Sutra Neti (Nasal String Cleansing Technique)

Sutra Neti is one of classic Shat Karmas (Six Cleansing Activities) of ancient Hatha Yoga. Its benefits are extolled by the great treatises on Hatha Yoga and Yoga Hygiene as an important synergist in accelerating the yogic process. Although water cleansing or bathing of the nasal cavities mechanically removes dust, irritants, and impurities from the nasal passages and is thus beneficially soothing, Sutra Neti goes further in stimulating and tonifying the nerves, glands, and organs of the entire nasal and cranial area including the eyes, sinuses, ears, and cranium. For centuries it has been a specific treatment in India for sluggishness, sinus headaches, congestion, eye and ear complaints, heaviness of the head, excess kapha (mucus), lack of alertness, opening of the third eye, and the like.

Care of the Sutra Neti String:

The more common strings are made from cotton thread and dipped in beeswax stiffening it in order to allow its insertion into the nasal cavity. The beeswax can not undergo sharp bends without cracking, so it is suggested that it is kept wrapped or protected by a long stick, stick of cardboard, or similar strip to prevent accidental sharp bends. If extra care is undertaken a single string can easily be usable for over a month even with daily usage, thus 10 strings or less can be used the entire year only if great care is exercised. The hemp strings are the perfect stiffness and texture, but for delicate nares they will be too harsh. They are tougher and last longer, but also should be rinsed or wiped and then dried straight after
usage. Cocoa butter can be combined with the beeswax when making the string to effect a smoother passage. Similarly, one may massage a combination of cocoa butter and organic coconut oil at the tip of the string before inserting. Innovation is to be encouraged as not two noses are the same.

The smoothest least stimulating (but least irritating) method is to use a small rubber catheter about 12 inches long that can be obtained from any retail orthopedic/medical supply store. I find this the least effective, but it is the safest for those with delicate nares.


Before and after usage it is advisable to rinse the string in warm water (or in specialized cases medicated oils). Then place straight to dry. In case of deviated septum. polyps, or other diseases of the nose consult your physician or yoga therapist.

The string is slowly, gently, and with conscious feeling (non-mechanically) inserted along the nasal cavity floor without any pain. The nasal cavity is like a long cave which narrows at the roof and is widest at the floor, thus keep the string pointed toward the back of the throat, slightly downward, and slightly medial (inward) so that it will smoothly slide thru the widest passageway toward the inside back opening of the nose. The goal being that it pass through the valve (swollen lip) at the root of the nose into the upper back of the throat where it can be grabbed by the index and middle fingers of the opposite hand (forming a tong-like appendage) and then pulled through after a gentle massage by pulling back and forth on the string a few times (as long as it is comfortable and invigorating).

Under no circumstances should pain be experienced during the insertion. If pain occurs, it is a sign of going too fast, the string has become pointed in the wrong direction, and/or is caught up against the nasal wall, or some other obstruction exists. In this case back off the pressure immediately and twist the string in one direction or the other until a clear unobstructed passage through the cave is found. Soon the misty and mysterious dark cave will become a bright and clear one.

It is helpful to smooth and straighten the tip of the string while maintaining a slightly downward orientation of the tip throughout the insertion, so that when the tip goes under the medial bottom lip of the nasal-pharyngeal valve at the entrance to the throat, it points downward toward the mouth. It is not necessary to grab the string with the fingers and pull it back and forth through the nose. 99% of the benefit is obtained by simply passing the string up to and through this nasal-throat valve while gently massaging the nasal membranes which reflex back to the powerful group of nerves which serve in common the entire cranium. Inserting the fingers to grab the end of the string or even the end of the string itself touching the back of the throat can trigger a gag reflex with some. Going slowly and breathing consciously and fully helps. The entire procedure can take less than ten seconds after a little practice.

Some people can perform this cleansing activity (kriya) completely on the very first try, while others may take up to a month or longer. At first allow 5 minutes or more with a good supply of tissues handy, if a copious mucous flow is activated. Take your time, very slowly and gently easing the string forward, enjoying its' cleansing effects, and always breathing deeply. It is normal to feel tickled and to sneeze much at first and to eliminate copious mucous from the sinus so have handkerchiefs or tissues handy. As the mucous membranes, nerves, glands, organs, and tissues of the nose, throat, ears, eyes, sinuses, and cranium become tonified, stimulated, invigorated, and purified the body's reaction becomes less dramatic.

Sutra Neti is one of the most powerful and beneficial, yet one of the most simple, of the Hatha Yoga shat karmas. It is best performed soon after rising in conjunction with the rest of the morning cleansing activities.

"Pull a thread 12 inches in length through one of the nostrils. Pull it out through the mouth. This is neti. It cleanses the skull and makes the eyes sharp. It also removes diseases that are above the shoulders."

from the "Hatha Yoga Pradipika of Swami Swatmarama" Chapter 2 (Purification of the Nerves) verses 30-31

"A smooth braided string of fine threads, a cubit (18 inches) in length should be introduced into the throat through the nose. One should rub slowly."

from the "Satkarmasangraha of Raghavira"

"Pass a thin thread measuring about 10 inches through the nostrils and pull it out through the mouth. This is called neti-kriya. Thru this practice, Khechari siddhi is obtained. It eliminates the disorders of phlegm and produces clairvoyance and clear sight."

from the "Gherand Samhita of Gherand", chapter 1 verse 50-51.

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