BRING OUT THE NETI POT! SPRING IS HERE!
As spring arrives and the plants come into flower, pollens can begin to play havoc with allergies and sinuses. Spring colds and flus start spreading around as well. The yogic cleansing practice of “Neti” is a perfect first defense.
Neti, or nasal irrigation, is an ancient practice done by Hatha yogis. The sinuses often become blocked or congested, causing problems such as nasal congestion, headaches, ear infections, and sore throats. Since yogis are always concerned with maintaining a healthy body, the cleaning of the sinuses through nasal irrigation has been adopted into their daily hygiene.
Dr. Thomas Schmidt, a Doctor of Internal Medicine, performed a research study on the benefits of Neti in reducing the affects of the common cold and other airborne viruses. Dr. Schmidt conducted research over 5 years on the effects of “Jal Neti, or nasal irrigation using water and a Neti pot. He had 115 soldiers in the study. Some were a simply a control group who did not practice Neti at all, while the others practiced neti on an average of one time per day. Some did it two times a day, and the time varied between am and pm. The soldiers kept a diary on how they did Neti and how often. Each soldier had a check-up at the beginning of the study, at the end of the 1st month, and at the end of the 3 month course. At the end of the study, research showed that days missed from work dropped by 70% for the group that practiced Jal Neti daily. [i] Why? Here is how Dr. Schmidt explained it.
Nasal mucous membranes have one layer of cells with cilia. On this is a film of liquid. One phase of this liquid is like mucous, and the other is like water. The cilia move like a whip in the water layer, moving a constant flow down to the throat. The same action is occurring in the lungs, only going upwards. The sinuses bring this liquid to the nose, where it can be drained. This protects the body by moving germs away from the cells.
The cilia are sensitive to many effects. They become less effective in removing germs when they become too cold, too hot, too dry, too moist, too dusty, etc. Temperature change affects the cilia as well. Gardening and breathing in the dust can laden the cilia with dirt. The first thing a virus does is stop the cilia from working, so they can no longer make the whipping action. It only takes 6 hours for a virus to take hold, and then a virus can infect the cell. If a cell loses its cilia it takes two weeks to regenerate it. All this leaves us vulnerable to the common cold and flu.
By performing Neti regularly, it helps the normal flow of cilia, normal flushing and cleansing. Neti works as a defense to keep the cilia functioning when a virus is trying to disable them. This helps to reduce the frequency of colds as well as lower the secondary effects (flu, pneumonia, tonsillitis, ear infections, etc). Neti can also reduce the length of a cold if it does take place. If you are exposed to a virus, Dr. Schmidt suggests you do Neti three times a day so the virus doesn’t have 6 hours to infect your cells. Otherwise, doing Neti once a day should keep the cilia healthy and functioning well.
Many allergy and respiratory clinics use “nasal irrigation” as a standard treatment for people suffering from chronic problems with the nose and ears, headaches, and blocked sinuses. They may not use a Neti pot, but there are nasal sprays, and also a technique to “slowly sniff from a bowl a small amount of mixture (warm water with baking soda and salt) through one nostril at a time, pulling the water in through the nose and out the mouth”. They recommend this practice twice a day to start, and once the sinuses start to clear, reduce to once a day. Not only that, one clinic says, “Once you get onto this technique, often it is the only treatment you need to keep your sinuses and upper airways clear.”
Dr. Schmidt recommends using a ¼ tsp of baking soda to ½ a tsp of sea salt to 2 cups of lukewarm water (body temperature). Ideally, you want the solution to match the salinity of your body, or to taste like your tears. The salt makes it so your body does not try to absorb the water, and the baking soda helps it to match the PH of your body. You may need to adjust the amounts of salt and baking soda up or down until you find the comfortable amount.
HOW TO DO NETI
Fill the Neti pot with the salt, baking soda and water solution. Mix well. Insert the spout into the right nostril and tip your head to the left. The water will pour into your right nostril and come out the left nostril. Be sure to have your mouth slightly open to prevent an air lock. Let the water flow until about ½ the solution is gone, or less if it is too uncomfortable. Blow your nose gently and repeat on the other side.
Any stinging sensations will disappear with regular practice. You may also find discomfort being reduced by not doing Neti first thing in the morning – give the sinuses an hour or so to clear after waking.
Neti Pots are available from most drug stores and yoga studios. Be sure to measure how much water your Neti pot holds in order to adjust the amount of baking soda and salt to match. Many Neti pots are small and hold less than 1 cup of water so you want to adjust accordingly.
Here is a little video to see how Neti is done. They only use salt in the water, but I do recommend the baking soda as it really makes it a smooth experience without stinging. http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/product/neti_video.aspx
I do my Neti in the shower daily. It has become a regular part of my daily hygiene.
Caution: It is advised that this practice be learned with a teacher. One may need assistance with the position of the head in order to avoid water entering the wind pipe. If you feel water going down the throat, drop the chin more forward and down. If you feel water going into the ear, reduce the angle of your head.
Mugs McConnell will be leading a workshop in Calgary May 26th and 27th at Hillhurst United Church, and May 28th at Yoga MCC for the Yoga Association of Alberta. She will also lead the SOYA 200 hour yoga teacher training in Calgary this coming July.
[i] The participation in Dr. Schmidt’s research study is as follows.
39 soldiers performed neti……………27 completed the 3 month course
76 were a control group………………61 completed the 3 month course
TOTAL 115 BEGAN TOTAL 88 COMPLETED
The following table shows the results of Dr. Schmidt’s research:
Days of Disease (cold and flu symptoms) resulting in days off duty
First Month Third Month Total at Completion
Neti group .51 per person 0 per person .51 per person
Control group .82 per person .96 per person 1.78 per person
Excerpted from Letters from the Yoga Masters: Teachings Revealed through Correspondence from Paramhansa, Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda, and Others by Marion (Mugs) McConnell, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2016 by Marion (Mugs) McConnell. Reprinted by permission of North Atlantic Books.