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A few years ago, a patient came in with a history of adrenal exhaustion, blood sugar imbalances, endocrine irregularities, and a goiter the size of a grapefruit in her neck!
Working with her MD, we designed a plan to help detoxify her congested lymphatic system using an Ayurvedic spa therapy I had used successfully in my Ayurvedic Panchakarma Clinic for 26 years. The technique is called SAN or shiro abhyhanga nasya, which translates to head massage nasal inhalation.
I also gave her a series of self-inquiry exercises to help release some of the old emotions that might be related to this thyroid condition.
After the third nasya treatment, while she was doing self-inquiry exercises, she had an epiphany. She saw herself as a 14-year-old being abused—a memory she had totally blocked from her conscious mind! She said what was most amazing about this experience was not the memory of the abuse itself, but rather seeing clearly the change in her life before and after this event.
Before this trauma, she was a happy-go-lucky, fun-loving child. Afterward, she noticed she became a more serious, type A, driven person. She became a straight-A student, a perfectionist, and then a corporate executive who worked 90 hours per week. She had a huge capacity and pushed herself to accomplish any task at hand, whether at work or home.
She realized that this 10-minute event, while quite terrible, was not worth ruining the next 20 years of her life. When she saw the contrast of her life before and after this event, she realized that she was unconsciously staying super busy, burning out, and overachieving as a means to run away and not relive that trauma. It was her way of staying safe—and it worked. Except for the fact that she had burned out her adrenals, had a history of chronic fatigue and blood sugar issues, and now her thyroid was failing.
After the SAN, she had a level of clarity she had not had in years. She was ready to become reacquainted with her old happy-go-lucky, childlike self. She told me she was able to drop her armor along with the need to continue to be an overachieving perfectionist.
This is exactly what Ayurveda predicts should happen when you detoxify the brain lymphatics within the sagittal sinus. Old emotional traumas will be released and a new level of awareness will prevail. This new level of awareness will be stress-free and reveal the joy we all have and protect so deep inside of us.
The focus is not to be dragged through the emotional mud, but to regain awareness of our natural state of joy and happiness that offers us the safety and security to let the more delicate, vulnerable, and powerful parts of ourselves out.
At the end of her one-week detox with naysa therapies, the goiter in her neck was unnoticeable!
After the SAN therapy and this powerful shift in her awareness, she was able to change her behavior and find peace. Her stress levels decreased dramatically, and, after a few months, her thyroid imbalance completely stabilized. Soon after, she got pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby and, shortly after, another.
The goal of SAN therapy is to increase self-awareness, break unconscious patterns, and start enjoying this precious thing called life.
So what is nasya therapy?
Nasya is considered one of the five most powerful therapies in Ayurveda. It is a nasal inhalation of herbalized oils into the sinuses, which has many benefits. In my opinion, the most unique benefit is supporting cleansing of lymphatic vessels in the brain called the sagittal sinus or tarpaka kapha. The sagittal sinus is just under the skull on the top of the head in the pattern of a mohawk haircut.
While this technique has been practiced for thousands of years, it hasn’t been long since Western medicine discovered the lymphatic vessels in the sagittal sinus that literally drain some three pounds of toxic chemicals and plaque out of the brain each year while we sleep. Until this recent research, Western medicine thought both the brain and central nervous system were completely devoid of lymphatic vessels.
According to Ayurveda, when these lymphatic channels become congested, toxins can build up in the brain and cause serious mental, emotional, and psychological imbalances. It’s said that these lymphatic vessels constrict as a result of trauma, which causes us to bury memories. This process allows us to move through hardships and continue with our lives, but can drive emotional patterns into the unconscious, where they can wreak havoc.
New research has confirmed the Ayurvedic take on brain lymphatics, suggesting that brain lymphatics are related to mood stability and, when congested, can cause a host of brain, mental, and emotional concerns.
How to make the at-home, super advanced nasya (SAN):
Once again, the traditional name for this therapy is shiro (head) abhyanga (massage) nasya (nasal inhalation), or SAN. This is an advanced version of the daily practice of nasya. The super nasya therapy starts out with about 45 minutes of deep facial and head massage, steam, and aroma inhalation before the herbal oil nasya. The key to the success of this therapy is putting the time in preparing the head with massage and steam.
Then, once the head, neck, and sinuses are prepared, an herbalized nasya oil is sniffed and followed by special ginger nasya drops you prepare, designed to clean out the sagittal sinus and stimulate brain lymphatics.
Practice this routine three times per week for four to six weeks. This practice is ideal during a cleanse or detox. Do not do this within two hours of bedtime.
Step 1: Head, neck, and shoulder massage with nasal preparation
1. Vigorously massage head and neck for 5-10 minutes with an oil
2. Take a 15-20 minute hot shower and continue to vigorously massage head and neck with oil.
3. Steam face and neck: Fill a large bowl with freshly boiled water. Add one to two drops of eucalyptus oil (or more, depending on your tolerance). Take a clean, large towel and drape it over your head, making a tent. Lean over bowl so steam is trapped inside towel tent. Breathe for three minutes.
4. Gently apply hot towels to the neck and face. (If available, I prefer to use hot water bottles.) Press on sinuses under cheekbones, forehead, temples, and then track the top of the head in a mohawk pattern. Continue for 10 minutes.
Step 2: standard nasya with herbalized nasya oil
1. Lie on bed with head hanging off side. Try to get the head back far enough that nostrils are parallel to floor.
2. Take a couple deep, nasal breaths.
3. After a large exhale, using an eye dropper, place two or three drops of oil directly into each nostril.
4. Then, with one big inhale, sniff the oil quickly and deeply into the sinus cavity. Hold both nostrils closed, release, and breathe in through the nose while rapidly closing and opening the nostrils.
5. Continue to sniff deeply and spit as needed.
Repeat sniffing procedure with nasya oil three times.
Step 3: advanced nasya with ginger drops
Caution: if you are sensitive to smells, aromas, or generally sensitive by nature, please do not proceed with the ginger drop nasya.
1. Making ginger drops (shunta gunti drops)
1 tbsp warm water
1/8 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp brown sugar, Sucanat, or jaggery
Warm and stir mixture. It’s ready when it is all dissolved.
2. Sniffing ginger drops
Repeat the procedure in step two above with ginger drops.
Take time between each nasya to recover. There can be a short period of tingling or slight burning in the sinuses. This sensation may track across the top of the head along the sagittal sinus as the SAN completes its mission.
3. Gargle and spit out a full 12 ounces of warm salt water, taking small amounts of water at a time. (Twelve ounces of warm, purified water with two teaspoons of natural salt.)
This process may feel complicated at first, but after doing it a couple of times, it should feel like a relaxing, healing, at-home spa experience, and you may begin to feel lighter, clearer, and more aware.
Have you tried SAN? Did you experience any benefits? Let us know in the comments below!