Dhauti - Internal Cleansing

A strip of wet cloth, four angulas wide (3") and fifteen hands (1¼ metres) in length, is stoutly swallowed and, then taken out, as instructed by the guru. This is known as dhauti.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:24

Dhauti is divided, into four parts. According to the "Gherand Samhita" they are called antar (internal) dhauti, danta (teeth) dhauti, hrid (cardiac) dhauti, and moola shodhana (rectal cleansing). The practice described in this verse is actually vastra dhauti. 'Vastra' means 'cloth', This practice must only be performed under expert guidance and in full accordance with the instructions given.

The cloth should be of finely woven cotton which is clean and new. Synthetic material should definitely not be used. The cloth must also be trimmed neatly so that no fraying takes place. It should he no wider than the tongue or it will fold as it passes down the throat, and should be at least one meter and no more than a meter and a half in length.


Wash, rinse and boil the cloth well - keep it in a container of warm water while you are practising -squat with the heels on the ground and buttocks off the ground or resting - on a brick or something of the same height - relax the body - keep the cloth spread and not folded as you use it - spread one end over the tongue and start swallowing the cloth - if it catches in the throat and will not pass down, take a sip of warm water, but do not drink a large quantity - the stomach is to be filled with the cloth and not with water - the cloth tends to stick in the lowest point of the throat, so keep swallowing it and resist the urge to vomit - once (he cloth passes a little further down the oesophagus the problem will end - when two-thirds of the cloth have been swallowed, leave the remaining few inches hanging out of the mouth and stand up ready to practise nauli - the cloth can be left in the stomach for five to twenty minutes but no longer - practise dakshina (right) and vama (left) nauli; then rotations and madhyama nauli - five to ten minutes is sufficient time to clean the stomach - sit again in the squatting position and remove the cloth.

Vatsara dhauti

Vatsara dhauti is performed by breathing in slowly through the mouth in kaki mudra and then swallowing the air into the stomach while expanding the abdomen. It can be done up to ten times or until the stomach is fully expanded. Then the air should be passed through the large intestine. To do this it is helpful to assume an inverted posture. Pashinee mudra is best. The air should then pass out of the anus easily.

Varisara dhauti

Varisara dhauti is more commonly known today as shankhaprakshalana. In this practice you drink a total of sixteen glasses of warm salty water and evacuate it through the bowels. First you drink two glasses and perform a series of five specific asanas: tadasana, tiryaka tadasana, kati chakrasana, tiryaka bhujangasana and udarakarshan asana. After every two glasses the asanas should be performed until the water starts flowing out of the anus. Once clear water starts coming through, you will know that the stomach and intestines are perfectly clean and you can stop the practice.

Forty-five minutes after completing the practice, a saltless liquid mixture of cooked rice, mung dal, and ghee has to be eaten until the stomach is completely full. There are dietary restrictions to be observed for the minimum period of one week after the practice, and as it is a major cleansing operation, it must be done under expert guidance.

Laghoo shankhaprakshalana

This is a shortened form of shankhaprakshalana. 'Laghoo' means 'short'. In this practice only six glasses of warm saline water are taken. After every two glasses the same series of asanas are to be performed as in 'poorna' (full) shankhaprakshalana.

The Hatharatnaveli mentions the use of jaggery water or milk water (1:5) instead of salt water. There are also various other herbs and juices which can be used, such as a few drops of lemon, onion or garlic. Laghoo shankhaprakshalana could be done with carrot or celery juice. Though not compulsory, we recommend that the practices of first kunjal kriya, and then jala neti be done immediately after completing shankhaprakshalana. This gives the best possible cleansing to the entire digestive tract.

Vahnisara dhauti

Vahnisura dhauti, also known as agnisara kriya is a practice which involves moving the 'fire' in the body. 'Vahni' and 'agni' mean 'fire'. 'Sar' means 'essence'. This 'essence of fire' is located in the navel region. On a physical level, the practice involves conscious movement of the abdominal muscles and organs which creates internal heat. The practice is very useful as a preparation for kapalbhati and bhastrika pranayama.

Simple form

Sit in vajrasana - keep the toes together and separate the knees as far as possible - place the hands on the knees and keep the arms straight - lean forward slightly -open the mouth and extend the tongue outside - breathe rapidly in and out while simultaneously expanding and contracting the abdomen - the respiration should be in harmony with the movement of the abdomen and should resemble the panting of a dog - breathe in and out up to 25 times - advanced practitioners can perform 50 - 100 breaths.

Advanced form

Exhale as deeply as possible - perform jalandhara bandha (chin lock) - rapidly expand and contract the abdominal muscles for as long as you are able to retain the breath. For both forms the standing position can be used.

Benefits of vahnisara dhauti

This practice massages all the abdominal nerves, strengthens the muscles and stimulates the associated nerves, encouraging the best possible functioning of these organs. It promotes the correct secretion of digestive juices and thereby allows optimum assimilation of nutrients. It prevents and removes various digestive maladies such as constipation, indigestion, hyper - acidity, hypo-acidity, flatulence, constipation and sluggish liver.

Danta Dhauti

Danta dhauti is the cleaning of the teeth with a special stick, usually of neem or babool. A toothbrush and paste can also be used. It includes jihva dhauti - cleaning the tongue by rubbing it with the joined first finger and thumb in a downward motion, and then squeezing it, karna dhauti- cleaning the ears with the middle finger and nothing smaller, kapalrandhra - cleaning the upper back portion of the palate, chakshu dhauti - bathing the eyes with tepid saline water or urine.

Hrid dhauti

The word 'hrid' means 'heart' or the chest region, and these practices are concerned with purifying this region of the body. The techniques are divided into three - Vastra dhauti, which has already been described, danda dhauti, and vaman dhauti.

Danda dhauti: This is the method of cleaning the oesophagus, the food pipe, from the throat to the stomach, by inserting a specially prepared stick. The stick is usually the soft core of a banana tree stem, being about half an inch in diameter and two feet long. The stem is carefully inserted down the throat until the end of it reaches the stomach. Then it is slowly removed. It should not be attempted under any circumstances without expert guidance. It removes mucus, phlegm, acidity and general impurities from the oesophagus.

Vaman dhauti or vyaghra kriya: This is the second practice of hrid dhauti. 'Vaman' is 'to vomit' 'vyaghra' means 'tiger'. Just as a tiger regurgitates its food a couple of hours after eating; in this practice you vomit the food from the stomach three hours after a meal. If it is difficult you can drink a glass or two of warm saline water and then tickle the back of the throat with the first two fingers to induce vomiting. Traditionally, after performing this practice, a sweet milk rice pudding should be eaten.

Kunjal kriya: is almost identical to vyaghra kriya, except that it is performed on an empty stomach. You drink four to six glasses of warm saline water and then vomit it out. There are no dietary restrictions afterwards.

Moola shodhana: is done by inserting the middle finger into the rectum and rotating it clockwise, then anticlockwise. Make sure the fingernail is cut short, and if necessary, you can put some non irritating oil on the finger to lubricate the anus. The Gherand Samhita also recommends the use of a turmeric root instead of the finger, and starting by sitting in utkatasana.

Bahiskrita dhauti: This is a very difficult practice unless you are an advanced hatha yogi. It involves standing navel deep in clean water, pushing the rectum out and washing it in the hands. The Gherand Samhita states, "It is not easily available even to the gods" (1:23).

Benefits of the dhauti series

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states,'There is no doubt that cough, asthma, diseases of the spleen, leprosy and twenty kinds of diseases caused by excess mucus are destroyed through the effect of dhauti karma.' The combination of all the practices of dhauti cleans the entire digestive tract and respiratory tract. It removes excess and old bile, mucus and toxins, and restores the natural balance of the body's chemical composition, thus alleviating ailments caused by such imbalances.

The various practices help remove infectious bacteria from the mouth, nose, eyes, ears, throat, stomach, intestines and anus. The results are a reduction of excess fatty tissue and relief from flatulence, constipation, poor digestion and loss of appetite. Dhauti is even said to cure leprosy. Although this disease is not prevalent in many countries today, the point is that even such insidious diseases can be alleviated through this powerful practice.

The Gherand Samhita states that dhauti can cure abdominal ailments and fever, of course it is not advisable to practise dhauti during a fever or acute visceral infection. However, if it is practised after recuperation it will prevent recurrence of the problem. There are certain conditions in which antar dhauti must not be practised. These are: stomach or intestinal ulcers, hernia, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Are there any restrictions regarding women performing the shatkarmas at the time of the monthly cycle?

Swami Niranjan: There are no absolute restrictions and rules for the practices of neti, trataka or kapalbhati, but it should be ensured that, in the practices of dhauti and basti, undue pressure is not created in the sensitive system of the female sadhaka at the time of the monthly cycle. If undue pressure and tension is created in the muscular structure at the time of basti and dhauti, then the hormonal cycle can be affected. So the practices of neti, kapalbhati and trataka can be practised by ladies during the monthly cycle while those of nauli, basti and dhauti should be done after the monthly cycle to avoid any kind of hormonal or glandular imbalance within the body.

Ideally, how should the six practices of hatha yoga be learned and practised?

Swami Niranjan: There has to be a proper system in the various practices of hatha yoga. First, begin with neti as it helps to clear the nasal passages of mucus blocks and allows for proper intake of air through the nostrils. Neti not only helps to do this but also aids in. the relaxing and sensitising the nervous system which is beneficial in the advanced practices of hatha yoga and other yogas.

After the practice of neti, kapalbhati should be done. This will give greater control over the autonomic muscular movements of the body. Control over the diaphragm, abdominal muscles, lungs, chest, and the muscles surrounding the lungs, chest and ribcage, will be attained through the practices of kapalbhati. In this way, the muscles will gradually be trained for other practices.

Along with physical relaxation, mental relaxation is equally important at the time of yoga practice. So, in. the third stage, trataka can be practised to release tensions from the mind, intellect and emotions. The resulting tranquillity starting with the inner personality will influence the outer physical body.

Then the practice of nauli should be done. Nauli gives control over the movement of the small and subtle muscles of the internal system.

After nauli, different forms of dhauti should be performed to prepare the system gradually for the final practice of basti.

Basti should be practised last because in basti we are reversing the natural laws of the body. The natural process is to expel body waste through the anus and urinary tracts. However, by taking in water or other forms of liquid, we are reversing the nature of pranic flow and also of the muscular structure, which requires great control of the total physiological behaviour of the nerves, muscles and organs. Therefore, basti should be practised last.