Neti the first shatkarma: Essential for a yoga seeker

Introduction

The word nyti (नयति) in hindi language means the one who takes away things along. Based on this meaning, Neti sequentially is the first shatkarma in which the foreign bodies and impurities are expelled out of body through the channel of nose and mouth. Our nose is the passage for the air we breathe and the smell. But mechanically our nose filters all the air by retaining foreign bodies; it adds moisture to prevent dryness and also warms the cold air to suit the body temperature. Thus being a vital organ its cleansing becomes necessary for the proper functioning. Moreover blockage of nostrils or presence of impurities will also affect the functioning of other related organs and could be an invitation for various disorders. Neti boost the body’s mechanism to naturally immune against nasal infections such as hay fever, allergies, sinusitis, sore throats and coughs. It is said “आँख कान दांत के रोग न होए कोई नेति कर्म करे जो कोई” that means neti is favourable for preventing disorders related to eye, ear, head and neck. Neti also provides a cure without medication in the problems like sinusitis, facial pain, congestion and migraine.

When a yoga practitioner is seeking for the consciousness of his body and mind through asanas, mudras and pranayama; cleansing and purification of body and its systems becomes essential to avoid any hindrances in the path. Especially for a beginner yoga practitioner neti helps to clear the passage for the breath and releases the stress above neck area which helps in gaining stability and control over initial yogic postures. It has a soothing effect on brain as it drains out excessive heat from the body.

Types of Neti

Based on the process neti can be broadly classified into four categories. But they should not be looked as individual practices rather they are stepwise processes for the cleansing of nasal passages and gaining consciousness. As a first step one should always start the practice from Jala Neti (जल नेति) which could be divided into three stages further. It is done with lukewarm salted water and in specific disorders some herbs are added into the water. Jala neti flushes out the mucus and also softens & moist the dried mucus. The next step is of Sutra Neti (सूत्र नेति) which is done with waxed cotton thread. It clears the passage more precisely and flushes out the dried mucus too. Both of these neti helps to flush the mucus, allergens, and irritants out of body that gets deposited in nose and thus promotes its proper functioning. And lastly either Dudh/Dugdha Neti (दूध नेति) i.e. done with cow’s milk or Ghrita Neti (घृत नेति) i.e. done with cow’s clarified butter should be performed. Practice of neti is safe even if done daily.

Cautions and Precautions for Neti

Cautions and precautions are not the threat or warning of any harm from neti. These are the few guidelines that results in better benefits of neti. Some people might find it suitable to do neti in evening but the best time recommended is in the morning. Neti is the foremost kriya which is done before any asanas, pranayama or exercise. After doing neti one should bath at an interval of minimum 30 minutes. Though neti can be done after bathing. We should eat with minimum gap of 30 minutes of neti.

Jala Neti

Nasal irrigation technique suggested by doctors especially to the people suffering from cold and sinusitis is same as first stage of jala neti. In Jala neti we use lukewarm salted water for cleaning our nasal passages which is done in three stages. The first step or stage is called anulom vilom jala neti that is generally known and practiced. Second and third stages are more advance level of jala neti which requires proper guidance and practice. In some disorders, herbs can also be added in the water instead of salt under the guidance of a yog guru or ayurveda practitioner. It is safe to practice jala neti daily.

Procedure of Jala Neti

1st stage:

In anulom vilom jala neti we pour lukewarm salted water from one nostril which is allowed to flow out from the opposite nostril. At times any of our nostrils is comparatively blocked from the other. So we should start from the side which is more opened or in which airflow is better. It is recommended to pour water into the nostril with the help of neti pot while positioning in kagasana (कागासना) which is like sitting in squatting position. If a person is not able to do it in sitting position then it can be done in standing position and bending forward at an angle of 45 degree over the washbasin. We use clean lukewarm salted water which should be as warm as our blood and as salty as our tears for Jala neti. Therefore about half a teaspoon of salt added to a litre of water would be right. Unnecessary cold or hot water would irritate or dilate the veins in the nose so one should always check water first by pouring it over skin of hand.

Generally 300ml-500ml of water is pour down through one nostril and then it is done vice versa from the other nostril. While pouring water from one nostril our mouth will remain a little open to breathe. After completing one round we will bend forward in standing position at an angle of 45 degree and blow the air from the nose by rotating our head right, left, up and down so that the extra water is flushed out. At least after the practice of minimum 40 days when the awareness of flow of water through the nasal passages is build, one can move to second stage.

2nd stage:

In second stage of jala neti we inhale water from both nostrils by slowly sniffing it. Lukewarm salted water is taken in a cup and placed at the nasal opening for inhalation. Water comes out through the mouth passing by the post-nasal sinuses and cleansing the nasal passages more strongly. Initially a practitioner may face problems till he masters the right force of suction. This process can be repeated three to ten times.

3rd stage:

Last stage of jala neti is a little more difficult and advance. Before coming to this stage a practitioner should have mastered the jalandhar bandh. Here lukewarm salted water is taken through mouth, jalandhar bandh is applied in standing position and by rolling the tongue inwards raised up then water is snorted out through the nose. It should be done after doing step 1 and 2 of jala neti and rinsing of mouth to ensure no harmful bacteria gets transferred from the mouth to nasal cavities.

Second and third stage of jala neti needs to be practiced under the guidance of a yog guru for learning proper technique and getting proper advantage from the technique. Nevertheless there is no damage or threat to the nasal functions.

Sutra Neti

Sutra neti is another type of neti practiced with rolled strings of cotton thread dipped in honey bee wax. Some people prefer to do it with rubber catheter because of its easy availability. But the traditional way of doing it with waxed cotton thread is better as rubber catheter produces heat due to friction. To save oneself from preparing the cotton thread, readymade waxed string is also available in the market by the name of “neti sutra”. Sutra neti helps to flush out the dried mucus and also reduces the adenoids inflammation that may cause obstruction in nasal airways. A person who breathes from mouth for a prolonged period may suffer from abnormal facial and dental developments. Sutra neti promotes better airflow from the nose by opening the nasal passages. It is recommended to do anulom vilom jala neti before as well as after doing sutra neti.

Procedure of sutra neti

We stretch our upper lip downwards by folding it beneath our teeth gently so as our nasal opening becomes wider. By holding with both the hands we insert the waxed cotton thread into our one nostril slowly until it reaches in our oropharynx means back of our throat. Using forefinger and middle finger of one hand as sponge forceps, cotton thread is grasped with the help of both fingers. The thread is drawn out of mouth which stimulates the mucous glands and also activates the tear ducts while cleansing the passage. Practitioner doing for the first time should only draw out the whole thread which is nearly 40-45 cm long. After practicing for few times latter both ends of thread are hold with the hands and rubbed slowly for several times forming a semicircle which massages the nasal passage too. This process is repeated by both the nostrils.

Dudh Neti and Ghrita Neti

As a part of neti kriya; dudh neti and ghrita neti are not the cleansing techniques but they are meant for yoga practitioners and individuals seeking for higher consciousness, vigour and better memory. Both of these neti helps to increase ojas which provides mental and physical strength and also protects from the bacterial infections and virus that get through our nasals esp. H1N1 viruses. Dudh neti is done only with lukewarm cow’s milk and similarly ghrita neti is done only with cow’s clarified butter. Unlike second stage of jala neti, in dudh neti and ghrita neti the contents are inhaled through the nose which is not expelled out of mouth. Rather they are swallowed and consumed. It’s better to do dudh neti and ghrita neti after doing asanas, pranayama or exercise. And on the other side one should have done jala neti and sutra neti or at least jala neti before doing dudh neti or ghrita neti.

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Swami Bharat Bhushan Ji

Padmashri award honored | Two times Life time Achievement award honored | D. Lit (Doctor of Letters) honored

Mokshayatan International Yogashram, Saharanpur

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