Note: For the complete lessons,
with additions, see the AYP
Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.
Lesson 313 – Cleansing of Mouth, Nasal
Passages and Sinuses
Date: Mar 4, 2009
New Members: 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
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
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.
Of course, 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.
The 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
The nasal 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, and kapalbhati.
The 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
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.
Slightly warm 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
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 lifestyle.
For more advanced practitioners, the neti pot may be replaced with a bowl.
Jala neti may also be combined with amaroli (discussed in an upcoming
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.
Using 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 of water.
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.
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed
instructions on shatkarmas (cleansing techniques), see the
Diet, Shatkarmas and Amaroli book.
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