The power of yoga

Olly Margry explores the yogic practice of Shankhaprakshalana – a popular discipline in Pokhara, Nepal



Nepal is in the heart of the Himalayan mountains







JANUARY is nearing its end, the Christmas decorations have been packed away and memories of 2010 are fading fast. It is a time for resolutions, fresh starts and hope for the year ahead.

At this time of year, the state of one’s health is also a common concern: the effect of countless Christmas dinners are still plain for all to see. It’s a time to detox, get back on the treadmill and feel good about ourselves again.

This year, why not combine a detox with a well-deserved trip away? Nepal, in the heart of the majestic Himalayan mountains, is considered one of the world’s top destinations for traditional health retreats, the ultimate detox Mecca.

The region is famed the world over for its yoga centres, meditation retreats and detox tea houses. However, this year, a new detox practice has emerged which firmly kicks the rest into touch. It’s gruesome, it’s tough, but boy does it work.

One of Nepal’s oldest and much-loved meditation and yoga retreats, the Sadhana Centre in Pokhara, Nepal, home of famous yoga guru Amur Puri, offers the ultimate Himalayan detox experience: shankhaprakshalana. If you can pronounce it you’re already well on the way to purification nirvana.

Based on ancient Nepali traditions, the programme involves between one and seven days of fasting and gastrointestinal cleansing, and is designed to relieve stress and cleanse body and soul.

Here’s a bit of history. The word shankhaprakshalana is derived from two Nepali words: shankha, meaning conch, and prakshalana, meaning to wash completely. The word shankha is used to represent the alimentary canal.

This practice is also known as Varisar Dhauti, and is part of the Kaya Kalpa method, an Ayurvedic technique dedicated to physical purification and transformation.

Shankhaprakshalana is based on the ancient Hindu tradition of cleaning a conch shell with water. The conch was used to “awaken the gods”, and had water passed through it to wash out impurities and create a clean sound. Hindu monks familiar with the tradition realised the same principle could be applied to the human body, and so the shankhaprakshalana detox was born.

It combines ancient Nepali yoga exercises, meditation and fasting, with eating fresh apples and drinking saltwater to flush out the system. The latter acts as a natural laxative which doesn’t irritate the digestive tract and provides a gentle method of evacuating and cleansing the alimentary canal. After this cleansing process, the body feels light and clean and benefits from a well-functioning digestive system.

The centre offers day courses as well as a special post-fasting, high-energy dietary programme, to be completed between one and three days after treatment. The total cost of a six-day course is £199 per person, including accommodation. Additional funds are required for meals and other personal expenses. The cost of a return flight to Nepal varies depending on the time of year.

So what are the benefits of shakhaprakshalana?

Shankhaprakshalana does not just concern the stomach and intestines, the process is also known to create a repair action which affects the lungs, nervous system, skin and sinus area, and continues long after the treatment has ended.

Various metabolic acids and chemical wastes which cause stiffness, lethargy and heaviness, such as lactic acid and uric acid, are also washed away during the process. The benefit for the serious yogic practitioner is a lighter, more flexible body. Fasting promotes a clearer and more alert mind, without the irritating feeling of an empty stomach.

As the programme stresses the negative impact of toxic substances on the body, many people who experience shankhaprakshalana also come away free of cigarette addiction, alcohol dependency and other bad habits.

So, with help from shankhaprakshalana, 2011 can be a year of revision where life changes direction and the foundations for a fresh and positive life are laid.

For more information about the Shankhaprakshalana detox contact Himalayan Footsteps on 0131 5100 522 or visit www.himalayan