Both Hatha yoga and Ayurveda hold that we are each born with a defined number of breaths. Making each breath long and deep can improve your health and increase longevity. Cleansing and protecting our breathing passages, particularly the nostrils, can improve the quality of every breath you take.
Neti is a process of cleansing and purifying the nasal passages with a nasal rinse cup and water or saline solution. Hatha yoga, the sister science to Ayurveda, includes this cleansing process as one of the six purification practices or shatkarmas, first described in the early yoga text the Upanishads.
These practices are specifically aimed to balance the prana, our vital force within the body. Prana enters the body as the breath via the nose and mouth. Deep, slow, unobstructed breathing is our most powerful tool for balancing prana. This brings the mind and body into harmony allowing them to work together as a whole.
When the pranic channels are balanced, there is a foundation for creating balance between the three doshas, vata, pitta, and kapha. An imbalance in the doshas begins the disease process. In the practice of yoga, neti is traditionally practiced before breathing exercises, pranayama, to ensure free flowing prana in through the nostrils and throughout the body.
During cold and allergy seasons, using a nasal rinse cup can help to alleviate congestion. Excess kapha in the form of mucus can be reduced through the drying and cleansing action of the saline. Breathing through the nostrils has many more benefits than mouth breathing. Breaths taken through the nostrils are much deeper and longer than breaths taken through the mouth, helping to utilize the lower lobes of the lungs. Nostril breathing helps to activate the parasympathetic response in the body, inviting relaxation and a sense of calm.
How To Do Neti
Relax and breathe normally. Mix a saline solution by disolving 1/4 teaspoon of fine non-iodized table salt into one cup warm distilled or boiled and cooled water. Place the spout of the neti pot firmly against the side of the nostril so that no water leakage occurs. Begin to breathe steadily in and out through your mouth. Lift the neti pot and tilt the head to the side so that the water enters into the nostril, over the (internal) bridge of the nose and out the other nostril. When half of the water has passed through, remove the spout, bring the head to center and allow the water to run out. Gently blow out through the nostrils to clear any fluid. Then, tilt head to the opposite side and repeat. Finally, it is important to dry out the nostrils. Blow out forcefully through the nostrils several times while bending forward. This helps to ensure that any water that may have been trapped up in the sinus cavities is expelled.
Enjoy this cleansing ritual that will help balance your breath and bring new life to your nose!