For you arriving late to the party, there are two practices that you might look toward when you have a cold, allergies or are struggling with anything related to your sinuses. Neti, or jala neti (jala means water), is the practice of gently flushing your sinuses with salt water, while nasya uses drops of oil to nourish your sinuses. Both neti and nasya are useful practices, but there is a time for each of them.
Neti, which comes from the shat karmas (six cleansing actions) of yoga, keeps your sinuses clear and clean. This is good to use in the spring or if it is the season of your specific allergies. Likewise, if you go for a jog in Mexico City, you might want to include neti in your cleansing routine. When not to neti? If you are already congested or if you are prone to dryness. If you are congested, neti has the possibility of pushing the mucus deeper into your sinuses, further complicating things. As for dryness, using a neti pot can actually make your sinuses dry, prone to becoming inflamed and irritated. This can also happen with excessive use. Think of what happens when you wash your hands without moisturizing them. They become dry and cracked. When this happens in our sinuses, it can create the perfect environment for infection or overproduction of mucus as the protective barrier has been lost.
Nasya oil is great for preventing the problems that come with dry sinuses, in addition to keeping a good barrier between you and pollutants or allergens. Thus, nasya is a great practice for the drier seasons like fall and winter. One big missing piece, however, is that nasya is good for so much more. The qualities of oil (heavy) and the herbs infused into it (often brahmi, scullcap, bhringaraj) make it a good treatment for anxiety, headaches, insomnia, memory loss and even Bell’s Palsy. Some even say it reduces wrinkles!
For the short of it, use your neti in the spring and summer and nasya in the fall and winter. Don’t use them at the same time, and keep in mind that nasya is more than just a practice for your sinuses.
I once gave my brother-in-law a neti pot for Dipavali, confirming my “weird” title. My sister looked at it and said, “When you put the water into your nose, where does it go?” Good question, sister. It flushes through your sinuses on one side and out the other. I was pretty sure that after my explanation and tutorial, nobody in their house would be using the neti pot. But to my surprise, my BIL did use it. He confessed that he hadn’t touched it, but when his coworkers were talking about how they had seen it on the Dr. Oz show, he was proud to say that he owned one. He then gave it a whirl. Who’s the weird one now?
What are the Tools and ingredients used in nasal washing?
The neti pot has become extremely popular. One can find a neti pot in yoga studio’s and health food stores. You can also find plastic ones these days in pharmacies but as with everything plastic, it will degenerate rather quickly especially using salt water. Be sure to use a ceramic pot its well worth the extra cost.
You are going to need saline solution to go into the neti pot. Make your own by adding and mixing about 1⁄4 teaspoon of fine non-iodized salt into about 1 cup (8oz) of warm water, until it is fully dissolved.
Neti pot also requires the pouring of the salt into one nostril and allowing is to drip out the other side then switching nostrils to pour in and come out. Here’s the technique.
Nasya Oil just needs a way to drop the oil into the nostrils. There are many different types of oils catering to different needs and conditions. Many nasya oils have herbs infused into a base oil. One simply drops four or five drops into each nostril, keeping the head back so the oil can go deep into the sinus cavities.
Why practice Neti or Nasya methods?
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says that “Neti cleanses the cranium and bestows clairvoyance. It also destroys all diseases which manifests above the throat.” As with all translations from the ancient texts certain things have to be taken with a grain of salt (no pun intended).
The saline solution washes out particles from the nasal and sinus passages. Neti creates clarity because more air is available to all parts of the body through the blood and directly to the brain. The nose is one of the nine gates in which the body expels materials that are not useful to the body. From a yogic perspective more prana is available which provides better health.
Nasya as described in the Ashtanga Hrdayam is indicated in dis-eases above the shoulders. It does purification and expels the aggravated doshas from the head and neck out of the body. The oils used go directly into the mucosal membrane reaching and feeding the dhatus using different pathways.
When can they be applied?
Practice Jala neti up to three times a day, the first before breakfast as part of your bathing routine. Three times a day can be rather drastic, most people practice Jala neti only once or twice a day. Practice nasya once or twice a day, morning and evening.
I have heard Dr. Vasant Lad caution against doing both practices directly one after the other. If you want to do both, do one in the morning and the other in the evening.
- Neti can easily help those people living in areas with high pollen or air pollution by flushing the large particles.
- Nasya can easily help people living in dry arid regions.
Breathing will become deeper and easier with either practices with everything, because there is a time and place for each therapy. I suggest getting into the habit of practicing nasya or neti or both. You will benefit in many ways.