If someone advised you to stick your finger in your rectum, you would probably be offended. Yet this is exactly what we will ask you to do in this topic. The following practice, moola shodhana, is concerned entirely with cleaning the anus and rectum with one’s finger. It may seem a most unlikely yogic method, but in fact it could help to transform your life, especially if you suffer from constipation or haemorrhoids. It is a simple practice, yet it has numerous beneficial repercussions. Overcome your hesitancy and try it for yourself.
This practice comes more easily to eastern people who habitually clean their anus with water after passing stool. In fact, in countries such as India, there is almost a general tendency to regard the use of paper as unclean, which is exactly the opposite attitude to western people. Each method has its good points: the use of paper prevents direct hand contact with the stool. Water, on the other hand, undoubtedly cleans the anus more thoroughly. In either case, one has to wash one’s hands afterwards. Therefore, we feel that water washing of the anus is best, for it ensures that the anal region is perfectly clean. However, this is true only if there is sufficient water available; if there is not, then paper is probably better. We are not really interested in changing your habits in this respect for there are far more important things.
The Sanskrit word moola literally means ‘base’ or ‘root’. In this context, it means anus and rectum. The word shodhana means ‘purification’. Therefore, moola shodhana can be translated as the practice which ‘purifies the anus and rectum’.
This technique has various other common names. It is called moola dhauti, which means anal cleansing’. It is also called ganesha kriya. Ganesha is the name of the plump elephant deity of India, and the word kriya means ‘action’. Therefore, this name can be translated as the ‘elephant action’. Ganesha is closely connected with mooladhara chakra (the psychic centre near the region of the anus). This is one reason for the name ganesha kriya. Also elephants wash themselves thoroughly with their trunk; possibly they also clean their anus in the same manner, at least externally. This practice is also called chakrikarma, which means the ‘rotation practice’. It is so called because the finger is rotated within the anus and rectum.
This practice is widely mentioned in yogic texts. The Gherand Samhita says the following:
“If a person does not practise moola shodhana, then the apana (function of elimination) does not pass freely.” (1:43)
“Clean the anus with the finger. Then repeatedly wash it with water.” (1:44)
“This practice removes the hard, fermented stool from the lower colon. Abdominal ailments are removed, the body becomes graceful and healthy and one’s digestive fire improves.”
Turmeric root or finger?
Traditionally, a turmeric root is recommended for this practice. This plant is widely available in India and has great medicinal value as an antiseptic, blood purifier and general cleanser of physical impurities. It has astringent properties and it is for this reason that it is used in moola shodhana. It tends to stimulate the nerves of the inside of the anus and rectum, which helps to encourage bowel movement (peristalsis) and a free flow of blood. Thus it physically removes waste material and also stimulates the natural function of the bowels.
Turmeric is not widely available to many countries, but one’s finger can be used instead for moola shodhana. This is as good as turmeric, for though it is not astringent, there is more facility for manipulation. The essential point to remember is that your nails should be short and you should carefully clean your hands after the practice.
The best position to practise in is a squatting position. This again is ideally done in the Indian squat toilet. Incidentally, it is worthwhile pointing out that the squatting position is the best for elimination of stool. This is widely accepted in modern medical circles and can be tested by personal experience. The seat toilet may be very comfortable, but this position does not encourage the best possible evacuation. If everyone adopted squat toilets, there would be far fewer cases of constipation. The squat allows the anus to open and function more freely. Furthermore, the squat position applies a firm pressure on the abdomen; this tends to help push the stool towards the anus for expulsion.
If you use seat toilets, then you can at least adopt the squatting position for moola shodhana. We see no reason why you should not try to squat by standing on top of the seat, though it may look a little strange. Make sure you don’t harm yourself.