Kevin Tillman was first drawn to a neti pot in the health food store he worked at in 2004. The physical education and parkour teacher in San Jose, Costa Rica, struggled with seasonal allergies for years and found relief in nasal rinsing with the mini teapot-shaped vessel. “When I lived in California, there were consecutive years of wildfires. I found it essential to use a neti pot to manage allergies and deal with air pollution ,” he says. “These days, I use it almost daily, depending on the air quality and my level of activity outside.” Tillman is one of a growing number of people drawn to jal neti , an Ayurvedic nasal cleansing technique practised in India for centuries. It provides relief from allergies, asthma, migraines , colds and sinus issues, but is also practised for overall well-being. On Instagram , there are more than 18,000 #netipots posts, with videos and photos of people bent over sinks, a spout wedged into one nostril while water streams out of the other. It looks daunting, but more people are keeping their noses clean with jal neti , influenced by respiratory issues, an interest in natural remedies and the global popularity of Ayurveda and yoga . What is Ayurveda? History, treatments, doshas explained Jal (water) neti (to guide) is mentioned as one of the six purification practices in the Hatha Yoga Pradeepika , a 15th-century Sanskrit manual. “The benefits include purification of the nasal channels and clarity of vision. It is also good for facial skin tone, mental health , handling snoring and hair health,” says Sharad Kulkarni, an Ayurveda consultant and author at Jeevottama Health Ayurveda Centre in Bangalore, India. “In a standing or squatting position use clean warm saline water (a pinch of salt to 200ml, or 6.8 ounces, water) in a neti pot and direct it into one nostril, gently tilting the head to the other side till the water flows out of the other nostril,” instructs Kulkarni. It is recommended to blow the nose or firmly exhale through the nostrils afterwards to release any remaining water. Medical professionals have found merit in jal neti . A 2021 consensus published by experts concluded that regular rinsing with salt water was one of the treatments proven most effective for sinus issues. “Nasal rinsing is beneficial because it helps to clear out debris and irritants that enter the nose over the course of the day,” says Dr Nicole Aaronson, a paediatric ear, nose and throat doctor at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Delaware, in the US. “The nasal hairs (cilia) and mucous layer are designed to help remove these irritants but there are definitely some that still get into the nose.” She adds: “For people with significant allergies, these nasal irritants can cause a lot of mucus production, which can be uncomfortable and results in nasal obstruction or postnasal drip.” Kavita Khosa, Hong Kong-based founder of Ayurvedic skincare and wellness brand Purearth, studied Ayurveda at the International Ayurvedic Academy in Pune, India, and has taught jal neti to hundreds of people. “Several of them were looking for relief from years of struggling with sinus or allergy issues. Many of them saw astounding results and were finally able to stop their medicines. It’s also safe for children,” says Khosa. Health and wellness educator Julie Callis, from Knoxville, Tennessee, learned about neti pots in 2008, after years of relying on decongestants and prescription steroid sinus sprays for debilitating sinus pain. Nasal rinsing with a sinus rinse squeeze bottle, along with switching to non-toxic household and personal care products with natural ingredients, helped rid Callis of her sinus headaches. “I wish there was more conversation on sinus rinsing as I have personally experienced relief using this,” says Callis, a staunch advocate of natural remedies on her social media platforms. Jal neti is not restricted to those with allergies or sinusitis. Edith Chan, a yoga teacher in Hong Kong, does it regularly to reduce stress and enhance her meditation practice . Not to be sniffed at: amazing facts about the human nose “It awakens my face and senses, deepens my breath, is soothing and helps set my day,” says Chan, who attributes a growing interest in the practice to yoga’s popularity in Hong Kong. “Everyone is looking to improve their health and relieve stress in this fast-paced and dense city. During the pandemic, I’ve noticed more friends and students interested in learning meditation and kriyas [cleansing/detoxifying techniques] along with the physical yoga postures,” she says. It’s a simple process, though it is advisable to begin under an expert’s supervision. Under some circumstances, jal neti is not recommended. “Stop immediately if there is increase in congestion or heaviness in the head. It is not recommended in acute conditions and when ill. It is best as a preventive technique,” says Kulkarni. Aaronson adds that it should be avoided by those who are worried they may not be able to breathe if liquid goes down the throat or who find the rinses painful. Infections are possible, but preventable with distilled water or water that has been boiled and cooled, and regular cleaning of the vessel. Keep calm and breathe on: yoga tips to beat coronavirus fears “For the disposable versions of the squeeze bottles, it is recommended to change them at least every three months and sooner if they are used in the setting of an infection,” says Aaronson. Choosing from a variety of related products, including packaged saline powders, squeezy bottles and powered irrigation devices, can be confusing. Aaronson recommends the simplest solutions without any additives, much of the benefit being in the flushing rather than in the solution itself. “My concern with the patent irrigation devices is the ability to keep them truly clean,” she says. Khosa is a purist. “Why reinvent the wheel? Keep it simple. All you need is a neti pot, warm water and salt.” Like what you read? Follow SCMP Lifestyle on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram . You can also sign up for our eNewsletter here .