Our minds are deeply affected by the impressions we take in. What we see, hear, feel, taste and smell all register on our mental body in pretty profound ways. When our senses are over-stimulated, under-stimulated or wrongly stimulated, we get thrown off balance. In yoga, the mental body, Manas, receives input from the world through our senses, categorizes this information and sends out impulses to act in the world. Our sense organs are the gateways that allow information in and the clearer and cleaner our sense organs, the clearer our perceptions will be.
Our sense of smell is perhaps our most primitive sense, linking directly into the limbic system, or emotional, “primitive” brain and memory. The nose is the gateway through which we take in the world’s aroma, and are drawn towards the people, foods and plants that are good for us, and led away from those things which will cause us harm, like rotten food, or situations. Harsh and offensive odors cause strong aversion just as delicious odors can whet our appetite. Familiar scents can trigger strong memory, and transport us to another time altogether.
Our nostrils are covered with fine hairs which help filter the air that we breathe. Keeping our nose and sinus cavity clean is a part of a yogi’s self-care and a way we keep our perceptual apparatus operating well. Here are some self-care practices for your nose and sinuses:
Jala Neti (water pot) is a practice of pouring about a half-cup of body-temperature water and sea salt mixed through one nostil and out either our mouth or our other nostril to clean out accumulated dirt, dust, pollen and mucous. This practice is best done in the morning on an empty stomach, and practitioners need to be sure to remove all excess from their sinus cavities by snorting out very strongly at the end. The result of jala neti is a feeling of clarity, lightness and more open nasal passages. Jala neti can be done anytime.
Pratimarsha is the practice of dipping one’s clean pinky finger in oil, and inserting it into the nostril to lubricate and massage the passage. This provides a protective barrier between the sensitive nostril skin and the air we breathe as well as keeping the nostrils moist. Pratimarsha should always follow jala neti so that one doesn’t dry out their nose from the salt water.
Nasya, is a practice of snorting oil to lubricate and cleanse the sinus passages as well as to calm and clear the mind. Two to five drops of herbalized oil are snorted in a reclining position. Tilting one’s head back and inhaling deeply, the oil is taken up into the sinus passages. Depending on which herbs are in the oil, the sinuses will open, be lubricated and the mind will calm. This practice also helps to relax the head and neck muscles and clear the brain lymph. Nasya can be done 1 hour after jala neti, or a shower, and is contra-indicated in the case of illness or menstruation.
Aromatherapy is the practice of applying scents to one’s body directly or through oil, or diffusing them into the air through a diffuser or incence stick. Different aromas carry different qualities and have various effects. Like applying oil to the skin, scents can add another protective layer to one’s aura as well as supporting the qualities we need. Essential oils are readily available as a single essence or in blends with special qualities.
For stimulation, try lemon or eucalyptus.
For soothing calm, try lavender or jasmine.
For inspiration and clarity, try frankincense.
For grounding, try patchouli
For cleansing, try sage.
For happiness, try rose or geranium.
For sedation, try nutmeg.
In summation, to care for your nose, sinuses and mind:
- Clean sinuses when needed (jala neti)
- Lubricate sinuses daily (pratimarsha)
- Use nasya regularly to calm your mind and clear your brain lymph
- Use scents to balance/regulate mood and energy and to support your aura.
Keeping our nose and sinuses clear and bringing pleasant, balancing scents into our space, while refraining from toxic and unpleasant ones are effective ways to support our mood, energy and overall wellbeing.