I’m sure very many of you are familiar with this cleansing practice but it is a good time of the year to remind/revise, because it is very beneficial for staving off colds and sinus problems.
But Neti also has other effects which I will mention later on, such as stimulus of Ajna chakra and balancing of Ida and Pingala nadis by enabling smoother flow of breath.
The technique uses a neti pot or lota, which at one time was very hard to come by, but are now readily available, even in chemists and supermarkets, some of them sold with a pre-prepared saline wash. These are generally plastic ones. But there are some beautiful pottery types you can buy/order from ashrams and yoga centres…
The first one I ever used looked as if it had been welded hastily from old tin cans, and indeed it probably was…….not ideal… 🙂
The water should be clean, pure water, boiled and cooled to blood temperature. (lukewarm)
Add 1 teaspoon of clean salt per 500 ml.
Stir well so that salt dissolves completely. It should taste about as salty as tears.
Salty water is used because due to osmotic pressure it is not absorbed by the capillaries in the nose as readily as non-salty solution, and also because salt itself has cleansing and healing properties. Some people add a few drops of grape seed extract. I haven’t tried it, but in the event of stubborn sinus problems I add one scant quarter teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the 500 mls.
(I also use amaroli occasionally, but we’ll get there another day :D)
It is important to get this salt balance right because too much or too little can cause discomfort. The first few times I did it many moons ago, in an overgrown Himalayan backyard where a cobra lived, I got the salt balance wrong and could only think ‘Ye Gods! What fresh Hell is this!’
But pretty soon, it was working out smoothly……….
Stand with feet shoulder distance apart. Insert spout comfortably in right nostril. Bend forward from hips to about 45 degrees. Tilt head slowly towards left until the water is flowing easily out through the left nostril…It might go into back of throat initially but experiment with head position, and it will flow smoothly through sinuses and out the open nostril.
Breathe through the open mouth while you do this.
Use half of the salty water in your neti pot.
Then repeat to left nostril.
When finished, gently blow out the nose. Then still bent forwards, block left nostril and breathe in and out rapidly about 10 times through right, do the same to left, then breathe in and out rapidly through both nostrils. Blow your nose gently in tissue.
Then hang head completely forwards. You elbows/hands can rest on thighs. Let the sinuses drain out. And repeat the drying process (rapid shallow breathing) above…
That’s it. You might be using a tissue after wards for a little while, as sinuses continue to drain.
(Neti as a Synchronised Sport..)
It should take about 5 minutes. Do it more than once a day if you are fending off an infection. Don’t ever blow your nose too hard or use dirty water, salt or pot. It is not advisable if you are prone to nosebleeds or if you have polyps.You know, be sensible… 🙂
Neti is one of the Yogic Shatkarmas or cleansing techniques, designed to optimise the health of the body.
Shatkarmas exist because yoga is a pragmatic science – if the body is unwell it is unlikely that the aspirant will be able to focus beyond body consciousness…so as healthy as possible is optimum, (although of course ill-health is no barrier ultimately to practice)
Neti also has a subtle influence on the various nerves which end in the olfactory passage, which can enervate the eyes and ears. It has been demonstrated in the Bihar School of Yoga to be therapeutic for migraine, epilepsy and depression, among other things.
It is said on an esoteric level to stimulate Ajna chakra, and regulate pineal and pituitary glands. I’ll leave that up to your own experimentation and judgement.
Neti is important in Yogic Physiology in that it also helps maintain the change in flow of breath in the alternate nostrils. Every 90 minutes or so our breath changes so that one nostril or the other dominates. There is a whole science called Swara Yoga which has been developed to explore and explain the causes and effects of this occurrence…interesting stuff, (even if it does tend occasionally to move into the voodoo realms with death prediction and so on.)
But for our purposes here, it is worth noting only that neti helps preserve this changeover between the nostrils and thus the balance between Ida and Pingala nadis. If for some reason or other one nostril dominates, it often results in ill-health, physically or mentally.
Nadi means ”flow”— mental, psychic, spiritual, pranic, nervous, physical….
Ida nadi flows when the left nostril dominates. It influences the right side of the brain, left side of the body. It is associated with yin, parasympathetic nervous system, introversion, mind, moon, subjectiveness, coolness, inactivity and female (amongst other things).
Pingala nadi flows when the right nostril dominates. It influences the left side of the brain and right side of the body. It is associated with yang, sympathetic fight or flight response, extroversion, energetic activity, male, sun, etc.
Ida and Pingala nadis criss- cross at the chakras up through the body (see above) and the central axis of Ida and Pingala is Sushumna. (This is a quick and simplified explanation). But you can see for example that if the left nostril predominates, and is not balanced, it can result in over-stimulation of Ida nadi, which can lead to too much introversion, lethargy, depression and so on. Likewise an over dominant right nostril may lead to anxiety issues or anger problems, etc. Hence, where NETi comes in. It is one of the practices most useful for balancing Ida and Pingala.
(Other nadi balancing techniques include Nadi Shodhan and Anulom Vilom which is a really lovely meditation practice where one imagines the breath flowing in the alternative nostrils. It is described variously on the net, but – very briefly -as I understand it….close eyes, settle, spine upright, let breath and heartbeat calm. Imagine/visualise breath travelling in through left nostril to bridge of nose. Imagine breath travelling out through right nostril to a point beyond nostril. Pause. Imagine breath travelling in through the right nostril again to bridge of nose. Imagine breath travelling down through left nostril to a point beyond nostril. Pause. This is one round. This creates a sort of ‘triangle of breath’ for visualisation purposes…….Repeat as many rounds as like slowly – and starting and finishing with left nostril. No need to manipulate nostrils with the fingers – that is nadi shodhan.)
This ended up being a lot longer than I planned, and it is still only a very quick summary. Thanks if you got this far… i will add some more stuff later. (Lucky ye!)
Integration of Ida and Pingala…the balance of Ha and Tha , Moon and Sun, is one of the main purposes of Yoga. Harmony, Union, Balance between the various subtle forces. For good health, for peace of mind, for joyful and loving living, and also for understanding of one’s own being.