Some may go on a veggie-juicing diet while others sing praises of detox teas, which use a concoction of herbs to cleanse and nourish the liver, an organ responsible for clearing toxins from the body.
One friend tried to sell me the wonders of colon irrigation as he lost three kilogrammes from removing all that gunk, resulting in a flatter stomach and clearer skin.
Many like him say stubborn pounds miraculously melt away after a few sessions. Sceptics like me tell him to eat healthier and accumulate less junk. It’s cheaper than flushing money down such procedures.
The truth is, your body can naturally get rid of toxins no matter what you eat, as long as you incorporate wholesome foods like fruits and vegetables, plus engage in regular physical activity.
However, there are many parts of the body that could do with some help in cleansing due to our food intake and the polluted environment we live in. The mind also needs to be purified for clarity of thought.
According to yogic science, certain cleansing processes are extremely important for a healthy body. Without regular cleansing of the bodily systems, one cannot gain maximum benefit from practising yoga.
This practice, comprising six purification techniques, is called the shatkarmas or shatkriyas, valued for healing all kinds of internal disorders. They are neti: nasal cleaning (including jala neti with salt water and sutra neti with a cotton thread); dhauti: cleansing of the digestive tract; nauli: abdominal massage; basti: colon cleaning; kapalbhati: purification and vitalisation of the frontal lobes; and trataka: blinkless gazing (which I talked about in one of my previous columns).
The shatkarma affect and activate almost all of the vital systems in the body, especially the digestive, respiratory, circulatory and nervous systems.
Every individual organ of importance, like the oesophagus, stomach, colon, lungs, eyes and ears, receive equal attention.
These purification processes are both preventive and curative.
Since sinusitis or allergic rhinitis affects about 20% of the population and up to 40% of children, one of the easiest methods to cleanse an adult’s nasal cavity is by doing jala neti.
Nasal hygiene is extremely important as it is linked to many conditions including migraine, headaches and other allergies.
Patients with sinus problems, often due to a hypersensitive immune system, suffer frequent and prolonged respiratory infections, as well as asthma, which is difficult to control.
Jala neti is a simple practice that can be done along with your daily routine, such as after brushing your teeth in the morning.
All it takes is some salt, warm water and a few minutes to help relieve many of the problems related to the nasal and sinus cavities.
But first, you need to purchase a neti pot – a container made of plastic or ceramic, designed to rinse “debris” or mucus from your nasal cavity. It can be purchased from selected pharmacies, yoga studios or online.
To prepare, make sure you only use boiled water that has been left to cool until lukewarm, so that it does not irritate the tissues inside the nostrils. You don’t want it too hot as it might burn the nostrils.
Or, if you’re as finicky as me, you can filter the tap water first, then boil it. Add a teaspoon of non-iodised salt (any salt is acceptable) to half a litre of water.
The method (stand over a sink):
• Pour the salt water into the neti pot and place the cone at the end of the spout inside the left nostril.
• Tilt your head gently to the right and open your mouth (breathing should be done through the mouth during the process). Adjust the tilt of your head up to a point where water starts flowing from your left nostril to the right nostril. Continue until the water in the pot is emptied.
• Fill the pot again with salt water and do the same procedure from the right nostril.
• Repeat this process two or three times. Then blow your nose.
When you first start this practice, it may seem daunting and you may get irritations in the nose, sneezing, coughing, runny eyes etc, which will disappear after few sessions.
If you’re suffering from sinus problems, it’s recommended that you carry out the jala neti daily. If you’re normal, then once a week is sufficient.
Do not practise if you are having a severe cold or chest infection. In such scenarios, it’s better to steam your head over a pot of hot water with drops of eucalyptus oil added.
After use, clean the neti pot thoroughly to clear away contaminants, and let it air dry completely before storing it away. Like toothbrushes, your pot shouldn’t be shared with anyone else. Be stingy about it!
The Western world has caught up with this cleansing technique, but instead of doing it the traditional yogic way, medical practitioners prescribe a saline spray or drops to alleviate congestion. Often, they refer to it as nasal irrigation.
The salt water causes the blood vessels in the nose to contract and dilutes mucus, which helps reduce swelling in the sinus area.
When the different systems of the body have been purified, the overall result is that energy can flow through the body freely. One’s capacity to work, think, digest, taste, feel, experience, etc, increases and greater awareness develops.
With boosted immunity levels, the occurrence of common colds and flus are greatly reduced.
For you and me, we don’t have to do all the cleansing techniques unless you aspire to be a yogi.
So, just do the ones necessary for the body part that needs it most as you’ll still get some benefits. With jala neti, you can breathe and sleep better.