Jala Neti : nose cleansing with salt and water
In the tradition of Hatha Yoga, the Shat Karma (or Shat Kriya), are six purification techniques for the body and the mind. They are also used in Ayurveda, the ancestral holistic medicine of India, to balance our basic constitutional types (also called the three dosha : vata, pitta and kapha), in order to maintain good health.
The Shat Karma are the following :
- Neti : purification of the nasal cavity,
- Dhauti: cleansing of the digestive system (stomach, intestines, teeth, tongue, etc.)
- Nauli: massage and strenghening of the internal organs,
- Basti: enema
- Kapalabhati: breathing technique
- Trataka: technique for the eyes – deepening concentration.
Jala Neti: a simple method with multiple benefits
Jala Neti , a form of Neti, consists in cleansing the nasal cavity with a utensil called Neti Lota or Neti Pot, filled with salted water. This method helps to get rid of excess mucus, clear the sinuses, prevent a cold, as well as to balance the breath, bring a sensation of well-being and clarity, and to harmonize emotions.
The Neti pot can be purchased in specialized shops or on the internet (for example on the online store Chin Mudra). It is made of plastic, ceramic or copper.
Although this method is harmless and easy to follow, it is always better that the do’s and don’ts be shown to you in person by somebody who is familiar with the Shat Kriya (a Hatha yoga teacher for example).
- Firstly, make sure the Neti Pot is clean and that you have washed your hands.
- The water should be heated to body temperature (37°C). Always check the temperature before putting the water in your nose.
- Non-iodized salt (with no additives – Himalayan salt is a good option), is added to the water. The ideal quantity is one tea spoon for 500ml of water (the solution should taste like tears). Too much or not enough salt can irritate the mucous membrane and cause pain. If necessary, the dose should be adapted so that one does not feel any burning or tingling sensation when the water is flowing.
The cleaning step
The cleaning should be made while leaning over a sink. The head is rotated to the right side. It is important to relax and to breath calmly through the mouth. The nozzle is inserted in the right nostril (with a light pressure so that the water does not come out through this nostril). The pot is slightly lifted to let the water flow and come out through the left nostril.
When half the pot is emptied (or the whole pot, depending on your need), the mucus is removed by blowing gently through the nose.
The same process is done with the other nostril.
Key points of the cleansing :
- The head is bent forward to avoid water from running in the thoat. Do not hesitate to adapt the head position while the water is flowing. You might want to pull back your chin a little).
- The breathing is made through the mouth.
Drying the nostrils
Drying the nostrils is essential as it prevents the water from being stuck in the sinuses or from causing irritation to the mucous membrane. I follow the process described in a great Yoga book (Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha – by Swami Satyananada Saraswati) :
- The first step is done in a standing position. Pressing the right nostril, inhale and exhale quickly with the left nostril 5 to 10 times, gently emphasizing on the exhalation. The same process is made with the other nostril, and repeated a third time by inhaling and exhaling through both nostrils simultaneously.
- The three stages of the first step are repeated but this time, bending forward, keeping the torso horizontal and rotating the head to the same side as the closed nostril (keep the head to the centre when exhaling through both nostrils simultaneously).
- Finally, come back to a standing position with the feet slightly apart and close the right nostril. Exhale forcefully while quickly bending forward from the hips, keeping the head centered. Then inhale slowly while coming back up (repeat 5 to 10 times). The same process is repeated to dry the right nostril, and one last time to dry both nostrils simultaneously.
Key points of nose drying :
- Always blow gently, too strong of an exhalation could push water into the ears.
- During the second and third steps, I always bend my knees before bending forward to protect my back.
When should one do Jala Neti ?
Jala Neti can be added to your morning routine, before breakfast. Many people do it everyday; however I believe that the frequency should be adapted according to your own needs and sensations.
If you are subject to frequent nose bleeding, important blockage of the nose or sinuses, high blood pressure, or simply in case of any doubt, you may ask your physician’s advice.