In yoga tradition, shatkriya or shatkarma are cleansing techniques used to purify the body and mind which improve circulation of prana (vital energy/breath) and/or blood throughout the body thus bringing health and harmony to the whole system.
The first thing I do every morning is drinking a glass of warm water with lemon. The benefits of this are well known but this flush the digestive system and rehydrate the body and as lemon contains vitamin C, it is good for the adrenals and can potentially help reduce the affects of stress.
The next thing I do is to a kriya technique called Jala Neti. Jala Neti is a way to clean out the nasal passages using a neti pot and warm water with salt.
Basically it involves getting a little teapot like jug, called neti pot, with a pinch of salt in warm water and then put the spout up one nostril tilt your head and let the water flow out the other nostril. I know it sounds and looks weird but once you experienced the benefits, you won't care =)
For this, warm water is best since the temperature would be similar to the one of your blood so it wouldn't feel too invasive in your body and the salinity of the water would be similar to the salinity of the blood. So don't use cold water or too much salt!
I have experienced many benefits from doing this regularly, how regularly you should do it, is not something I can advice on, as it depends from person to person, I do it at least 4 times a week but when my nostrils are quiet open and clear, I just skip it for a day or two.
So back to the benefits, as I wear contact lenses, I used to get eye infections often, I am a bit sensitive to certain things like dog hair, spring allergies, etc. I have been doing jala neti since the end of last year, and since then, I have not gotten neither eye or ear infection, colds, nor sore throats or even flu!
So, the benefits I am talking about are some that I have personally experienced, but there are many other benefits as it removes all the dirt and bacteria from the nose passages.
Nostrils, eyes, ears, mouth, throat are all connected. You would easily notice this if you have had an eye infection and as you put one of the prescription drops in your eye, you can taste the bitterness in your mouth, or when you have chocked on rice and then a rice grain gets stuck in your nostril (not a good feeling at all!) The nostrils apart from enabling us to receive oxygen to keep us alive, also act as filters for our bodies, and jala neti to me is now as essential as wiping my feet before I step inside my house.
So, some important things to consider if you want to try is to use clean water, either filtered or distilled. I normally use 75% cold water and 15% boiled water (one teaspoon of salt per half litre of water.)
I would suggest getting neti salts (on Amazon). I blended himalayan salt and use that, approximately half of a pinky finger nail, but to be sure on measurements of how much salt, it's better to use their little spoon and follow their instructions.
Also, when you put the spout up the nostrils, it is not necessary to lean forward for the water to come out the nostril (as me in the photo on the right). It is enough to slightly tilt your head to side as in the photo above. It is important to open your mouth and breath through your mouth as the water comes out of the opposite nostril. So, first you do one nostril, allowing water to pour, and then the other. If it takes a bit of time for water to come out, don't worry! When there is a blockage in the nostril, it might take a little longer for the water to come out but it will eventually do =)
After you have washed your nostrils, you can close the right nostril with the right thumb and breathe in and out of the left nostril 5 to 10 times leaning forward or bending to side as you do this. Then you can do the right nostril. I normally practice pranayama (breathing techniques) right after I have cleansed my nostrils and once my mind is a bit more focused by the practice of pranayama, I meditate for 10 minutes, my physical yoga practice comes after that. During my yoga practice, sometimes remaining water comes out my nose especially in downward-facing dog or a side plank, so don't freak out, it's just salty water : )
So, in a nutshell, everything is connected, the nostrils act as both, a barrier that try to prevent bacteria from getting deeper into the body, and as a passage of prana; so by clearing nostrils, we are clearing pathways for breath to flow through, and by drinking water with lemon you're also helping your body get ready for your day and aid your digestive system. These are two ways that have helped my body feel good and healthy, needless is to say practicing pranayama, yoga and meditation =)
* Jala neti is not contraindicated as such in any conditions, but it is better to perform under guidance of an expert if you suffer from hypertension, migraine, nasal bleeding or with a history of nasal complications
Do you have any morning rituals?
If you try this, and come up with any questions, just leave me a comment and I'll reply =)