- ShankhaPrakshalana Asanas
- Shankha Prakshalana Benefits
In yoga, the shape of our digestive system is seen as a conch (Shankha) which has a long spiral tunnel-like intestine, and prakshalana in Sanskrit is called cleansing. Shankhaprakshalana is a yogic cleansing technique of the digestive system including the whole gastrointestinal tract (mouth to the anus).
In contrast to other yogic cleansing techniques where a person drinks enough water and then vomit it out, In Shankhaprakshalana drinking lukewarm saline water is followed by a precise series of asanas. This series of asanas particularly called Shankhaprakshalana asanas.
The traditional name used for this practice is varisara dhauti. In Sanskrit, “vari” means “water”, “Sara” refers to “essence”, and “dhauti” means “cleansing”.
According to Gheranda Samhita, the practice provides a luminous body by eliminating toxins from the body.
The major purpose of shankha prakshalana is to promote bowel movement naturally without any medication and side effects.
It also serves as a vital part of an ayurvedic technique known as Kaya kalpa. It can be understood as physical transformation, as “kaya” means body and “kalpa” is a term for transformation.
Therefore, shankha prakshalana is more than a purification technique. It is a holistic approach to eliminate impurities promoting physical and mental health.
Mechanism of Shankhaprakshalana
Shankhaprakshalana begins with an intake of 250 ml of lukewarm saline water followed by performing the particular set of asanas respectively. It includes tadasana, tiryakatadasana, katichakrasana, tiryaka bhujangasana, and finally udarakarshan.
Each asana must be performed eight times in order to complete one round. The practitioner has to perform complete 5-6 rounds as per the technique’s requirement.
The completion of the technique takes approximately one to one and a half hour.
Reasons to use lukewarm salty water
The temperature of water used in this practice is kept 38-40°, i.e. lukewarm. It is due to the fact that it promotes the movement of stagnant stool with mucous and causes frequent elimination.
The salt used in lukewarm water prevents the rapid absorption of water into the intestine. It eventually facilitates the movement of water smoothly into the intestinal tract to be evacuated through the anus.
The combined effect of lukewarm saline water with asanas
After having two glasses of water before each round of the asanas, the water moves from the stomach, small intestine, to the large intestine. This leads to the eventual removal of toxins and water from the anus.
1. Promotes peristalsis
In this shankha prakshalana, the gastrointestinal tract all the way from mouth to anus is washed. It catalyzes the further movement of foodstuff, thereby promoting peristalsis. This leads to enhanced bowel movement.
2. Decreases cholesterol level via bile removal
Due to peristalsis, the chyme from the stomach reaches the small intestine. As it enters the duodenum, it combines with bile juice. As the bowel movement has been enhanced, the mixture is removed easily. This reduces the concentration of bile.
Cholesterol acts as major component in bile secretion. Therefore, cholesterol is consumed more often to produce bile and leads to reduced cholesterol level.
3. Increased hemoglobin
Mucus acts a barrier in the absorption of ferrous ion. It reduces the concentration of iron in the body and acts as ferritin curtain. However, shankh prakshalana eliminates mucus and increases the absorption of ferrous ion.
It maintains the iron concentration in the body, thereby increasing the hemoglobin level.
4. Prompts parasympathetic dominance
The clearance of gastrointestinal tract renews and rejuvenates the internal organs. This leads to hormonal balance to maintain homeostasis.
This hormonal balance leads to a calm state of mind, inducing parasympathetic dominance.
The internal cleansing brings improvement in physical health. It creates an environment for better mental health, thereby providing soothing effects on psychophysiological terms.
It involves five asanas in following order as described below:
- Stand separating the feet 15-18 inches.
- Bring your arms forward to the shoulder level and interlock the fingers.
- Extend them overhead with palms towards the ceiling.
- Lift the heels and stretch the body upwards as far as possible.
- Then release bringing the heels and hands down.
Tadasana opens the pyloric sphincter muscle that serves as a valve of the stomach opening to the small intestine. It streams the saline water into the small intestine along with chyme.
- Stand in tadasana with heels on the floor.
- Stretch upward and flex the waist towards left, be there for a while.
- Come back to the center and relax.
- Then bend towards the right and hold the pose.
- Again return to the center.
The bending involved in the asana contracts both sides of the coiled intestinal wall repeatedly. Thus, the water moves smoothly through the intestinal layer.
- Stand separating the legs 16-18 inches.
- Open the arms sideways to shoulder level with facing the floor.
- Rotate the upper body by the waist to the left.
- Bring your right hand around the body to be placed on the left shoulder bending the right elbow.
- Flexing the left elbow wrap the left arm around the twisted back towards the right placing the hand on the waist.
- Finally, turn the neck towards the left twisting the entire body to the left.
- Release and repeat on the other side.
The twisting involved in the asana exerts pressure into the intestinal muscles. It causes the flow of water downwards.
4. Tirayaka bhujangasana
- Lie down in a prone position.
- Raise your head to bring chin to the floor.
- Bring your hands beside the chest and curl the toes to the floor.
- Pressing the palms to the ground lift the chin, chest, and abdomen.
- Bend your right elbow and turn to look at your left heel, keeping the left arm straight.
- Come back to the center and then relax on the floor.
- Repeat the same on the right side.
This asana opens the ileocecal sphincter muscle and saline water reaches the large intestine. Thereby, clearing the entire pathway till here.
- Keep the feet hip-width apart.
- Sit bending the knee with soles on the ground.
- Keep your hands on knees.
- Push the right knee with the hand to bring it near the left foot.
- Now, push the left knee towards the right.
- Shrinking the lower abdomen, turn to look towards the left shoulder.
- Be there for 5-10 breaths, inhale and come back to sitting pose.
- Exhale and repeat it pushing the left knee to the right foot.
This last pose is helpful in squeezing the large intestine, stimulating, and stretching the digestive organs. It creates contraction and relaxation in the alimentary canal.
Finally, the stagnant stool and mucous is eliminated as the bowel movement is evacuated from the gastrointestinal tract. No traces of residual particles or saline water remains in the alimentary canal.
The process of Shankhaprakshalana can be categorised into 3 parts;
1. Pre-procedure – Salt Water Preparation
The lukewarm water is used to prepare the saline solution. The ratio of salt to the water remains 2 teaspoons salt in 1 liter of water. Prepare an adequate amount of saline solution, as it consumes about 16 glasses of water.
Also, prepare a special meal for post-procedure. This special meal is khichdi of rice and moong dal cooked together. Add turmeric and eliminate salt addition. Cook it using ghee at the end to prepare a semi-liquid meal.
Choose a place like a garden or a terrace where you are in contact with fresh air to perform shankha prakshalana. Ensure there is an approachable toilet nearby.
Morning hours are preferable for this practice around 6-7 am.
2. Cleansing procedure – Bowel Movement
Begin with drinking 2 glasses of saline water and immediately perform the above-mentioned set of 5 asanas, 8 times each to complete the first round. Drink another 2 glasses repeating all the asana, 8 times each.
Repeat it a third time and then go to the toilet to check whether there is any bowel movement or not. Be there for 1-2 minutes and do not exert pressure externally.
Come back to repeating the procedure of drinking water and resume the asanas. It is followed by again visiting the toilet. Continue the process for about 6 rounds.
Almost after third round the evacuation process begins. The first time is accompanied by solid stool, followed by a mixture of stool and water. The concentration of stool decreases progressively and finally clear water will pass out of the anus.
3. Post-Procedure – Eat & Relax
After the evacuation of clear water, stop the process and lie down in shavasana. Relax the body for 45 minutes maintaining complete silence.
Following the resting period of 45 minutes, eat the khichdi on time. Eat a sufficient amount to refine the intestine to resume peristalsis. Rest after having the first meal, but avoid sleeping for 3 hours. Repeat the meal after about 6 hours of the first meal.
Avoid any physical and mental activity for the whole day and keep resting the following day as well. Do not repeat this technique more than twice a year.
Duration – The process of shankha prakshalana must be completed in a day as described above.
Alternatively, beginners can perform it by following the process consecutively for 6 days. Have the first round of saltwater and asanas on the first day, followed by evacuating bowels. On each passing day keep increasing one round to complete the course in 6 days.
2 Types of Shankhaprakshalasna
Based on the quantity of saline water, Shankha prakshalasna is two types;
1. Laghu shankha prakshalana
Laghu means less or short. Here laghu referred to the quantity of saline water and the proportion it cleanses. In Laghu shankha prakshalana, maximum of 6-8 cups of water are taken only and then asanas are performed for bowel movemnt.
This is a shorter technique for cleansing the alimentary canal. For this also lukewarm salty water is prepared.
- Begin with drinking 2 glasses of prepared solution.
- Perform the 5 asanas as that of shankha prakshalana respectively, eight times each.
- Drink 2 glasses of saline water and repeat the asanas eight times each.
- Repeat it one more time and then go to the toilet.
- Check whether the bowel movement has been initiated or not without pressurizing externally.
- If it has not been started it will eventually come on later.
This practice takes one hour. It is important to take rest post practice for half an hour before having any food or drink.
2. Poorna Shankaprakshalana
Poorna means full or complete. In Poorna Shankaprakshalana, one keeps drinking water and performing 5 asanas back to back until the water coming out anus is as clean as the water going in.
- Shankha prakshalana cures constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, or any digestive disorder.
- It is helpful in relieving abdominal pain and irritation.
- This practice is beneficial in treating diabetes.
- This technique is used to prevent allergies like hay fever.
- It acts as a remedy to cure skin problems like acne, neurodermatitis, or psoriasis.
- It also relieves anxiety by soothing the nervous system.
- Avoid the practice if you have high blood pressure or any heart disease.
- People with weak kidneys must refrain from the practice.
- Do not practice shankha prakshalana during pregnancy.
- If you have a gastrointestinal ulcer, this practice must be avoided.
- In case of back pain avoid this pactice.
- If you have a recent surgery, then it is strictly prohibited to perform shankha prakshalana.
- Stop the practice immediately once the removal of clear water initiates.
- Do not fall asleep while resting in Shavasana.
- Avoid intake of any fluids for at least 2 hours after the meal.
- Avoid any chemically prepared, spicy, or non-veg food for one month after the practice.
- Restrict the intake of pickle, dairy products, sweets, or acidic fruits.
- Consumption of cigarette, alcohol, or any drugs must be prohibited for a month.
- Keep the body warm to prevent any side effects like headache, cold, or nausea.
Shankha Prakshalana Benefits
- It cleanses the body internally, clearing the toxins from the alimentary canal.
- This technique tones the internal organs like the liver, kidney, digestive organs, and glands.
- It is beneficial in the purification of blood by the reduction of excessive mucus.
- It maintains the metabolism and strengthens the immune system.
- It rejuvenates the body physically as well as mentally.
- It decreases appetite and helps burn extra calories. Therefore it tones the body and reduces body weight.
- It also raises the energy level by stimulating the prana flow aligning the body chakras.
Can I started yoga asana after performing laghoo shankhaprakshana.if not when I can perform asana practice. If I am facing constipation
It’s generally suggested to rest after Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana. This procedure itself includes 5 asanas that we do regulate bowel movement. After completing the procedure as mentioned in the above post, we eat khichdi and rest.
I am wondering is this can safely be done on the 5th day of a water fast? That will be tomorrow for me. Also, I have only red lentils in my kitchen now. Can the Khichdi be cooked using red lentils for digestibility?
It is not recommended to perform Shankha Prakshalana during water fasting as it involves drinking large amounts of water, which can be difficult on an empty stomach. It is better to wait until after breaking the fast to perform this practice. As for the Khichdi, red lentils can be used as a substitute for mung beans in the recipe for better digestibility.
Thanks for the great article, I did this. But, for me water came out as urine. Any thing I should have taken care?
Hi from UK
I did LP yesterday, one litre; some murky stuff came out, mostly water. Today I did it again with over 2L, but only some smaller amount of liquid came out and that’s it.
Now it is 6-7 hours later, still nothing happens. I feel ok, just some strange sounds from my belly occasionally. Yesterday had only one cup of spiced milk at evening and nothing else, day before a bit sup and piece of bread, and today few hours after LP some fruit and socked nuts. I’m not sure should I eat or not, because it may block me further. I have problems for the last month in bowel movement. I took some strong natural laxatives few times during this time, but now they don’t work.
Should I continue doing LP, as I was planning to do for one week, or until it gets better?
It seems totally okay. When you do LP in a row, the liquid that comes out will not have that much content as compared to when you do it the first time.
After LP, it’s preferred to take Khichdi (rice and lentil porridge) as it’s a wholesome dish that fuels the body; especially the abdominal organs. You can search the recipe online. Fruits are still fine but don’t take socked nuts meanwhile. If you’re not feeling any complications, you can continue it for one week and see the changes.
What often we should perform laghu n dirgha shankha prakshalan
Laghu Shankha Prakshalana can be often practiced.
This article tells you that you should use 2 tablespoons of salt for one liter of water. This means 30 grams of salt per liter. This is far too much salt, and it should actually be 2 TEASPOONS of salt per liter of water, which is around 8.5 grams. I did this yesterday, and drank 60 grams of salt in 2 liters of water. I became very dehydrated and nauseous. I still had the cleansing process, but this is far too much salt. You guys need to change it in your article so it says 2 TEASPOONS, as drinking 60 grams of salt in such a short period of time is not good for the body. Please change this so others don’t make the same mistake that I did.
Oh, that’s a silly mistake, now it’s corrected. Thanks for informing about it, Austin, we appreciate your feedback!
I am a female aged 65 years. I practiced this and did not get any bowel movement after 7 rounds of the exercises. During the exercise rounds I did four repetitions of the exercises after drinking two glass of water after every round. I ate the prescribed meal post the exercise. I am not sure what to do next. When should I attempt it again. I did not have any problems during or after the exercises. I will be grateful if you could please help. Thanks
It’s a common thing with shankha prakshalan kriya that when you begin its practice, in the first 3 to 4 days, bowel movement doesn’t happen automatically after following the practice. Keep doing the kriya consecutively for one week and you will start showing the desired results.