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Keep Your Nose Clean, Kid

March 29, 2010

Practicing Jala-Neti

When I was kid my grandmother was always reminding me to “Make sure you keep your nose clean.” And whenever I wanted a favor or treat she would reply “So long as you keep your nose clean,” which meant for me to stay out of trouble. Surely my grandmother, while flipping endless numbers of grilled cheese sandwiches and mixing gallon after gallon of her famous iced–tea wasn’t offering me an encoded mystery of Yogic science, but somehow every morning I find myself taking direct action in effort to keep my nose clean. I like you kid, I want to teach you how to keep your nose clean too. Click there, no a little more to the left, to learn how to practice Jala Neti, the cleansing of the nasal passages.

First, let’s take some time to gather up supplies. This is what you’ll need: a nose, nasal passages, and a neck to assist in tilting your head left and right. You will also find it useful to have a neti pot, some salt, and clean lukewarm water. If you are lucky enough to have a garden (I don’t mean an impressive collection of flower–boxes urbanites!) you might enjoy practicing Jala Neti outside. For me, I live in Tokyo ward in the outskirts of Mt. Technology, which my husband insists looks entirely too much like Newark, New Jersey. Yes, you’ve guessed it, my bathroom is my garden.

Before we plunge into the practice let’s consider why it is beneficial to include Jala Neti in your daily practice. As most readers know, asanas are practiced to make the body strong, to create fire in the body that in turn incinerates and expels the toxins, and to irrigate the various systems of the body by getting the blood and prana flowing. As the body and mind are inseparable, toxins, tensions, and blockages that are in the body will disrupt the mind. It goes both ways. Sometimes the tension originates in the mind and thereafter manifests in the body. Often we introduce toxins into the body— through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the company we keep— which become dirty squatters in our very own temple and eventually contribute to mental clutter. Jala Neti, by keeping the first line of defense against nasty air in top working order, helps reduce the amount of toxins introduced into the body through breathing.

Ah, the glorious nose, with its thick hairs like Venus Fly–traps snagging those ninja impurities that try to steal into your lungs. Take that you obscenely huge chunk of filth. To sing odes to the germicidal mucus membranes, nasal storm troopers guarding the inner sanctuary where oxygen is received and carbon dioxide expelled. Take that you airborne bacteria! These membranes also help to moisten dry air and bring it to a temperature that is more comfortably taken into the lungs. Too, behind the scenes further more is a set of glands that root out the germs, which managed to evade the garden of Venus Fly–traps and the nasal storm troopers. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the magnificent and often overlooked nose. It’s right there in the middle of your face.

So now you understand just how hard your nose is working and what have you done lately to show your love? Or are you only picking on it? The regular practice of Jala Neti keeps the passages clean, facilitates the removal of toxins collected by the hairs and mucus membranes, which in turn allows them to be more effective in taking on the oncoming barrage of yet more airborne junk. If the nasal passages are blocked and we breathe through the mouth, we take air into our lungs that has not been as rigorously purified. Too, keeping your nose clean means breathing more easily through both nostrils, which helps in upholding an even flow of energy though the body.

Ida nadi– one of the three most significant nadis, originates on the left side of the base of the spine and after twisting back and forth along the spinal column brings itself to the left nostril. This is the cooling, moon quality nadi. Pingala nadi is Ida’s mirror as it issues from the right side of the base of the spine and moves up into the right nostril. Pingala is the sun–like energy that creates heat, action, and movement. Of course, by blocking one or both of these passages the movement of prana is directly affected, which makes us more vulnerable to disease, lethargy, and imbalance. It is also said that the regular practice of Jala Neti has a soothing effect on the brain and helps in activating Ajna Chakra.

Practice: Upon waking up in the morning wash your face with cold water and fetch your Neti pot. Wash your hands and make sure your nails are clean. Measure one teaspoon of pure salt to one half liter of clean lukewarm water. Mix the salt and water in your Neti pot with your fingers until the salt is completely dissolved. You can practice Jala Neti while squatting (if you are doing it in your garden or bathtub) or standing (if you are using a sink). Insert the nozzle of the neti pot into your right nostril and bend from the hips slightly while tilting the chin up to the right. It will take some practice to find the perfect angle but when you get it you will know as otherwise the water drips down your face or spills over the neti pot rather than flowing freely from the opposite nostril. I find that mentally rooting my feet into the earth and feeling the energy running up through my legs, and pulling from the base of my spine helps very much in finding the right angle. You might find this useful as well.

After finding the appropriate angle, allow the water to flow through the nasal passages for ten to twenty seconds. Keep your mouth open and breathe through the mouth while counting. After running the water through put down your pot and close one nostril. Blow through the open nostril- but not too hard or you’ll send water into the ears- to remove water and impurities. Reverse and blow through the opposite nostril. Next, insert the nozzle into the other nostril and repeat the whole process but this time tilting your head to the left. After you have finished the pot of water you must dry the nostrils. You do this by closing one nostril and doing ten to twenty quick and semi–forceful exhalations through the open nostril. Then switch and exhale through the opposite nostril. Finally, with both nostrils open practice twenty quick exhalations. It is very important to dry the nostrils after this practice. If you still feel that the nostrils are damp, repeat the drying process.

Notes: You might find that the first few times you practice Jala Neti that you experience slight discomfort in the nasal passages, this is perfectly normal and should subside after practicing three or four times, after your nose becomes accustomed to the experience. It is important to cut the water with salt because that changes the property of the water so that it is less easily absorbed into the membranes and blood vessels of the nose. When I began practicing Jala Neti I immediately experienced a keener sense of smell. Flowers were more fragrant and projectile coffee breath more, well, projected. I have also found that I feel very cool and calm after Jala Neti and so start each morning by taking three minutes to clean my nose. Ideally, one practices Jala Neti first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach and before practicing Yoga asana. Give it a try. I think you’ll enjoy it.

This article is dedicated to my dear friend Leila, who taught me with much kindness and patience the practice of Jala Neti. It orginally appeared on under the same title.

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One Comment
  1. Just gone through your blog and found it awesome. It was nice going through your blog. keep it up the good work. cheers 🙂

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