Unlike some other yogic practices, basti is quite well described in some of the traditional yogic scriptures. The following are quotations from the Gherand Samhita: “Basti karma is said to be of two types – jala and sushka. Jala basti is done in water while sushka is done on land (that is in air).” (1:46) This verse is a repeat of what we have already explained under the previous heading.
The text continues: “Stand in utkatasana in water to the height of the navel. Contract and expand the anus. This is called jala basti.”
(1:47) Utkatasana is a standing pose in which one bends the legs slightly, leans forwards and presses the hands on the thighs just above the knees. It is the same position in which one does nauli2. The method described in this verse is a very simple method in which one merely contracts and relaxes the anal sphincters. This is called ashwini mudra5. It helps to cool and relax the abdominal organs.
The text continues: “Urinary, digestive and wind problems are cured by jala basti. The body becomes pure and looks like Kama Deva (Cupid).” (1:48) We do not make any promises that you will become like Cupid, but certainly jala basti will help you to remain or become healthy.
The scripture then proceeds to describe sthala basti: “Sit in paschimottanasana and do basti. Contract and expand the anus (ashwini mudra).” “This practice prevents abdominal problems. It stimulates the digestive fire and eliminates wind problems.” (1:49-50)
The Samhita describessimple form of air and water basti. No mention is made of the sucking of air or water into the anus. It seems that instructions for this method of yogic enema was left to the guru to explain to his disciple.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika briefly mentions the more advanced method of basti as follows: “Stand navel deep in water. Do utkatasana. Insert a tube into the anus. This cleaning process is called basti karma.” (2:26)
The insertion of the tube into the anus is one method of basti that we will shortly describe. Without any more practical details, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika then proceeds to expound the benefits: “Basti karma removes all ailments associated with vata, pitta and kapha (the three progressively more subtle principles of man’s being utilized in ayurveda).”
(2:27) “The practice of jala basti makes the bones, muscles, semen, senses (or perception and action) and the antah karana (literally the inner instrument, the mind) healthy. The body glows with vitality. Physical faults are removed.” (2:28) The scriptures regard basti as a very useful and beneficial practice.