If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve probably already overcome the gross factor. Let’s admit it. We all had a similar first reaction—“Somebody sticks a pot of water up his nose and does what?!” Ewwwww. And it may or may not have helped us to learn that yogis have been practicing (jala) neti (or nasal irrigation) for thousands of years. Because after all, yogis, cool as they are, do some pretty strange things.
What brings most people around to the idea of using a neti pot is necessity, in whatever form she takes. Some people tire of treating chronic sinus infections with round after round of antibiotics. Others worry about the long-term effects of the steroid nasal sprays that lessen their allergy symptoms. Neti pots offer drug-free, all-natural, cost-effective relief from recurrent nasal irritation. And any sinus sufferer knows that relief like that translates to an improved quality of life.
The way the neti pot works is that a saline solution is poured up the nose to clear the nasal passages of mucus and anything else that’s hanging around up there du jour (think dust, pollen, etc.). This prevents the mucus from pooling in the sinuses, where it would provide the consummate breeding grounds for bacteria. Some people use the neti pot only when they feel a cold coming on or are experiencing symptoms while others use it daily as a preventative. So how exactly does one "pour" water up one's nose? Well, here we go:
- First, you'll need a nasal irrigation solution. You can buy one that’s pre-prepared or you can make your own. I prefer to make my own because I can tweak the percentages to suit my preference. The solution is a combination of water and pure non-iodized salt (no Mrs. Dash here). The percentages are approximately:
- 8 ounces warm water
- ¼ teaspoon non-iodized salt
Remember that the lining inside your nose is delicate, so you don’t want to be salting it like you would popcorn. Test the water temperature with your finger and adjust accordingly—too hot can burn and too cold is just not comfortable. Mix well so that the salt is completely dissolved.
- Next comes the getting it up the nose part. It is best to receive personal instruction from an experienced practitioner in this technique. Or in other words, from someone other than me. You don’t want to be creating another Crater Lake up there without knowing how to get the water back out. But if you’ve decided to give it a go on your own, be sure to do this over the sink or bathtub or outdoors (or maybe not if the neighbors are entertaining).
You’ve done this a few times before by accident—think blind date—the only difference is that this time you’re going to do it on purpose. Turn your head to the side, let go of your inhibitions, and insert the neti pot spout into your upper nostril. Raise the neti pot and yes, pour the salt water into your nose. The real trick here is to relax. Remember, gravity is your friend: Let gravity ply her magic. Breathe out of your mouth (rather than hold your breath) as this will help you to relax. Once you relax, the saline solution pours into your nose, through it, and out of the lower nostril. Keeping your chin tucked helps to prevent the salt water from going down the back of your throat.
How can you tell if you’re using the neti pot correctly? When done correctly, there is almost no sensation because the temperature of the water is close to your body temperature, and the salinity of the water is the same as the interior of your nasal passageway.
- Pour a good amount through one nostril, then follow the same procedure with the other nostril.
- When you’re finished, remove any remaining water from the nose. Breathing out of the nose in quick repetition is a good way to do this. Do not hold either of the nostrils closed as this could send water into an area that does not dry easily. If you use a tissue, hold it lightly outside the nose. Finally, you may want to bend forward and turn your head from side to side to be sure you've removed all the water.
Should you experience any pain or stinging sensations, there are two likely culprits:
- Water temperature. If the water temperature is either too hot or too cold, you may experience discomfort. Aim for a lukewarm temperature, and remember to test the water first with your finger.
- Nasal Irrigation Solution: Make sure your solution is thoroughly mixed by stirring it well. Either too little or too much salt will end up stinging the nose.
Now remember, you don’t need to post a pictorial on Facebook, you just need to do the deed once a day in the privacy of your own home. At the very least, a neti pot can alleviate endless post-nasal drip and accompanying discomfort. And once you get the technique down, you never know what might happen. Some practitioners believe that (jala) neti practice affects the sixth chakra (or third eye), which helps to awaken higher states of consciousness. And even if your consciousness does not experience enlightenment, your nasal passageways will!