What is Shanka Prakshalana?
Shanka Prakshalana is an ancient yogic cleansing process. The Sanskrit term Shanka means Conch and Prakshalana means to wash completely. We call it Conch Cleansing in English. It is the process of cleaning the intestines. The coiled shape of the intestines is similar to the internal coiled shape of a Conch. Hence this practice gets this name.
Shankaprakshalana Kriya belongs to Varisara Dhauti (Yogic Cleansing by water), one of the four types of Antar Dhauti or Internal Yogic Washing.
Origin and History
This practice was first mentioned in Hatha Sanketa Chandrika. In the Shatkarma section of Hatha Sanketa Chandrika, the following verse appears.
अथ शङ्खप्रक्षालनाख्यं कर्म || नासापुटेन सलिलं परिपीय वक्त्रमार्गेण तद् बहिर् †अहो† कलयेत् सुधीरः | पीत्वैककेन पुटकेन च नासिकाया अन्येन वारि शनकैर् बहिर् उद्वमेद् वा ||२९|| शङ्खप्रक्षालनम् इदं कफपित्तगदापहम् | जत्रूर्ध्वगतरोगघ्नं दिव्यदृष्टकरं शुभम् ||३०|| इति सङ्खप्रक्षालनं कर्म || atha śaṅkhaprakṣālanākhyaṃ karma || nāsāpuṭena salilaṃ paripīya vaktramārgeṇa tad bahir †aho† kalayet sudhīraḥ | pītvaikakena puṭakena ca nāsikāyā anyena vāri śanakair bahir udvamed vā ||29|| śaṅkhaprakṣālanam idaṃ kaphapittagadāpaham | jatrūrdhvagatarogaghnaṃ divyadṛṣṭakaraṃ śubham ||30|| iti saṅkhaprakṣālanaṃ karma ||
Now the [therapeutic] technique called Śaṅkhaprakṣālana [is described]. Having taken in water through a nostril, the wise yogin should expel it through the mouth, or having taken in water through one nostril, he gradually discharges it through the other nostril. This auspicious [practice called] Śaṅkhaprakṣālana removes diseases caused by [excess] phlegm and bile, cures diseases located above the collarbones, and gives divine sight. Thus, [the description of] the technique Śaṅkhaprakṣālana.Hathasangetachandrika Verse 29 and 30 Commentary by Jason Birch
According to Jason Birch, this is the just premodern description of Śaṅkhaprakṣālana known today. It is similar to Neti Kriya. Most importantly, it notably differs from the practice that is known as Sankha Prakshalana today.
We could find the first modern description of the practice in the year 1956 by Dhirendra Brahmachari in his book Yogic Suksma Vyayama. Likewise, Swami Satyananda Saraswati described a similar technique in his book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha in the year 1969.
Sant Charandas (1706-82) in his book Astangayogavarnan mentioned the technique Sankhaprakshalana in addition to Shatkarma. He is said to have been initiated by the ancient Sage Shuka. He described the technique as an additional practice to Shatkarma. Hence, the practice must be different from Neti or Nasal cleansing which is already a part of Shatkarma. It would be different from the practice of Hatha Sanketa Chandrika. The technique described by Dhirendra Brahmachari might already have been in practice traditionally.
Swami Satyananda might have possibly learned from his Guru Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh because the technique was traditionally in practice with yogic lineages.
Though the technique that is in practice today was not well documented before 1956, it does not mean it is a modern practice.
Shanka Prakshalana Procedure
Yogi Dhirendra Brahmachari gives a sequence of four Asanas, whereas Swami Satyananda gives a sequence of five yoga postures. However, the Shankaprakshalana asanas given by them are the same with minor variations.
|Bihar School of Yoga
Swami Satyananda starts with Tadasana, whereas Dhirendra starts with Sarpasana. Both Sarpasana and Tiryak Bhujangasana are the same in technique. Similarly, Urdhvahastottanasana and Tiryak Tadasana are the same in technique.
Shanka Prakshalana Instructions
Always follow the instructions while taking the practice of Shankaprakshalana. These instructions are as per Bihar School of Yoga.
- Don’t take a heavy meal the night before you take the practice. The meal should be light and semi-liquid.
- Take plenty of lukewarm water and add 2 teaspoons of salt per liter of water.
- Before the practice, you should not do any physical work or yoga posture.
- Also, you should not take any food immediately before the practice.
- Start the practice in the morning before you go for evacuation.
- As a first step, drink two glasses of warm salty water quickly.
- Perform the following five yoga postures in a sequence. This constitutes one round.
- After the end of the first round, drink two more glasses of water and repeat the process.
- Likewise, complete three rounds without resting between the rounds.
- After the third round, go to the toilet and check for any bowel movements. Wait for a few minutes. Don’t strain.
- After a few minutes irrespective of having a movement or not, go for the next round
- Repeat the process for eight rounds. During the process, you experience the excretion of solid stool first, then the mixture of solid and watery stool, and finally water. Normally it requires eight rounds. It varies from person to person. Adjust the number of rounds suitably.
- Then, he should perform Kunjal Kriya and Jala Neti immediately after Shankaprakshalana.
- Take a rest in Shavasana for 45 minutes. Then, take the specially prepared food Kicheri (Refer to the Diet section below). After the meal, take a complete rest. Follow the same diet in the evening or six hours after the first meal.
- One may perform this posture not more than twice a year.
Shanka Prakshalana Diet
The recommended diet for this practice is Kicheri. Kicheri is white rice cooked with mung dal (or any other pulse) and clarified butter. A little turmeric may be added. First, cook the rice and lentils with water. Then add the clarified butter and turmeric powder. The preparation should be semi-solid. Take this food 45 minutes after the practice. Again, take the same preparation during the afternoon.
Laghu Shanka Prakshalana
Laghu Shanka Prakshalana is the easier version. The Sanskrit word Laghu means effortless. Instead of eight rounds, perform only three rounds. One can perform this lighter version once a week. However, it may be performed daily in case of constipation. Once constipation is improved, change the cycle to weekly. After performing the lighter version, one should follow up with Kunjal Kriya and Jala Neti.
Benefits of Shankaprakshalana
The benefits of the practice are given below.
- The practice is good for all digestion-related issues. For example, it removes constipation, biliousness, indigestion, chronic gastritis, and reflux acts.
- Moreover, it even helps to reduce accessory organ ailments of digestive systems like torpid liver, sluggish pancreas, urinary elimination, renal complaints, and dyspeptic condition.
- It boosts the immunity of the body.
- Also, it is good for health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and Asthma.
- Furthermore, it purifies the blood.
- It helps in weight loss.
- Laghu Shanka Prakshalana practice is found to reduce back pain, disability, and anxiety, and help to increase spine flexibility (P. Tekur et al)
- At the Pranic level, it rectifies the imbalances in five Pranas, removes the blockages of Nadis, and purifies the Chakras. Hence, the entire Pranic Body is recharged.