On Yoga and Being Clean

Yoga has evolved a specific approach to body care, which is particularly relevant in today’s world of the viral epidemic. The six actions – or shatkarma – are documented in a classic fifteenth-century text called the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. They are likely to have originated long before the Middle Ages of course.

enlightening texts for yoga book with fairy lights

One of these kriya exercises is Neti: it’s basically saline nasal irrigation. This is routinely prescribed by doctors. And there is evidence that it does help control infections in the upper respiratory tract. At the start of the outbreak in the UK, there were articles stating that nasal irrigation would not help: and in fact, once you have a serious infection, irrigation probably won’t kill it. But, you can keep the tract clean with daily Neti, helping prevent any infection taking hold.

Another kriya is called Nauli. Nauli is a complex movement to master: it involves a cooperated effort of belly and oblique muscles on each side to create a rolling massage of the internal organs. We all know how great we feel after a massage, and that massage alone can be enough to heal injuries. So why restrict massage to the outside of the body only? Nauli is tricky to master, but the benefits are huge. One of the most significant of these is how much it boosts the immune system. There are many differentarticles you can read about how the belly is key to immune function, and the rolling massage of nauli stimulates the whole area. In my opinion, and in my experience, if you want to stay well – practice neti, nauli and another of the kriyas called kapalbhati daily if you can.

Yoga and Hot Yoga teacher training with Yogafurie Academy – of course – includes study of neti, kapalbhati and nauli, Students learn this on their very first weekend, as they are key to health and the foundation of ongoing bandha practice. Each weekend, students are offered an extra, early-morning session to review and refine their kriya practice. If you’re thinking of Yoga teacher training, or Hot Yoga teacher training, then do check that your provider is going to pass on these traditional and very effective practices as part of your training.

teacher training studying from texts

There is another, more subtle effect to practicing kriyas. When we work directly on our own health (rather than on our figure, or our performance), then we gain some agency over it. We take back control. Until then, we’re kind of just waiting for sickness to come. When it does, we have to hope that the chemical will work – and of course they don’t always work, or they have unpleasant side-effects.

Taking back control is important, because it demonstrates belief in one’s ability to help oneself. And belief is the most powerful treatment of all, because that’s how placebo works. Placebo is a fantastic effect: it’s the effectively the gold-standard for treatments, because no treatment can be considered for use unless it beats placebo. In other words, people really do get well when they believe they’re going an astonishing number of times. I’m not trying to suggest that belief alone is enough – but placebo is real: belief plays a role, and that’s why working on one’s health with a sense of agency is important.

students kneeling in meditation hands on thighs

In the midst of our viral outbreak, we have a renewed focus on cleanliness. It’s worth remembering that modern consumer life generates the real “dirt”. Products will sit in landfill for hundreds of years. Radioactive waste will still be deadly and radioactive, long after the concrete it’s buried in has decayed to nothing. None of what we make can be absorbed by the earth. What we call “dirt” – earth, basically – is actually the most wonderful stuff ever. You can use it to grow food, for instance. Of course, it’s alwaysbeen important that people wash their hands and keep clean: it’s just a shame that this hasn’t been happening, in an “advanced” society.

This article was written by Ed Wood, who works at the Yogafurie studio in Bristol. These are Ed’s thoughts and opinions. He’s a daft old bugger generally!

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