The nasal wash has been integral to yoga practice for more than 5,000 years. Called jala neti in Sanskrit, this user-friendly practice involves drawing a warm saline solution through the nasal passages, with the aid of a small container called a neti pot. Jala neti prevents and treats colds and other upper respiratory ailments that can crop up in the change of season, including allergies, asthma and sinusitis. In addition to washing away mucus, dust, bacteria, viruses and fungi, the nasal wash stimulates the optic nerve, relaxing the eyes and strengthening the sight while refreshing the mind. On a deeper level, this practice helps in a fruitful meditation practice.
If you're wincing at the memory of getting water up your nose while swimming as a kid, don't worry, jala neti uses a warm saline solution that's the same temperature and salt concentration as your bodily fluids and is soothing to the sinuses.
Here's a basic recipe: Mix one heaped teaspoon of pure, non-iodized salt with two cups of warm water until the salt dissolves completely. Adjust the mixture to your own salinity; it should taste like warm tears. Then experiment with the following neti washes: one for beginners and another for the more experienced.
Fill your neti pot and lean over a sink, face downward. Keeping your nose slightly higher than your lips, twist your head to the right. As you breathe through the mouth, insert the spout into the upper nostril until it forms a tight seal. Raise the handle of the neti pot and let the water flow back through the nose and out the lower nostril. Repeat on the other side. Alternatively squat and place a closed fist on your knee and follow the above mentioned instructions.
Tip: If the water flows into your mouth, lower your head slightly. If the water does not flow into the other nostril, you may need to raise your head or twist further. With a little experimentation, you'll get the hang of the head position. Mouth to Nose: Fill your mouth three-quarters full with warm saline solution. Lean over the sink, face down. To expel the water, tuck your chin toward your neck and press your entire tongue against the roof of the mouth, forcefully exhaling the saline into the sink. Keep the opening from the throat to the nose relaxed through the entire procedure. Repeat several times.
The aftermath: To clear loose mucus and water from the nose, make 10 moderately forceful exhalations into the sink with both nostrils open and the face relaxed. (Note: blocking one or both nostrils during these exhalations can force water and mucus into the Eustachian tubes.) Next, do a simple forward bend, turning the head from side to side as you do another round of vigorous exhalations. Then do the triangle pose, turning your head up to the ceiling and then down toward the floor. If water drips from nose, do another forward bend and round of exhalations.
Avoid nasal wash if: You are prone to nosebleeds, acute asthma attacks or during sinus infections.