Yoga for hayfever part 1: A Neti WHAT?!!!

This is the response I usually get when I recommend using a neti pot to one of my friends or clients! For those who aren’t familiar with them, a neti pot is a small container, similar to a baby watering can, which is used to flush the nasal passages in a yoga practise known as jala neti. They come in different shapes, sizes and materials but do not need to be especially fancy or expensive to be effective. My own is a plastic one which I have had for 16 years and was bought for just a few rupees in India at the recommendation of the Swami I was studying with at the time. It has become a firm friend of my sinuses and has travelled with me everywhere!

neti pot.jpg

So what’s so great about a neti pot? Well as a person who has since adolescence suffered with sinus problems and severe hayfever which lasted from March to September, practising jala neti regularly has become a game changer. At its most simple, it is the cleansing of the nasal passages with a saline solution. At another level is it said to balance the male and female energies of the body and awaken the brow chakra. However, as we’re talking hayfever here, I’ll stick to the many physical benefits.

I like to think of practising jala neti as taking a shower on the inside of my head! In the summer I do it twice a day, as part of my morning and evening routine - it takes no longer than brushing my teeth. The salt water solution flushes out all the little particles such as dust, pollen and pollution that can accumulate and irritate the nasal passages. It also washes out excess mucous and helps the sinus to drain. The recommendation is to use body temperature water, but for hayfever I like it slightly cooler as this helps to reduce the hot itchy feeling I can have in my nose and roof of my mouth. My head feels lighter and clearer after I’ve done it, I can breathe more easily and am less prone to attacks throughout the day.

Another huge and unexpected benefit was how much it has helped the terrible itchy eyes that I typically got as part of my hayfever. As a teenager and young adult I literally had to sit on my hands to stop me rubbing and scratching my eyes, it was so unbearable. I wasn’t thinking about my eyes when I first started using my neti pot, I just wanted to be able to breathe through my nose and ease the constant congestion. I was pleasantly surprised how improved my eyes were that first summer and I believe that the flow of water through the nose soothes the nerves and blood supply to much of the face and head. These days I barely notice my eyes bar those few very high pollen days.

In summary, this is how regular jala neti has helped me:

  • Relieves congestion
  • Drains sinuses
  • Removes irritants from the nose
  • Reduces sensitivity
  • Lowers inflammation
  • Reduces itchiness of nose and eyes

Another important aspect of jala neti is how it also supports our immune system. We are meant to breathe through our noses as the nasal passages are lined with mucous to trap particles and pathogens. The nasal cilia then waft them into the throat where they can be swallowed and destroyed. When the nose is blocked, we breathe through the mouth which increases the chance of irritants and pathogen being introduced to the lungs which can then develop into illnesses. Breathing through the mouth also causes oral dryness which can lead to gum disease, cavities and bad breath. Keeping the nasal passages free flowing helps us avoid these problems.

In a nutshell, it’s amazing what a quick rinse can do for you!

It is important though that jalaneti is practised correctly and safely so I would recommend instruction from a teacher who is experienced in using it. There is also a good description of how to carry out jala nati along with safety precautions in the APMB.*

Further Research:

* Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananada Saraswati, Yoga Publications Trust.

The Safety and Efficacy of Nasal Saline Irrigation, Diane G. Heatley, M.D. Associate Professor Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery University of Wisconsin School of Medicine