During the course of a nasty sinus headache a few winters ago, a nurse that I worked with suggested I try using a Neti Pot. I had never heard of one, so she launched into an extremely animated explanation, mimicking its use. She was extremely excited about it, and whenever I ran into her afterwards she would always mention her Neti Pot and ask if I had tried it yet. This particular nurse was known for being sort of a nut case in other arenas. Her tales of nasal irrigation (that phrase conjurs up unpleasant visuals) – how pouring warm salt water up one nostril and out of the other was almost blissful in its relief -and going on about how it loosened and flushed everything out, were so graphic that I think I just needed to turn her and the whole concept off. I nodded politely and then immediately blew off her comments as the ranting of someone clearly on the edge. There was no way I was pouring stuff up my nostril and watching it come out the other side. No thrills there.
The following summer, while suffering from terrible seasonal allergies, I came across a ceramic Neti Pot in the health food store. It didn’t look threatening, but rather like a cute piece of pottery. I could almost hear the crazy nurse’s words about flushing and loosening, but mostly what I focused on was the word relief. Deciding I would try almost anything to alleviate some of the stuffiness and misery, I waffled over which color Neti Pot was the most attractive (as if this made a difference) and then I waffled over which salt for the Neti Pot was the best salt, as there was a variety. (I tend to waffle over my shopping decisions in general anyway, which is a whole other topic). I spent a long time investigating the Neti Pot section. Supposedly very fine, pure sea salt is the best. I got mine in a plain bag instead of the expensive jar (same stuff).
The Neti Pot looks like a little tea pot, a curved horn or a genie lamp and is made out of ceramic, glass, metal or plastic. There are some really cute ones with designs on them, and there are very generic ones. After I got mine, I was so lost on how to use it that I went on the internet and found a few videos so I could see how it was done. It looked kind of……. disgusting….but I figured I would give it a try.
Now, there is a knack to this. The first time I think I added too much salt, and the temperature was a little too hot, so there was quite the head rush when that water went up my nose. But it didn’t just go up my nose. I think I had my head tilted wrong. Not only did it get in my eyes, it seemed to be going up my nose and coming out of my eyes. It went down my throat because I didn’t quite get the right tilt you need to hold your head at to let it drain out of your open mouth, a vision which also weirded me out. I forgot to put up my hair, so my hair fell in the sink and got in the way of the drain and all the Neti stuff got all over it. Ewwww. The whole event was a comic disaster – I felt like a jerk and I am glad I was alone for my Neti Pot solo flight. But after I was done, I actually felt a little better. OK, maybe a little better than just a little bit. Then I called one of my more new-age friends to ask her opinion and she told me she used one too.
Well, I guess I was out of the loop – I found out our secretary and at least three other people in the office were using the Neti Pot. Even one guy I never would have figured for a Neti Pot user was doing it. Another one raves about it on a regular basis. People talk about their Neti Pot at the water cooler. Really. Everybody’s doing it! I noticed they don’t just sell them in the health food store either; they sell them in the pharmacy. This is mainstream stuff – they are everywhere. Where have I been? The next time I saw my ENT, I asked his opinion about it. He told me it was the best invention in a thousand years and he highly recommended it. Not only that, Oprah has sung the praises of the Neti Pot. Oprah!
Neti is the Sanskrit word for nasal cleansing; it has been used in the Ayurvedic yoga medical tradition for centuries. When I finally got it down, with the right temperature and the right amount of salt, the results became apparent. To me, it feels sort of like the feeling you have after getting hit in the face by an ocean wave. A little bewildered, but also very clear and alert, and sort of beach-y. Also, this might sound a little crazy, but when I use the Neti Pot now, I sometimes imagine elephants blowing water out of their trunks…. and there is a little elephant jingle of a song to go with it (O Neti Neti Pot). I don’t actually sing it, but it runs through my head for some reason (OK, am I getting nuts like that nurse?)
I have learned to appreciate the benefits. Given that, I have now tried to pass along this discovery to my children, who also suffer from allergies. The older one is totally skeeved out by the thought of it (“Mom, I think that is really gross and I’m not even going to try it, don’t bring one here”) and refuses to even to discuss it, even when she is miserably congested. As a matter of fact, she specifically stated to me “Do not buy me a Neti Pot”. That is pretty direct. My younger child at least reluctantly accepted the one I bought her and has actually used it a few times, experiencing some of the same comic Neti mishaps that I have had. If anyone could benefit greatly using it, I think it might be her. I am convinced that if she used it on a regular basis, her sinus issues would be dramatically relieved and reduced. Being a mother, I just have to keep checking, so I am regularly suggesting to her on the phone, “Why don’t you use the Neti Pot? Did you use the Neti Pot?”
So here I am now, singing the praises of the Neti Pot, with visions of elephants and a Neti Pot song in my head. Have I become a crazy mom?