Basti (Vasti) – Purification and Rejuvenation of the Colon
Basti therapy is the most powerful of the five procedures of Panchakarma (see Panchakarma). Basti is the introduction of medical liquids into the colon through the rectum. Since colon is linked with all of the other organs and tissues basti has a wide-ranging influence in the body, effecting all the doshas and dhatus (tissues).
Basti differs completely from enemas or colonics. Enemas treat symptoms of constipation by promoting evacuation. They clear the last eight or ten inches of the colon. Colonics clean accumulated fecal matter from the entire colon through repeated flushing with water sometimes experimenting with adding other substances to the water.
In Panchakarma basti used with preparatory procedures of Snehana (inner and outer oleation) and Swedana (warm bath or steam box) cleans far more than just the colon. It helps purify toxins from all over the body, which further is nourished through a healthy colon.
Basti is most effective for Vata disorders such as chronic constipation, low back pain, and sciatica, rheumatism, gout, arthritis, neuromuscular disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, dystrophy and atrophy of the nerves and muscles, and osteoporosis. It benefits epilepsy, mental retardation, and sensory dysfunction.
As in all Panchakarma procedures, proper preparation is crucial for successful Basti treatment. First Snehana (Oleation) and Swedana (warm bath or sweat box) must loosen ama (toxins) and open the channels so it can be moved out.
Basti fulfills many needs, so there are a number of basti types according to the intended purpose of the treatment. Panchakarma employs two of them Nirooha (cleansing) basti and Anuwasan (nourishing) basti.
Nirooha (Niruha) Basti cleanses toxins from the tissues and colon and is capable of cleansing the entire body. Approximately 400 ml (1-3/4 cups) of decoctions of purifying herbs are given, and the liquid is retained in the colon for about forty eight minutes. Some of the ingredients get absorbed during this time and their purifying influence moves throughout the body. The rest gets expelled along with fecal matter and toxins.
Anuwasan (Anuvasana) Basti nourishes the body through the application of herbalized oils. Typically 3 ounces of herbalized sesame oil are given and retained for longer period of time, ideally for three – six hours. However patients are instructed never to strain to hold any basti, but to go with their natural response. In rare cases when vata is high, the colon can become extremely dry, and much of the basti water is absorbed to compensate for that dryness. In that case patient receives an oil basti to lubricate the colon before any further cleansing bastis are given.
The Ayurvedic physician always closely monitors the basti treatments and makes specific adjustments. It is essential to end treatment with nourishing basti to leave the colon lubricated and nourished. When properly administrated, basti treatment does not interfere with normal intestinal flora.
Basti as part of Panchakarma is a special, powerful procedure requiring guidance from a properly trained medical staff. It is performed individually for each person with his or her constitution and medical condition in mind and requires close observation at every stage. I wouldn’t go to someone with a modest amount of Ayurvedic training for this procedure. Talk to the doctors and patients and check reviews and recommendations.