SHANKA PRAKSHALANA

Shank Prakshalana (or Conch Gesture) is an ancient purification and rejuvenation technique, achieved by performing a thorough washing of the entire alimentary canal. As time passes, the residues of waste products coming from food accumulate in the intestine, settling in the small folds. When this happens inflammation can occur, and the good functioning of the immune system is inhibited and the metabolism is slowed down.

“Shankaprakshalana purifies the body.
By practicing with care, one gets a luminous or shining body.”

Gheranda Samhita

This cleansing practice can be compared to the enema, however it is more complete because it works on the whole digestive system, while the enema does not go beyond the colon.
Additionally, it improves digestion (therefore reducing bloating), boosts the metabolism and the immune system.
Please note that this practice requires the ingestion of a good amount of salt, therefore those who have hypertension issues and those who have pathologies related to the intestine (such as ulcers) should avoid it.

BEFORE THE PRACTICE

You should choose a day when you are completely free to perform the practice, as it may take long and you may feel weak during the first few hours after the practice.
The night before the practice, you should have a light meal with nothing that may create constipation (no rice, bread, cheese, meat, fish) and prefer foods that contain plenty of water (soups, fruit, vegetables). You should eat no later than 7pm in order to ease digestion.
The following morning, before starting the practice, you should evacuate what’s possible, using an enema if you tend to have constipation issues.

THE TECHNIQUE

This practice should be done on a completely empty stomach. Prepare about 1.5lt of lukewarm water (should be around 37-40°), and add a level tablespoon of integral or Himalayan salt to it (the concentration should be about 9-10g/lt). Salt is added so that the body will not absorb the water.
Ideally, you should drink all the water in one go, as the water will create pressure and it will be easier to evacuate it. Alternatively, you may drink a few glasses at a time, alternating it with the proposed asana sequence. The latter method will require more repetitions of the sequence. Drink as much water as you can, only stop if you feel like you may vomit it. You must avoid this because the contractions of the stomach needed to vomit will close the sphincters and make it very hard to later evacuate the water.

In fact the purpose of the asana sequence is to relax the internal sphincters of the body (such as the cardia and the pylorus), guiding the water towards the exit. You may follow them from the video above, or looking at the following pictures. These poses should be performed “loosely” meaning without pulling too hard to get into the perfect pose. In this instance, the focus should not be on the stretch, but rather on relaxing the stomach and intestine. This sequence is what gives the practice the name of ‘Conch Gesture’: if you pour water into a conch shell and want to make it slide down you cannot simply hold it up vertically, but you will need to twist it around to allow the water to travel through all the folds and turns. The human stomach is similarly constructed, as it is very long and folds over many times, and needs a like-wise action to aid the water travel down.

Remember: you should go to the toilet as soon as you feel pressure.

Talasana

  1. Talasana: Stand up with your feet hip width apart. Interlace your fingers or hold them in prayer. Inhale and lift the arms up, then breathe normally. Relax the stomach, it’s okay if it hangs out a bit. Focus on the lengthening of the stomach. Hold for 4-5 breaths.
  2. Tiryak Talasana: From the previous pose, exhale and fold to the right side, then breathe normally. Hold for 4-5 breaths, and repeat on the left side. Then come back to the centre.
  3. Kati Chakrasana: Still standing with your feet hip width apart, inhale and lift your arms in front of you, parallel to the ground. Exhale and twist your torso to the right, breathe normally and hold for 4-5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
  4. Tiryak Bhujangasana: Laying down on your stomach, place your hands on the sides of your chest, below the shoulders. Inhale and press down with your hands, lifting up your chest. Breathe normally. Twist your torso to the right, moving your left hand in front of you and the right hand on your right side. Hold for 4-5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
  5. Udarakarshansana: Start from a squatting position. Bring the left knee to the ground and turn your torso to the right, your hands touching the floor. The lifted leg should be pressing on the abdomen. Breathe normally and hold for 4-5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.5.2) Ardha Matsyendrasana: This pose is an alternative to Udarakarshansana or it can be added at the end of the sequence. Sit on the floor and fold your left leg, sliding it under the right leg, close to the hip. The right foot goes over the left knee and stands on the floor, the right knee points up at the ceiling. Exhaling, twist your torso towards the right, placing your right hand behind you to maintain balance, while the left arm is placed on the outside of the right knee, pulling the thigh in. Keep your spine straight and breathe normally, holding for 4-5 breaths. Then unfold your legs and repeat on the other side

You should repeat this sequence about 4-5 times, keeping the stomach relaxed. If you still do not feel the stimulus, you can try to go to the toilet anyway, or you can take a small walk (but stay close to a toilet).

What is going to happen is that solid stool will come out first, then a mixture of water and stool, and then just water. The water may take a few takes to clear out completely. You may wait sitting, possibly massaging the abdomen, or you may get up and walk around a bit to help the water travel down.
Once the intestine is all clear, it is advisable to practice Vamana Dhauti (also called Kunjal) in order to get rid of the excess salt that may be left in the stomach.
After the practice, you should rest as you need.

AFTER THE PRACTICE

The first meal after the practice should be one of well-cooked rice with Ghee (margarine/vegan butter is also okay if you want to keep it plant-based) and well-cooked vegetables. The vegetables should be chosen between carrots, courgettes, pumpkin, and green beans.
Avoid meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and legumes, as these are all foods that ferment in the stomach.
For the following 3-4 days you should eat probiotics every morning in order to re-build the intestinal flora. You can have yoghurt or vegetable-based probiotics for a plant-based diet.

You can repeat the practice once a year or every 6 months.