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Shankaprakshalana - The Intestinal Wash

"Shanka" means conch and "prakshalana" means cleaning out. The ancient yogis conceptualized the digestive system as being like a conch, a long spiraled passageway through which food traveled. To clean out the whole digestive system from mouth to anus, they invented/discovered a wonderfully clever but simple method.

I was introduced to this cleanse 25 years ago, by a beloved friend, Tara, at Ananda Ashram, in New York. Tara gathered 20 people together to teach us the method. None of us, except Tara, had any idea how effective and rapid this cleanse is. Nor did anyone expect that the effects would be simultaneous. At one point, all 20 people had to purge their digestive systems and that is the point in time that we realized Tara's limitations in planning ahead. There was only one toilet available! I, being the largest and strongest, managed to fight my way in. I don't remember what the others did but I am sure thet they do.

First thing in the morning, before any food or drink is taken, a quantity of warm saline water is prepared. The water is drunk 2 cupfuls at a time and then a series of stretching exercise is done. More water is drunk, and again the exercises are performed over and over again. After about 6 - 8 cups, pressure is built up inside the bowels, stimulating the urge to evacuate. The drinking, exercising and evacuating sequence is continued until the water coming out is as clean as the water going in!

There are two versions of this technique. The short form, Laghoo Shankaprakshalana, is performed only up to about 6 or 8 cups of water and takes only 15 - 20 minutes. The full form, Poorna Shankaprakshalana is continued to the state of complete bowel cleanliness and may involve 20 - 60 cups of water and take 4 hours. They are most often just called "Laghoo" and "Shankaprakshalana" respectively.

The time it takes to get fully clean, and the time which one can continue for, depends on many things, such as the number of times one has done the practice, physical fitness, emotional stability, internal blockages, remnant toxins and drug deposits, etc. The common symptoms of people needing to do this technique - like constipation, impure blood, bad breath, pimples, menstrual problems, PMT, mental overload, repressed anger, depression, hormonal imbalances, anaemia, hepatitis, chronic infections, migraines, asthma, sinusitis, etc, - all mean that the body has not been cleansing properly, in the past.

Intestinal wash has several important benefits to the body and mind. This is true of both the short and the longer version of the intestinal wash. The only other method that can do a thorough cleansing job of the 'insides' is a prolonged fast, such as 21 DAYS OF MELON. Needless to say, no medicine can serve this purpose.

The action of the saline water is very effective in removing blockages and impurities from the gastro-intestinal tract. As a result it is very effective from those suffering constipation and digestive disorders, such as stomach gas, stomach pains and hyperacidity. It is also very beneficial for urinary and kidney health, as it prevents the formation of kidney stones and infection.

The intestinal wash techniques make one feel lighter and sharpens the intellect. It is also recommended for those adhering to various yoga disciplines to attain higher levels of awareness. While the long version of the intestinal wash provides quick relief from several ailments, the short version also provides desired results over a longer period of time when done regularly - about once a month.

As shown on the diagram, there are 5 valves or sphincters in our food passage. At any stage of our digestive system, muscular tensions, emotional tensions and even mental tensions, can restrict the flow in the system. For example, some people may tend to accumulate their tensions primarily in the stomach region, and therefore the oesophageal valve (#1) or the pyloric valve (#2) may be the most inactive. Others may have a blockage around the ileocecal valve (#3), and others at the colon (#4) or anus (#5). At the anus there are in fact two sphincters, an inner and an outer one, both of which need to co-ordinate to work properly. The complexity of the gastro-intestinal system, and its sensitivity to day to day tensions, is why so many people today are constipated, and why so many especially have so much trouble with relaxing their bowels when required

Normally each of these sphincters is controlled involuntarily by the body's own timing and control systems, but what happens after many years of bodily neglect or abuse, is that they lose their natural function, become inefficient and gradually the system starts to pack up. This causes what is known as auto-toxemia, a state where the body's own wastes begin to poison itself. Poor food, sedentary lifestyles, late eating hours, habitual snacking and dehydration, are also common reasons that the digestive system will become inefficient at assimilating and eliminating. More than just some salty water, the whole of ones lifestyle needs to be addressed for long-term digestive health.

The water going through and all the exercises performed, along with all the breathing in and out being done during the practice, gently massage those valves to relax and open up. It works to recondition the function of the valves, the organs connected to them and their corresponding nervous control systems, giving better voluntary control of those, normally, involuntary activities. The intestines get a good wringing out and any stuck matter is moved into the water and eliminated very quickly.

When food passes through the gastro-intestinal tract, due to a positive osmotic pressure, all the salts, chemicals and nutrients in the food pass through the intestinal membranes and are absorbed into the blood stream. For many people this happens poorly, due to waste matter permanently lodged in the little nooks and crannies of the intestines, which in turn has caused reduced internal diameter of the passages and poor transfer across the cells, and much of the potential nutrition is lost and excreted,. The warm salty water firstly dissolves all this matter, to get the walls clean. It is an interesting phenomenon, that once the physical matter is removed from the walls, due to a negative osmotic pressure caused by the salt in the water, the water then starts to draw salts, acids and toxins out of the bloodstream, and into the water for elimination. Here we have a method of actually purifying the blood and back-flushing the intestinal wall cells. The result afterwards is a clean lining, more efficient chemistry in the gastro-intestinal tract and a reversal of toxic accumulations in the blood.

Another aspect which the technique addresses is the function of the auxiliary organs of digestion: that is the liver, the gall bladder, pancreas and spleen. At various points along the passage of our food, these organs inject into, or draw certain substances from, the intestines. During Shankaprakshalana, as the water passes through, it cleans out these ducts and organs, initially removing the blocked matter, but later on drawing out the toxic substances lodged within the tissue of those organs themselves. For example, the continual exercising and drawing effect helps to dislodge and breakdown gall stones, which can be seen to pass out in the water.

Laghoo Shankaprakshalana - the short method

First thing in the morning, (on a day when you do not have to be going out for several hours), before eating or drinking anything, prepare 3 litres of saturated saline warm (body temperature) clean and fresh water. Saturated means that you add salt until it no longer disolves. The water does not need to be boiled, but if you suspect it may be impure, then it should be boiled then cooled. Drink two cups of the water and then practise each of a set of 5 special asanas, 8 times each. Then drink two more cups of the water and again repeat the asanas. Repeat this once more, drinking water and doing the postures.

Around this time you may feel like going to the toilet. You may get an urge earlier than the end of the third round, in which case, do not ignore it, but go and sit on the toilet until relieved. You should then return and complete the third round before finishing off.

Sometimes, on the first few attempts, the flow of the water may not cause the urge by the end of the third round. On such occasions, it is better to continue on, drinking a few more cups and doing the exercises until enough pressure has built up for you to "burst forth". If 7 or 8 cups doesn't get things moving, repeat all the exercises again, one more time, or take a good brisk walk. In any event, you should not have to go past 10 cups of water and 5 or 6 rounds of exercises.

All of the water will not be evacuated initially, but in the course of the next few hours, it should all pass through the rectum, leaving the intestines and bowels clear of all matter. For this reason, stay nearby to a toilet for the morning. Wait at least half an hour after completing the drinking and exercising before eating anything. There are no dietary restrictions for this short intestinal wash.

The shorter version or "Laghoo" may sometimes be done daily under expert guidance. For general well being once a week is sufficient.

Poorna Shankaprakshalana - the longer version

Poorna Shankaprakshalana is a very deeply cleansing and strong practice for the body. It is also quite a challenging event. It is advised that it be performed no more than twice a year. Normally, the times chosen for this are at the change of the seasons. At the end of winter, it is good to strip off the cold season's accumulation of intestinal mucus and to give the body a "spring clean". At the end of summer is also a good time to clean out in preparation for the coming colder weather, so that the body can regulate its heart and "hibernate" more efficiently. Shankaprakshalana is a very strong and effective practice.

If you are one with a weak immune system, great care must be taken in choosing a day for the event which is not too cold and not too hot, nor in fact one which has changeable weather, since the newly cleaned system is susceptible to chill and infection for the first 24 - 48 hours. The best time to commence is soon after sunrise, when the air is fresh and clean, and the mind and body are relaxed. You also want to be well-finished before the middle of the day, so as to have a nice restful afternoon, before an early dinner and an early bedtime on that first night afterwards.

For Poorna Shankaprakshalana one does exactly as in the shorter version. After you have both purged, and completed the third set of exercises, relax, meditate, go for a walk for 20 minutes to half an hour.... and do one more complete cycle.

Preparing the salt water, drinking, doing the exercises, purging, and relaxing comprises a complete cycle and should take approximately one hour. With Poorna Shankaprakshalana you complete four cycles maximum. The idea is to repeat the cycle, until the saltwater passes through your gastrointestinal tract and exits clean and clear.

Mandatory Dietary Aspect of the Longer Version

Yes No
  Please note that there is no "MAYBE" column. If in doubt, it is a NO.
General Guidelines Moderate amounts of food.
Fresh foods, pure foods.
Regular meals.
Light, well cooked foods.
Neutral - nothing too acidic nor alkaline.
Wash all foods and your hands before preparing food and eating.
Listen to your newly intelligent body.
If in doubt, trust your new taste buds.
Moderate use of spices (but no chilli at all).
Moderate use of dried and fresh herbs.
Moderate use of salt.
Excesses (in quantity) of any sort of foodstuff.
No fasting, No binges.
Very hot foods (in temperature or chilli).
Chilled foods - anything straight from the fridge.
Snacks, take-aways, junk food, confectionary.
Heavy foods, under-cooked foods, raw foods.
Processed, artificial, preserved, chemically treated foods.
Meat of all types - beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish, shell fish, sausage.
Highly spiced foods.
No chilli at all.Stale, impure, contaminated or doubtful leftover food.
All sugars, including honey.
Beverages Pure water.
Weak herbal teas.
Weak cereal beverages eg. echo, karo.
Weak fruit juices - watered down 50/50 (excluding any citrus).
Weak vegie juices - watered down 50/50, excluding tomato juice.
Non-flavoured mineral water.
Carob derivatives - but not with milk.
Avoid polluted, chlorinated, chilled water.
Coffee - even decaffeinated.
Tea of the tannin varieties such as Indian, Ceylon, Chinese, even Formosan, Madura and low tannin ones.
Concentrated, or 100% full strength fruit juices.
Concentrated, or 100% full strength vegetable juices.
Soft drinks, sports drinks - eg "Gatorade" etc.
Alcohol of any kind in any form.
Dairy Soy milk (Not really dairy but a bean): Must be unflavoured only, unadulterated. Check labels for synthetics, sweeteners and additives. Cow's milk - whole or skim, plain or flavoured.
Butter and Ghee.
All cheeses - Hard, yellow, salty, mature cheeses and white, soft cheeses - eg cottage, feta.
Cream - fresh or sour.
Yoghurt, ice cream, buttermilk, custards.
Margarine (banned forever!).
Fats Natural cold-pressed vegetable oils (except canola).
Olive oils.
Small amounts of cooked nuts.
Canola (rape seed) oil.
Nut pastes - eg peanut, cashew, almond, tahini.
Coconut oil, copha, animal fats, dripping, lard.
Margarine (banned forever).
Raw uncooked nuts.
Grains and Beans Rice - white, basmati, jasmine, par boiled.
Oats, barley, rye, wheat - all well cooked.
Lentils - all. Red, green, brown, yellow.
Beans - soy, kidney, chick, mung etc.
All well cooked.
Tofu, tempeh - small amounts and only in cooked form.
Brown rice, wild rice.
Breads of all kinds - wholemeal, brown or white, unyeasted or yeasted (even sour dough).
Raw grains - eg raw oats in muesli, or toasted oats in breakfast cereals, grainy breads with chaff-type additives.
Mueslis of all kinds.
Pastas of all kinds.

Any questions??