September 27, 2012

Don’t be Snotty. Don’t be Scared. ~ Christine Chen

Breathing deeply, according to the yogis, is everything. But what if you can’t because you’re congested?

Congestion has many causes, including imbalances in the body, and of course, colds and sinus problems. However, yogis and Ayurveda practitioners strongly believe that if you make a habit of cleansing the nasal system regularly, you can breathe easier in life and on the mat.

More than 32 million adults suffer from chronic sinus infections (one of the most common chronic health problems in the U.S.), and millions more suffer from allergies. Neti pots, which look like mini teapots and help people clean out their sinuses at home with  saline solution, are growing more popular as people seek relief.

The recent news that someone died from a fatal brain infection due to using infected tap water in a neti pot was enough to put the topic on the top of the minds of the health conscious who cleanse but cause others to pause. In fact, I recently met a woman who said she’d never really heard of a neti pot, but was sure she wouldn’t  use one now because of this news. (See NPR article here).

I, for one, started cleaning my sinuses regularly after three consecutive sinus infections one winter and subsequent sinus surgery. That was ten years ago, and I am still here to testify that using a neti pot changed my life. It might do the same for you!

On the mat, less snot might fly out of your face during rapid exhales in Kapalabhati (“shining skull breath”) and your right and left nostrils might be more equally at ease during Nadi Shodhana (“alternate nostril breathing”).

Consider it a shower for your nose. Think about how you would feel if you hadn’t showered for days. You’d be grimy and the same goes for your nose. Rinsing out your sinuses cleans out the grime in your breathing system. It thins the mucus where irritants like pollen, dust or pollution particles can set up shop and block easy breathing or spark the kind of mucus build up which breeds infection.

Regular rinsing also encourages your sinuses to work more efficiently so you’ll be less likely to rely on decongestants and other medicines when allergy season hits.

How to Use One:

1. In a neti pot, mix warm water with a saline solution (drug stores sell the solution powdered and pre-packaged or you can make your own, see below).

2. Fill the pot, tip your head sideways over the sink and pour the water/salt mix into your top nostril. It’ll flow through your nasal passages and out the bottom nostril. (Sometimes it gets into your throat, but no worries. Spit it out. No harm done.)

3. Blow your nose. Refill the pot. Do the other side.

DIY Neti Pot Solution:

• Mix one part baking soda to two parts salt

• Add one teaspoon of powder mix to warm water—enough to fill a standard coffee mug.

At first, this nose shower might feel really strange, maybe even sting a little like that time you inhaled water when your surfing lesson didn’t go so well. It’ll get better, promise. If the water scare still makes you nervous, use distilled or pre-boiled water. Also, make sure to wash the pot regularly and let it dry fully each time.

A modern day ear, nose and throat doctor developed the neti pot, as we know it, but rinsing sinuses has been a regular part of health and wellness for centuries in the world of Ayurveda, the oldest known health care system still in use today.

It’s a healthy habit that can save you from endless co-pays to the doctor, missing work or good times because you can’t breathe or think. It’s a $10 to $20 investment, plus a few moments each morning. You can decide if it’s worth it for you.


Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning, 10-time nominated broadcast journalist turned Yoga Teacher in New York at community-focused NY Loves Yoga and at nationally-recognized fitness provider, David Barton Gym.  She’s a blogger for MSN Healthy Living, covering health and wellness each week, with other musings featured in Glamour.com and The Well Daily.   Soon, she will release a yoga guidebook for busy people, based on the personal yoga practice she developed during her own healing and transformation (represented by Zachary, Schuster & Harmsworth).  Christine is also the Director of Communications for Yoga for NY, a non-profit organization that provides an organized voice on issues facing the yoga industry in New York State. You can catch her on her website, twitter, or facebook.


Editor: Olga Feingold

Like elephant health & wellness on Facebook.


Read 1 Comment and Reply

Read 1 comment and reply

Top Contributors Latest

elephant journal  |  Contribution: 277,936