If seasonal allergies are plaguing you this time of year, Ayurvedic wisdom provides some simple, time-tested practices to offer relief.
Neti and nasya are two practices that are used in conjunction with one another to alleviate sinus congestion and allergies. Neti has received a lot of press throughout recent years but perhaps you’re not as familiar with the practice of nasya – oleation of the nostrils. I’ll discuss these two practices as well as another simple tip to help alleviate allergies.
Neti is the process of cleansing the nasal passages with a solution of warm water and salt. Simply put, neti helps to clear the toxic build-up and allergens that get stuck in your nasal passages. In order to practice neti, you will need a neti pot, which can be easily purchased in your local health food store or online. Use a solution of warm (not hot!) purified or distilled water and 1/8 tsp of salt (rock salt or sea salt) per 1 cup of water. Leaning over the sink, tilt your head to one side while pouring the water into the opposite nostril. Be sure to keep your jaw relaxed and the mouth slightly open. The water should flow out through the other nostril. After using one cup of water on one side, switch and do the other side. Be sure the head is tilted forward so that the water passes out through the opposite nostril and does not flow into the throat. Once you’re done, you can blow your nose to remove any excess water or mucous that was dislodged.
If you’re too congested and cannot pass water through your nostrils, first try practicing some warming, clearing pranayam, such as bhastrika pranayam (bellows breath) to clear heavier congestion. Then retry neti.
Nasya is the practice of oleating the nasal passages, often using an herbalized oil. There are many different forms of nasya, but for the relief of allergies, it is ideal to use neti and nasya in conjunction with one another. If doing neti regularly, it is very important to oleate so as to not dry out the nasal passages.
Here is a basic nasya practice. Following neti, use a warm sesame oil (unrefined, non-toasted) nasya. Lie on the bed or any other raised surface that will allow you to tilt your head back. Close one nostril and using a dropper, place two to three drops of oil in the opposite nostril. Inhale forcefully several times to draw the oil upward toward the third eye. Repeat on the opposite side and lie in this position for a few minutes. You can also massage the outside of the nose with strokes that move up toward the space between the eyebrows. For those dealing with chronic allergies or other issues from the neck up, I strongly suggest asking your practitioner to recommend or create an herbalized oil for you. Nasya is a very effective and powerful practice, especially when adding herbs to the mix.
Diet and digestive strength are also crucial for alleviating allergies. It’s important for us to always keep in mind that as with most imbalances in Ayurveda, there is a digestive component to allergies. Working to strengthen your agni(digestive fire) in conjunction with reducing foods that tax digestion will be critical to managing seasonal allergies. Cold, heavy and damp foods such as cheese, ice cream, cold drinks and fried foods can be major triggers for allergies. For some people, all dairy products cause allergic congestion and should be avoided.
We’ve come to accept many health issues as “the norm” in our modern world, but allergies are not something that must be suffered through. They can be alleviated. Ayurveda has the wisdom to help you manage and heal this issue so that you can happily embrace (rather than dread) the blossoming of springtime!