The aim of all yoga practices is purification known as “shauca”. It is the first of eight principles and concerns the development of self-discipline. According to the Yogis, impurities within our internal bodies have a profound effect on our mental capabilities. This in turn prevents us from attaining wisdom and spiritual liberation.
The practice of yoga involves adopting physical postures and movements, which are said to purify the body by improving the flow of blood and oxygen in the tissues, muscles and inner organs. Through yoga postures and movements fresh blood is circulated around the organs and muscles bringing oxygen and nutrients. Other postures require rapid movements designed to make the body sweat, which then facilitates the release of toxins through the skin’s pores.
Controlled breathing techniques known as “pranayama” purify the mind and body by creating energy, which is then dispersed throughout the whole body. Some breathing techniques are also used to create warmth, which helps to move energy around the body more effectively. A technique known as “Nadi Sodhana”, which means alternate nostril breathing creates a calming and cleansing action on the body by reducing stress and removing blockages from the “nadis”, which are the energy channels.
To purify the mind, yoga embraces the self-discipline of “Tapas”, which means the burning up of desires. This works by creating a conflict between what you want and don’t want to do. For example, By performing some action that you wouldn’t normally do you are creating a mental conflict, which produces an internal “fire”. This is said to burn up our mental and physical impurities.
Yoga’s purifying techniques are focused on cleansing the body and mind. There are six of these practices known collectively as “shatkarma”. Neti is the nasal and irrigation technique, Dhauti is the cleansing of the digestive tract, Nauli is abdominal massage, Basti concerns colon cleaning, Kapalbhati is the technique of purification of the brain, and Trataka is the practice of gazing without blinking.
The ultimate goal of these practices is to purge the body and mind of excesses in order to bring the three doshas, which are the physical constitutions, into balance. This is generally the aim for beginners. If the doshas are already in balance, then it is not recommended to practice these intense cleansing practices, which have to be taught by an experienced practitioner.
Yoga is a fascinating subject and there is much to learn if you want to begin practicing it. There are many books available but better still is to attend classes or to watch instructional videos in the comfort of your own home and learn all about the various yoga techniques when time affords.