One of the six shatkarma – purification practices - described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Sutra neti uses a thinly wound thread of cotton cloth or a thin rubber catheter and jala neti is a nasal salt water rinse.
Relieves muscular tension of the face, clears the nasal passages and sinuses of phlegm and congestion, prevents and assists in healing respiratory tract infections, maintains healthy function of ears, eyes, nose and throat, equalizes the breath in the two nostrils which balances the right and left brain hemispheres.
Calms and soothes the brain, imparts a remarkable clarity to the mind. You have to try it to believe it.
Subtle Body Benefits
Purifies the nadis - subtle energy channels - of the head and brain, awakens ajna chakra, balances the pranic flow in ida and pingala which results in sushumna flowing.
Enjoy total lucidity and crystalline mental clarity by avoiding all forms of deception, including confusing others by deliberately giving them wrong impressions. This could be the underlying cause for total clarity of your entire body/mind complex - the key that allows a purification practice such as neti to work at all. Nothing we try to do to clear our nasal passages could ever work for us if we were simultaneously engaged in deliberately confusing others by deceiving them and causes their minds to become congested.
Always follow the instructions of your direct teacher.
For jala neti begin by assembling the following:
One half litre of pure water at body temperature - distilled, purified or filtered.
Neti lota or pot - preferably ceramic.
1 tsp. non-iodized sea salt.
Dissolve one teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt into the water. We use Himalayan rock salt which we simply leave in a glass jar of pure water - as long as there is a piece of the rock which remains undissolved, the saline ratio of the water will be maintained. We carefully dip a teaspoon into the saline solution to avoid stirring up the salt crystals at the bottom.
Fill the neti lota with the salt water and position yourself over a sink with your feet firmly planted a little wider than your hips.
Tilt your head over the sink so that your right ear is facing the ceiling, your left ear is facing the sink bottom.
Keeping your mouth open and breathing comfortably through your mouth, place the spout of the neti lota into your right nostril and tip the lota until the water begins to pour out of the left nostril. You may need to slightly tilt and reposition your head to enable the water to flow.
Keep breathing comfortably through your mouth until all the water has been poured into the right nostril and out the left.
Now reverse the entire process to do the other side - beginning by tilting your head so that your left ear faces the ceiling and your right ear faces the sink bottom. Repeat from Step #4 above for the other side.
Once you have finished both sides, dry your nostrils thoroughly by performing kapala bhati gently on each side 10 times, then through both nostrils at once 10 times. Now blow your nose VERY gently several times. You may still have a bit of residual water in your passages, which may flow out if you do inversions such as Downward Dog soon after, so keep a tissue with you.
For sutra neti, follow the direct instructions of your teacher:
Sutra neti is a difficult practice that MUST be learned directly from a teacher. A super thin rubber catheter or a thinly wound piece of cotton cloth dipped in food grade wax is inserted into the nasal passage slowly and carefully until the wound cloth can be grasped in the back of the throat and then drawn out. Ghee can be used to lubricate the sutra to facilitate a smoother journey through the nasal passage.The wound cloth or catheter is then used to “floss” the nasal passage by drawing gently back and forth on the two ends - one emerging from the throat, and the other emerging from the nostril.
If you make the effort to find a qualified teacher and persevere in learning and practicing sutra neti, it can impart benefits above and beyond those that jala neti can confer. Especially when the wound cotton is used, sutra neti is very effective as phlegm will easily adhere to the cotton. Rubber catheters don’t have this particular benefit, but are nonetheless very useful for dislodging phlegm from the passages.
Be sure to properly dry your nose with kapalabhati after performing neti. You can reduce the amount of phlegm in your body by reducing your consumption of white sugar and other foods which may cause an inflammation reaction, such as white flour. Eliminating these foods or at least eating less of them will go a long way towards staying congestion-free. For karmic tips to staying clear of phlegm, see “Karmic Benefits” section above.
Tips from Deep Retreat
The trick is to remain in a very relaxed state while performing either sutra or jala neti - this is crucial for success.
Actually, this rule of thumb applies to virtually any practice, even vigorous asana. While it is true that we require a certain kind of energy or pranic tension to be in the world (even in the confines of deep retreat) cultivating a relaxed demeanour allows prana to travel more freely without hindrance, which in turn facilitates whatever we may be doing. Think of the difference of these two kinds of energy or tensions as the way you feel when you are really angry or upset, versus how you feel when you are open and loving. Really what this means is that being relaxed is in fact a state of mind, just like everything else.
In this day and time most of us are pranically “strung out” as we try to manage multiple commitments of jobs, family, friends and so forth, all at the same time. Sadly, this tension can compound and multiply over years and then decades, resulting in a depleted body/mind system that requires more and more effort just to stay afloat.
In last month’s “Practice Corner” article we discussed a secret key that can unlock and enable everything else to “work” in our lives. Not having this key is the direct cause for creating the tension, associated problems and the suffering we are trying so hard to avoid in the first place.
Understanding very deeply that the world and its contents are all labels coming from our minds, and nothing more can lead to moksha, or liberation. Things and people are not fixed and unchanging, and the label that we ascribe to them are driven and determined by our past actions, words and thoughts. A group of people can look at the same object, and each one may have a different label. The objects themselves are blank, or neutral, and only fully come into being when we come along and apply a label.
This concept, known in Buddhist circles as karma and emptiness is a complex topic that requires us to find a teacher who can transmit these ideas over a prolonged period of time, but it has profound implications as to how we can begin to change our reality for the future we want. In the context of neti practices, if we are kind and loving to all beings, and contribute in some way to reducing their confusion and congestion, then the karmic result is that we have a much higher probability that the purification practices will actually work for us, because goodness sowed equals goodness reaped. If we get hurt or have an unpleasant experience from neti, it can only be that we hurt others in the past.
If you have never done neti practices, it is absolutely essential that you learn them directly from a teacher who is qualified to teach them. Avoid both forms of neti if you have or are prone to nose bleed, or have an ear infection or sinus infection. If your nose is totally blocked during colds or flu, wait until you are well again. Only perform neti when necessary, according to the instructions of your Guru. Blow your nose very gently after jala (water) neti to avoid driving water into your ears.