What is Neti Kriya in Yoga: Four Types and Benefits
Neti pots have gained a lot of popularity in the previous decade. We covered how to use a neti pot safely and rounded up the best neti pots in the current market. But for nescient readers, unaware of neti, we will cover types of neti kriyas and talk about their benefits below.
In yoga, neti refers to four types of nasal cleansing techniques to purify the nasal passages. It prepares a yogi for asana, pranayama, and meditation by keeping the body illness-free and harmonious. These purification techniques also have other physiological and spiritual benefits.
Neti kriya is one of the shat kriyas (six purification techniques) outlined in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and other classical yoga texts. It is done to clear and irrigate the nasal passageways, remove toxins and blockages that hinder the flow of prana, and improve breathing .
These shat kriyas or yogic cleansing rituals should be practiced first thing in the morning with an empty stomach, right after cleaning the teeth. If done regularly, as a part of one’s daily morning routine, they have a wide range of psycho-physiological and spiritual benefits.
Types of Neti Kriya
In Ayurveda and Yoga, there are four types of neti kriya - Sutra (String), Jala (Water), Dugdha (Milk), and Ghrita (Ghee) Neti. Sutra is practiced with a string and the other three types of neti kriya are done with a neti-pot to deliver the liquid into the nostril.
1. Sutra Neti Kriya (String)
Sutra neti is the yogic practice of nasal cleansing using a string or thread. First, a thin, twisted cotton thread (4mm), surgical tubing, or rubber string is dipped in beeswax or ghee and one end of the string is gently inserted through the nose and pulled out of the mouth.
With one end out the nose and another out the mouth, a yogi threads the nose using a back and forth motion. In simple words, both ends are pulled alternately to clean and decongest the nose and upper respiratory regions. The process is then repeated for the other nostril.
Compared to Jala Neti (mentioned below), Sutra neti kriya is said to provide a more thorough cleansing. However, this is an advanced yoga technique that should not be attempted without expert guidance or medical consultation. It can lead to nausea and gagging.
2. Jala Neti Kriya (Saline Solution)
Jala neti is the yogic practice of nasal irrigation and cleansing using a neti pot (device) and saline solution (water + salt). Jala neti is done with a neti pot – a teapot-like device with a long spout that we have discussed in a separate article.
In Jala neti kriya, a neti pot is filled with distilled/sterile/boiled water with 1 teaspoon of salt. You bend forward and tilt the head to a side. Placing the spout on the upward nostril, you pour water into one nostril, which exits through the other.
You bend forward and breathe rapidly to clear the nose. Then, the same process is repeated with the other nostril. There is also another advanced variation of Jala neti that involves pouring water into the mouth and snorting it from the nose.
3. Dughdha Neti Kriya (Milk)
Dugdha neti is a yoga practice of cleansing the nasal passageways with milk. It is similar to Jala neti but it uses a neti pot filled with warm milk instead of a saline solution. Using a nasal cleansing device, milk is poured into one nostril and flows out of the other.
Dugdha neti is outlined in several ancient yoga texts including Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Milk is used as an alternative to saline water if saline water causes irritation in the nasal passages. One can practice dugdha neti by itself or after Jala and/or sutra neti, as they dry out the nasal passages.
Milk hydrates and moisturizes the insides of the nostrils. A simpler version of dugdha neti involves coating the nasal lining by sniffing a few drops of warm milk. But it should not be attempted without knowing the safety guidelines or without guidance from an expert.
4. Ghrita Neti Kriya (Ghee)
In Ghrita Neti Kriya, you use warm ghee instead of milk or water. Organic, cold-pressed oiled of the highest quality may also be used instead of ghee. Ghee has a special place in Ayurveda and even yogis believe ghrita neti has some additional psychological and spiritual benefits.
Ghrita neti must be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This neti kriya is said to irrigate the nasal mucosa and tear ducts. It prevents upper respiratory disease and relaxes the nervous system. Its benefits include glowing skin and restoring vitality.
Neti Kriya Benefits
Most of the benefits of neti kriya are either anecdotal or found in ancient and modern yoga texts. There is growing evidence and research on this practice that backs up some of these claims. Below, we've compiled six of the commonly accepted benefits of this yogic technique.
1. Cleans the nasal passageways.
Neti kriya removes dirt, mucus, pollen, and pollutants from the nasal passage and sinuses. Other benefits also include relief from dryness and maintaining the nasal and sinus lining. Studies also indicate that Jala neti improves the cell function of cells that move the mucus .
2. It results in better prana-flow and breathing.
Neti kriya benefits include the removal of blockages and toxins in the nasal passageways and promoting fuller, freer breathing. It increases the amount of prana (life-energy) absorbed through the breath, which improves the efficiency of yoga practices like pranayama, and meditation.
3. Neti may result in better functioning of the eyes, ears, and throat.
Neti kriya may be helpful in disorders of the ears, eyes, and throat such as sore throats, tonsillitis, allergic rhinitis, and others. Jala neti is known to clear the tear ducts and glands. But done regularly, neti can prevent illness, manage symptoms, and reduce the duration of some diseases.
4. It can manage headaches, disorders, and diseases.
Neti kriya is (anecdotally) known to relieve ticks and tension in facial muscles. It can help manage Bell’s Palsy, epilepsy, and migraine. However, it should only be practiced after medical consultation for these conditions.
5. The emotional and psychological benefits of Neti.
In yoga and Ayurveda, neti kriya is practiced to increase mental clarity. It is also believed to reduce anger, anxiety, and depression. Combined with pranayama, nasal cleansing balances the right and left brain hemispheres and lowers stress.
6. Neti kriya for upper respiratory health.
Studies have shown that neti kriya can help prevent and manage respiratory issues such as bronchitis, asthma , common colds, flu, and pulmonary tuberculosis. It can provide relief from sinus problems and seasonal allergies [Y].
7. The spiritual benefits of Neti kriya in yoga.
In yoga, one of the main benefits of neti kriya is stimulating the pituitary gland, balancing the autonomic nervous system i.e., balancing the left and right brain hemispheres. Regular neti kriya practice leads to mental clarity and promotes higher states of awareness.
When done regularly, neti kriya may prevent illness, manage symptoms of disorders or allergies, and reduce the severity and duration of diseases. More importantly, it promotes the harmonious flow of prana and prepares an aspirant for yoga breathing and meditation.
We hope this article has given you a well-organized overview of the yoga technique. We have covered more of Jala Neti in a post titled 'How to Use a Neti Pot Safely.’ You can also check out our top recommendations for neti pots in 2022.
1. Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Muktibodhananda Swami 2. Patel, Zara M., and Peter H. Hwang. "Uncomplicated acute sinusitis and rhinosinusitis in adults: Treatment." Uptodate. Literature review current through: Jan (2017). 3. Treatment of Bronchial Asthma by Yogic Methods -- A Report by Dr. M. V. Bhole 4. Rajbhoj Pratibha Hemant et al, Neti Kriya as a therapeutic intervention for chronic allergic rhinitis, Indian Journal of Community and Family Medicine, 2021, Url: https://www.ijcfm.org/text.asp?2021/7/1/63/319965