of the parts. So please always remember that yoga, be it therapeutic or generalist, intends not to break people up into bits which need fixing (like the reductionist medical models) but aims to unify all your bits back into an integrated whole.
With yoga, the more you learn, the less you need to return to someone else, but I advise one should from the beginning maintain a relationship with a teacher in
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whatever form serves you the best.As that relationship grows, you gradually become your own therapist, your own preventative health practitioner or yoga teacher. And this is a major underlying motive for this book. I wish to show and teach women how to become more self sufficient, by learning yoga and then applying it whenever and however they most need it.
The yoga cleansing techniques are a little known or taught set of practices in the general yoga fraternity (in the West). We clean our teeth and our skin daily, regularly wash our clothes, the dishes, the floors and the car, but internal cleansing, is something many people don't pay attention to. Each person begins yoga with all the previous build up of their life's habits stored within their body and their mind. When people commence yoga practice, they immediately come up against these resistances to change. Whether it be physical or mental, residual toxins restrict flexibility and block the flow of energy which yoga practices seek to loosen and eliminate. Whilst the exercises, breathing, relaxation and meditation can certainly get things moving, the practices which work most quickly and efficiently at this are the internal cleansing techniques. These are part of a system which yogis can use to "kick start" the transformative process and this cleansing can make all the other techniques which follow on, work much better.
The yoga cleansing techniques are variously called Shatkarmas or Shatkriyas which means "cleansing actions or cleansing movements". They are a part of the broader branch of Hatha Yoga which is concerned with the harmonisation of forces within the body and the mind, through various methods of physical and mental balance.
Sometimes the term Hatha Yoga is often misunderstood to mean only the postures and exercise techniques of yoga. Some yoga teachers refer to their classes as being Hatha Yoga when they include a mixture of postures, breathing exercises, relaxation and maybe a bit of
meditation, however this use of the term Hatha is only partially correct. According to the classical yoga texts, Hatha Yoga includes only 6 Shatkarmas or groups of cleansing techniques, namely: Neti, Dhauti, Nauli, Basti, Kapalbhati, Trataka. These major categories include other sub-categories which total over 30 different cleansing techniques.
The Sanscrit word Hatha, is composed of two syllables. "Ha" is the Solar Force, also called prana shakti. It is the dynamic, physical, life giving, outward expression of human energy. "Tha" is the Lunar Force, also known as manas shakti. It is the passive, mental, reflective, inward expression of energy. Yoga philosophy in general, and more specifically the principles of Hatha Yoga, teach that these two aspects of our make up must be balanced for a healthy and spiritually attuned existence. The techniques of Hatha Yoga work on cleansing and purifying all the organs of sensory reception as well as the organs of action. In both the physical and the psychic realms, they create an harmonious flow of energy within the Solar (Ha) and the Lunar (Tha) parts of the human framework.
The ancient yogis developed a wide range of methods for body and mind cleansing. In performing such things, it was only ever their aim to purify and balance the elements of human structure to the highest level for the highest purposes. These amazing ways of external and internal cleansing were not just for health, but in preparation for the higher states of meditation so as to be able to attain enlightenment, self transcendence, even immortality. These days, with our unhealthy environment, impure food stuffs, ailing bodies and disturbed minds, these same techniques can be used just as effectively to improve the quality of our own, somewhat less than enlightened lives.