Physical strength, mental strength, and the strength of the sense organs – all these are very important. Without them, one cannot attain spiritual strength. -Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Ashtanga yoga master, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, knew what he was talking about on how to attain spiritual strength. Beyond the physical practice of asana or the mental practice of pratyahara, his comment reflects an important principle in Ayurveda: we experience life through our sense organs. Our skin, ears, mouth, nose, and eyes are the means through which we gather information about our surroundings and experiences, assimilate that data, and then respond to it – consciously or not.
In yogic philosophy, the Sanskrit word Avidya refers to the veil of life. It’s the clouded, distorted lens, which warps our perception of reality and derives from things like ego and attachment. By practicing yoga, we remove that veil and see life more clearly. Similarly, Ayurvedic philosophy emphasizes various practices so we may experience life more clearly.
Specifically, by maintaining the health of our sensory organs. One such protocol is called Netra Basti.
In Sanskrit, the word Basti translates to “bladder” or “container”, for medicated oils or tonics to sit in for a period of time. Netra basti is a restorative and preventative Ayurvedic treatment for the eyes. Dough is made using organic flour and placed around the eye orbit to create a small dam. The dam is filled with luke-warm ghee (clarified butter), and then the patient opens his eye and performs various eye exercises while submerged under the ghee, for approximately 10 minutes.
What Is Netra Basti Good For?
- Reduces tension and migraine headaches
- Soothes dry, itchy, eyes
- Provides relief from allergies
- Improved vision
- Increased concentration and mental acuity
- Combats eye strain from TV, computers, and smartphones
- Relieves eye socket tension, twitches, and squinting
- Eases wrinkles and dark circles around the eyes
- Slows the natural degeneration of the eyes
- Lipid structure in ghee is similar to the body’s natural lubrication, making it especially nourishing for optic nerve tissues – even for those wearing a prosthetic eye.
And it doesn’t don’t stop there. Since the eyes are so closely connected to the brain and nervous system, its healing power runs far beyond just our lids. In my six years of studying and practicing Ayurveda, I’ve begun to see more relaxation responses in my clients that are on par with shirodhara. The most frequent comments I hear are, “I can’t believe how good my eyes feel” and “I feel so calm, relaxed”. Perhaps because the physical body’s eyes are so close to our spiritual third eye, the Ajna chakra? After all, Ajna means “the perception center” or “the command center”.
During the treatment, some people experience mild stinging and therapeutic tearing, which is normal, as it’s the body’s way of cleansing and repairing the tissues. Post-nasal mucus can come down too, clearing up congestion and pressure around the sinuses. After the treatment is over it is best to relax with the eyes closed. This is the time to make a conscious, lifestyle choice and support the treatment – certainly not to go catch a movie, finish a novel, or focus on that knitting project. I recommend scheduling two netra basti sessions, one week apart, for longer lasting effects.
No doubt, you will become a fan of netra basti once you’ve experienced it. The physical effects are silky smooth and the energetic effects bolster you in creating positive images and visualizations in your life.
Ayurveda is the science of self-healing. Her sister (yoga) is the science of self-realization which relies upon a healthy body and mind. So try this wonderful treatment for yourself, and sweep away the veil of avidya. Clear the film from the lens. See yourself and experience life more clearly. This is the way to Samadhi.
Om, shanti, shanti, shanti.
Photo courtesy of Cara Brodstrom Photography.