Cleansing the Inner Prison

Swami Hridayananda Saraswati

Reformation begins with purification of the body. Toxins build up in the body, as well as the mind, and with these poisons in the system it is not possible to think clearly or positively. The state of physical health surely affects each prisoner's thoughts, attitudes, daily routine and self-esteem. Years of overindulgence in food, drink and sense pleasures, leave their mark upon any man, and could be partly the cause of being behind bars in the first place. Therefore, we have to start where we are - in this physical body; and begin to throw out all the unwanted and accumulated poisons, before we can change the attitudes that have poisoned our minds.

Shankhaprakshalana is one of the shatkriyas, or cleansing practices of hatha yoga, which can be utilised most beneficially to counteract the effects of drug addiction, alcoholism and prison life. It is a systematic method of completely washing the entire alimentary canal from the mouth to the anus. This purifies the blood and improves the health of the entire body. It is one of the major components of all the yogic therapy programs recommended for diseases related to the digestive tract. These include diabetes, hyperacidity, chronic dysentery, constipation and conditions arising from toxic blood.

Kunjal is also an excellent practice for prisoners since it allows pent-up emotions, tensions, aggression and anger to be eliminated very quickly and effectively. Anyone can practise it and very little special training is required. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and is thereby very useful for prisoners who suffer nervousness and those who have restless and tension-ridden minds.

Many prisoners suffer from headaches and colds, for which they should practise jala neti. This kriya, which involves passing water from one nostril to the other, stimulates the olfactory bulb, and has a soothing effect on the brain and eyes. It is also effective in balancing the autonomic nervous system through the delicate mucus membranes in the two nostrils themselves.

Nauli is another hatha yoga practice which massages all the abdominal organs, removing digestive ailments. It also helps to eliminate sexual problems and to keep these organs in good condition.

Through our experience, we have seen that systematic application of these techniques in the prisons and reformatories will effectively create good health and aid in permanent rehabilitation. More than this, some of these kriyas require strict dietary controls, and this can be automatically fulfilled in a prison environment.

Details of these techniques can be found in the BSY publication 'Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha' but should be learned under expert guidance We suggest that you contact a nearby ashram, sannyasi or yoga practitioner to arrange a training program.