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Yoga Neti, the nasal douche

The ancient technique of Jala Neti can be a useful yogic tool to ward off the common cold and keep the nasal passages clear at all time.

Neti is one of the six classical Kriyas (cleansing practices) mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Gheranda Samhita, although the technique mentioned by both texts is actually Sutra Neti (done with a cotton thread or a catheter) rather than the gentler technique of Jala Neti (sometimes called Saline Nasal Irrigation), in which warm salted water is used. According to both texts, Neti "cleanses the skull, induces clairvoyance and removes diseases that are above the shoulders". It also greatly enhances olfactory sensitivity and is an important therapeutic concept in the treatment of upper respiratory tract ailments. It supports and reactivates the nasal mucosa cleansing mechanisms.

The technique is fairly simple and while specialised shops sell dedicated Neti Pots (see below for a list of online suppliers), a small teapot could do, providing the spout is the right shape. (The author has been using for years an empty plastic mustard jar....)
Whatever you choose, it should be able to hold about a mug full of water, and you should be able to pour this water down your nostrils without splashing it all over.
You will also need some good quality sea salt. Salt is often mixed with anticaking agents which gives it an unpleasant taste (or smell). Make sure to use good quality, pure sea salt.

Once you've got yourself fully kitted out, the 2 main points to remember are:

  • You have to put the right amount of salt in the water. This is very important. The water should taste salty, but not overly so. Too little or too much salt is extremely uncomfortable and possibly even dangerous (it can sometimes cause nose bleeds). Experiment for yourself, and you'll soon know exactly what is the right amount of salt for your Neti Pot. As a rough guideline, 1 table spoon for one litre of water is about right.
  • The water temperature has to be comfortable (body temperature, or a little cooler). That's easy to check out.

Once your Neti pot is filled with water at the right temperature and degree of salinity, bend forward and then tilt the head to one side. Relax, breathe through the mouth and pour gently the salted water through the upper nostril. The water  will flow around the septum and out through the other nostril. Do not inhale as you are pouring the water through the nose. Pour half the water through one nostril, then blow your nose vigorously before tilting the head the other way and repeating the operation for the other nostril.
The first few times, it is probably better to practice in the shower of bath and have a towel handy, as you might be splashing salty water around.
Once you have finished, it is important to thoroughly dry the nasal passages with a few rounds of Kapalabati (rapid breathing with forced abdominal exhalation).

The operation only takes a couple of minutes, is not as uncomfortable as one might imagine at first, and its benefits are such that it is well worth including Jala Neti in your routine.

For those who are a bit nervous about getting it right, EMCUR, a German company, manufactures a very user friendly system which includes a nasal douche and pre-packed salt portions. A bit more expensive than an ordinary neti pot, but totally safe!

For more information visit the following websites: