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An Extra Yoga Practice for a Sneezy Season


Spring brings sneezes and stuffy noses

When our kids were little, we called sneezing fits “having the sneezles.” ‘Tis the sneezle season, folks.

We all have them at my house. There seems to be a constant chorus of sneezes and “bless you’s” echoing from one desk to the next. Pax, the dog, is spending a great deal of time is walking around with his pre-sneezle face on (one lip curled up like it’s stuck to his tooth). Bodhi, the other dog, has runny eyes and a runny nose. He is also terrified of sneezes, so is suffering extra as he is constantly running in a panic from sneeze to sneeze to make sure the sneezer is alright.

To me sneezing is a small price to pay for the glories of spring. Warm sunbeams to sit in while I eat my lunch. Twice a day wanders through the garden to check on my green babies poking their tiny heads up hopefully through the fresh mulch. Morning walks that are different every day as something new bursts into bloom.

Yoga’s non-asana practices can help

There is something we can do to minimize the sneezing and sniffles that seem to come hand in hand with the springing of spring. I don’t get evangelical about many things but please allow me a few moments to tell you about the wonders of the neti pot.

Yoga and its sister-science, Ayurveda, offer many practices beyond the moving and breathing we do on a yoga mat. In fact, asana (the postures we do on our yoga mats) is only one of many components that make up a complete sadhana (practice).

Many of us are aware of the practices that are recommended to be done after asanapranayama (breathing exercises), focus exercises that include concentrated gazing and chanting, and sitting in meditation. Far fewer are aware that there are practices that are recommended to be done before we unroll our mats.

An introduction to the neti pot

Neti (which is translates as nasal cleansing) is one these purificatory practices. It’s actually not surprising that yoga would include practices such as neti, as the practice as a whole is all about clearing the mind of clutter, the body of toxins, and the heart anxieties and stresses.

Until I got up the courage to attend a weekend workshop with a visiting teacher within the first year or so of the beginning of my practice, I had no idea there were specific recommendations for how we cared for ourselves off the mat. To be honest, I thought asana was a sufficient way to take care of myself.

The teacher of that workshop described the practice of jala neti (nasal cleansing with water) to us during the Friday night session. I must not have been the only one looking dubious, because she paused mid-sentence and said, “You know what? I’m going to show you how it works tomorrow.” Thank goodness she did! Otherwise, I would have continued to imagine it would feel like water boarding and never tried it.

How to use a neti pot

A neti pot is small pot – typically ceramic – that is shaped like the genie’s pot in Aladdin. It has a spout that extends from the bottom of the pot. You fill the pot with warm water (I use tap water when I’m at home and heat bottled water when I’m traveling) and then stir in a scoop of fine grain salt until it is fully dissolved. (You can buy a pot and neti salt at Whole Foods or on Amazon, as well as many health-food stores.)

Tipping your head over a sink, you place the spout of pot into the opening of one nostril. While breathing through your mouth, the water pours into one nostril and, if your head is tipped properly and your nose is not badly clogged, the water will easily run out through the other. Then repeat on the other side.

Why the neti pot works

If your nose is clogged, as it might well be during this sneezy spring season, neti is a great, holistic solution, though you might just have to exhale with a little force a few times to help the water clear things out. In fact, rinsing the nasal passages with a neti pot daily is a great way to minimize the sneezles, which occur as pollen and other air-born particles lodge in the nose and stay there causing inflammation and irritation.

Since I began starting each day with my neti pot (and practicing ujjayi breath in my asana practice, which is another great way to purify the body’s airways) almost 20 years ago, I can attest that I have experienced a remarkable drop in the number of colds I catch. Plus, annually, I am definitely the least plagued by the sneezles in my house, which makes me Bodhi’s favorite.

If you’d like a free private neti-pot consult, give me a call. The first time can be intimidating but is so worthwhile. Also, stay tuned for more information about my upcoming “Practices Beyond the Mat” course which will run by Zoom (or a hybrid format) later this spring. If you’d like me to hold a spot for you, drop me a line.