The joy of neti

Ah, spring. The light returning, birds chirping outside your window, flowers and trees budding everywhere, your nose and eyes running nonstop from pollen and wondering if you’ll ever be able to breathe normally again…
I may be curing my animal allergies, but it seems I still haven’t quite licked the seasonal irritants.
Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a blog about food? Yes it is. But I also do have a passion for alternative healing techniques, and the traditional food community does also talk about healing with methods which are not prescribed by a doctor. So today I am going to share one of my favorite tools to keep my breathing smooth and chase away sinus trouble.

Neti.

If you haven’t been exposed before, you’re possibly wondering what to do with this thing. It’s simple. You use it to pour salt water through your nose to clean it out.
Cringing yet? So was I, when I first got mine in the late 1990s. My mother had actually found it in a catalog and ordered it for me. I’ve had trouble with allergies, asthma and sinus infections since I was a little kid. I wasn’t sure what to make of this thing, or how water would make its way through my nose when I got extremely congested.
But I was also regularly suffering from sinus infections and a lot of allergies, so I decided to give it a try. Lo and behold, it worked!
Neti comes from yoga and auyrvedic medicine. As yoga is a tradition which focuses on breathing most of all, it makes sense to have remedies which would enable better breathing. It also has been in use for a very long time, so clearly it does something to help.
Since I’ve been using the neti over the years, I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my breathing. First, it was simply being able to breathe better during my bad allergy times. I would also use it when I felt the familiar tingle in my nose meaning a sinus infection was on the way. I started averting the infections!
Now I recommend this whenever I hear of someone having allergy issues. While the idea is not often met with enthusiasm, the people who do start using a neti have a lot less trouble with their nose.

You can do a nasal wash without a neti pot by using a paper cup folded to create a thin stream of water. Pots usually don’t run more than $20, so I would recommend picking one up if you want to try it.
My tips for effective use and also watch to look out for:
1. Blow your nose as thoroughly as you can before doing the rinse. It will help.
2. Keep handkerchiefs or a paper towel nearby. A tissue will not be effective enough to clean up the water.
3. Start with putting the nozzle of the neti to the nostril which is clearer. In my case, the right nostril is usually the one which gets clogged faster, so I put the nozzle to the left nostril and let the water run out the right one.
4. Some of the water may come out of your mouth. It’s OK. Let it happen. Some of the water may also run along your cheek. As you use the neti more, this will happen less, but I’d advise against doing the rinse when you already have on makeup.

How to use a neti pot:
1. Put about 1/4 teaspoon of salt in the pot. My directions stated to use sea salt for the additional minerals. I don’t use unrefined for this though. Ssssh. *winks*
2. Fill the pot with very warm water. Make it warmer than you think you will need, or it’ll hurt like brain freeze from drinking something very cold.
3. Put the neti pot to one nostril, learn your head to the side over the sink, and slowly let the water flow. It will take a few tries before you really get the hang of how to breathe through this.
4. Run about half of the water in the pot through one side. Then tip your face to the other side and pour through the other nostril until the water is gone.
5. Blow your nose again and see how well you can breathe.

I use my neti at least once a day (usually morning, sometimes night as well) when my traditional allergy seasons hit. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday. Check out the main post for a carnival of blogs relating to real food.

Sources:
New Choices in Natural Healing Rodale Books, 1997.
Do Neti pots really work? from WebMD
Neti (Hatha yoga) from Wikipedia

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10 responses to “The joy of neti

  1. And if the neti approach drives you a bit nuts, like it did me, there are nasal rinsers out there that work just as well if not a little better based on studies. I don’t have to tilt my head to use one, which helps me a lot. Also, it’s easier to avoid the problem of the water going down my throat with the rinser than it was with the neti. I don’t use it often enough, but when I do, it’s lovely.

    • syncreticmystic

      Thank you for adding that. 🙂 I’ve not seen those specifically so I couldn’t comment on them.

  2. There is a breathing technique that goes with this that acts to dry the nasal passages. Let me know if you want to hear it!

  3. Okay, I feel weird about this, but I’m still going to try picking up a bulb syringe and trying a gentle salt water rinse (gentle meaning low pressure). I’ve had nasal issues my whole life (I do my breathing through my mouth on a regular basis and I’ve always got a tissue with me), so I think that this is worth trying. It might also be good for my husband, but I’ll try it for myself first.

  4. I tried a neti pot but can’t seem to get it to come out the other nostril, it just goes down my throat!

    • syncreticmystic

      Chanelle, that’s interesting. When I do it for myself I tip my head so that it’s practically parallel with the counter and sink. Sometimes I have a little water which runs back but mostly when I am really congested. Maybe try a rinser like Lysana mentions above?

  5. Namaste!
    Wow, it’s been way too long since I’ve reviewed this practice. The info I have comes from the book Asana, Pranayama, Mudra and Bandha by Swami Satyanada Sraswati. A Bihar School of Yoga Publication. I will summarize from that book. It’s the best teaching I’ve found on this practice.
    Jala Neti is # one of the 6 shat Karma’s (cleansings) of the practice of Hatha Yoga. The pot used is called Neti Lota. The best one I’ve used is copper, but they only last a few years. Use 1 teaspoon of salt per 1/2 liter of water.
    Soli, the way you described the intial cleansing process is fine. I prefer to alternate nostrils until the water runs out. After pouring water through the inidividual nostril, blow vigorously through the nose as in bhastrika pranayama/ bellows breath.
    It says the drying process is very important, otherwise the nose can become irritated and thus be counterproductive. This is the drying process:
    Stand in Tadasana.
    Clasp the hands behind the back and forward bend at the waist until you are upside down, for about 30 seconds. Blow vigorously through the nose/exhaling 5 times. This allows water to drain from the nose.
    Return to Tadasana.
    Close one nostril by pressing one of your fingers to the side of the nostril. The same process as Anuloma Viloma/alternate nostril breathing. Breath in and out vigorously 30 times in the same manner as Bhastrika/bellows breath. Repeat with the other nostril.
    You’ll need plenty of tissues of course!
    It also says that if water goes into the throat the head position is incorrect. I’ve gotten water in my throat plenty. Some days it’s easier to get the head in right position.
    Thanks for letting me post this.

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