This practice of passing a length of thread through the nose is called SUTRA NETI. Sutra means “thread”. There is another form of neti known as Jala neti and it is done with water.
To practice sutra neti a specially prepared thread has to be used. It should be made of cotton, not synthetic fibre, tightly wound together and wiped with melted beeswax. The width should be about 4 mm and length 35 cm. However, it is more convenient to use a thin rubber catheter lubricated with ghee so that it slides easily through the nasal passage. It is also a good idea to practice jala neti before sutra neti to make sure the nostrils are clear.
Technique 1: Sutra Neti (Nasal cleansing with thread)
A Squat on the heels, tilt the head slightly back and insert the thread or catheter straight into the left nostril. The thread should not be forced through the nose but gently pushed so that it slowly passes down into the throat. When it reaches the back of the throat, put the first two fingers into the mouth and pull the thread out through the mouth leaving a few inches of thread hanging out of the nose. Slowly and gently pull the thread backwards and forwards thirty to fifty times. Take it out slowly and perform in the same way through the opposite nostril.
Pranayama should be practiced after completing this practice.
According to the Hatharatnavali (1:38), once the thread has been pulled out of the mouth the two ends should be joined and the thread rotated through the nasal passage and mouth. However, it is very difficult to join the two ends securely while still being able to pass it through the nose comfortably. Therefore, it is probably quite sufficient to pull the thread forward and backwards.
For jala neti you require a special neti lota or “pot” which has a nozzle designed specifically so that it will fit into the nostril. The lota should be filled with warm saline water. The salt should be just enough to taste.
Technique 2: Jala Neti (Nasal cleansing with water)
Stand squarely, legs apart, body weight evenly distributed between the two feet and lean forward. Tilt the head to the right side and place the lota’s nozzle in the left nostril. Open the mouth slightly and breathe through the mouth. Keep the whole body relaxed and let the water pass out through the right nostril.
When you have used half of the water, remove the lota, and remain bending forward, centre the head and let the water run out of the nose. Close the right nostril with the fingers and blow gently through the left nostril so that all the remaining water comes out. Practice in the same way passing the water through the right nostril.
Throughout the whole practice keep breathing through the mouth and do not attempt to breathe through the nose. When blowing the nose, do not blow very hard, otherwise any remaining water may be pushed into the ears. It is important to remove all the water after the practice so irritation of the sinuses and mucous membrane does not occur. Although you can practice neti in a squatting posture, it is best to stand.
If you experience pain in the nose during the practice, the quantity of salt is incorrect. Too little salt will create pain and too much salt will cause a burning sensation.
Instead of water you can use warm milk to practice dugdha neti, or warm ghee to practice ghrita neti, (if oil is used instead of ghee, it must be unconcentrated and with no added chemicals.) These two practices are classified as variations of jala neti.
Neti can be practiced every day if you are suffering from sinusitis, colds, insensitivity to smell, nosebleed, headache, eyestrain or eye infections, otherwise it is best to practice only once or twice a week. People suffering from chronic haemorrhage should not attempt neti unless under expert guidance.
It is advisable to practice bhastrika or kapalabhati Pranayama after jala neti. This will dry the nose and generate heat in the nostrils.