Patient Daily Living

Breathing Well, Part 4: Using a Neti Pot

If you’ve ever had a stuffy nose, you understand how important free breathing is. Oxygen helps every part of the body function, but more than that, clear, unobstructed breathing leads to vitality and health, important for senior health. Poor breathing can lead to stress, insomnia and many other ailments. One excellent way to clear your nasal passages is through the ancient Yogic practice of neti. This is a warm saline bath for your nasal passages. It keeps them clean, removing dust and allergens.

You can do neti any time, but most people add it to their morning routine. Once you experience how clean your nostrils are (and how clear your breathing is!) it will be like leaving the house without brushing your teeth if you forget to do it. The benefits of neti are far-reaching, particularly for senior health. It not only makes it easier to breath, it can also be good for sinusitis, allergies, post-nasal drip and headaches. Neti also counteracts the dryness of air travel and helps prevent colds. That’s especially critical during cold and flu season when seniors are at risk of illness. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Add ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized, plain salt to warm (not hot!) filtered water in a neti pot, which looks like a small Aladdin’s lamp. If the water stings, you’ve used too much or too little salt. It should taste like a tear.
  2. Bend forward over the sink, place the spout against your left nostril to seal it, open your mouth to breathe and let the water flow out the right nostril. Be sure to lift your elbow to tip the pot instead of tilting your head. Keep the angle of the head between 11:00 and 1:00.
  3. Exhale strongly through both nostrils at once (you can use a tissue if you wish.)
  4. Repeat on the right.

If you want to see a video demonstration, go to: “I think neti is an excellent idea,” says Steven Park, MD, a New York City ear, nose and throat specialist and author of Sleep, Interrupted: A physician reveals the #1 reason why so many of us are sick and tired. “When I first mention it to my patients, they are reluctant. But when they see the benefits, they like it. The problem is they don’t incorporate it to their daily life. They should use it prophylactically on a daily basis.” Dr. Park explains how neti works this way: “When you have salty water in your nose, the nasal membranes shrink and you can breathe much better.” You can purchase neti pots online or find them in drugstores and health food stores. Ceramic neti pots are great for home use. They come in plastic for travel, too. Neti is generally considered to be safe, but if you have concerns about whether you should try in, ask your ear, nose and throat doctor if it’s right for you.

- Written By

Deborah Quilter

Deborah Quilter, writer, certified Yoga teacher and Feldenkrais® practitioner, is the Director of Yoga at the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City and the president of Beyond Ergonomics, LLC. She is a partner at The Balance Center in New York City and presents regularly at the International Yoga Therapy Conference and the Rocky Mountain Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda. She is the author of The Repetitive Strain Injury Recovery Book and Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User's Guide and is currently working on a book about balance. Her website is