Neti or Hatha yoga forms an important aspect of the Hindu Shatkarma that originated in India. Shatkarma is the yogic practice of cleansing the air passageways (sinuses) in the head. Neti was practiced in two forms - jala neti and sutra neti. Jala neti is synonymous with the nasal irrigation methods that are commonplace in the Western world; whereas, sutra neti involves the insertion of a wet string through the nasal cavity, such that it comes out through the oral cavity. The string is then pulled and pushed to cleanse the nose. Since this is an advanced technique, not many are able to master it without proper guidance, and hence, it has not been popularized.
In contrast, the ease of jala neti has caused it to be a popular and effective way of clearing the sinuses, and is recommended by a majority of doctors. It involves the nasal uptake of water, accompanied by carefully controlled breathing techniques. The pot used to carry out this technique helps in flushing out nasal congestion and cleans the nasal cavity. According to ancient Vedic texts, it was customary for a person to perform this technique daily before starting the day. A similar technique is also described in the Wudu system (self-cleansing) of Muslims.
The neti pot is an instrument which is used for clearing the blocked nasal passage. It is a small pot with a small spout attached to its bottom. The pot has a handle at the opposite side of the spout, and it can be found in various materials like clay, glass, ceramic, plastic, besides others. This pot is filled with a warm saline solution. The temperature and concentration of this solution is the same as the body fluid (isotonic solution). This solution is then passed into the nasal cavity in such a way that it goes inside through one nostril and comes out from the other one. More advanced techniques include the intake of water from the nostrils and flushing it out through the oral cavity.
The process of neti is beneficial for the body, as it removes the dirt particles, mucus, and bacteria lodged within the nasal cavity. As it clears the nasal cavity, it inhibits various complications related to the sinus, such as infections, hay fever, sinus headache, upper respiratory tract infections like sore throat and cough, post nasal drip, tonsillitis, and inflammation of the adenoids. It provides considerable relief in medical conditions like asthma and bronchitis. It soothes the brain, and hence, is beneficial for conditions like migraine, headache, hysteria, and general mental tension. It is also healthy for other organs, including the eyes, olfactory nerves, pituitary glands, and pineal glands. Its usage has also been found to be beneficial in case of middle ear infection and tinnitus.
The only dangers that may arise due to the use of this technique are all due to incorrect usage or meager knowledge about this method. Hence, one should make sure to learn how to use a neti pot correctly, and must follow the related instructions strictly. Any danger that is faced in the use of this instrument basically stems from a feeling of fear, using the wrong type of fluid, unclean pot, and overuse. If one is afraid or nervous about doing the technique, they may lose focus on controlling their breathing, which would cause them to gag on the inhaled water. At this point, the body's natural reflexes get activated, making the user experience sensations similar to those initially felt when drowning. If one does not use distilled or sterile saline water, and instead uses regular tap water, there is an incredibly high chance of introducing various contaminants to the nasal cavity, instead of cleansing it. The dissolved salts and chemicals in the water could cause nasal irritation, a burning sensation, and also may lead to nosebleeds. Similarly, the bacteria and other microbes in the water gain an easy access to the sinuses, where they thrive amidst the mucous and lead to severe sinus infections. The same effects are observed if one uses an unclean pot. Hence, the pot should be washed regularly and sterilized before use. The last danger that may be faced is due to the overuse of this technique. Frequent and repeated washes with the saline solution may cause the skin to get irritated, and also cause the mucous membrane to get eroded. While excess of mucous is not preferred, when it is present in controlled amounts it helps in protecting against infectious agents by trapping them. Due to overuse, one may experience pain in the nasal cavity, nasal burning, irritation and stinging feeling inside the nose, nosebleeds, and drainage of saline solution through the eyes.
As such, one should make sure that one learns how to use the neti pot from a medical professional, and also take care to follow all the instructions properly without undue improvisation. If used properly, this technique would prove immensely beneficial for one's health, without posing any danger at all.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.