Topic 5 | Hatha Yoga | Vastra Dhauti | Introduction

Vastra dhauti is a method of cleaning the throat, oesophagus and stomach with a length of cloth. At first you may think that it is more like a circus trick than a yogic technique as it seems unnatural and unsightly. You may feel disinclined to practice it. But it gives many benefits. For this reason we strongly suggest that you try to master it. We specifically recommend vastra dhauti for those who suffer from asthma.
Definition
The word vastra means ‘cloth’ and dhauti means ‘cleansing’ or ‘washing’. Therefore, vastra dhauti is a technique for cleaning the digestive system with cloth.
It is also known by various other names. These include: vas dhauti (washing with a cloth), dhauti kriya (cleansing technique) and dhauti karma (cleaning technique).


Scriptural references
Most traditional texts on hatha yoga mention vastra dhauti. The Gherand Samhita says: “Take a long fine cloth which is two inches in length. Swallow it gradually and then take it out again. This is known as dhauti kriya.” (1:41) “Vastra dhauti cures tumour, fever, kidney trouble, leprosy, cough, catarrh and bile trouble. It keeps the body free of disease and strong. It helps to develop the body.” (1:42)
It seems that the great yogi Gherand had a veiy high regard for vastra dhauti.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says: “According to the guru’s instructions take a wet cloth four fingers in width and fifteen feet in length. Swallow it and then remove it again. This is known as dhauti karma.” (2:24) The text continues: “The afflictions of twenty types of diseases such as cough, asthma, leprosy, etc. can be completely removed. Of this there is no doubt.” (2:25)
We don’t know the specific names of all twenty diseases, but we can vouch for its efficacy in treating asthma.
Type of cloth
The cloth should be soft, unstarched and perfectly clean. It should not be dyed. White muslin is ideal.
Length of cloth
Beginners should cut a length of cloth that is about 2 1/2 cms wide and 3 metres long. When you can do the practise then the width and length can be gradually increased. After a few months the width can be about 5 or 6 cms, and the length about 6 1/2 metres. However, such a long cloth should only be used under expert guidance, and after regular practice with a shorter cloth.
Make sure that all frayed edges and loose thread are removed before starting.
Preparation
The cloth should be placed in a mug or bowl of lukewarm water. If you wish you can use salt water, but it is not essential. This will keep the cloth wet so that it slips smoothly down the oesophagus into the stomach.
Some people soak the cloth in milk, or even sweetened milk. If you find that this makes the cloth more palatable, and the practice easier, then try it.
Sitting pose
If your legs are reasonably flexible, then sit in a squatting position. Otherwise sit on a low stool or chair. The position is clearly illustrated in the following figure.

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