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What is a neti sutra and what is it for?
Swatramana described the practice of sutra neti in the second chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika as follows:
“A cord made of threads and about six inches long, should be passed through the passage of the nose and the end taken out in the mouth. This is called by adepts the Neti Karma. The Neti is the cleaner of the brain and giver of divine sight. It soon destroys all the diseases of the cervical and scapular regions.”
Traditionally a piece of string, or twine, with waxed ends is used. Nowadays a rubber surgical cathether is more commonly used. It has the advantage of being easier to use and easier to keep clean.
Sutra Neti is sometimes prescribed in Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine) as a cure for lethargy, sinus trouble, nasal congestion or excessive production of mucous.
Using a neti sutra is generally seen as an advanced yogic practice that is said to stimulate the awakening of the Ajna Chakra (or third eye) - the eye of intuition.
Unlike Jala Neti with a neti pot, which can be practiced as frequently as you wish, the practice of sutra neti is generally better to be done only once or twice a week. If you are following an intensive sadhana (spiritual practice) and respecting a pure healthy vegetarian lifestyle then sutra neti may be performed more frequently.
Before using your neti sutra
Make sure to clean your sutra well with warm soapy water and dry it thoroughly.
Sutra neti is generally done in conjunction with Jala Neti (flushing the nasal passages with warm salty water using a neti pot.) While you are doing Jala Neti you can moisten your sutra by leaving it in your neti pot. It is better to practice Jala Neti frequently before moving on to Sutra neti. If you are a beginner to both, then start with Jala Neti to cleanse the nose.
Have some tissues or absorbent paper kitchen towels ready as Sutra Neti strongly stimulates the mucous glands and also activates the tear ducts, which in turn naturally cleanse the eyes.
Sutra neti is better practiced on an empty stomach. If you have just eaten, then putting the fingers down the throat may induce vomiting.
Finger nails should not be overly long so as not to scratch or damage the back of the throat.
How to use a neti sutra.
Begin with a calm clear mind. Never be in a hurry to perform Sutra Neti.
- Carefully insert the sutra into one of the nostrils and gently push it through the nasal passage until it reaches the back of the throat.
- Reach far back into the throat with the first two fingers, using the fingers as a pincers to take hold of the sutra.
- The sutra is grasped between the first two fingers and drawn out of the mouth, but still leaving some of the sutra outside the nose.
- Hold each end of the sutra and then gently floss back and forth a few times.
- The ends of the sutra can be attached together and the circle thus formed is drawn through the nostrils several times.
- Separate the attached ends of the sutra and remove it completely.
- Rinse off the sutra and perform the same on the opposite nostril.
When you have finished sutra neti in both nostrils then do Jala Neti (using warm salty water and a neti pot) once again to help clear out any excess mucous or encrusted particles that may have been dislodged from the upper nasal passages.
Clean the sutra thoroughly after use. You can keep it rolled up in your neti pot. Over time the sutra will retain its curved shape, which will make the practice that bit easier.
Sometimes sneezing occurs. Sutra neti can help to desensitize the nostrils and help with problems like hay fever or dust pollen allergies.
The activation of the gag reflex and the stimulation of the tear ducts can sometimes be a trigger to release strong emotions. It is not uncommon for people to start crying when they perform Sutra Neti, particularly in the beginning when there may be an added element of fear or apprehension.
Don’t feel frustrated if you can’t do sutra neti fully in the beginning - in fact very few people ever manage to catch the sutra in the throat on the first try. While learning, it can be useful to practice in front of a mirror so that you can see the sutra in the throat. It also takes most people a bit of practice to control the gag reflex. Like any yogic practice Sutra neti takes time and patience to learn and master.
How to use your Neti Pot for Jala Neti Kriya - yogic nasal cleansing
Jala neti kriya, more commonly referred to simply as neti is a simple procedure for maintaining nasal hygiene by means of irrigating the nostrils with warm salty water. Neti effectively removes dirt and bacteria filled mucus from the nasal passages. It is an ancient yogic purification technique that is all the more relevant and helpful in our modern times where air pollution and airborne pathogens are becoming increasing health risk factors. By practicing neti you can breathe clearly and freely, thus enhancing your quality of life.
This short video demonstration shows you how to perform both Jala Neti and Sutra Neti Kriyas
The nostrils are filled with tiny hairs called cilia whose role it is to prevent large particles entering the respiratory system. Sometimes, due to a gradual build up of dirt they can become clogged. Practicing neti with warm salt water keeps the mucus moist. The cilia hairs are stimulated and encrustations, dust and allergy provoking substances are effectively removed.
The nasal passages and upper respiratory tract are covered with a layer of mucus. This mucus is secreted from within the mucus linings and its function is to trap smaller foreign particles and bacteria that the cilia haven't managed to catch. The sinus passages are an even finer mechanism of filtering which, if infected, secrete a runny mucus to evict the germs. Cleansing the nose with warm salty water activates these mucus membranes and also others in the stomach and in the eyes and removes bacteria and dust laden mucus from the body.
Preparation for Jala Neti
Usually neti is done with the aid of a specifically designed neti pot called a lota. These pots come in many shapes and sizes and can be made of metal, ceramic or plastic, but all have the common factor of a spout, a little like a teapot. Neti pots are easily available online and can sometimes be bought in health food stores or yoga studios.
The pot is filled with salty water. Use lukewarm water, close to body temperature or slightly warmer. Very cold water will cause the mucous gland to swell and can lead to headache. The optimal salinity is the same as tears. Add about 1 gram of salt for 100 ml of water. A decent pinch of salt per pot usually does the trick.
There are many types of salt available. Choose the most natural salt available. Avoid using salt that contains additives such as MSG, though iodine enriched salt is fine. Sea salt is probably the best. Some sea salts contain certain oligo-elements which boost the immune system and can add to the benefits of neti, though realistically, the amounts absorbed may be negligible.
Neti is a safe and simple practice and apart from anyone who has recently undergone surgical interventions in either the sinuses or middle ear it can be practiced freely. It is extremely beneficial to overall health and has no significant side effects. Some people may experience difficulty on their first few attempts at neti, particularly anyone with structural nasal blockages such as deviated septum, those suffering from chronic mucus blockages and some people who may have hyper-sensitive nasal linings as a side effect of prolonged usage of prescription medicines. Usually these problems will be overcome without too much difficulty, but perhaps some mild discomfort may be experienced at first.
Ideally, practice over a sink. The tip of the spout of the pot is placed at the entrance of the nostril and the water is poured through one nostril and flows out through the opposite nostril. Usually it takes a little bit of experimentation to find the correct angle and head position to get the water flowing smoothly from one nostril out through the other. Let gravity do the work and point the free nostril downwards. At first the water may sometimes come out through the mouth. At worst you might swallow a little salty water. Some people prefer to let the water flow out through the mouth, though the effects will be somewhat lessened.
While pouring the water into the nostril the mouth is kept open allowing you to breathe freely. Always take your time to perform neti correctly - never rush the procedure. Breathing slowly through the mouth, pour the entire contents of the pot through one nostril. When the pot is empty, bend forward and let any excess water run out, then close the nostril with a finger and exhale a few sharp short blasts (not too forcibly or this may drive water up into the sinuses) and then repeat on the opposite side. Alternatively, some people prefer to snort a couple of times and then spit out any excess mucous. Initially you may find that the mucus tends to flow for ten minutes or so after practicing, but when you do neti more regularly this no longer becomes an issue. Ideally you can rest in Savasana for a few minutes after neti to derive deeper benefits, though this is not strictly necessary.
Anyone who practices will immediately notice clearer breathing and an increase in the sense of smell and taste. It brings a feeling of lightness and clarity to the mind and can help stimulate powers of visualization and concentration.
There is a variation of neti called amaroli, where you use your own urine instead of plain salt water. Among the advantages are that the salinity and temperature are ideal. It is better not to use the first urine in the morning as it may be more charged in toxins and otherwise use midstream urine. Some yogis practice this way and while many people may find the idea distasteful, urine therapy in general is gaining more acceptance worldwide. In India sometimes milk is used and in Ayurvedic remedies various herbs or spices may be infused in warm water and used for neti. Dr David Fralwey suggests using a little sesame oil and ginger to intensify the effects of neti. At least in the beginning use salty water. Once you have gained some experience you are free to experiment.
Neti can be practiced as regularly as necessary. In a polluted environment at least once a day is recommended. Those living in a dry, dusty environment will also benefit from practicing regularly.
Various factors will influence the frequency with which you need to practice neti. Diet is one of the most important. People who consume dairy products, particularly milk, will often have excess mucous in the nasal passages. Other foods that may contribute to excess nasal mucus are eggs, red meat, fried food, fatty food, pastries, sugar, processed foods - including white bread, soy products, bananas and to a lesser degree, pulses and grains.
Most people have experienced a build up of mucus due to a common cold. If you have a cold then neti can be practiced several times a day. However, if you practice neti daily it is unlikely that you will ever catch a cold. Prevention is always better than a cure.
Those suffering from certain allergies such as hay-fever will also be subject to excess nasal mucous which inhibits the breathing. Once again neti is a very helpful remedy.
Once you get used to practicing neti it can easily be slotted into your daily routine and you can do it in the morning and at night, just as you would brush your teeth. Neti at night helps to have a good relaxing deep sleep.
Neti mildly stimulates the tear ducts, which help cleanse the eyes and give them added sparkle. Some say it even helps sharpen the eyesight and improve the memory. On an esoteric level neti is said to stimulate the ajna chakra. It has subtle effects on the pineal and pituitary glands which control the hormonal system which in turn has a harmonizing effect on the emotions. Neti has a cooling, soothing effect on the brain and can help with headaches, migraine, epilepsy, temper tantrums, hysteria, depression and general mental tension. It can also help with certain ear disorders like middle ear infections, glue ear and some forms of tinnitus.
Neti is particularly beneficial and useful for smokers and re-sensitizes the nose to the actual pollution of ingesting smoke, thereby de-programming the brain of the physical and psychological addiction.
Some other medical conditions that neti can help improve include:
- Aging rhinitis
- Allergic rhinitis - hay fever
- Atrophic rhinitis - ozaena
- Common cold
- Empty nose syndrome
- Facial pain or headache associated with sinusitis
- Halitosis - bad breath
- Nasal congestion
- Nasal dryness
- Nasal polyposis
- Phantosmia - phantom smells
- Post-nasal drip
- Rhinitis medicamentosa - rebound nasal congestion
- Rhinorrhea - runny nose
- Rhinosinusitis - inflammation of the nose and sinuses
- Sinusitis - inflammation of the sinuses (including chronic sinusitis)
Why use a Tongue Cleaner
A tongue cleaner helps to remove mucous and bacteria from the surface of the tongue.
The surface of the tongue is covered in bumps. The spaces between these bumps can harbour bacteria which in turn create smelly compounds such as hydrogen sulfide, dimethyl sulphide, methyl mercaptan. These are one of the principle causes of bad breath or halitosis. These bacteria can also affect the teeth and gums.
By using a tongue cleaner you can help remove much of these bacteria and reduce the chances of suffering from bad breath.
You might also experience a furry coated tongue as a result of smoking, dehydration, poor oral hygiene or the use of certain medication. Again tongue cleaning helps to remove unwanted debris and mucous from the surface of the tongue.
If bad breath persists it may be a sign of gum disease, cavities or even important health issues such as pneumonia, bronchitis, diabetes, and liver or kidney problems. If in doubt it is best to consult a dentist or a qualified medical practitioner.
In Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) and Traditional Chinese Medicine the tongue is often looked at as a means for determining a person’s health. The tongue is said to reflect the body, and in particular the internal organs. Stimulating the tongue by using a tongue cleaner is said to improve overall health.
How to use
Tongue cleansing is generally performed after brushing the teeth and can be practiced daily, or even several times a day.
Hold the tongue cleaner in both hand gently pull it over the surface of the tongue, starting from the back of the mouth moving towards the tip of the tongue. There is no need to apply too much pressure.
Usually you will see a milky mucous emerge from the surface of the tongue. Repeat as many times as necessary until there is little of no more mucous left to remove.
If you have any cuts or lesions on the surface of the tongue then care should be taken to avoid those areas or even leave aside the practice until such time as any wounds on the tongue are healed.
When finished scraping the tongue you can rinse the mouth with salty, or plain water. The tongue scraper rinsed off after use and should be kept clean.
Since your tongue cleaner is made of stainless steel it can easily be sterilized by using boiling water.
Benefits of using a Tongue Cleaner
- Removes mucous and bacteria from tongue
- Helps improve bad breath and is an effective treatment in eliminating halitosis
- Improves the sense of taste
- Improves digestion
- Stimulates the internal organs