Nasya: The Ancient Ayurvedic Practice to Relieve Allergies, Sinus Issues & So Much More
“The nose is the door to consciousness and the pathway to our inner pharmacy.” Dr. Vasant Lad, Ayurvedic Physician & Founder of The Ayurvedic Institute.
The ancient Ayurvedics considered the nasal passageways as portals to the brain, mind and higher consciousness. This is because it is through the nose that the vital life force flows—prana — enters the body with every breath. Exploring a path of mindfulness and becoming aware of the breath is probably one of the first steps to focused attention. Interestingly, breathwork is just as important as a detox mechanism since nearly 70% of the body's waste is eliminated through the lungs by the simple act of inhaling oxygen to nourish all the cells, and exhaling carbon dioxide for disposing waste, with each outbreath.
Over the years, many in the west have turned to traditional Ayurvedic therapies such as the use of neti pots - the process of nasal saline irrigation, a therapy that uses a salt and water solution to flush out the nasal passages - to relieve sinus congestion, obtain relief from allergies, and more. For many, nasal irrigation may bring relief of sinus symptoms without the use of allergy or sinus relief medications - a major plus, especially due to the debilitating nature of allergies, as well as the fact that many find allergy medications dulling to the senses, and even drowsiness-inducing.
Think of the traditional Ayurvedic practice of Nasya - a therapeutic process of oiling the nasal cavity - as an advanced version of the neti pot therapy. Especially since studies have found that Nasal mucosa dryness improved significantly when pure sesame oil was used compared with Isotonic Sodium Chloride Solution (saline irrigation, as in the use of neti pots).
Nasya: A Key Ayurvedic Cleansing and Restorative Therapy
Prana enters our bodies through the nose, and flows through various channels to pass on cellular intelligence from one cell to another. It is only logical to consider the nasal cavity as the starting point for detoxifying therapies. Nasya is the administration of herbal oil that clears congestion and lubricates the respiratory pathways to promote the assimilation of prana.
Nasya treatment for sinus-related discomfort and nasal dryness consists of pouring a few drops of pure oil into the nose. It can also involve inhaling steam, followed by a face and neck massage, for enhanced benefits from the therapy. As the steam boosts circulation and loosens accumulated mucus, it prepares the respiratory channels to receive the medicated herbal oil. As the oil is gently placed at the base of each nostril, it is taken in by inhalation to lubricate the nasal cavity and decongest the breathing passages.
What are the benefits of Nasya
The primary benefits of using Ayurvedic nasya oil are relieving congestion and dryness. Ayurvedic wisdom suggests that these two imbalances amplify and proliferate issues in the head, face, sinuses, jaw, throat, neck and shoulders.
So, this Ayurvedic nasal oil treatment may work well* for respiratory, allergic, inflammatory and mental/emotional conditions to give you a plethora of benefits. Within Ayurvedic scripture, it is believed that the practice of Nasya can help with:
- Enhancing mental clarity
- Clearing the nasal and sinusoidal cavities
- Potentially helping reduce the frequency and intensity with recurrence of headaches and migraines*
- Promoting mental and sensory agility
- Soothing dryness of the nose
- Bestowing a clear voice and soothing hoarseness of the throat
- Helping clear away toxins in the skin and scalp, improving skin texture and radiance, and potentially delaying premature graying and arresting hair loss*
How to Do Nasya at Home
- Warm sesame or almond oil (you must ensure absolute purity of the oil in question as you are as good as consuming said oil. Do not use oil whose integrity may have been compromised in any way) by placing the oil in a glass dropper bottle and then placing the dropper bottle in a bath or bain marie with boiled water, allowing the oil to heat through the glass. Ensure that the oil is warmed, but does not become hot.
- If doing abhyanga then this would be the time to perform it (while the oil gently warms). If not, then place a drop of oil on the fingers and gently massage the sinus cavities and around the eyes. Doing this results in increased penetration of the oil.
- Test a drop of oil on the back of your hand to ensure that it is warm, and not hot, almost as it you would a baby bottle.
- Lay on your back either on a bed, couch or the floor. Then tilt your head back as far back as comfortably possible, without stressing the neck. For neck support, place a small pillow or a rolled up towel beneath your neck.
- With your head tilted back, place 3–5 drops of nasya oil at the base of each nostril. Position the dropper away from the nose as this helps keep it uncontaminated.
- Breathe in deeply to allow the oil to enter into the nostrils, lubricating and coating them. Take a couple of more breaths while closing one nostril at a time. Spit out any fluid that reaches your mouth as this is loaded with toxins.
- Stay still for a few minutes and slow your breathing to allow the oil to absorb. Gently massage the nose and sinus for a couple minutes to support absorption, if desired.
- Rinse the mouth with warm water.
Contraindications to Nasya
While it is recommended to do this nasal oil detox regularly, it is extremely effective during Kapha season. However, there are certain conditions under which you should not practice nasya therapy such as:
- Directly before or after meals
- Extreme cramping or indigestion
- Intoxication of drugs and/or alcohol
- Having wet hair 1 hour before/after the procedure
- Immediate stress, such as vigorous exercise or emotional meltdown
- Fever or other acute infections
- Pregnancy and post-natal
Ancient Ayurvedic texts state, “Disease begins with improper breathing.” So, if we had to distil the advice to just one tip—fix the breath and you will stay free of illnesses. Nasya is one of the five classical detox practices in Ayurveda and an important component of breathwork.
It is incredible how changing and balancing a simple practice such as nasya can be to overall health. Caring for our nasal passageway and honoring its role via nasya treatment can vitalize and nurture healthier habits for the mind.
*The information herein is shared strictly for informational purposes, finds basis in ancient Ayurvedic scriptures, and has not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease, or affect the structure or function of the body. The information herein does not constitute medical advice. Anyone suffering from a medical condition should consult with a physician. User reviews do not constitute a guarantee that you will achieve the same results -- what works for one may not work for another.