Basti is the Hatha Yoga method of performing an enema. Basti is one of the Shatkarma or the six purification techniques mentioned in the yogic texts – Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and the Gheranda Samhita. It is aimed at cleaning the lower intestines and the colon, removing toxins and cooling the body. This method is also used with its variations in traditional medicine practice of Ayurveda and Naturopathy. This process has to be learned from a qualified yoga instructor.
How to do Basti?
Sit in a tub filled with water. The water should reach up to the navel. Ideally, this is done in a river with a gentle flow of water.
Bend forward and put the hands on the knees.
Next one has to draw in water from the anus into the large intestine. To do this one needs some practice. Try to expand the sphincter muscles of the anus and try to pull water up into the rectum. This may be difficult in the beginning. UddhiyanaBandha or drawing the stomach inside and upwards helps in this process. Those who have mastered Nauli can also perform Nauli along with Uddiyana Bandhato draw the water upwards.
Hold the water in the bowels for some time and then expel it through the anus.
Repeat this process, till the bowels are fully clean.
Since this process may be difficult in the beginning, some practitioners insert a rubber or plastic tube into the anus to make it easier.
Benefits of Basti
The large intestine can have impurities stuck to its walls, which don’t get expelled for days. Basti removes these impurities and cleanses the colon, thus detoxifying the large intestine.
It relieves gas formation in the large intestine.
Basti is also a good practice followed by advanced practitioners of pranayama. During intense pranayama, a lot of heat is generated in the body. To remove this heat, practitioners can sit (up to navel) in a flowing river and practice Basti. Drawing the cold water in through the anus and then expelling it, removes the heat from the body.
Basti is a common practice used in Ayurveda and naturopathy for detoxification of the body.
Basti helps those who go on long fasts. During long water fasts, the regular stool movements are almost absent. Yet, a lot of toxins get expelled from the body and is pushed into the small and large intestine. These toxins have to be taken out of the body. Usually, an enema is given to remove these impurities stuck to the intestinal walls. Those who know Basti can practice it to get the ‘enema effect’.
Today, most people do enema using a simple enema kit, which is available in most medical stores. This is an easy alternative to the practice of Basti in the Hatha Yoga style. An enema has the same effect and much easier to do for most people. In Naturopathy and Ayurveda, warm water (about 1 liters) boiled with Neem leaves is used for doing an enema. Neem leaf is a good disinfectant. The water container is connected with a long tube that is inserted into the rectum. The water (about a liter or more) is allowed to enter the rectum. It is held there for few minutes according to the capacity of the practitioner. Then one goes to the toilet and expels out the entire water along with human waste.
There are also other traditional yogic methods to clean the intestine. The practice of Shanka Prakshalana is common. It involves drinking about five liters of slightly warm saline water. This is quite an intense process and can be very tiring. The salt water doesn’t get absorbed by the intestines. Instead, it drips down all the way to the rectum, cleaning the entire digestive tract from top to down. It cleans the entire stomach, small intestine, large intestine and rectum of any human waste or food particles stuck to the lining of the intestine. This should be attempted only once in six months. But there is a simpler technique called Laghu Shanka Prakshalana which can be done every two weeks. Here, one drinks only two liters of warm saline water. Then the entire water is expelled from the anus in few sittings.
Thus, the traditional method of Basti has given way to simpler methods of enema in modern times.