Basti is a hatha yoga method of cleaning the colon by sucking in air or water through the anus. It is one of the shatkarmas (six cleaning processes) that have been practised in India since time immemorial.
It is a direct and obvious method of washing and purifying the bowels, yet strangely it is rarely taught by yoga teachers or mentioned in modern books on yoga. This is a great pity because basti is reasonably easy to do and can bring many results. The purpose of this topic is to explain the basic technique and try to encourage you to practise it yourself.
The Sanskrit word basti (also widely written as vasti orwasti) is a general word that relates to anything pertaining to the lower abdomen, belly, pelvis and bladder. The technique of basti is widely called basti karma. The word Karma in this context means ‘process or technique’. Therefore, basti or basti karma is a process concerned with cleaning the lower part of the abdomen, specifically the colon. There are two types of basti: sthala andjala. These have derivations and meanings as follows:
1. Sthala basti: The word sthala means ‘ground’. Sthala basti is a practice where one stands on dry ground; in other words, it is a practice where one sucks air into the anus (instead of water). The technique is also called sushka basti, the word sushka meaning ‘dry’. Therefore, sushka basti means ‘dry basti’ or more exactly ‘air basti’. Another name for air basti is vata basti, where the word vata means ‘air’. It is the practice which cleans the colon with air.
2. Jala basti: The word jala means ‘water’ therefore jala basti is the practice where one sucks water into the anus. It is also called vari basti, vari meaning ‘water’. Therefore, vari basti is the process of cleaning the colon with water.
These two practices, air and water basti, are very similar, so we will describe them together.