The Sanskrit word, jala, means “water”. The original meaning of neti is “to guide”. It has also come to mean “nasal cleansing”. Therefore, jala neti means guiding water through the nasal passages to cleanse them.
Jala neti is a traditional Ayurvedic and Yogic practice that clears the nose and sinus passages through nasal irrigation. Sea salt is dissolved into warm, pure water in a neti pot, a tool specifically designed for this purpose. The head is tilted forward and to the side and the solution is poured into one nostril and allowed to pour out the other, thereby clearing the nasal passages and sinuses of excess mucous, toxins and debris along the way.
Through the pancha jnanedriyani, the five sense organs, and the respective tanmatras, or root energies for sensory experience, we are able to digest the world around us. In Ayurveda, we treat each of the five senses in order to bring about balance. The sense of smell is an important way in which we absorb aspects of our environment. The practice of jala neti keeps this vital passageway clear, better enabling us to fully experience our world through this sense.
Each of the five senses relates directly to one of the pancha mahabhutani, the five great elements that make up our universe and ourselves. The sense of smell is related to the earth element, prithvi. Each sense organ also directly relates to an organ of action. The nose relates to the anus. Understanding these relationships can be very important in providing proper treatment. One can see, for example, through understanding these interrelationships, how the regular practice of jala neti can be useful in providing relief from constipation.
Jala neti is a very beneficial technique that can provide relief from sinus problems, allergies, asthma, colds, and headaches, among other things. When done regularly, it can even clear up chronic sinusitis and rhinitus.
According to yogic theory, the balanced breathing that can be a benefit of this practice thereby brings about balance in the autonomic nervous system, balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Jala neti is not only beneficial for upper respiratory health and balancing the nervous system, but it is also a healthy practice for mental well-being, increasing clarity of mind. Neti allows for fuller, freer breathing, which increases the amount of prana, or vital life energy, that we absorb.
Incorporating a regular neti practice helps promote higher states of awareness via its ability to stimulate the pituitary gland. This will help activate the ajna chakra, or the third eye. Through developing the ajna chakra we are better able to see the unity of creation.
Jala neti has such profound and wonderful benefits to our physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual well-being that it would well become a part of one’s daily morning routine.
Jeremy Ann Anderson (Jyotishrii), CAS, PKS, CMT
A Clinical Ayurvedic and Pancha Karma Specialist, Jeremy graduated from the California College of Ayurveda in 2005. She also received certification from the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Ayurvedic Health Sciences. Jeremy is a Master Teacher for the California College of Ayurveda. She is also the visionary and founder of Annapurna Ayurveda, based out of the Tahoe Yoga and Wellness Center in Truckee, CA. Offerings are geared towards achieving optimal health & well-being, in balance and harmony with Nature, in service to the Divine. Jeremy believes that many illnesses find their roots in our increasing distance from nature. The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda can help bring us back into balance with nature and within ourselves. Visit annapurna-ayurveda.com (Ayurveda Truckee)
An Introduction to Ayurvedic Lifestyle, Dr. Marc Halpern, 2013, California College of Ayurveda, pp. 10-11.
Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine, Dr. Marc Halpern, 2002, 5th edition, California College of Ayurveda, pp.1-22 – 1-23, 1-46.
Health and Yoga healthandyoga.com/html/clean/nasal.aspx and healthandyoga.com/html/neti/jalaneti-breathing.html