Yogi Sivadas’ teaching of yoga is classical and is also strongly influenced by Ayurveda, the ancient science of better health. He believes that most emotional, hormonal and physical imbalances and agitations of the mind are caused by bad diet, poor digestion and a sedentary and/or stressful lifestyle.
Healthy digestion and elimination is crucial. The exasperated expression, “Oh, she’s full of shit!”, is literally that – when the body is clogged with toxic waste, it creates hormonal imbalances and makes us behave like crazies; unreasonable, impatient, fearful, depressed, bad-tempered, and the kind of person you hardly recognize as yourself. In fact, this is not your true self. It’s your body and mind poisoned by the toxins in your digestive system. Get them out!
The Kriyas are yogic cleansing practices which promote healthy digestion and well being and there are several basic and advanced purification techniques. None of them should be done without the guidance of an experienced teacher, and some of them should not be done at all, depending on your state of body and mind.
In our quest to create happy elimination, our daily routine involves Agnisar Kriya, “activating the digestive fire” first thing in the morning. It involves rapid contraction and expansion of the abdominal muscles, pumping the stomach with muscular effort. Great for the abs! It also kickstarts the digestive system and should result in a bowel movement. Or maybe I’ll just go back to the place that gave me Delhi Belly and get the same result 😉
We’re also scraping our tongues in the morning with a little metal tongue scraper – it’s particularly revolting to see how much gunk there is on your tongue in the morning, after your body has tried to digest what you threw into it the day and night before. And then you swallow those toxins on your tongue when you eat and drink at breakfast. Yukk. You shower, wash your ears and brush your teeth regularly, so why wouldn’t you keep your tongue clean? (If all this talk about poop and bodily functions is too much for you, fast forward to Hanuman Comes Visiting, for light relief. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve learnt so much about the effects of poor digestion on our lives, the subject for me has now changed from being icky to being hugely therapeutic and helpful).
I am definitely taking the tongue scraping habit back with me, as part of a daily routine. The Neti practices? Um, not so much. Even as Yogi Sivadas describes the techniques, I start to feel panicky. OMG, I’ve seen this in one of those weird yoga books; is he going to make us all do it together?
I watch him demonstrate Jala Neti (nasal cleansing with water) and I instantly start to feel as if I’m about to be waterboarded. (Me, melodramatic? Never!). When he shows us Sutra Neti (nasal cleansing with rubber string), I stare at him, wide-eyed, and I feel tears streaming down my motionless face, in cold and abject fear. Misplaced and unnecessary fear, because of course we’re not forced to do anything that makes us feel uncomfortable (or evokes spontaneous and illogical, sheer terror).
The salt gargling I can handle. Yogi Sivadas gives us a bag of “black” salt, which is white and slightly sulphuric. When I mix the salt in water it smells like someone farted in my room. This completes our morning routine before we head to our 7am lessons – pump stomach, shower, scrape tongue, brush teeth, breathing exercises, meditate, gargle, and I’m also doing my usual daily Tibetan Rites – no wonder we get up at 5:30!