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Follow Your Nose Into the Neti Pot

guide to neti pot

Yoga’s shatkarmas are six traditional purification processes meant to harmonize the ida and pingala nadis, or energy pathways, and balance the Ayurvedic doshas. But truth be told, regurgitating a swallowed cloth and then making yourself vomit is a little too eccentric for most modern yogis. However, jala neti (cleaning the nasal passageways with water) is one shatkarma that still deserves a place in your occasional self-care routine.

Neti pots are becoming trendy—I’ve even seen them for sale in the famous Powell’s book store in Portland. Apparently the rest of the world is catching on to what yogis have known for thousands of years: jala neti is an amazing way to detox the nasal passageways!

Here’s your complete guide to using a neti pot.

Benefits of jala neti

  • Clears the sinuses for better pranayama
  • Cleanses away dust and pollution
  • Relaxes tense facial muscles
  • Treats sinus infections, colds and allergies
  • Improve the senses of smell and taste
  • Calms the mind
  • Alleviates anger and anxiety
  • Brings balance between the left and right brain
  • Awakens the ajna chakra (third eye chakra)

When to use a neti pot

  • When experiencing mild congestion from a cold
  • During allergy season
  • If your nasal passageways are irritated from dust, pollution, or dry air
  • For occasional cleansing before your morning yoga or pranayama practice

When you should not use a neti pot

  • After eating
  • If you have the flu or sinusitis
  • When your nose is completely blocked from a cold
  • If you experience chronic nosebleeds
  • After recent nasal or middle ear surgery

What you need

  • A neti pot (looks like a small teapot)
  • Clean, pure water—either use filtered bottled water, or boil tap water and allow it to cool
  • High quality sea salt

How to practice jala neti

1. Create a saline solution.

Mix 1/4 teaspoon sea salt with one cup of warm water. Taste the mixture. If it tastes too salty, you’ve added too much. If you can barely taste the salt, you should add a little more. Test the temperature of the water before you use it. It shouldn’t be too cold or too hot, but warmed to room temperature. Fill the neti pot with the saline solution.

2. Get in position.

Stand over a sink. Lean forward and turn your head to one side. Open your mouth and gently place the spout inside of your upper nostril.

3. Cleanse your upper nostril.

Raise your elbow to tilt the pot so that the water runs through your upper nostril. Breathe through your mouth. The water will flow out through your lower nostril. If it flows out of your mouth, you need to reposition (but don’t worry, this won’t cause any harm). Once you’ve used all the water, you can blow your nose very gently to expel any mucus.

4. Repeat on the other side.

Turn your head to the other side and open your mouth. Place the spout inside of the opposite nostril and repeat the step above.

5. Dry your nostrils.

After you practice jala neti, you need to dry the nasal passageways so you don’t induce the symptoms of a cold. Stand with your feet hip-distance wide, place your hands on your thighs, and lean forward. Exhale vigorously multiple times as if you’re practicing kapalabhati (skull shining breath). Turn your head to the left side and do the same. Repeat on the right side. Do this until no more fluid comes out of your nose.

6. Lubricate the nostrils with nasya. 

This next step is little-known, but it shouldn’t be skipped. You need to lubricate the nostrils so the nasal passageways don’t dry out from the salt water. This is an Ayurvedic practice called nasya, and neti isn’t complete without it. You can use special nasya oil, ghee, or sesame oil. Lie down and lean your head back over the edge of a bed or couch. Using a dropper, squeeze 2-4 drops into each nostril and inhale deeply. Wait a minute or two before getting up.

7. Wash and dry your neti pot thoroughly.

As with other shatkarmas, you don’t want to overdo purification. It’s best to use neti symptomatically, and only every now and then to give your nasal passageways a little extra cleansing.

Reference: Saraswati, Swami Satyananda. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust, 2008.

Julie Bernier
Julie Bernier helps women to bring their bodies back into balance, whether they’re struggling with hormonal imbalances, period problems, digestive troubles, skin conditions, anxiety, depression, preparing for or recovering from giving birth, or any other dis-ease. This holistic approach to individualized wellness is rooted in ayurveda: a holistic system of healing from ancient India. Julie is a registered Ayurvedic Practitioner and Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist with the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) as well as a Certified Massage Therapist. She studied each of these modalities in the US and straight from the source in India. Connect with Julie at trueayurveda.com or on IG at @juliebernier.
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