Runny nose, nasal congestion, fatigue and watery eyes—hay fever can be a debilitating disease. In Australia, one in five people suffer from this condition, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, a chronic inflammation of the nasal cavity caused by pollen. Hay fever can also trigger asthma in those susceptible.
If you are prone to hay fever or asthma, it may pay you well to look to the 3000-year-old Ayurveda practice called Jala Neti (nasal irrigation). It’s one of the six shat kriyas, practices designed to keep the body pure and clean, and requires a neti pot to flush salt water through the nasal cavity to help dissolve and remove pollen, pollution, bacteria, viruses and mucus.
“Jala Neti washes the sinuses gently, preventing the entrance of pollutants into the bloodstream,” says Dr Rama Prasad, co-director of Ayurveda Elements clinic and a principle lecturer at Nature Care College in Sydney.
Dr Prasad recommends those with nasal allergy conditions practise Jala Neti daily, while it can also be used to minimise and prevent colds year round.
“The effect is a lot like being in the surf,” says Dr Prasad. “Once the sinuses are working fine, breathing is better, and when the breathing is better it gives you more oxygen,” he says, speaking of the benefits for meditation and pranayama.
David Nash, a Sydney yoga student, was introduced to Jala Neti as a child and continues the practice today.
“My siblings and I suffered from asthma, and it would often see us off school for weeks and sometimes hospitalised. Our family doctor suggested we try the neti pot to help reduce the duration and severity of colds, which would trigger asthma. He said he used it himself and very rarely got sick, and this was a man who must have been in close contact with up to 50 sick children a day,” says Nash.
While the sensation was strange at first, even as a child he could feel the benefits outweighed any perceived fear. “It took a little bit of practice but felt like an act of tremendous release. This year during winter I used the neti pot almost every morning and didn’t get sick once.”
How To: Jala Neti
1. Dissolve teaspoon salt in 300ml lukewarm water in a neti pot.
2. Lean forward over a sink and tilt your head about 45 degrees to one side. Breathing through your mouth, insert the neti pot spout into the upper nostril. Gently pour in the salt water, which will move through the nasal cavity and pass through the lower nostril. If it runs into your throat, spit it out.
3. Repeat step 2, using remaining solution for your other nostril. To finish, blow your nose to remove any remaining water.