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Neti Kriya, cleansing the head region.

We have learned in our previous articles that Hatha yoga's goal is to balance the flow of Prana so it circulates through the Sushumna Nadi and eventually leads to Samadhi. We have seen that the nadis are channels all over the body where energy flows and that the energy can circulate better when the nadis are clean and exempted from impurities. That's where the Shatkarma practices come into play.

Being yogic cleansing techniques, the Shatkarmas are meant to keep the body free of impurities. There are six Shatkarma practices; each focused on a specific body area. Our previous articles discussed Dhauti and Basti practices, focused respectively on cleansing the digestive tract and lower intestines.

This article will focus on the Neti Kriya.

Neti Kriya, general benefits

The third of the Shatkarma practice is Neti Kriya. Its goal is to clean and purify the head region and nasal passages. Since the air is not pure, bacteria and impurities can enter the nostrils and the lungs through breathing. These contaminants weaken our bodies and provoke diseases. The practices of Neti ensure the proper function of the nose by keeping it free from impurities and thus keep the body healthy.

Nadis and Chakras

The nasal passages include the nostrils and sinuses located in the eyebrows area. Many nadis and nerves are in this region, some connected to the eyes, some to the ears, and others to the brain. The Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna Nadi are in the head region and are cleansed by Neti Kriyas.

The Ajna Chakra, or third eye chakra, associated with light and illumination, is also located in the eyebrows region. The practice of Neti Kriyas can awaken the Ajna Chakra, give calmness to the mind, and enhance concentration.

Neti can thus help with eyes and ears-related conditions. By keeping the sinuses clean, the practices reduce the pressure in the eyes, ears, and nose complex.

There are two types of Neti Kriya; Jala Neti, done with water, and Sutra Neti, performed with a thread or a catheter. Both practices can remove impurities from the nose and sinuses.

Jala Neti, cleansing with water.

Jala Neti

In this practice, the yogi needs a special pot with a nozzle that fits comfortably into the nostril and doesn't allow the water to leak. He fills this pot with lukewarm salted water, stands up or squats, and bends forward so the shoulders and head are in front. Holding the pot with one hand, he inserts the nozzle in his right nostril, tilts his head to the left side with his mouth open, and lets the water flow through the nostrils. He keeps breathing through his mouth during the practice. The practitioner enables the water to circulate that way for 10-20 seconds, then removes the pot from his right nostril and blows through his left nostril to expel the rest of the water. He blows again from the right nostril and repeats the process on the other side. The yogi then needs to dry his nostril by breathing forcefully through them several times while blocking one nostril.

Three different processes happen during the practice of Jala Neti:

Ear, nose and throat
  1. The passage of water through the nostril stimulates mucus production in the glands. The mucus traps the germs and particles and is expelled with the water. The process cleanses the nose's pores, glands, and hairs and ensures proper air filtration.

  2. The passage of water in the nostrils can stimulate the production of tears, which cleanse the eyes.

  3. The water circulation in the nostrils and sinuses helps cleanse the ears because of the connection between the sinuses and the eustachian tubes.

Because of these processes, Jala Neti has many benefits. It relieves colds, allergies, and headaches, reduces the heaviness in the eyes, promotes good vision, and helps with stress management and insomnia.

The Jala Neti practice can be compared to the nasal cleansing techniques used in Western medicine. These techniques use a saltwater solution to clear the nasal passages of mucus, bacteria, allergens, and viruses. It is used to prevent irritation in the nose, stop infections and germs proliferation, and relieve headaches.

The water must be salty because the salt has a more considerable osmotic pressure than normal water so that the water won't enter the capillaries and fragile cells in the nose. Using plain water can cause some pain in the nostrils. In the yogic Jala Neti, it is said that the practitioner can also use diluted urine, warm milk, or ghee.

Jala Neti can be practiced daily, preferably in the morning and before pranayama and asana practices. It can be repeated many times in the day if necessary to remove nasal ailments or heavy congestion.

Sutra Neti, cleansing with thread.

To practice Sutra Neti, the yogi uses a thread or catheter to clean his nostrils and sinuses. The catheter can be bought in pharmacies, and a size 4, 5, or 6 would suit the practice. Traditionally, the yogis used a cotton thread about 40 cm long and 4mm in diameter, hardened with bee wax.

Sutra Neti

To perform it, the yogi starts by squatting or standing and gently inserts the end of the catheter in the right nostril. He rotates the catheter slowly and keeps the tip pointing downward so that it enters easily. When the sutra enters the nostril, he gently guides it toward the throat and through the mouth. Once the thread reaches the mouth, the yogi grabs it with two fingers and carefully pulls it backward and forward a couple of times, for a maximum of 14 times. This can be hard at first because the membrane in the nose isn't used to the practice, and Neti must be stopped if there is nose or mouth pain. He slowly takes the thread out from the nose. He then repeats the process with the left nostril and completes his practice with a round of Jala Neti.

As Sutra Neti frees the impurities from the nostrils' membrane, it is essential to perform Jala Neti to remove the particles which could have stayed in the nose. Since the nostrils can feel slightly dry after the Sutra Neti practice, the Jala Neti can be practiced with milk or ghee to moisten the membranes. If the nose is blocked or stuffy before the procedure, the yogi can practice Jala Neti before and after Sutra Neti.

Sutra Neti strengthens and massages the membrane inside the nose, thus increasing blood flow and reducing swelling and inflammation. It can provide relief from sinusitis and rhinitis. Sutra Neti can also help perform Khechari mudra, where the yogi's tongue goes into the nasal passage and through which Samadhi can be attained.

Sutra Neti can be done once a week, in the morning before breakfast. It is essential to practice Sutra Neti sparingly, as it can irritate the membranes of the nose and then make it less efficient in filtering impurities. It is necessary to practice Sutra Neti with the guidance of a professional teacher, and it should not be done by people who suffer from chronic nose bleeding or other nasal problems.

Requirements and precautions

The Neti Kriyas should be practiced under the supervision of a teacher when done for the first time. If the practitioner doesn't have chronic nose bleeding or other nasal problems, he'll be able to practice Jala Neti alone. Sutra Neti is always preferably done under the guidance of a teacher. A minor irritation in the nose is typical when the practices are done for the first couple of times. It will cease once the practitioner gets accustomed to the methods.

At Japam's studio, we teach Neti practices in the morning. We also teach other Shatkarma practices on an appointment basis and have Yoga Therapy sessions and workshops for people with specific health conditions. Don't hesitate to contact us or visit our studio to discuss the possibilities.

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