Nose Plugs and Neti Pots

I’m a nose plug addict. I admit it. I don’t like running rapids without them firmly squeezed in place. I’ve spent the moments before every rapid for the past 4 plus years worrying about where they were and getting them on my face. I thought they were my security. I figured if I had them on, then I would be calm if I flipped and I could focus more on my roll than the water shooting up my sinuses. Not necessarily true. I found out by experience but I’m stubborn and kept telling myself I needed them. Well, after having several respected paddlers and my wife tell me that I would be better off without them, I’m finally a convert and am ready to shed them.

I recently paddled the Upper Nantahala for the first time and on a half committed whim, I decided to not use my nose plugs. Oh, I still had them attached to my helmet just in case that proved to be a bad idea, but I was determined not to use them, sort of. To my own surprise, I didn’t. I was a little (quite a bit) nervous on first run, and I very much missed my security blanket. I picked a heck of a time to forgo the nose plugs! At any rate, I was too busy negotiating rocks and holes and finding the scarce eddies that I didn’t have time to fumble for my nose clips.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: the world did not end because I didn’t have my nose plugs on, even when I flipped. I did not drown. In fact I found an unexpected freedom. No longer was I focused on untangling the plugs from my chin strap, making sure they were securely in place and fully turning me into a mouth breather. I was focused on reading the water, finding my lines and looking for the next big boof. I was able to practice my breathing exercises before each blind corner without getting cotton mouth. I was in the moment and doing my thing and by the second run, I wasn’t even thinking of my favorite addiction any more.

So I’m letting my trusty nose plugs go. They served their purpose and now it is time for us to go our separate ways. I’m free now and never looking back.

Should you decide to bravely follow in my footsteps, you may also find the neti pot (aka nasal cleansing pot) to be of service to rinse the inevitable river water from your nasal passages. Here are my tips:

  • The basic porcelain one you find at the pharmacy or Ayurveda stores are perfect. They even make BPA free plastic ones for traveling.
  • Use lukewarm distilled water. Lukewarm will be more comfortable. Distilled water is better because it does not have the bacteria that can be present in tap water. Don’t use tap water!
  • To obtain a solution that is close to your body’s pH (less sting, more hydrating) you can use premixed packets (like those made by NeilMed) or mix your own:
    • ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt to each 16 ounces (two cups) of warm distilled water.
    • Some prefer to add an additional ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, per cup, to the mixture.
  • Tilt your head to the side and slightly down over a sink, shower or somewhere away from your campsite. You’re going to have water coming out of your nose, so think about your location carefully. Insert the neti pot in the upper nostril so that it seals well. Slowly tip the pot up and let the water drain into your upper nostril and out the bottom one. Breathe through your mouth. RELAX. If your head is tilted forward slightly, this shouldn’t be a problem. After half of the water is gone, I like to stop to GENTLY blow my nose.Then tilt your head the other way and repeat with the remaining water. Repeat nose blowing.
  • Hang in there, its a strange sensation at first! However, it works wonders for nasal moisture and rinsing out the river water. It’s awesome for helping with allergies and colds, too!
  • Make sure you clean your pot well in between uses.

Meet Anna Levesque

Anna Levesque is the leading expert on kayak instruction for women and yoga and wellness for paddling, including SUP Yoga. Named one of the most inspirational paddlers alive by Canoe and Kayak Magazine, Anna’s twenty-plus years of experience as an accomplished international competitor and instructor has landed her in mainstream publications such as TIME, SHAPE and SELF magazine.

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