Do you ever feel the need to breathe through your mouth to be able to take in enough air? Well, you're not alone. Many people breathe through their mouths, and especially when we are exercising.
Now, research is confirming what yogis have known for thousands of years:
Breathing through your mouth is like eating through your nose.
Mouth breathing doesn't make us feel good because it's not optimising the gasses in our body, or our nervous system response.
Since most of us breathe much quicker and shallower than we should optimally (something that mouth breathing encourages), this has a cascade effect on other functions of our body and mind.
Nasal breathing in contrast, has some surprising and far-reaching benefits:
Why you should practice nasal breathing
1. The nostrils and their tiny hairs are designed to help in filtering 'foreign bodies' from entering the lungs. Important to keep our lungs clear, healthy and working effectively.
2. Nose breathing helps more oxygen get around our bodies. How? Breathing through the nose increases nitrous oxide, which in turn produces carbon dioxide in the blood, which is a trigger to release more oxygen. Complex, but pretty cool!
3. It slows our breathing down, which helps to activate the largest nerve in our bodies (the vagus nerve) and in turn, our 'rest and digest' response. AKA it helps keep us calm and focussed.
4. Helps our sense of smell stay functioning and healthy. The old adage: if you don't use it, loose it applies here.
5. Can increase our cognitive function and memory as shown in this interesting study.
6. Studies indicate that it can boost nitric oxide concentrations. Your nose and sinuses produce the antibacterial, antiviral, anticoagulant (prevents blood from clotting) gas called nitric oxide (NO) which lowers your blood pressure
7. Trains and stimulates the diaphragm due to the 50% greater resistance of air flow in your nose. The diaphragm is hugely important to our overall cardiovascular and respiratory health.
8. Prevents over breathing (breathing too much) leading to too high a concentration of oxygen (O2) relative to carbon dioxide (CO2) which causes small airways and blood vessels to constrict.
Of course, in some cases we do need to breathe through the mouth. And that's not a problem, occasional mouth breathing is helpful at times. It's when it becomes a habit that it can reduce the above benefits and cause our bodies harm.
Yogic breathing: How to breathe well
As many of your know, Pranayama (breathing exercises) are my favourite way to amplify the benefits of nose breathing, and create a strong, healthy respiration system.
Yogic breathing is a simple, hugely effective ancient type of breathwork that engages the diaphragm and increases the volume of air inhaled, while reducing the number of breaths per minute.
Sit or lie down. Notice how you are breathing (perhaps in front of a mirror).
Relax your shoulders and face, and close your eyes.
Place one hand on your belly and feel it rise into your palm, in a relaxed and comfortable way. Notice if your breath feels jerky, and see if you can smooth it out.
Place your other hand on your chest and notice the movement in your upper and side ribs, back and lower back. Follow your breath as you breathe in and feel expansion, and breathe out and feel contraction.
Once this feels comfortable, introduce a count (5 counts in, 5 counts out - or more if you feel ready). Keep the breath steady, slow and smooth as possible.
Practice for a couple of minutes and then stop to note how you feel.
Remember, practice makes practice! If you've been mouth breathing for a long time then this might feel a bit strange.
Curious about pranayama for your wellbeing? In March we join together to dive deeper into the breath with my 21 day Pranayama Habit Online Course.
Get 21 days of breathing practice, alongside 1-1 support from me and a community to practice in. Leave the course feeling empowered to change your wellbeing with a daily breath practice.
Check out the details here, tickets live in March: https://www.tashyogaspace.co.uk/the-pranayama-habit
Previous feedback on The Pranayama Habit:
"Tash was master of what she taught! She gave masses of really helpful insight into the different pranayama practices and why she was including them. When I asked a question, Tash was quick to reply and the answer was exactly what I needed. I feel empowered in my practice now!"