I’m allergic to hay.
I’ve known of this allergy since I was a child growing up along the Gulf Coast of south Florida. This information didn’t pose too big a concern to my family or me when the only thing we’re growing down there is old.
Today I find myself living in the agricultural mecca of eastern Oklahoma…
On a 400+ acre ranch…
With a bleeping 80-acre hay meadow for a front yard.
What’s a yogini to do? Neti, Neti, Neti!!!
Delving into the classic texts on yoga such as the Yoga Sutra and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, you’ll discover the kriyas. Kriyas are cleansing practices that we undertake to purify and maintain a clean, healthy body from the inside out. The six primary kriyas are called ‘shat karma’. These procedures range from the simple and somewhat non-invasive breathing technique known as Kapalabhati (cleansing the lungs and the brain), to the rather, shall I say, more up-close-and-personal techniques of Dhauti which cleanses the intestines and Basti which cleanses the colon.
Somewhere in the middle is the nasal cleansing technique of the Neti wash. If you’re a fan of Oprah, you’ve no doubt witnessed Dr. Oz espousing the benefits of the Neti pot on her show a while back. A Neti pot (insert shameless plug here: which can be purchased for a mere $17.95 at The Canebrake Eco-chic Boutique) is a small, ceramic, tea pot-looking item that you fill with warm water and a pinch of non-iodized, pharmaceutical grade salt. Swish it around so the salt dissolves, then simply place the spout of the Neti pot just inside the right, or upper, nostril creating a seal. At this point it’s important to bend forward at the waist – over a sink is ideal! – tilt the head slightly to the right, and lift the Neti pot just a tad so that the warm saline solution gently flows upwards in to the right nostril. If you’re bent and tilted just right, the solution will circulate the nasal cavity, irrigating the passageways and glide out the left nostril (precisely why you want to be over a sink) thus cleansing and soothing irritated sinus passages. It’s as simple as ‘Bend, Tilt, and Lift!’
As good yogis, we’re all breathing through our noses, right? Our nasal passages are our bodies’ first line of defense; weeding out pollution, pollen, dust, mucus and other irritants and chemical crud that would otherwise end up in our respiratory system. The nose acts as a filter. You change the filter in your home, right? Your car? Cleansing the filters regularly keeps us, our cars and our homes running more efficiently and effectively. Neti is just part of an effective maintenance program – like brushing our teeth, flossing, bathing.
OK, I’ll admit, the first time you do it, yes, it’s quite bizarre. But trust me, you won’t drown. Give it a try, you’ll be hooked! While nasal cleansing is an excellent supplement to your maintenance program; it’s not a substitute for treatment of a serious or chronic inflammation – for that, you should most definitely see you doctor. Having said that, regular nasal cleansing can work wonders on sinusitis and allergies; it has a fabulous effect on upper respiratory tract infections and hay fever; and it alleviates stuffiness and dryness as well. Using a Neti prior to a yoga practice is certainly a good call. Using a Neti Pot prior to meditation is brilliant. Are you a singer or performer? Neti before you go onstage. Waking up with a stuffy head? Neti before you go to bed!
Lisa Bracken teaches at The Yoga Barn at The Canebrake (www.TheCanebrake.com). She is delighted to say that she has been ‘Claritin-free’ for the pas 3 summers (sorry Schering-Plough)!!!