vasti kriya

Vasti Kriya, also known as Basti Kriya or Wasti, is one of the six shatkarmas (also referred to as shat kriyas) mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This text is prominent in the Hatha yoga lineage.

You can think of the shatkarmas as purification practices designed to cleanse the systems in your body to remove toxins and impurities. When you perform these practices it’s believed that your body will be supported against various diseases and imbalances.

I’ll be honest with you, Vasti Kriya may intimidate you more than the other shatkarmas. It is probably something you won’t want to try at home. Speak with your doctor before you attempt Vasti Kriya to make sure it is safe for you to do. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Vasti kriya.

What is Vasti Kriya (Basti Kriya)?

Vasti Kriya outlines three different techniques for you to try. I’ll go over each in detail for you later on in this post. To give you an idea of what you’re about to dive into, one technique is similar to jal neti in that you use water to flush your body. Except instead of your nose, Vasti focuses on your colon, the longest part of your large intestine. That’s right, you will most likely recognize Vasti Kriya as an interpretation of what you know today as an enema (more on this later).

Vasti also shows up in the yoga sister science of Ayurveda. The term Vasti (Basti) is a general reference to the lower abdomen, lower intestine, belly, pelvis, and bladder. Basti Karma (karma meaning ‘process’ or ‘technique’) is a prominent aspect of the Ayurvedic cleansing practice of Panchakarma.

Panchakarma is a Sanskrit word that means ‘the five therapies’ and the practice consists of a combination of five treatments, one of which is – you guessed it – enemas. Similar to the shatkarmas, all of the Panchakarma therapies are designed to purify the body of toxins. The average Panchakarma regime lasts between 7 and 21 days and you work with a skilled Ayurvedic physician the entire time.

Benefits of Vasti Kriya (Basti Kriya)

Vasti Kriya has a deep history. Based on that we can infer that it has been believed for a long time that it’s important to support and maintain a healthy colon (large intestine). When your digestive tract is working optimally and toxins are moved through and out of your body your body’s overall health is supported and balanced. As a result, Vasti Kriya is believed to assist in the reduction of abdominal disorders.

Research shows that your gut health has impacts on your cognitive health and likely many other areas as well. Again – balance!

woman holding hands on abdomen

It may even be more important now for you to pay specific attention to your colon health because experts in recent years have begun to sound an alarm that colon cancer in younger age groups is on the rise.

So, how on earth do you do this colon purifying practice? Let me tell you…

How to do Vasti Kriya (Basti Kriya)

When you perform any of the three techniques of Vasti Kriya it is believed that you support your body in the removal of excess waste and toxins from your lower digestive tract, which includes your intestines.

Vasti Kriya (Basti Kriya) Precautions

  • It is best to perform Vasti Kriya (Basti Kriya) in the morning on an empty stomach.
  • It is recommended that you check with your doctor before you perform these practices to make sure they are appropriate for your unique body.
  • These techniques should be practiced under the guidance of competent yoga practitioners.

1. Jala Basti Kriya – Yogic Enema with Water

This first technique, Jala Basti, uses water (jala in Sanskrit means ‘water’) to clean the colon. 

To perform Jala Basti Kriya:

  • Stand with your feet hips distance apart in clean, navel-deep warm water. (Ancient yogis used to stand in a flowing river.)
  • Lean forward and place your hands on your thighs slightly above your knees and maintain a slight bend in your knees. Keep your arms straight, and shoulders relaxed.
  • Take a deep breath. As you release the breath, relax and soften your body. 
  • Focus on your anal sphincter muscles and expand them. The goal is to open up this area of your body to allow water to enter.
  • Perform Uddiyana Bandha (learn how to do Uddiyana Bandha) and/or Nauli Kriya to pull water up into your bowels with a vacuum-like suction.
  • Hold the water in the bowels for a moment and then relax your anus muscles to release the water.
  • You can work up to 5 or more rounds of these steps.

Easy, right? 😂

Alternatively, modern yogis can opt for an enema in which a short tube may be inserted into the anus to make the practice easier. Just make sure you have a toilet nearby…😅

One more option is to sit in a tub filled with fresh, navel deep water and perform Ashwini Mudra (see steps below to learn how to perform Ashwini Mudra).

Benefits of Jala Basti Kriya

Jala Basti is believed to clean the colon (large intestine). The old stool and harmful bacteria are removed, which aids those who suffer from constipation, and gas is expelled. 

2. Sthal Vasti Kriya (Sthal Basti Kriya) – Dry Yogic Enema

No need for a tub of water here. Sthal Vasti (also called Sthal Basti or Sthala Basti) will be performed with only air and your own movements.

seated forward bend Paschimottanasana

To perform Sthal Vasti Kriya (Sthal Basti Kriya):

  • Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs extended in front of you in a seated forward bend (paschimottanasana). In this position, you will perform Ashwini Mudra. Ashwini Mudra is often called ‘horse gesture’ because ashwini is a Sanskrit word that means ‘horse.’ This practice gets its name based on its resemblance to how a horse exhibits a regular pattern of contraction and relaxation of its whole pelvic area when it has a bowel movement. It’s great for strengthening the rectum and pelvic muscles. The next few bullets will explain how to do Ashwini Mudra.
  • Take a couple deep breaths to relax.
  • Inhale. Squeeze the muscles around your anus. Think about the muscles around your anus moving inward and up to contract the anal sphincter muscles. This motion will likely feel similar to Kegels.
  • Hold the contraction for a few seconds (about 3-10 seconds dependent on your ability) and then release it and exhale.
  • Relax the muscles completely. Let them rest.
  • Repeat this cycle of contraction on your inhale and relaxation on your exhale. Begin with a few cycles and work your way up to 25.
  • To finish, slowly release the contraction, relax your body, and take a few deep breaths.

An alternative method for Ashwini Mudra can be to take a breath in and hold it for 10 seconds while you quickly contract and relax your anal sphincter. In 10 seconds you can complete about 5 rounds. After 10 seconds, release your breath. Repeat up to 5 times. You will stay seated in a forward fold.

Benefits of Sthal Vasti Kriya (Sthal Basti Kriya)

Sthal Vasti (Sthal Basti or Sthala Basti) is believed to clean the colon and remove gas and wind as well as strengthen the pelvic floor.

3. Moola Shodhana – Anal Cleansing

It’s time to really get intimate with yourself…with Moola Shodhana.

You can perform Moola Shodhana with turmeric root (haldi) or your own finger. 

To perform Moola Shodhana:

  • Find a comfortable position. You can sit but it may also be nice to lay down on your left side with your bottom leg extended straight out and your top leg bent and pulled in towards your stomach. This position would be similar to a reclined twist (jathara parisvartanasana).
  • Take some deep breaths to relax your mind and body.
  • Slowly and gently insert the soft root of a raw turmeric plant into your anus. If you do not have turmeric root, you can use your index finger or middle finger instead.(Remember how I said earlier you might not want to try this one at home? 😂)
  • Rotate the root or finger around the inner surface of the anal sphincter 10 times in one direction and then reverse the direction for 10 more circles. 
  • Remove the root or finger. Pour water in a way so that the water flows over your anus to rinse it clean.
  • When you have completed, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Ancient yogis used turmeric root for this practice because they believed that it had a high medicinal value as an antiseptic, blood purifier, and general cleanser of physical impurities. Current studies have found it to be beneficial as an anti-inflammatory and digestive aid.

Benefits of Moola Shodhana

Moola Shodhana is said to purify the anal region.

kundalini demystified

Contraindications of Vasti Kriya (Basti Kriya)

Many of these techniques require breath retention and are not suitable during pregnancy, for people with high blood pressure, heart conditions, risk of stroke or thrombosis, glaucoma, internal ulcer, or any condition that may be aggravated by the increased internal pressure that breath retention causes.

These practices should also be avoided by anyone who has had recent abdominal or pelvic surgery.

People with rectal or anal conditions, such as hemorrhoids, fissures, or infections, might need to avoid Vasti Kriya (Basti Kriya) or modify the treatment to suit their condition.

Remember that your body and health are unique and it’s important to consult a qualified and experienced yoga teacher who can assess your individual situation and provide appropriate guidance on whether Vasti Kriya (Basti Kriya) or any other practice is suitable for you.

Alternatives to Vasti Kriya (Basti Kriya)

Vasti Kriya might be a more extreme method than you are comfortable with though. Luckily for you, as a modern yogi, there are many more gentle detoxification options available to you. 

In fact, there are ways you can assist your digestive system easily and gently at home. Movement and Ayurvedic dietary changes are a great place to start. 

Yoga asana is an excellent practice that stimulates your digestive organs as well as calms your stress levels which supports optimal digestion.

Yoga poses that incorporate twists are great methods to ring out abdominal organs and allow fresh blood to rush into them. The twists also gently stimulate the digestive organs to move things through. In fact, research has shown that yoga has a positive effect on adolescents with IBS

I’ve made many yoga sequences over the years that are a great place for you to start to experiment with yoga as a digestive aid. You’ll find that in addition to a reduction of ailments from digestive disorders, you’ll notice a lot of other wonderful benefits.

Here are a few of my favorites that you can practice for free over on my YouTube channel.

YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video

I’d also love to have you practice with me in my Uplifted membership community where we can go even deeper in my 8-day Detox Challenge or 21-day Detox Yoga Fusion Challenge.

There are even Kundalini yoga kriyas that benefit digestive health. Kundalini Yoga’s focus is to clear blockages in the energy body and it can be a great addition and “cross train” approach to the more “whole body” yoga cleanses often discussed. Here is one from my YouTube channel for you to experience:

YouTube video

Curious to learn more about Kundalini yoga? As a Kundalini University student, you will study Kundalini yoga in-depth with Guru Singh and myself. In this innovative training program, Guru Singh shares many kriyas he has developed, including one for Healthy Glands and Organs that you won’t come across anywhere else. It is a truly life-changing training that will impact your mind, body, and spirit.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika also outlines five different movements of prana. One of which, Apana Vayu, is in charge of eliminative functions like excretion. Learn more about Apana Vayu and ways to strengthen it to benefit your digestion.

Yoga Supports You

Yoga offers you many options to care for your body from a digestive aspect. Even by simply working on your awareness and pranayama breath practices you can reduce stress, soothe your nervous system, and support a better digestive process.

Next Steps

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