It sounds kind of ridiculous but the simple act of washing your nasal passage can make an enormous difference to your health and mental wellbeing.
The reasoning behind this is based on the traditional principles of yoga. In fact, traditional yogis consider jalna neti to be as important to basic hygiene of the body as cleaning the teeth!
The history and yoga jargon behind the practice
You see, yoga poses (or asanas) tend to be all that most Western people associate with yoga. However, there is A LOT more to the practice of yoga as set out in Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras. These Sutras say that there are 8 separate limbs to Ashtanga Yoga. These set out aspects of the extremes of conscious living including nonviolence (even in thought), abstinence, and truth, mental control, meditation, surrender to God, breath control and a number of other requirements. One of these 8 limbs is called Niyama and it includes the requirement of cleanliness of the body. There are 6 main purification practices called Shatkarmas. Neti is one of these Shatkarmas. There are 2 types of neti – jalna and sutra neti. Sutra neti involves threading a piece of cotton or rubber through the nasal passage much like a pipe cleaner to clean the nasal passage. Sutra neti is not for everyone. My personal experience with sutra neti is that it makes me sneeze uncontrollably!
Why jalna neti is amazing
Jalna neti is the other type of neti and it involves pouring slightly salted lukewarm water through each nostril to wash the nasal passage. It is a simple practice which most people will enjoy after learning how to do it properly.
Jalna neti has absolutely loads of surprising health benefits. It is said to:
- cure depression
- remove anger from the body
- put a rosy glow into the cheeks
- improve the breath and health of the sinuses
- reduce headaches
- improve the health of the eyes, ears and throat
- assist in the maintenance of a youthful appearance
- improve the sense of smell
- awaken the third eye chakra – which is responsible for balanced intuition and clarity of thought
- clear the body of excess mucus which contains toxins
- helps to balance the feminine and masculine energies (ida and pingala) in the body. The resulting balance in the right and left hemispheres of the body is supposed to improve the harmony throughout the entire body and mind.
How to perform jalna neti
Get yourself some pure water – preferably boiled. It should be body temperature (so mix hot boiled and cooled water to get the perfect temperature). To test the temperature just pour a little on your wrist. Add salt (I prefer sea-salt) to make the solution match the osmotic pressure of your bodily fluids – you need one teaspoon per 500mL of water. I usually add just a pinch of salt to my solution. You know if you have not added the right amount as the solution will create a mild burning sensation if more or less salt is needed.
Although you can practice neti by simply inhaling water from a bowl or cup or even your hand, it is much easier to do it properly if you get yourself a neti pot. They are generally very inexpensive. I use a cheap plastic pot from India but you can get a more premium ceramic or brass pot if you prefer. Here are a few pots you could try:
Fill your pot with the prepared water.
Stand or squat in a grounded position so that you feel solid and one with the Earth. Lean your head forward and tilt it to the left side. Breath through your mouth and keep your mouth open (this is very important!) Place the nozzle lightly into the right nostril and tilt the neti pot so that the saltwater runs into the right nostril. The idea is to get that water flowing so that it runs freely out of your left nostril.
Now it’s time to dry the nostrils. I tend to just gently blow my nose in a tissue. However, purists will close each nostril in turn whilst exhaling in short and quick and firm breaths through the open nostril. Then, to ensure the nostrils are properly dry (important to prevent infection), bend forward from the waist and repeat the process with the head tilted to each side. However, you don’t need to overcomplicate the process. I always just blow my nose gently with a tissue and have never had a problem.
Some little cautions
At first there may be some obstruction so the water may not flow. Be patient. Persevere in a gentle and calm manner. If you don’t get it working today, try it again tomorrow.
If you still find it impossible after repeated attempts you may have a deviated septum. The practice of Sutra Neti (where you thread cotton or specialised thin rubber tubing through the nasal passage) is supposed to help in this case but I would suggest you get the assistance of an experienced teacher before practicing this.
You may also have heard of a few very rare cases where people have sadly died from performing jalna neti with dirty water. This is very unusual but is easily avoided. The key thing to remember is to use clean water. I always use boiled water.
When to avoid jalna neti
- If you have a cold or an acute bout of sinusitis – although it can help to cure chronic sinusitis
- If you suffer from chronic ear infections
- If you suffer from a lot of nosebleeds – get proper advice from a teacher in this case before trying jalna neti.