The yogic kriyas or cleansing practices are six in number hence called shat-karma (six-actions). Yogic science gives as much importance to certain cleansing processes as it does to asana or pranayama. Without regular cleansing of the system one cannot gain maximum benefit from yoga practices. Without purification of the body one will not be ready for the higher practices of yoga.
Keeping all this in mind, most yog teachers conveniently overlook these practices. However, it cannot be forgotten that these practices are a part of traditional hatha yog. In fact there they are mentioned as pre-requisites. It is believed that these practices cleanse the body and prepare it for hatha yog. It is as if you are cleaning up your house first before re-decorating it. Surely you will not bother beautifying a dirty house. Cleanliness comes first and hence the importance of kriyas. Body cleansing is brought about by the practice of the shatkarmas or six purificatory techniques which are very important from the point of view of physical and mental health. These simple techniques are also highly valuable in healing internal disorders. There are six main groups of shatkarmas or yogic cleansers as follows:
- Neti: nasal cleaning, including jala neti and sutra neti.
- Dhauti: cleansing of the digestive tract.
- Nauli: abdominal massage.
- Basti: colon cleaning.
- Kapalbhati: purification and vitalisation of the frontal lobes.
- Trataka: blinkless gazing.