Updated: Nov 16
Neti with Salt Water
Jala Neti Kriya, more commonly referred to simply as Neti, is a simple procedure for maintaining nasal hygiene by means of irrigating the nostrils with warm salty water. Neti effectively removes dirt and bacteria filled mucus from the nasal passages. It is an ancient yogic purification technique that is all the more relevant and helpful in our modern times where air pollution and airborne pathogens are becoming increasing health risk factors. By practicing Neti you can breathe clearly and freely, thus enhancing your quality of life.
The nostrils are filled with tiny hairs called cilia whose role it is to prevent large particles entering the respiratory system. Sometimes, due to a gradual build up of dirt they can become clogged. Practicing Neti with warm salt water keeps the mucus moist. The cilia hairs are stimulated and encrustations, dust and allergy provoking substances are effectively removed.
The nasal passages and upper respiratory tract are covered with a layer of mucus. This mucus is secreted from within the mucus linings and its function is to trap smaller foreign particles and bacteria that the cilia haven't managed to catch. The sinus passages are an even finer mechanism of filtering which, if infected, secrete a runny mucus to evict the germs. Cleansing the nose with warm salty water activates these mucus membranes and also others in the stomach and in the eyes and removes bacteria and dust laden mucus from the body.
Usually Neti is done with the aid of a specifically designed Neti pot called a Lota. These pots come in many shapes and sizes and can be made of metal, ceramic or plastic, but all have the common factor of a spout, a little like a teapot. Neti pots are easily available online and can sometimes be bought in health food stores or yoga studios.
The pot is filled with salty water. Use lukewarm water, close to body temperature or slightly warmer. Very cold water will cause the mucous gland to swell and can lead to headache. The optimal salinity is the same as tears. Add about 1 gram of salt for 100 ml of water. A decent pinch of salt per pot usually does the trick.
There are many types of salt available. Choose the most natural salt available. Avoid using salt that contains additives such as MSG, though iodine enriched salt is fine. Sea salt is probably the best. Some sea salts contain certain oligo-elements which boost the immune system and can add to the benefits of Neti, though realistically, the amounts absorbed may be negligible.
Neti is a safe and simple practice and apart from anyone who has recently undergone surgical interventions in either the sinuses or middle ear it can be practiced freely. It is extremely beneficial to overall health and has no significant side effects. Some people may experience difficulty on their first few attempts at Neti, particularly anyone with structural nasal blockages such as deviated septum, those suffering from chronic mucus blockages and some people who may have hyper-sensitive nasal linings as a side effect of prolonged usage of prescription medicines. Usually these problems will be overcome without too much difficulty, but perhaps some mild discomfort may be experienced at first.
Ideally, practice over a sink. The tip of the spout of the pot is placed at the entrance of the nostril and the water is poured through one nostril and flows out through the opposite nostril. Usually it takes a little bit of experimentation to find the correct angle and head position to get the water flowing smoothly from one nostril out through the other. Let gravity do the work and point the free nostril downwards. At first the water may sometimes come out through the mouth. At worst you might swallow a little salty water. Some people prefer to let the water flow out through the mouth, though the effects will be somewhat lessened.
While pouring the water into the nostril the mouth is kept open allowing you to breathe freely. Always take your time to perform Neti correctly - never rush the procedure. Breathing slowly through the mouth, pour the entire contents of the pot through one nostril. When the pot is empty, bend forward and let any excess water run out, then close the nostril with a finger and exhale a few sharp short blasts (not too forcibly or this may drive water up into the sinuses) and then repeat on the opposite side. Alternatively, some people prefer to snort a couple of times and then spit out any excess mucous. Initially you may find that the mucus tends to flow for ten minutes or so after practicing, but when you do Neti more regularly this no longer becomes an issue. Ideally you can rest in Savasana for a few minutes after Neti to derive deeper benefits, though this is not strictly necessary.
Anyone who practices will immediately notice clearer breathing and an increase in the sense of smell and taste. It brings a feeling of lightness and clarity to the mind and can help stimulate powers of visualization and concentration.
There is a variation of Neti called Amaroli, where you use your own urine instead of plain salt water. Among the advantages are that the salinity and temperature are ideal. It is better not to use the first urine in the morning as it may be more charged in toxins and otherwise use midstream urine. Some yogis practice this way and while many people may find the idea distasteful, urine therapy in general is gaining more acceptance worldwide. In India sometimes milk is used and in Ayurvedic remedies various herbs or spices may be infused in warm water and used for Neti. Dr David Fralwey suggests using a little sesame oil and ginger to intensify the effects of Neti. At least in the beginning use salty water. Once you have gained some experience you are free to experiment.
Neti can be practiced as regularly as necessary. In a polluted environment at least once a day is recommended. Those living in a dry, dusty environment will also benefit from practicing regularly.
Various factors will influence the frequency with which you need to practice Neti. Diet is one of the most important. People who consume dairy products, particularly milk, will often have excess mucous in the nasal passages. Other foods that may contribute to excess nasal mucus are eggs, red meat, fried food, fatty food, pastries, sugar, processed foods - including white bread, soy products, bananas and to a lesser degree, pulses and grains.
Most people have experienced a build up of mucus due to a common cold. If you have a cold then neti can be practiced several times a day. However, if you practice Neti daily it is unlikely that you will ever catch a cold. Prevention is always better than a cure.
Those suffering from certain allergies such as hay-fever will also be subject to excess nasal mucous which inhibits the breathing. Once again Neti is a very helpful remedy.
Once you get used to practicing Neti it can easily be slotted into your daily routine and you can do it in the morning and at night, just as you would brush your teeth. Neti at night helps to have a good relaxing deep sleep.
Neti mildly stimulates the tear ducts, which help cleanse the eyes and give them added sparkle. Some say it even helps sharpen the eyesight and improve the memory. On an esoteric level Neti is said to stimulate the Ajna chakra. It has subtle effects on the pineal and pituitary glands which control the hormonal system which in turn has a harmonizing effect on the emotions. Neti has a cooling, soothing effect on the brain and can help with headaches, migraine, epilepsy, temper tantrums, hysteria, depression and general mental tension. It can also help with certain ear disorders like middle ear infections, glue ear and some forms of tinnitus.
Neti is particularly beneficial and useful for smokers and re-sensitizes the nose to the actual pollution of ingesting smoke, thereby de-programming the brain of the physical and psychological addiction.
Some other medical conditions that Neti can help improve include:
Allergic rhinitis - hay fever
Atrophic rhinitis - ozaena
Empty nose syndrome
Facial pain or headache associated with sinusitis
Halitosis - bad breath
Phantosmia - phantom smells
Rhinitis medicamentosa - rebound nasal congestion
Rhinorrhea - runny nose
Rhinosinusitis - inflammation of the nose and sinuses
Sinusitis - inflammation of the sinuses (including chronic sinusitis)
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