Kunjal Kriya

Dr Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati

The digestive system can help us enjoy life if we look after it properly, and one of the ways to do this is through kunjal kriya. As we have already discussed, the digestive system in man is the key to better health for the majority of people. Through this doorway, the whole body with all its systems can be returned to its normal state of good health. Though this cleansing technique is directly concerned with the digestive system, its effects and repercussions will be felt throughout the entire body.

Kunjal is one of the most effective yogic techniques. It is dramatic and instantaneous in its action. It can give immediate relief to asthmatics and to those suffering from acidity, indigestion, headache, etc. You only need to try it for yourself to find out how effective it is.

The process

Kunjal is performed by drinking tepid, salty water up to the point where you feel like vomiting. The water should be lukewarm, and contain about one or two teaspoons of salt for half a litre of water. At least six glasses of water should be drunk, but if you can, drink more -up to the point where you cannot take even one more sip. At this point you may vomit automatically, if not then put two fingers down your throat and massage the back of your tongue as far down as possible. By pressing it you will feel the urge to vomit, which is called the 'gag reflex' in medical terminology. Water will come out of your mouth in a quick series of gushes. Continue pressing until your stomach is empty.

This practice should be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. It is also done after shankhaprakshalana. Follow kunjal with neti.

After completion of the practice it is best to wait twenty minutes or half an hour before eating. The stomach lining should have a chance to reform before the process of digestion starts pouring acids onto its sensitive surface.

Note: Those who suffer from any chronic disabling disease, an active stomach ulcer, hernia of the stomach or abdomen, high blood pressure, heart disease or oesophageal varices, should only practice kunjal under the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher or ashram.

Kunjal and vomiting

Kunjal has none of the unpleasant sensations usually associated with vomiting, like nausea and bad smell. The water brought up is usually clean and without smell. The added salt removes the acid by naturalizing it, which removes the burning feeling. The water contains nothing solid, thus it comes out quickly and easily. After the first few times, kunjal becomes a pleasure.

To many people kunjal seems strange and alien at first. This mental attitude is the biggest barrier to performing kunjal. But it can be overcome by realizing that to vomit without the accompanying bad feelings of sickness can be a pleasure. When you have practised kunjal and start to experience the results, then you can judge, but not before. As you become more and more healthy through this practice, your body will desire kunjal in the morning. We have seen many people who will not let one day go by without doing kunjal, as they fee] 'dirty' inside and miss the benefits of this marvellous technique. For them the practice has become as quick and easy as cleaning the teeth each morning.

Direct effects

At the physical level kunjal can aid the maintenance of good health as well as help in the cure of the following diseases: acidity and gas in the stomach; biliousness, nausea, food poisoning and auto-poisoning; indigestion; inflamed oesophageal mucosa, coughs, asthma, bronchitis and respiratory ailments; headaches, (both tension and migraine) and diseases of the nervous system.

At the pranic level, kunjal gives the whole body a flushing, untying knots and unblocking nadis (psychic nerves which conduct prana) so that the whole body feels revived and alive.

On the mental level, kunjal can help with many types of mental diseases and problems, acting as a kind of shock therapy to recharge the brain and mind. It especially helps with depression, lethargy, apathy, tensions, anxiety, neuroses and phobias.

Indirect effects

The indirect effects of kunjal are that it tones up and helps to rebalance the nervous system, thus helping to rejuvenate the whole body. The energy released by the pranic flush helps tone up the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the urino-genital system and the musculoskeletal system. This is because each system of the body depends upon every other system for its correct balance and smooth functioning. When one system, in this case the digestive system, starts to overflow with energy, this energy spills into the other body compartments and gives them a recharge. The mind and body function as one unit; there is no separating line between them. So when the body is recharged, the mind is also recharged. This explains how mental diseases can be cured through physical techniques. This principle can be applied to all yogic techniques and methods which bring positive energy into our lives.

Physical effects

When we do kunjal, what happens? We stimulate the sensory channels of our nervous system, which sends it signal to the brain. This in turn sends a signal down the motor system to make the body vomit: the diaphragm, stomach and glottis contract, causing the water to move in the reverse direction.

There are three processes of the body which totally paralyse the brain and mind for one moment, leaving you in a 'selfless' state, reminiscent of states of meditation. These are orgasm, sneezing and vomiting. If you think about it and reflect upon your own experiences, you will remember that at the moment of experiencing one of these three states, you felt a wave of energy rush through your body and mind which momentarily stopped all thought and action.

When the brain feels this rush of energy it is in a state of extreme stimulation. Many of its circuits are temporarily cut, leaving only the few most necessary circuits in action. This situation is analogous, but much more gentle, subtle and effective than ECT (electric shock therapy) as used in hospitals for the treatment of depressed patients. Energy floods into every nerve of the brain, but in the case of kunjal, not ECT, it is pranic energy which floods through, giving life and rejuvenating every cell. Then when the energy subsides, these circuits start up again in a more harmonious fashion.

The brain then pours out this energy to the rest of the body via the nerves. This extra energy cleans and purifies by stimulating the cells of the waste-disposal system, and then travels on to the organs of the body. As a result there is a direct increase in body efficiency.

The autonomic nervous system is especially important to our understanding of how physical disease is reduced. It is divided into two parts: the parasympathetic system, concerned with relaxed states of mind, and the sympathetic system, concerned with stress and active times. These two systems constantly balance each other.

For example, when we get into a tense situation or state of mind, the sympathetic system becomes predominant, bringing the adrenals into action. Of course, the parasympathetic system still functions as an undertone, maintaining just enough relaxation in the physical body (reflected down from the mind) so that there is no extreme, and the body can function at its peak.

When you do kunjal, the action of the energy flush moving from the stomach on the physical level, and manipura chakra on the psychic level, stimulates the vagus nerve both in its sensory and motor functions. The vagus is sensory to the heart, lungs, bronchi, trachea, pharynx and digestive tract; and motor to the heart, lungs, bronchi and digestive tract. It feeds directly into the hypothalamus of the brain via its parasympathetic fibres. The hypothalamus controls the whole autonomic nervous system. The vagus is responsible for the gag reflex and vomiting.

The extra energy from kunjal spills into both sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, but as the mind is prepared for vomiting, a stressful situation, the sympathetic predominates. The following results occur: Digestive system : decreased peristalsis and increased glucose into the blood from the liver. Lungs: dilation of the bronchi; stops acute asthma. Salivary glands start secreting and therefore are flushed out and cleaned.

Heart beats faster and the blood vessels dilate giving more oxygen to the heart muscle. The lungs are exercised by the action of the diaphragm and abdomen, which helps breathing and pranayama. Mucus secretions from the mouth, sinuses and lower respiratory tract are stimulated, rinsing out these areas. There is temporary blood rush to the brain which increases oxygen and performance.

Pranic effects

The stomach and digestion are governed by manipura chakra, the psychic centre in which prana, the life-giving force of man, is stored. This force has been called bioplasma by the scientists investigating Kirlian photography and parapsychology, and is a proven and documented entity.

It is in the psychic and more subtle bodies that many effects are in progress, but we are unaware of them. Kunjal helps to liberate prana which energises the body. In fact, prana is the basis for all the body energies and thus is vital to our well-being.

When the prana flows, so does the energy in the nerves. In this way every cell in the body and mind becomes energized by prana. We feel alive and happier. We experience a sort of catharsis after doing kunjal, a cleansed, purified and relaxed feeling, which also invigorates us. Prana, this golden life-giving substance, is the cause and kunjal, along with many other yogic techniques, is a means to liberate and control it.

The gag reflex

The gag reflex that initiates vomiting is in itself a powerful and valuable tool. Even if you haven't time to do kunjal every morning, then you can use the gag reflex to awaken prana easily and simply.

This can be done when you brush your teeth in the morning. Use your first two fingers to clean your tongue by rubbing it backwards and forwards. When you come to the back of your tongue, do not be frightened, but rather continue to massage it even though you may feel you are going to vomit. If something comes up, this is good as it means there was obviously something undigested in the stomach which needed to come out.

The benefits of the gag reflex are many. To quote the actor, Orson Bean, in his book Me and the Orgone:

"I'd wake up in the morning and gag myself in the bathroom. Baker had told me that 'eliciting the gag reflex' (sticking your fingers down your throat) relieved anxiety, and was something I could do with beneficial results every a.m. for the rest of my life. It does work, strange as it sounds ..."

Mental effects

The stomach is extremely responsive to emotional changes and, like the face, can blanch or blush with blood. It is a mirror of the mind. Depression produces anorexia, or loss of appetite accompanied by a heavy sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, which actually drops an inch or so as the supporting muscles and ligaments let go. Constant worry can create copious gas in the stomach which results in distension and pressure on the heart. This may mimic heart disease.

Stomach ulcers are the end result of a long period of emotional or mental tension, combined with a genetic predisposition to the constant over secretion of gastric juices, which eventually break down the lining of the stomach and start to eat into you, auto-digestion. This is a case of 'what's eating you' on a mental level. Kunjal is one of the yogic techniques that removes the mental roots of many diseases: hate, jealousy, fear and insecurity. The release of nervous tension after kunjal is what does it. But the effect is not instantaneous, rather it takes a slow and steady course.

Alexander Lowen, an American MD, writing in his book Pleasure states:

"The value of this procedure is illustrated in the following case. I saw a young man in consultation who had a tight rigid body. His jaw was tense, his breathing was restricted, his complexion sallow, and his breath smelled sour. After working with his breathing for some time, I had him drink some water and throw up. The immediate effect was a sense of release and easier breathing. On my recommendation he did this every morning for about a month. When I saw him again, the sour smell was gone, his complexion had improved and his body was looser. One result of this procedure is the elimination of chronic heartburn, from which so many people suffer. In most cases the release of tensions by this manoeuvre restores the pleasure to the basic activities of eating and digestion and facilitates a deeper respiration."

Another interesting point is that the American Indians always practised a psychic cleaning before religious rites by drinking a strong emetic and vomiting.

How to practice

This technique is designed to be used in conjunction with other techniques so that awareness can be unfolded in a controlled series of steps.

Here is a guide for the integration of kunjal into your daily spiritual practices:

  • On rising in the morning fulfil your ablutions and then do kunjal. Follow this with neti.
  • Rest for a few minutes and go within. Become aware of the results of kunjal and neti.
  • Do your asanas and pranayama. You will find it easier and more powerful to practice in the early morning as kunjal wakes you up by increasing the flow of prana throughout your body and mind. Meditation is also enhanced.

Use a similar routine every morning and results will quickly follow in terms of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, happiness and peace.

Note: We advise you to study the article 'The Digestive System' so as to better understand the process of internal cleaning.