Vasti literally means urinary bladder. Traditionally, for Vasti there was a use of animal urinary bladder for pushing oil or enema matter into your rectum. However, as time changes the procedures are shaped in a way favorable to the human condition. Hence, the use of urinary bladder is now limited to texts. Nowadays, however, a rubber pump or a piston is used to push the oil or medicine in through the rectum. This creates a sterile environment and ease of administration.
Vasti is of two types –Anuvasana and Aasthapana. In Anuvasana oil is infused into the colon of the receiver. This creates a lubrication of sorts. In Asthapana there is the use of herbal decoction. Both of them can be used alternatively, as both of them are helpful in curing lots of diseases and also helpful in creating health and happiness. Vasti creates health by removing the toxic dosha through the rectum. Vasti can be used for all types of diseases – whether Vata, Pitta or Kapha. It is a holistic approach for subjugating your bodily and mental dosha. Thus, the ancient Acharyas didn’t even blink once to name Vasti being the “complete treatment”.
The vasti material when introduced through the rectum activates the autonomic nervous system. Through this, there is expelling of Dosha and excrements through the rectal route. This cleanses your colon not only of the toxins but also of the harmful floras and acts as a breeding ground for the flora. This, in turn, creates a healthy colon. The approach for Vasti is the introduction of enemata fluid which is not digested by the bodily enzymes and helps in the secretion of new enzymes helping in improved metabolism and digestion.
Vasti is unlike Western enemas or colonics. Enemas only cleanse the rectum and sigmoid colon (only the lower eight to ten inches of the colon) causing an emptying effect. The enema removes feces blocks but may deteriorate the mucous membranes and dry the colon. This further imbalance Vatas’ normal elimination process. Vasti, however, treats the entire length of the colon from the ileocecal valve to the anus. Not only is the feces flushed from the system but also toxins are removed from the tissues. Furthermore, a balanced and healthy colon function is restored as tissues and organs are rebuilt.
Along with colon rejuvenation, vasti is also helpful through its curative aspects in various diseases. Vasti is especially helpful in chronic constipation, sciatica, bulging disk, rheumatism, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, cerebral atrophy, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, etc. As one can notice most of these are diseases of the nervous system. Vasti lightens your body, is also an aphrodisiac and helpful in preventive, palliative and curative aspects of treatment.
In some people, there is an absolute contraindication for doing Vasti. When the Vata in the body is depleted you absolutely should not get Vasti. Vasti is not used for babies, for diarrhea, colon cancer, diverticulitis, rectal bleeding, polyps, fever, and some forms of diabetes. This might cause what little left of Vata in your body to be depleted and the positive effect might not be seen. This may rather cause a deleterious effect on your body. It goes without saying pregnant; those with heart disease, stroke, hypertriglyceridemia, hypertension, and conditions where there is an increased chance of bleeding should not go any type of panchakarma procedures.
After the initial preparatory procedures, the receiver of vasti evacuates his bowel in the morning and goes through the procedure. The type of vasti and type of medicine used depends on his/her health, age, disease state, body type. Vata people use oil while getting Anuvasana vasti (use of oil), pitta people get ghee and Kapha people generally get the Asthapana vasti (use of decoction). The usual time of return of enemata is 48 minutes for Asthapana vasti and around 9 hours for Anuvasana vasti. After the completion of the initial round, the next round of vasti is to repeat on the 3rd or 5th day, or until the fat is well digested. Those with excessive dryness, or who exercise daily and have good digestion, receive daily oil enemas.
The classical features observed post-vasti are a release of feces and doshas, lightness in body, heightened appetite, increased digestive power, lightness in the large intestine, colon and rectum, remission of symptoms of disease and restoration of health. After Vasti, the receiver should follow a strict diet. For few initial days the diet should be semi-solid (mostly gruel) then you gradually build your appetite towards heavier (guru) food. This regimen of diet is known as the paschatkarma. When Vasti is done correctly, your bowel gets clear of toxic dosh, there is a restoration of vigor and hale.