According to Ayurveda, what are the benefits of nasya karma (one of the five main cleansing therapies of panchakarma, wherein a medication is administered through the nostrils)?
- Pulls excess doshas (particularly kapha) from the head
- Refreshes and nourishes the senses and sense organs
- Stabilizes prana in the head
- Augments clarity of speech
- All of the above
The Ayurvedic classical texts describe the fascinating versatility of nasya karma. Many of you are quite familiar with one form of nasya karma, the lubricating nasya drops. But some of you may not know that that the classics have described cleansing (shodhana) nasya (powders like calamus powder inhaled through the nose to cleanse out excess kapha), building (bruhana) nasya (ghee or a medicated ghee placed in each nostril to help in states of depletion), balancing (shamana) nasya (specific decoctions or oils given to balance a particular dosha), and many others!1
The many forms of nasya give the treatment a wide therapeutic range and field of action for a multitude of imbalances and challenges that people face every day—including hair loss, sleep disturbances, excess drowsiness, and vata nervousness, anxiety, and lightheadedness.2
The nose is the gateway to the head and to our consciousness. It therefore follows that nasya karma can have profound effects on the head (and also body). In this Vine, we will specifically explore the treatment of kapha stagnation in the respiratory tract (prana vaha srotas) with nasya karma as well as other therapies to alleviate the congestion that so many struggle with for months on end.
Bringing flow to a chronically clogged prana vaha srotas is not always an easy task and can take persistence and patience (sometimes taking months). Retraining the movement of prana and increasing the agni of this channel so that kapha remains balanced can take time. Encourage your client to not lose faith, and to do the following recommendations as often as possible.
Begin with the Core
All excess doshas in the body first accumulate in the digestive system and from there they spread to the weak spots of the body, such as the sinuses. Consider these recommendations to start with, using the client’s symptoms as a sign of how effective they are. (Is the congestion getting better? Is there still a white coating on the tongue? Is the digestion improving?)
- Begin with the diet. Make sure the client is eating a kapha-pacifying diet and following a kapha-friendly lifestyle.
- Drink tea with lemon juice and a quarter teaspoon of turmeric every morning and sweeten with raw, local honey.
- Try Kapha Digest before meals.
- Perform a cleanse, to stoke the metabolic fire (agni) and eliminate excess kapha.
No Kapha? Consider Vata
An unstable nervous system may also be at play. If you find that the body is otherwise clear of kapha and ama, consider the role of vata and bring calmness to the nervous system with hot baths, self-massages (abhyanga), a solid daily routine, and other vata-pacifying techniques.
Bring Freedom Back to Prana Vaha Srotas
Those that are all too familiar with this condition know that this can be the hardest step. Give these DIY techniques a try:
- Take a long, hot bath with eucalyptus bath oil and Epsom salt.
- Boil a pot of hot water and remove it from the stove. Place a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the water then place the head over the pot, covering it with a towel to retain the steam. Take slow, deep inhalations of the steam and blow the nose as the congestion loosens up.
- Wrap a handful of mustard seeds in a thin piece of cloth. Warm the pouch on a low, heated pan. Test the heat on the palm, before gently covering the sinuses with the pouch.
- Crush an onion and take a deep inhalation of its scent. Try this after any of the above steps.
Sustaining a Healthy Prana Vaha Srotas
Sustaining a healthy prana vaha srotas involves a combination of herbs and Ayurvedic techniques.
- Nasya Karma. Nasya karma moves a substance through the prana vaha srotas, guiding prana.
- Consider a neti pot with filtered saline water or a decoction of licorice (see directions below). Teaching your clients proper technique can make a huge difference in their experience with the neti pot.
- Five (or up to ten drops initially) of the Nasya Oil in each nostril can be an alternative to the neti pot or a supplemental maintenance practice during a different time of the day. This oil has a blend of essential oils that are highly beneficial for the prana vaha srotas.
- Pranayama. Regular practice of Bhastrika (Bellows Breath), Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath), and Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) will ignite the agni of the channel through the movement of prana.
- Pippali. Pippali is a profound herb with a strong affinity to the sinuses and lungs, increasing agni and keeping kapha in balance. Take a ¼ teaspoon of pippali with a ½ teaspoon of honey a couple times a day.
- Lung Formula. Lung Formula is cleansing and overall supportive to the respiratory tract. The ingredients warm the sinuses, melting excess kapha, and keep kapha in a more dynamic, liquid form so that it can perform its function of clearing irritants optimally, without becoming stagnant and congested.
- Kavala Graha. This is a practice of holding a decoction or a medicated oil in the mouth, which acts to draw toxins out of the head. For sinus problems, consider holding a licorice or triphala decoction for twenty minutes. (Boil ½ teaspoon of herbal powder in a cup of water down to half a cup. Strain and cool the decoction.)
Play with different combinations of the recommendations! Just keep in mind that the goal is warmth and controlled movement.