Did you know that you have an easy and effective way to support and enhance mental clarity, memory, increased awareness, decreased stress, greater equilibrium, and heightened discrimination, and it’s sitting right at the end of your nose?
In Ayurveda, caring for the nostrils and nasal passages is a simple yet important component of a healthy daily routine that provides a whole slew of benefits beyond the delights of clear, unobstructed breathing. Ayurveda makes it incredibly easy to care for our nostrils so we can tap into these benefits of greater mental acuity, emotional balance, and more—by administering nasya oil.
Nasya is the practice of applying an herbal oil to the nasal passages, and it’s as simple as putting a few drops of oil in each nostril every day.
Called shirodwar in Sanskrit, or “the gateways to the head,” our nostrils play a crucial role in Ayurvedic anatomy. As the gateways to the head, they act as a direct access to our minds and consciousness. They are the way in which we welcome in prana, the vital life force. Prana is carried in on our breath and is then circulated throughout our body on a physical and energetic channel called prana vaha srotas. This channel nourishes and sustains each and every cell in our bodies with prana, oxygen, and vitality.
Prana, and the channel that carries prana throughout our bodies, plays a big role in respiration, thinking, our emotional capacity—even our transformation of food into energy and consciousness, and our ability to communicate with our higher selves.
Modern science has recognized this nose-to-brain connection as well, noting that the upper region of the nasal cavity, or the olfactory region, is directly connected to the brain, as is the respiratory region of the nasal cavity, which is connected to the trigeminal sensory neurons and blood vessels. (See References, 1.) These neurons are responsible for facial sensations and our ability to bite and chew.
In fact, modern science is discovering just how deep this connection between the nose and brain goes. Even ourmemory and recall and overall brain function is impacted by breathing through the nose—as opposed to breathing through the mouth, which has been shown to negatively impact recall and performance. (See References, 2,3.)
Our humble nasal passages suddenly have a much bigger meaning, beyond just bringing in oxygen, and doing what we can to protect and nourish this gateway has a direct impact on our holistic well-being.
What Nasya Oil Does
Nasya is a wonderful way to care for this passageway.
Overall, administering nasya is known to support the channel of prana with cleansing and nourishing herbs and substances. It offers lubrication and can rejuvenate the delicate mucous membranes of the nose, support clear, unobstructed breathing, and can act as a buffer for airborne foreign substances like dust and pollen. Furthermore, administering nasya oil relieves accumulated stress and supports clarity and rejuvenation of the mind.
There are different types of nasya
Some are also made for daily use, such as Banyan Botanicals’Nasya Oil, which is crafted according to traditional Ayurvedic methods and is both cleansing and nourishing. The base of sesame and olive oils bring lubrication and act as carriers for the herbs, bringing the herbs into the tissues and channels. The herbs Banyan chose to include are renowned for their support of the mind, respiratory system, and channel of prana.
For example, eucalyptus is known in many traditions for its ability to work in both the respiratory system and in the mind, helping with easy breathing and mental clarity. Mental rejuvenatives like gotu kola, skullcap, and calamus support memory, intelligence, concentration, calmness, and increased awareness. Gotu kola, also known as brahmi, in particular is incredibly soothing to the entire nervous system, which also supports the flow of prana throughout the body.
How to Use Nasya Oil
At this point, you are probably wondering how to do nasya. The good news is it only takes a minute and is as simple as placing a few drops in each nostril every morning. And because the nostrils are a direct route to the mind and nervous system, it is common to experience an immediate heightened sense of clarity and freshness.
While Lying Down: Lie on your bed with your head hanging off the edge of the bed so that your nostril surface is parallel with the ceiling. Place 3–5 drops in each nostril, inhale, and then massage the passageway externally with pressure along your nose.
While Upright: If lying down isn’t an option, place a drop of nasya oil on your pinky finger, then gently massage the inside of each nostril while gently breathing in. Do this in each nostril until each side has received three administrations of oil.
This is one practice that is not only easy to incorporate into a daily routine—it actually works.
1) Alexander, Amit, and Shailendra Saraf. “Nose-to-brain drug delivery approach: A key to easily accessing the brain for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.” Neural regeneration research vol. 13,12 (2018): 2102-2104. doi:10.4103/1673-5374.241458
2) Reynolds, Gretchen. “Breathing Through the Nose May Offer Unique Brain Benefits.”The New York Times. The New York Times, November 20, 2018.
3) Arshamian, Artin, Behzad Iravani, Asifa Majid, and Johan N. Lundström. “Respiration Modulates Olfactory Memory Consolidation in Humans.” The Journal of Neuroscience 38, no. 48 (2018): 10286–94.