having consumed two glasses of salt water one should perform a series of 5 asanas (in that order) which include –
- Tiryak Tadasana
- Kati Chakrasana
- Tiryak Bhujangasana
- Udarakarshana Asana
Each asana should be preformed 6 times.
These asanas will enable easy movement of the water towards the anus.
After taking every 2 glasses of salt water, one should perform the above mentioned asanas until the water starts flowing easily towards the anus to get excreted.
If there is an urge to go to the toilet, you need to go to the toilet and evacuate your bowel. If you get a feel of incomplete evacuation, do not strain. If you get the urge for bowel evacuation in the middle of the asanas, you need to stop the asana, go and evacuate your bowel.
After coming back from the toilet, drink 2 more glasses of salt water and complete the set of asanas.
Continue this cycle i.e. drinking salt water, doing asanas and going to the toilet.
After successive evacuations, less stools and more water will be evacuated. Eventually cloudy yellow water and later almost clear water will be evacuated. The form and consistency of bowel and elimination of water through anus will differ from person to person.
Once the clear water starts coming through the anus, one can sense that the stomach and intestines are perfectly cleansed and a feel of lightness. At this moment, the practice of activity may be stopped.
Post-Procedures of Shank praksalan (follow up)
After the completion of the practice, a gap of 1 hour and 45 minutes should be given, during which the patient is advised to rest. Rest shall be taken in Shavasana posture. One should not go to sleep while resting in Shavasana. Sleeping may result in cold or headache.
Care should be taken to see that silence is maintained during the rest phase. One should abstain from speaking. During this phase the intestines or digestive tract will be in a mode of recovery and will be recharging itself. There is no restriction to voiding urine.
After the mentioned time, (approximately 2 hours after Shankhaprakshalana) one should take stomach full of cooked rice, green gram (mung dal) and ghee in liquid form (gruel) without having added salt. This is a special food recommended in the post Shankhaprakshalana period. The components of this food help in restoring the digestive functions and also strengthen the gut. This food also prevents indigestion, constipation and diarrhea.
Certain restrictions related to dietary restrictions should be observed for a period of one week after practice. It is a major cleansing operation and should essentially be done under expert guidance.
The person who has undergone Shanka prakshalana should be advised not to sleep for at least for 3 hours after the initial (above said) meal. Sleeping immediately after this meal may cause headache and lethargy. After 3 hours of food, one can rest for the rest of the day. He or she may require rest on next few days for total recovery. One should be advised to keep silence and avoid severe mental and physical works during this phase (on the day of Shankhapraksalana and few days following it).
Second meal shall be arranged for afternoon or evening meal. This should be given 6 hours after the first meal. Food, snacks or refreshments should not be taken frequently.
Scientific explanation of Shankhaprakshalana
Pattern of Shankha Prakshalana
What is the pattern of Shankha Prakshalana?
Shankhaprakshalana shall be done on a single day as explained above.
Alternatively 1 round of salt water, asanas and bowel evacuation shall be done on first day. 1 round is added (increased) on consecutive days and the course of shankhaprakshalana shall be completed on the 6th day.
How often should Shankhaprakshalana be done?
Shankhaprakshalana should be done once in 6 months. A second course of the procedure shall not be repeated before 6 months (of completion of first course of procedure).
As its name indicates, Laghu Shankha Prakshalana or Short / Lighter Shankha Prakshalana is a variant or shortened form of Shankha Prakshalana.
In this practice roughly about 6 glasses of saline water is taken orally (instead of 12 glasses as suggested in Shankha Prakshalana procedure). The same series of asanas as suggested to be done in the context of Purna Shankha Prakshalana (another name of Shankha Prakshalana, Purna means full or complete) should be performed to enable easy evacuation of water from the anus or digestive tract.
According to the treatise ‘Hatha Ratnavali’ jaggery water (1 part of jaggery and 5 parts of water) or milk water (1 part milk and 5 parts water) should be used in place of salt water. Alternatively juice of onion or garlic or onion shall be used diluted in water. Carrot juice or celery juice can also be used for conducting Laghu Shankha Prakshalana.
Related video –
Yogic postures for Shankhaprakshalana / Laghu Shankhaprakshalana
Post-procedures for Shankha Prakshalana and Laghu Shankha Prakshalana
Kunjal Kriya should be practiced followed by Jala Neti immediately after completing Shankha Prakshalana or Laghu Shankha Prakshalana. It is not compulsory to do these procedures in the follow up of both Shankha Prakshalanas but it is good if these are practiced. In combination they are said to provide beneficial results and comprehensive results. This gives the best possible cleansing not only to the stomach but also to the entire digestive tract.
Benefits of Shankhaprakshalana and Laghu Shankhaprakshalana –
Same as those of Vaarisara Dhauti. They are –
- Cleanses the body
- Cleans up the gastrointestinal system of its impurities
- Cures digestive disorders, indigestion, constipation
- Improves the digestion, enhances metabolism, improves the functions of digestive system, strengthens the organs of digestion
- On constant practice, it provides ‘devadeha’ e. a divine or Godly body (shining body)
Shankha Prakshala with medication
Question: Is it fine to do this exercise while taking medicine for cholesterol and high blood pressure? Can we stop medicines after the course of this exercise?
If your Yoga practitioner has prescribed Shankha Prakshalana, then you can surely continue it along with medication.
After finishing the course of Shankha prakshalana, if you wish to stop the medicines, you will need to consult a doctor directly. It can be dangerous to stop any medicine without consulting a doctor.