Nasal breathing is in and mouth breathing is most definitely out.
Do you ever think about whether you are breathing through your nose or mouth? I’m wondering if anyone has noticed if they are breathing more through their mouth when wearing a mask? I noticed I was doing this the other day, and as an advocate for nasal breathing, it prompted me to write this.
The nose is a piece of apparatus that is designed to optimise inhalation. The nasal cavity is lined with a mucous membrane and cilia (teeny tiny hairs), that trap dirt, dust and pathogens. Air, inhaled through the nose is warmed and humidified so it’s more easily absorbed by the body.
Some benefits of nasal breathing:
-Efficient distribution of oxygen to cells
-Lower blood pressure
-Increased immune function
-Enhanced congiuntive function, memory & emotion regulation
-A more healthy digestive tract
-Fabulous bone structure - who knew?!
Nitric Oxide (NO) is the reason for most of the benefits on this list. When air is inhaled through the nose, it interacts with the sinuses, produces NO which is then delivered to systems in the body. This does not happen when you breathe through the mouth.
Mouth breathing from an early age will weaken the soft tissue at the back of the mouth, ultimately making it more difficult to breath through the nose, and potentially impacting the shape of your face. Over time, it’s likely that dental malocclusions (crooked teeth) will occur, and symptoms like bad breath, snoring and maybe even sleep apnea could surface. Yikes. The good news is, that there are breathing exercises that can help you develop the habit of breathing through your nose, and they come with some positive side-effects in the process! Winning
Nadi Shodhana and Slow Breathing
Nadi Shodhana is a form of pranayama (breathing technique), and a part of Yoga practice. From Sanskrit it translates to ‘channel purification’, referring to the energetic channels in the body. But for those who need a little more convincing, read on.
When we control our breathing by slowing down the breath and closing off one nostril, we influence blood flow in the brain and effect the nervous system. Breathing through the left nostril will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest-and-digest state. This chilled out branch of the nervous system helps to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and has a cooling effect on the body. If you have been to an Ashtanga Yoga class before, you’ll remember your teacher asking you to roll to the right hand side of your body after savasana. This is because lying on your right hand-side signals to your nasal-cycle that it’s time to breathe through the left nostril (one is always dominant, and if you lie on your side, it's the nostril on top), and subsequently activating the parasympathetic system.
Breathing through the right nostril will activate the sympathetic nervous system, the branch that initiates the fight or flight response. You can expect to increase your oxygen consumption, your heart rate, body heat, and experience a more alert state by activating this channel.
You can use these techniques throughout the day. Feeling anxious about a meeting? Can’t sleep? Spend a few minutes taking some deep breaths through the left nostril, and see if you can't bring that heart rate down. Or maybe you need an extra nudge in the morning and can try breathing through the right nostril for a few minutes at the beginning of the day? It can be great to take a few breaths this way after before a work-out, or during a long car journey when you need to stay sharp.
You can increase the potency of the effects by adding a pause at the end of an inhalation (kumbhaka) or exhalation (bahya). You will find these techniques in breathwork circles, Yoga & meditation classes. If you want to find out more, and level up your breathing game, join me for free, on Monday mornings from 07:30 GMT for a 10 minute breathe. Email me here for the link, just type "Monday Breathe" in the subject.
See you there.
in the meantime, close your mouth ;)