Neti or “jala neti” means “cleansing with water.” It is an ancient technique used in both and Yoga for nasal cleansing. Neti is a salt water solution flushed through the nasal passage using a simple pot designed specifically for this purpose.
The most known benefit of neti is the cleansing of the nasal passages. Neti helps flush out the particles that get trapped in the cilia which line the nasal passage, as well as the dirt, dust, pollen, fungus, bacteria, and viruses, that get trapped in the sticky mucous in the sinuses. Cleaner nasal passages from Neti also result in an improved sense of smell.
Performing neti regularly provides relief for running sinuses and from clogged passageways of the nose, throat, and ears. Neti drains the sinus cavity and provides relief for allergies, and hay fever, and can aid throat problems and conditions such as asthma. Because neti drains the Eustachian tubes, it can give relief for ear infections and associated pain. Neti also removes dirt and mucous from the tear ducts, resulting in clearer vision. Neti clears the mind, increases concentration and focus, and also helps relieve headaches, migraines, and stress-related tension.
How often you perform neti will depend on your conditions. If you have symptoms of allergies, a cold, or mucous congestion, you will need to use neti more frequently. If congestion is severe, or there is excessive mucous production, you will want to perform neti more than once per day. Also, the environment in which you live will affect how frequently you use neti. If you live in a dusty or polluted region then you may want to cleanse more often.
How to do Neti:
• Neti should be done first thing in the morning. You can do neti after your shower as the steam will have helped to loosen the sinus passages. Alternatively, you can use a hot towel to apply steam to the face.
• All you need is a neti pot, salt, and warm water; no other ingredients are required for basic neti. Ayurveda does often advise a solution with other ingredients which are more specific for certain conditions, but plain salt water is neutral and safe for everyone to use.
• Water should be warm; water that is too hot will cause a burning sensation and water that is too cold, will contract the sinuses and harden the mucous.
• Use a natural sea salt or fine ground rock salt. Iodized table salt is not suitable. The ratio is about ¼ tsp salt per 8oz of water. This ratio makes the water the same salinity as your blood.
• If the water is too salty, it will feel a little uncomfortable. No discomfort at all will be felt if the water temperature and concentration of salt are correct. In fact, you will hardly even feel the water flowing through the nasal passage when the salt to water ratio is correct.
• Check which of your nostrils more open by plugging each one at a time and breathing in through the other. Choose the more open nostril and insert the spout of the pot. Tilt your head slightly forward and a bit to the opposite side of where you have the spout inserted. In a few seconds, water will start to flow out of the other nostril.
• If your head is not tilted slightly forward the water may flow into your mouth; this is not a problem, just adjust your head so the water flows only out of the nose.
• Be sure to breathe through your mouth while you are performing neti.
• Once the pot is empty, return your head to a neutral position and gently blow out the water and any remaining mucous. Make sure you blow very gently; if you blow too hard, this can force the water backwards and into the ear canals. If water gets into the ear canals, some slight discomfort will be felt, and if an infection is present, it may cause the infection to spread.
• Repeat the procedure in the other nostril.
• If you still have water running out of your nose after neti, bend forward slightly, and any remaining water will drain out.
There are many different types of neti pots available, so make sure the neti pot you choose has a spout that fits comfortably into your nostril. Neti pots can be made from a variety of materials such as clay, ceramic, copper, stainless steel, and plastic. The clay pot is the most traditional, but it is also heavy, porous, and easy to break. These will be harder to keep clean and are also not very convenient for travel. Steel, copper and ceramic pots are the most hygienic as they are non-porous and can be sterilized more easily; however the copper will discolor quickly. If you plan to travel with your neti pot make sure to get a metal or plastic pot, as these are the lightest and most durable. If you are worried about the chemicals in plastic, then opt for a metal pot.
Neti works best in conjunction with. You may want to alternate nasya with neti if you have a lot of congestion. Be aware that too much neti can cause drying of the nasal passage, so it is important to perform regular nasya to keep the nasal passage well lubricated.
If you would like to read more on neti, its benefits, and using Ayurvedic principles with neti I suggest reading David Frawley’s book Neti: Healing Secrets of Yoga and Ayurveda
Photo: Victor Koldunov