Kriyas are yogic cleansing exercises.

There are vomiting kriyas, nasal-flossing kriyas, gauze-swallowing, pleghm-removing kriyas, tongue-scraping kriyas, nostril-washing kriyas.

Kriyas cleanse you from the inside out. They are fascinating, and sometimes disgusting.

We learned all the kriyas in one day. And then we practiced them.

But before they let us loose with hot salt water and vomit basins, they taught us how to do the kriyas properly.

When swallowing gauze, you wet it first, so that it goes down your throat more easily. Then you swallow it an inch at a time, to prevent a gag reflex from happening. When you pull out all six feet that have just been ingested into your throat and esophagus, the gauze is saturated with tasty phlegm and unidentifiable speckles of grossness.

When flossing your nasal cavities, gently thread the tiny rubber tube down one nostril and carefully extract it as you feel it beginning to emerge in the back of your throat. Then you can pull it gently back and forth, a miniature game of nasal-tug-o-war, cleaning out clinging snot and persistent mucus.

When vomiting, drink eight to ten glasses of salt water really fast, and then go and stick your fingers down your throat. This is to cleanse your upper digestive tract. But only do it once a week!

Shambu stood up on stage, his chest broad, his presence powerful. Somehow, miraculously, he managed to hold the attention of all one hundred and seventy students for the entire month of the Yoga Teacher Training. But it was never easy.

Now everyone was shouting excitedly as the demonstration took place on stage.

Dude, look at her pulling that tube out of her throat! shouted an excited American guy. He was pointing to the volunteer on stage who was obediently flossing her nasal passages with a rubber tube.


Then it was time to demonstrate the vomiting. Shambu was shouting on stage, trying to hold everyone’s attention.

Now everyone keep your eyes up here! he said, waving his arms to keep us focused.

Satya had volunteered to demonstrate, and already she was gulping down glass after glass of warm salt water.

A hush came over the crowd as we watched in anticipation.

One glass, two… four, five… eight, nine…

Nothing happened at first.

Stray eyes wandered over to where Maria from Spain was masterfully swallowing gauze on stage. She looked like a magician inserting blazing fire batons down her throat. Her large breasts heaved as she swallowed another inch, another.

She must be at five feet already, I heard someone say.

And then, a heaving sound.

All heads whipped back to where Satya was now leaning over a huge, empty tub. She grasped one side with her white-knuckled fingers, while the fingers of her other hand were jammed astonishingly far down her throat. Her eyes bulged and purple veins stood out on her forehead as she began vomiting a stream of clear liquid into the basin.

Please direct your attention to this side of the stage! Shambu was shouting, running from Maria’s busty magician antics to stand by Sattya’s side as she gagged.

Now the throwing up process has begun, he narrated, while she heaved and retched, spewing out a spastic stream of salt water into the basin.

Everyone watch Satya as she performs this cleansing kriya! he boomed.

You want to make sure that your fingers are lodged directly in the back of your throat, and that you don’t stop vomiting until you have expelled all of the salt water you ingested!

Meanwhile, Satya’s shoulders were jerking, and involuntary tears were streaming from her red-rimmed eyes. Always the good sport, she held up her fingers in the peace sign and tried to smile through the cascade of salt water that was exploding between her lips.

Later, we were all herded down to the lakeside, where we were given our very own kriya cleansing kits- neti pots for rinsing out our nasal passages, yards of clean gauze to swallow and pull back up our throats, tongue scrapers, red rubber nasal flossing devices. Huge pots of steaming salt water had been set up at the lake’s edge, and already teachers were ladling out nauseating cupfuls to eagerly waiting students.

I started easy. I scraped my tongue, tilted my head from side to side, and poured salt water through my nasal passages. Then I attempted to swallow several feet of gauze, but quickly gagged, and pulled all the gauze up in one go.

I was relatively successful with the nasal flosser. I guided it all the way up my right nostril, and was able to catch hold of it between my fingers as I felt it emerge in my throat. But once I began flossing, the weirdness of what I was doing hit me, and I had to pull it out of my throat as quickly as possible without gagging or vomiting.

When it was time to gulp down the salt water, I looked around and laughed out loud. People were doubled over, hands on knees, heaving, gagging, retching, coughing and spitting. Others had red rubber tubes hanging out of their nostrils, while still others cheered at having successfully swallowed several yards of gauze and then pulled it out again, coated with the sticky, discolored muck that had been living in their throats.

When it was finally over, we made our weary, watery-eyed way back up to the ashram, where many of us crashed on our backs and stared blankly at the ceiling of the Shiva Hall. I was technically “cleansed,” but I felt more exhausted than cleaned out. I decided that the kriyas are a good idea in theory, but that I’m not yet enough of a master yogi to perform them with the chirpy enthusiasm and regularity that our optimistic teachers advised.


One Response to Kriyas

  1. sheila says:

    OMG! I can’t blieve you underwent these tortures willingly! “Tasty phlegm and unidentifiable speckles of grossness” – wonderfully descriptive, but nothing I ever hope to experience.

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