Advanced Yoga Practices
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Cleansing of Mouth, Nasal
Passages and Sinuses (Audio)
Mar 4, 2009
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Whether we are looking to improve our health, or advance
our spiritual progress, cleansing of the mouth, nasal passages and sinuses
can be an important activity. Not everyone will need to do this beyond the
basic methods of oral hygiene, but it is good to know that we can do more as
the need arises.
Once the nervous system is ready to begin to open
ecstatically (kundalini), cleansing in the nasal passages and sinuses can
become especially significant. The neurobiology of the brain as influenced
by mudras such as sambhavi and kechari tie in with this also. So there is a
higher purpose to these cleansing methods.
Mouth and Tongue
We have all been brought up (hopefully) to practice good oral hygiene by
brushing our teeth every day and flossing regularly to remove tartar
(plaque) from our teeth. There are varying opinions on using antiseptic
mouthwashes, so it is suggested to go with the intuition on that. Our habits
of oral hygiene will improve as we advance in yoga.
A yoga method that can be added to daily oral hygiene, which few may be
exposed to in modern society, is tongue
scraping. Sometimes brushing the tongue with the toothbrush is advised
after brushing the teeth. The yogic equivalent of this is tongue scraping,
which is far more effective for removing tartar and its resident bacteria
from the tongue. This involves using the edge of a straight piece of metal
or plastic to scrape the top of the tongue forward from the area right in
front of the taste buds. A more effective tool for this is a flat strip of
metal that has been bent into a "U" shape. The curved edge can be used to
scrape forward on the top of the tongue, covering the full top surface with
a single stroke, or several repetitions.
The amount of tartar collected with tongue scraping in this manner will
far exceed what can be accomplished with a brush, and will greatly reduce
the amount of tartar collecting on the teeth as well.
excessive tartar on the tongue and teeth can be a sign of an imbalance in
the diet and/or general health condition. If that is the case, we can step
back further and look at our lifestyle to address the root causes of excess
proteins and bacteria (tartar) building up in the mouth. If we do this, we
will find ourselves with a much cleaner mouth, and much better all around
health as well.
condition of our mouth at any point in time is a visible indication of the
condition of the rest of our body, and the quality of life we have been
Nasal Passages and Sinuses Neti Pot
passages and sinuses play a key role in the neurobiology of human spiritual
transformation and the rise to enlightenment. It is through this region that
an intimate connection between the brain and the rest of the nervous system
occurs. So daily cleansing of the nasal passages and sinuses may be
desirable at certain times along our path. We will know intuitively when it
is time for this. There are also significant health benefits to be found in
knowing how to cleanse these delicate tissues.
The age-old yogic shatkarma for
cleansing the nasal passages and sinuses is called jala
neti, or nasal wash,
which is running salted water through in a safe and comfortable way. Several
mudras and pranayama methods work in the nasal passages and sinuses also,
without using water. These include yoni
mudra, kechari mudra,sambhavi
mudra, bastrika pranayama,
simplest way to begin to do jala neti is with a neti
pot, which is like a small teapot with a spout that fits comfortably
into the nostril. It is easily obtained through any yoga supply store. With
appropriately mixed salty water in the neti pot and the spout inserted in
one nostril with face turned down over the sink, then the head is turned to
the side so the water will run into the nostril. From there it will run
through the nasal passage, over the back edge of the nasal septum (the
divider between left and right nostrils), and back out through the other
nostril and into the sink.
This is first done through one nostril, and then through the
other nostril. The order does not matter. As long as the head is tipped
forward during this procedure, no water will find its way into the throat. A
little might spill over into the mouth, and that can be easily expelled
through the mouth. (See the next section on doing jala neti using a bowl.)
In the course of doing this easy procedure with a neti pot, the sinuses
will also be filled with the saline solution, gently massaging and cleansing
them. Once both nostrils have received and emptied the neti pot, and have
drained, it will take a few minutes more to drain the sinuses. This is done
by slowly tilting the head to the left and the right, and then up and down
over the sink. Water will continue to come out of the sinuses for a few
minutes, so be patient. If you walk out of the bathroom too soon, you may
end up draining your sinuses on the living room rug!
The amount of
salt we put in the water is important, as this determines the comfort (or
lack of it) we will find in doing jala neti.
Obviously, if the practice gives us discomfort, we will not be
inclined to do it. So getting the salt content right is essential. Everyone
will be a little different in this, so some trial and error will probably be
necessary to get the salt content just right for you.
tap water can be used, if the water is sanitary. It is preferred to use pure
salt without additives, such as iodine. One to two teaspoons per quart or
liter of water is a range of concentration, which translates to about
one-half to one teaspoon per pint or half liter. For a small neti pot, a few
pinches of salt will be adequate.
Adjustments to salt content are
made based on how it feels going through our nostrils. Everyone is a little
different in this, and the above ranges are approximate. If there is too
much or too little salt, there can be stinging sensations or other signs of
discomfort, and we should adjust our salt content accordingly. No permanent
damage will result from using incorrect salt concentration, but it isn't fun
either, so we should make the necessary adjustments. When the salt content
is right for us, there will be
no discomfort at all as the
water passes through our sensitive nasal and sinus tissues. This is how we
will know we have the correct salt content. Experiment and see for yourself.
It is like that with many yoga practices. The most comfortable
application of a yoga practice is usually the best application. Always
self-pace for that.
Jala neti can be performed daily as part of our
morning hygiene, or as needed. It is an excellent practice to do if we are
having health issues in the sinuses or nasal passages. By itself, jala neti
is not a cure for the common cold, but it can help prevent one, or shorten
the duration if one occurs. Jala neti practice included as part a daily
routine of integrated yoga practices, can have a dramatic effect on our
overall health and well-being. Good health often accompanies the process of
human spiritual transformation, assuming one is moderate in practices and
advanced practitioners, the neti pot may be replaced with a bowl. Jala neti
may also be combined with amaroli (discussed in an upcoming lesson).
Nasal Passages and Sinuses Water Bowl
Once we have mastered
the neti pot, we may feel like we'd like to have a more thorough cleansing
of our nasal passages and sinuses. This will mean using more water than can
be delivered at one time with the small neti pot. Of course, we can keep
refilling the neti pot and run as much water through as we like. There is
also another way, which is using a bowl instead of neti pot, and drawing the
water up directly through our nasal passages with negative pressure from the
lungs, rather than a neti pot, which relies on gravity to pass water through
the nasal passages.
a bowl for jala neti is a more advanced procedure, but not nearly as
difficult or risky as it might seem when first considering it.
It can be a pretty short trip from the neti pot to sucking
salted warm water up from a bowl with both nostrils and expelling it through
the mouth. The bowl can be emptied in a few cycles this way. The water can
also be expelled through the nose, but that is messier. The nasal pharynx is
a natural vessel for this operation, and even has a "dam" in the form of the
soft palate inhibiting the water from running down into the throat while
inhaling it up through the nose. This is the same function the soft palate
serves when we are using the neti pot.
Using the bowl is fast and
effective. The longest part of it is waiting for the sinuses to drain, which
can take a few minutes. That is true of any form of jala neti, but
especially when doing a whole bowl, which can be a pint (half-liter) or more
If this form of
jala neti sounds risky, it isn't. With this procedure, the instances of
inhaling water will be practically non-existent. We have a natural ability
to handle water in this way. But if the salt content is too much or too
little, it will not be so pleasant, so do mind the instructions above for
getting the salt content adjusted just right for your comfort.
guru is in you.
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Related Lessons Topic Path
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shatkarmas (cleansing techniques), see the
Diet, Shatkarmas and Amaroli
and AYP Plus.