"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
As the leaves fall and the days grow cooler, our bodies naturally crave warmth and nourishment. What better way to embrace the changing seasons than by preparing a wholesome and balanced meal that not only delights the taste buds but also nurtures the body and soul?
In this blog post, we'll explore the Ayurvedic wisdom behind a comforting dish – Pumpkin Soup. We'll delve into the ingredients' healing properties, the doshas it pacifies, and how it aligns with yoga principles of wellness. So, grab your apron and get ready to embark on a journey of culinary and holistic delight! And, if you're eager to dive right into this nourishing experience, don't forget to check out the Ayurvedic Pumpkin Soup recipe card below which you can download for ease of use later!
Understanding Ayurvedic Doshas
In Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, our constitution is defined by three primary energies, or doshas: Pitta, Vata, and Kapha. Each dosha represents a unique combination of the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether) and plays a significant role in our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Understanding your dominant dosha can offer valuable insights into your physical and emotional tendencies. Ayurveda aims to balance these doshas to promote health and harmony. To learn more, consider reading the following blogs from The Kriya Yoga Blog Archives:
For personalized dosha assessments and guidance tailored to your unique constitution, please feel free to reach out to me, I would be happy to guide you.
The Essence of Ayurveda
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, views food as a powerful tool for promoting balance and well-being. It emphasizes the importance of choosing ingredients and cooking methods that align with our unique constitution or dosha. Pumpkin, a staple of autumn, offers numerous health benefits that resonate with Ayurvedic principles.
Pumpkin: The Star of the Season: Pumpkin is a revered ingredient in Ayurveda, known for its ability to soothe both Vata and Pitta doshas. Its sweet and slightly astringent taste helps pacify Vata's cold and dry qualities, making it an ideal choice for the autumn season. Additionally, pumpkin's cooling nature balances the heat of Pitta, making it a versatile ingredient for various body types.
Spices: The Key to Balance: Ayurvedic Pumpkin Soup wouldn't be complete without a harmonious blend of spices. Ingredients like ginger, cumin, and coriander not only enhance flavor but also offer therapeutic benefits. Ginger aids digestion and kindles Agni (digestive fire), while cumin and coriander help balance the doshas.
Cooking Method Matters: In Ayurveda, how you prepare your food matters as much as the ingredients themselves. Cooking the soup slowly and mindfully infuses it with the qualities of warmth and comfort. This aligns with the yogic principle of mindfulness, encouraging us to be present and intentional in our actions, even in the kitchen.
Ayurvedic Pumpkin Soup Recipe
"Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love." - Craig Claiborne
🍂🧡 Embrace the flavors of fall with our nourishing Ayurvedic Pumpkin Soup recipe. It's not just delicious; it's a celebration of balance and well-being. 🥣✨
White & Brown Modern Recipe Card by Ashley Cruz
Wishing You a Serene Autumn Season
As you savor each spoonful of Ayurvedic Pumpkin Soup, savor the wisdom of Ayurveda and yoga that underscores its creation. This delicious bowl of comfort not only nourishes your body but also aligns with the changing seasons, promoting balance and wellness. Embrace this ancient wisdom, and let your culinary journey become a holistic one, nurturing not just your body but your soul as well. So, bring warmth and wellness to your table this fall with Ayurvedic Pumpkin Soup, and savor the joys of mindful eating.
If you're interested in exploring Ayurvedic cooking and its harmony with yoga further, stay tuned for updates on our upcoming courses and workshops. In the meantime, enjoy the flavors of the season and let your journey to wellness begin in your kitchen.
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Hello everyone! I hope you're all well and staying safe and content in your homes. Today, we will begin Lesson Two in our Kriya Yoga program, courtesy of our textbook "A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya." Yay, something to do, haha! ;)
I have to say, I am proud of us for completing Lesson 1 and for also not rushing it. We really took our time with it, and I think that the benefits can be deeply felt. For example, I can now sit in lotus pose comfortably for about 5 minutes. That, for me, is such an improvement compared to how uncomfortable it used to feel to hold just 30 seconds. In addition, I feel more present. I think this last benefit is the most valuable, honestly.
So let's just give ourselves a pat on the back for learning the following since beginning this journey in March:
With those matters explored, experienced, and then mastered, let's move on!
Lesson Two Syllabus
I'm looking particularly forward to Topic 7 and 8 ;) What about you? Which topic is the most intriguing to you, and why? Let me know! In the meantime, let's begin! Wishing you a happy yoga journey ~ Ashley ❤
A Quick Reminder: What are Shatkarmas?
Yogic science gives as much importance to specific cleansing processes as it does to asanas or pranayama. It is believed that without the regular cleansing of our body and system, then we will not gain the maximum benefits possible from our yoga practice. Basically, the idea is that when the body is free from impurities and pain, then the mind will also function properly.
Body cleansing is gained through the practice of shatkarmas, or the six purificatory techniques. They are essential from the point of view of physical and mental health, and these simple techniques are also highly valuable in healing internal disorders.
There are six main groups of shatkarmas or yogic cleansers as follows:
Each of these groups contains more than one practice such as jala neti, vaman dhauti (or junkal kriya), moola shodhana etc., which will be described at various stages throughout our journey into Kriya Yoga. They are all excellent practices which are designed to purify the whole body and bring about first-class health. They also bring clarity and harmony to the mind. I suggest you try some of them. :)
HERE WE GO!
Notes - Hatha Yoga: Danta Dhauti
Danta Dhauti, one of the shatkarmas, consists of a series of simple practices which clean various organs in regions of the head. These practices are danta moola dhauti (cleaning of the teeth and gums), jihva moola dauti (cleaning of the tongue), kapal randhra dhauti (washing of the skull), karna dhauti (cleaning the ears) and chakshu dahuti (washing the eyes).
These practices, as well as jala neti, are concerned either directly or indirectly with the main senses of the body -- hearing, seeing, smelling, and tasting. As such, they are important in enabling us to gain the best possible perception of the world around us. Remember, our sensory perception is dependent on the state of the associated organs. Therefore the following practices, though perhaps seeming rather trivial and simple, are a valuable aid in being able to communicate with and relate to the outside world.
Dinacharya - The use of Jala Neti is one of the key ingredients in a healthy dinacharya (daily routine) practice. A large part of this blog post is referenced from my most favorite yoga book of all time, “A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya,” written by my teacher, Swami Satyananda Saraswati.
With his guidance, we will cover the following common questions about Jala Neti:
Tongue Cleaner Recommendation
Personally, I'm a fan of the copper ones.
If you'd like to learn more about this little guy, consider reading this article from Banyan Botanicals. There's even a video to show you how to use it.
Asanas: An Introduction
Health of Mind and Body
The influence of asanas on one's mental outlook
Asanas as a step to higher awareness
Saraswati, Satyananda. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Yoga Publications Trust, 2013.
Ayurveda, the timeless art of harmonious living with the natural world, is a profound wisdom that weaves health and healing into the tapestry of daily existence. It stands as an ancient beacon of knowledge, a sacred science of life. Its mission: to preserve the vitality of the healthy and restore the well-being of the ailing. In the realm of Ayurveda, prevention and cure alike are crafted through the embrace of nature's boundless gifts.
Central to Ayurveda is the pursuit of equilibrium—a harmonious blend of the three core energies or doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These doshas harmonize not just with our bodies but with the symphony of mind and the resonance of our very souls. Ayurveda extends beyond the individual, seamlessly connecting our existence to the grand tapestry of the universe itself.
Ayurveda, in its truest essence, epitomizes holistic healing. The body dances with the mind, and both engage in a symphonic dialogue with the world and its people. Here, health encompasses not just the physical but the emotional, and indeed, the spiritual. It is a system that recognizes life's various layers and their profound interconnection.
This art of self-healing embodies an array of practices: from mindful nourishment, exercise, and rest to meditation, breathing exercises, and the use of medicinal herbs. In Ayurveda, purification and rejuvenation become art forms through which body, mind, and spirit are lovingly attended to. Sound, color, and aromatherapy, among other adjunct therapies, find their place in this holistic orchestra. This blog's aim is to introduce you to these natural methods, empowering you to craft a lifestyle that suits your unique needs, fostering health and balance.
"Ayurveda" itself derives from the Sanskrit words "ayus" (life) and "veda" (knowledge). This sacred science posits that each of us embodies both cosmic energies and a unique identity. It introduces the concept of "prakruti," an individual's psychobiological composition shaped by the dance of universal energies—Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth—since conception. This, in turn, orchestrates the birth of the three doshas.
Vata emerges from Ether and Air, embodying the energy of motion; Pitta, a fusion of Fire and Water, governs digestion and transformation; and Kapha, formed by Water and Earth, rules structure and lubrication. The moment of fertilization sets the stage: the most predominant doshic influences from our parents, influenced by season, time, emotional state, and the quality of their relationship, become the constellation that defines our individuality.
In contemporary terms, this cosmic blueprint aligns with our genetic code. Yet, Ayurveda dubs it "prakruti" or individual constitution—a lifelong constant, a singular pattern of physical, mental, and emotional traits. But life's relentless forces—age, environmental shifts, the ever-turning seasons, shifting emotions, and dietary choices—unsettle this inner balance.
Though the underlying structure of our prakruti remains a fixed reality, our home base or essential individuality, it is constantly bombarded by numerous forces. An unhealthy diet, mounting stress, insufficient exercise, and bottled-up emotions all conspire to disrupt our doshic equilibrium. Each disturbance breeds a host of ailments: from the stubborn grip of colds in a Kapha excess to fiery eruptions of anger in a Pitta surge, and the erratic, anxious tempests stirred by a Vata imbalance. These maladies all trace their roots to an internal disruption, a tipping of our inner scales. Ayurveda's prescription? Healing, in its myriad forms, for every soul in every walk of life.
As life's currents shift—be it in age or in the world around us, transitioning through seasons of warmth and chill, our thoughts fluttering like leaves in the wind—we must adapt to retain our inner harmony. Some changes occur organically, thanks to the body's innate wisdom. Yet, many require conscious choice.
Maintaining balance involves a delicate juggling act with the doshas—nudging Vata, Pitta, or Kapha as the situation demands. This dance calls for constant awareness, a continuous flow of healing, moment to moment.
Hence, Ayurveda underscores that healing is a way of life, demanding active participation. It urges us to take the reins of our existence, one choice at a time. Through diet, relationships, our profession, and the tapestry of life itself, we can make choices that foster prevention, self-healing, wholeness, and growth toward fulfillment.
In Ayurveda's eyes, our lives possess a grand purpose: the pursuit of Cosmic Consciousness, the understanding of our place in the grand tapestry of existence. This journey guides our daily choices and casts its influence on our lives, touching every facet of our existence.
The foundation of these life pursuits rests upon health, the cornerstone for upholding dharma (righteousness), accumulating artha (wealth), nurturing kama (positive desires), and transcending into moksha (spiritual liberation). Good health emerges as an indispensable prerequisite, shaping our quest for purpose, success, positive aspiration, and spiritual liberation. It is the wellspring from which these life aspirations flow.
In my many years of immersing myself in the world of yoga and Ayurveda, I have repeatedly witnessed the profound impact of lifestyle choices. These choices, encompassing diet, exercise, and daily routines, possess the remarkable power to both heal and afflict. Health, it seems, is deeply entwined with the intricacies of daily existence.
Many health challenges, I have observed, stem from the relentless currents of our everyday lives—stresses born of family and relationship dynamics, concerns about livelihood, and financial worries. Others are the direct offspring of our dietary indiscretions, our exercise habits—or the lack thereof.
Throughout my journey, I've grown increasingly attuned to illness as an invitation for self-transformation, an opportunity to reevaluate our thoughts, emotions, diets, and self-care. What continues to astonish and inspire me is how swiftly and potently life can redirect itself when we harness the wisdom of proper nourishment, herbal remedies, meditation, a suitable exercise regimen, and other natural methods.
The wisdom imparted in our Ayurveda Studies springs from my personal experience, rooted in the principles and practices developed over millennia. Ayurveda's tradition spans more than five millennia, a testament to its enduring wisdom. This ancient science continues to offer its invaluable guidance and practical knowledge.
Around 900 B.C., three luminaries—Charaka, Sushruta, and Vagbhata—etched the principles of Ayurveda into the annals of history. Their textbooks remain venerated references in Ayurvedic schools and colleges across India, still illuminating the path for students, practitioners, and teachers alike.
Ayurveda stands as the quintessential mother of all healing systems, birthing numerous branches of medicine as we know them today. From pediatrics and ophthalmology to plastic surgery and psychiatry, Ayurveda's influence reverberates through modern healthcare. It is the bedrock upon which systems like massage, nutritional counseling, herbal remedies, acupuncture, and meditation stand.
The sage-physician Charaka, a pioneer of Ayurvedic medicine, echoed a profound sentiment: "A physician, though well versed in the knowledge and treatment of disease, who does not enter into the heart of the patient with the virtue of light and love, will not be able to heal the patient." As I continue on my path of self-education and share with you the wisdom I've gathered, I pledge to uphold this sacred teaching. I urge you, too, to extend this love and light as you employ this knowledge to heal both yourself and others.
Love, in all its radiant splendor, forms the bedrock of existence. This section of my website is penned with boundless love, offered to you with the hope that the insights herein will unfurl as a vital thread in your tapestry of self-healing and sustained well-being.
"Healing is not just about addressing symptoms; it's about restoring harmony within, aligning with the rhythms of nature, and embracing the wisdom of Ayurveda to nurture a life of wellness." ~ Ashley
I would like to share with you my studies and experiences in the realm of Ayurveda. I beseech you to ask me questions so that I may better learn the answers myself and to be patient with me as I step along this path... this journey is to me a very blessed one and I am hoping that as we learn this science of life together we may in fact grow more closely together.
In the many years that I have been practicing yoga and studying Ayurveda, I have repeatedly observed that lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, and daily routine, can be a potent source of healing as well as a cause of disease. Many health problems seem intertwined with the stresses of daily life, family and relationship problems, and worries about job and money. Others are directly connected to eating the wrong kinds of food or getting too much or too little exercise. I have also grown more and more aware that illness provides us with an invitation for self-transformation, an opportunity to change our way of thinking, feeling, eating, and in general caring for ourselves and our lives. It never ceases to amaze and delight me how quickly and powerfully life can be set on the right track and balance restored simply through a proper diet, herbal medicines, meditation, an appropriate exercise program, and other purely natural means.
The remedies and notes in this blog come from my own personal experience and studies, based on principles and practices developed over centuries. The tradition of Ayurveda extends back over more than five thousand years of continuous daily practice, from ancient times to the present day. It is not a recently developed system of “alternative healing” but an enduring science of life that has never lost its integrity and essential nature. You can imagine how much wisdom it contains and how much practical knowledge it has accumulated over a span of five millennia!
The great sage-physician Charaka, one of the founders of Ayurvedic medicine, said, “A physician, though well versed in the knowledge and treatment of disease, who does not enter into the heart of the patient with the virtue of light and love, will not be able to heal the patient.” To the best of my ability, as I continue my own self-education and as I share with you what I have learned, I will follow this advice and I would urge you to follow it in using this knowledge to help others and to heal yourself.
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Yesterday, my friend Daniela and I went exploring and managed to climb 1008 stairs to the very top of the Chamundi Hill here in Mysore, India… all in order to see a temple. 1008 steps people! I think that’s the most stairs I’ve ever climbed in one attempt and I am totally feeling it today in my calves. Lucky for me, today’s blog topic is abhyanga (pronounced ah-bee-yawn-ga), which just so happens to be the perfect solution for my sore muscles.
Over the past few days we’ve some spent time exploring the importance of the Ayurvedic practice dinacharya (daily routine), as well as the benefits of jala neti. Today, we are going to break down the practice of anhyanga, which is one of the principle actions within a strong and healthy dinacharya, and we are going to answer the following questions:
Abhyanga – What is abhyanga?
Abhyanga is the anointing of the body with oil. Often this oil is chosen specifically for your particular dosha or condition while keeping the current season in mind. The oil is usually warm and is massaged into the entire body before bathing.
It is believed that the effects of abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. From my experience, I completely agree. Like the experience of being loved, abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth. There is no greater expression of self-love than lovingly anointing ourselves from head to toe with warm oil. Doing so allows the oil/love to pass through minute channels in the body and to penetrate deep layers of our bodily tissue.
Abhyanga — the Ayurvedic oil massage — is an integral part of the daily routine recommended by this healing system for overall health and well-being. Traditional ayurvedic texts wax eloquent on the benefits. Here's what one says:
“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age”. ~ Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89 - (One of the Great ancient texts of Ayurveda
Benefits – What are the benefits of Abhyanga?
"By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age." ~ Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
Abhyanga provides the means for trans-dermal absorption of the healing qualities of the material used in the massage, and it helps the skin, which is the largest organ in the body, perform its diverse functions efficiently, whether it is allowing toxins to be released from the body or nourishment to be absorbed by the tissues. It is like oiling the engine of your car — if you do it regularly, your engine will be in peak condition, and give you years and years of trouble-free performance.
Oils – Which oils should I use?
Oils used can vary depending on the season and the individual’s constitution (prakrti) but commonly used oils include sesame, coconut, sunflower, mustard and almond. The seasons change and therefore if we are to live in harmony with the seasons, we must change as well. For example, during the winter, you may want to use a warming oil such as sesame oil which is particularly helpful for the cooler, lighter vata dosha. However, being that pitta is already a fiery dosha, you may want to balance it out during the winter by using sunflower oil, opposed to the heating sesame oil or the cooling coconut oil. No matter which oil you are using, attempt to find organic, cold-pressed oils as they are better for you opposed to regular cooking oils.
If you would like to learn what your dosha is and/or receive a recommendation of an oil for your abhyanga, feel free to look over my Ayurvedic Services and then contact me. I’m happy to help!
Sesame Oil: If you choose sesame oil, look for cold-pressed, chemical-free organic sesame oil for the best results from your massage therapy. Sesame oil contains antioxidant properties, and is helpful in protecting the skin from free radical damage. It is considered highly nourishing for the physiology and has heating properties.
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil has keshya properties -- that is, it improves hair quality. In Southern India, women apply coconut oil to their hair every day – which gives them long, lustrous locks. Applying it to the body results in a cooling effect.
Sunflower Oil: Sunflower oil is basically a neutral oil which is good for every dosha at some point throughout the seasons. It can be mixed with sesame oil to lessen the heating properties of that oil or it can be added to coconut oil to increase the heating properties of that particular oil. Sunflower oil also has a natural anti-bacterial property which makes it great for infection prone skin.
• Vata Dosha: Sesame oil or sunflower oil
• Pitta Dosha: Coconut oil or sunflower oil
• Kapha Dosha: Sunflower oil
Routine – What are the steps of an abhyanga routine?
The ayurvedic massage is traditionally performed in the morning, before your bath or shower to facilitate the release of toxins that may have accumulated during the previous night.
Enjoy the feeling of having nourished your body, mind, and spirit and carry that with you throughout your day. Daily abhyanga is generally followed by yoga or gentle stretching exercises and meditation.
Today I slathered myself in coconut oil and instead of showering it off, I left it on the entire day and it felt glorious! Take a look at my makeshift abhyanga station. I boiled some water and then turned off the heat. Instead of placing the plastic bottle of organic coconut oil into the boiling water, I placed some of the oil in a small metal bowl and then kept the bowl afloat with a large spoon. After a short period of time I dipped my finger into the oil to confirm that it was warm and then used a small spoon to repeatedly lift some of it out to place on my palm. I slathered it into my hair, my face (which I washed off at the end), my ears and joints, my body and feet. It was an amazing and super nourishing morning. I have felt so calm and peaceful all day. I hope you enjoy abhyanga as much as I do. You may not get to do it everyday, but trust me, just a few times a week makes such a difference in your overall well-being and health. Enjoy!
Oh! It's especially helpful before your yoga practice because it lubricates the joints, allowing you to sit in lotus more comfortably for example. Shower before the yoga though or you'll slip all over your mat!
While I was ill this past week, one of the most annoying symptoms that I had was a clogged or runny nose. Because of this, I was unable to think efficiently, breathe properly, or practice my yoga adequately. So, what did I do about this particular problem? I grabbed my neti pot.
Perhaps you know what a neti pot is. Maybe you don't. Either way, please proceed with an open mind if you can. ;) I promise you will find that what is shared here is enlightening and, if practiced, totally worth it in one way or another, whether or not you practice yoga or any other form of Ayurveda.
Dinacharya - The use of Jala Neti is one of the key ingredients in a healthy dinacharya (daily routine) practice. A large part of this blog post is referenced from my most favorite yoga book of all time, “A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya,” written by my teacher, Swami Satyananda Saraswati.
With his guidance, we will cover the following common questions about Jala Neti:
Because this particular post is so informational and therefore a little long, if you are a subscriber to this blog & are currently viewing it within your email box or on your phone, it is suggested that you read this post from my actual website for better viewing. Simply click on the post title above or the link provided here… Oh, and thank you for subscribing & taking an active interest in your own self-healing & well-being. <3
This blog post is very detailed since most of it is coming directly from Swami Saraswati, and he doesn’t miss a thing. If you are patient, you will learn quite a bit about Jala Nati and the human body. At the end of the blog, I will gladly share with you my first experience of using a neti pot… it was quite harrowing, but in the end, totally worth it. I will also offer up some recommendations and tips to help guide you on your journey toward having a healthy and balanced lifestyle through the Ayurvedic practice of dinacharya and Jala Neti.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati says...
Yogic science gives as much importance to certain cleansing processes as it does to asanas or pranayama. Without regular cleansing of the system you will not gain maximum benefits from your practices. Without purification of the body one will not be ready for the higher practices of yoga. When the body is free the mind also functions properly.
Body cleansing is gained through the practice of shatkarmas or the six purificatory techniques. Shatkarmas are excellent practices, which are designed to purify the whole body and bring about first class health. They also bring clarity and harmony to the mind. They are very important from the point of view of physical and mental health, and these simple techniques are also highly valuable in healing internal disorders. Today I will share with you one of the main groups of shatkarmas or yogic cleanses: Neti.
What is Jala Neti? Jala neti is a process of cleaning the nasal passage with salt water, and is essential in allowing free breathing as required in many yoga practices, as well as in helping to ensure your good health.
What are the functions of the nose? The nose is the body’s organ for ensuring that the air that enters the lungs is of sufficient purity and warmth not to cause harm. The air that we inhale is rarely suitable for entry into the lungs. It is generally too cold, too dirty and too germ-ridden. It is the function of the nose to rectify this situation.
First of all, the air we breathe contains dust and small insects. These larger impurities are initially screened out by the vibrating hairs at the entrance to the nasal passages. These hairs vibrate in the opposite direction to the air as it enters the nose and prevents impurities from proceeding further.
In the deeper regions of the nose there are special body structures that are covered with a thick, spongy, germicidal mucus membrane, through which circulates a large, rich supply of blood. The mucus membrane follows a long winding air passage which ensures that all the inhaled air comes in contact with the membranes. These mucus membranes remove millions of germs that are contained in the air and which could cause the lungs much harm, and in fact do in the case of pulmonary tuberculosis, bronchitis, etc. This mucus membrane also removes small particles of dust that have passed through the first defense of the hairs. This membrane both heats and moistens the air to a level that will not harm the lungs. Cold and dry air can result in much injury to the lungs.
Deeper in the nose there are a set of glands which further help to eliminate germs that have managed to escape the previous defenses. Additionally, our sense of smell prevents us inhaling noxious gases. As soon as we smell something unpleasant we immediately stop breathing, or if possible seek clean, fresh air.
By now the reader should be aware of the importance of the seemingly insignificant organ – the nose. It should also be obvious why it is so unhealthy to breathe continually through the mouth as so many people do. When air is inhaled through the mouth instead of the nose, it escapes all the mechanisms of the nose which prepare the air for admittance to the lungs. All the dust, germs, cold and dry air directly enter the lungs. The mouth and throat do have mechanisms for removing these impurities and air conditions, but they are nowhere nearly as efficient as the nose.
If the nose is blocked, or if the mucus membranes are profusely covered in impurities, then the nose cannot perform its duties effectively. In fact if the nose is completely blocked, then one is forced to breathe through the mouth. And we have already explained the disadvantages of this process. This is the reason why we blow our nose to operate efficiently. However, the normal nose blowing does not remove all impurities. Ingrained, dry mucus can remain. This is one of the reasons that the practice of neti was developed: to ensure the best possible cleaning of the nose.
There are other reasons for the use of neti such as the stimulation of various nerve endings in the nose; this leads to improvement in the brain and organs to which these nerves connect and also helps in the stimulation of ajna chakra, the midbrain psychic center.
Equipment - What kind of equipment do we need? A pot or lota (pitcher) should be used to introduce salt water into the nostrils. There are various designs and even a teapot can be used if nothing else is available. I recommend the shape of the pot to be as shown in the provided picture at the top of this blog. This pot is known as a neti lota. It can be made of brass or any other suitable material which does not contaminate water, but the important thing to remember is that the nozzle on the end of the spout should be suitably sized so that the end fits comfortably into your nostril.
Salt Water - How do we prepare the salt water? The water used in the practice should be pure and lukewarm; body temperature is the ideal temperature for pouring the water into your nose. The water should then be mixed with clean salt in the proportion of one teaspoonful per half liter of water. Make sure the salt is fully dissolved in the water.
People often wonder why salt water is introduced into the nostrils instead of ordinary water. The reason is very simple and very practical. Salt water has a much higher osmotic pressure than ordinary water, which means that salt water is not easily absorbed into the delicate blood vessels and membranes in the nose, whereas ordinary water is. If you try this practice with ordinary water you will discover for yourself, in the form discomfort or a little pain in the nose. However, we don’t suggest you do this, though it is not at all dangerous.
In conclusion, salt water is ideal for jala neti, because while it thoroughly cleans the nostrils of impurities it is not absorbed into the delicate nasal membranes. As such no discomfort will be felt when the water flows through the nose.
Posture - What posture should we take? One may either sit in a squatting position known as kagasana, or one may assume a standing position, bending the shoulders and head forwards. This position is most suitable for doing neti into a sink or washbasin, while the other position, kagasana, can be done in the garden or in a shower.
Personally I simply lean over my sink. :)
Let this lady show you how it's done!
Technique - What exactly is the technique? Fill the neti pot with the prepared salt water. Hold the bottom of the pot with one hand, as shown. Gently insert the end of the nozzle into the end of the left nostril (or, if this is blocked into the right nostril). There should be no force involved, but the nozzle should press firmly against the side of the one nostril so that no water leakage occurs.
Progressively tilt your head to the right side while simultaneously raising the neti pot in such a way that water runs into the left nostril. Make sure that you keep your mouth wide open so that you can breathe. Some people say that the mouth should be closed and the breath held during the practice, but we feel this complicates, especially for beginners, a practice that is essentially very simple. If the pot is in the correct position, if your head is tilted at a suitable angle and if there is a tight fit between the nozzle and the sides of the nose, then the water should flow in through one nostril and out through the other nostril. It doesn’t matter if water flows into your mouth or throat, but if the practice is performed correctly with relaxation this should not happen. Allow the water to flow through the nostrils for 10 to 20 seconds.
Then remove the neti pot and remove the water and impurities from your nose by closing the left nostril and breathing quickly and forcibly through the other nostril. Don’t blow so hard, however, that you damage your nose and cause bleeding. In this respect the practitioner should use his/her discretion.
Now close the right nostril and blow forcibly through the left nostril. Now pour water into the right nostril for about 20 seconds and repeat the same process. Again pour water into each of the nostrils in turn, repeating the same technique just described.
Personally, if I am using a large stainless steel neti pot (which I like to call the Cadillac of netis) I use one half of the water in one nostril, pause to blow, then use the remaining half of the water in the other nostril, pause, blow. Done.
Drying the Nostrils: After completing this practice the nostrils must be dried and any further impurities removed.
Stand erect. Bend forwards so that the trunk assumes a horizontal position. Close one nostril by pressing the side of the nose with the thumb. Breath in and out vigorously up to 10 times in quick succession. The exhalation should be especially emphasized to expel the moisture from the nostrils. Repeat the same procedure with the other nostril closed. Then repeat the same procedure with both nostrils open.
This simple practice should remove most of the moisture from the nose. If moisture remains the vigorous breathing should be repeated until the nose is perfectly dry.
Duration - How long will this take? Once the practitioner is familiar with the technique, the whole process can be completed in a short period of time. Not including preparation of the water, the whole process should take less than five minutes.
Neti is ideally practiced early in the morning before breakfast. However, if necessary, it can be practiced at other times of the day, excepting straight after meals. Once a day is sufficient, though if one has a nasal catarrh, a cold or any other specific ailment, it may be practiced more times.
Limitations and Precautions: People who suffer from chronic bleeding of the nose should not do neti without expert advice. Make sure that the water is not too hot when you introduce it into the nostrils. Do not breathe in and out too deeply when removing the moisture from the nose; we are trying to improve the condition of your nose, not damage it. Also, if sinuses are blocked with mucus, be careful not to blow your nose hard. It is very easy to push the mucus further into the cavities. Ensure that the salt fully dissolves in the water before pouring it into your nose.
Be careful to hold the head correctly and not to hold the neti pot too low. In order for the water to flow into one nostril and out the other, the water level in the pot must be higher than the region at the back of the nose, where the two nostrils merge with each other. If you tilt your head too much then the water will go down your throat instead of the other nostril. If you tilt the pot too much the water will merely overflow out of the pot. You must adjust the position of your head and the pot so that they are at correct levels.
People who have great difficulty passing water through the nose may have a structural blockage such as a polyp. Expert advice should be sought. If there is a slight burning sensation in the nose during your first attempt with salt water, don’t worry. This will disappear as your nose tissue becomes accustomed to contact with water.
BENEFITS - What are the Benefits of Jala Neti?
Neti is the best method of preventing and eliminating colds. An effective cure for the common cold has not yet been found. Neti is not foolproof, but it goes a long way to solving the problem. A cold indicates something significant, namely that your body is in a weakened condition. If this was not the case, the cold virus would be unable to penetrate the defenses of your system; your auto therapeutic powers would be strong enough to withstand such an attack. The cold virus flourishes in nerve tissue, particularly the olfactory nerves in the nose. During a cold, neti greatly helps by removing the accumulated mucus in the nose, this being a breeding ground.
Regular practice of neti when you don’t have a cold keeps the nasal passages working at optimum efficiency and thereby helps to maintain a healthy body. Remember, breathing through the mouth or insufficient treatment of the inhaled air prior to entry into the lungs, due to nasal blockage and congestion, can encourage the onset of disease, by allowing germs to infect the lungs, or by generally weakening the state of health in the body.
Neti is also a help in curing sinusitis, ailments of the eyes, nose and throat, tonsillitis, catarrah, as well as inflammation of the adenoids and mucus membranes. It is effective in removing headaches, insomnia and tiredness. Neti has a subtle influence on the various nerves which end in the nasal passages, such as the olfactory bulb and other adjacent nerves which innervate the eyes, ears, etc. This has a very soothing influence on the brain and can help to relieve such ailments as migraine, epilepsy, depression, tension, etc.
Neti helps in no small manner to prevent and cure lung diseases such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, pulmonary tuberculosis, etc., for the reasons already mentioned. Respiration becomes much easier, which leads to an improved intake of oxygen, improved removal of carbon dioxide and consequently better health.
Importance of neti in yogic physiology: The science of yoga maintains that the flow of air in each nostril alternately changes. If you test this for yourself, you will find this to be true. At present one of your nostrils is admitting more air that the other. After some time the other nostril will admit the greater amount of air.
This alternate flow of breath through the two nostrils in turn has a profound influence on the energy cycle of man. It controls our thinking and physical activity, our introversion and extroversion. This cycle has a great bearing on our mental and physical health. Now if one or both of the nostrils are permanently blocked, then this natural alternation of breath flow cannot occur. Our health can suffer. This is another reason why jala neti is so important; it cleans both nostrils and allows the breath to alternate freely between the two.
A Quick Story - My Showdown with Neti
The first time I was introduced to neti was back in 2007 in Sedona, AZ. My boyfriend at the time had tried repeatedly to get me to add this practice to my daily routine, however just the idea of putting water in my nose made me cringe. So I ignored him… until one day I was sick and I was standing in the bathroom, miserable, trying to blow my nose. It was then that he came to me, placed the ingredients that I needed for jala neti next to me, smiled a devilish smile and then wandered off.
SO THERE I STOOD... Leaning over the bathroom sink, head cocked at a 90* angle, wishing I had a level with which to verify that my forehead was in fact higher than my chin. Then I had this moment. There was this moment when I thought to myself:
Okay, I'm going to do it now.
No... now. Now! ... ... ... ... hmm... ... ... ... ...
Okay, 1....2....3.... Now!
Wait! I need to collect myself.
It's like the moment after you've cut your finger and you are contemplating putting alcohol on it…
Okay, I'm going to pour it NOW…
No… how about now! Maybe if I close my eyes?? Okay, go! Now!
Aaaannnyyy minute now.
But you keep hesitating! It's like there is a completely confused survival mechanism inside of you saying, "DO NOT POUR THAT STINGING ALCOHOL ON YOUR CUT. IT WILL HURT!" But at the same time you know deep down inside that in order to clean a wound, you have to momentarily suppress your will to live.
The same is true of your first time neti pot use. :)
There is something inside of you saying, "Do not pour that teapot full of water up your nose. That is a bad idea." But then you also kind of know it's probably helpful. You just need to bite the bullet!
Well… I stood frozen for a few minutes. I started breathing through my mouth, lifted the pot, and poured. I bit the bullet and I am here to tell you that exactly one eternity passed between the moment the water entered my right nostril and the moment it started flowing out of my left. I was so sure in the moment of eternity that water would soon be leaking out of my eye sockets, and that this was how it would all end for me… Me, slumped over the bathroom sink, neti pot in hand. Toast… death by neti pot.
But then it worked! I was pouring water into a hole in my face, and watching it flow out of a different hole in my face, and I thought, "THE HUMAN BODY IS A FREAKING ROCK STAR." And I blew my nose like I've never blown it before. It was glorious! :)
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