I grew up in an age of Jane Fonda marathons and No pain No gain mantras. Where the way of the warrior was breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. I lived my life this way as an exercise enthusiast and dancer through college, with out ever questioning the theory. Now I know better. Question everything……………
Breathing is a 24-7 unconscious act. Breathing provides the life force necessary oxygen to your body. Without proper breath and oxygen the cells of your body will die.
The air we breathe is first processed through the nose. The nose is a miraculous filter lined with tiny hairs called cilia. They have many functions: process polluted air, cool air, filter, humidify and warm the air before it enters the lungs. It is estimated that cilia protect our bodies against about 20 billion particles of foreign matter everyday. Air then is passed on through the mucus lined windpipe. This is another venue to trap unwanted particles before they enter the lungs. Air is then properly and fully prepared for the lungs. By means of blood circulation through the lungs oxygen is then carried throughout the body. In exchange it receives carbon dioxide from the cells, a waste material that is expelled through exhale.
Breathing through the nose is as our body has been designed. Mouths are for eating. Nasal breathing has many benefits including:
- The lungs are a primary source of our energy level. They extract oxygen from the air we breathe primarily on the exhale. Because the nostrils are smaller than the mouth, air exhaled through the nose creates back pressure when on exhales. It slows the air escape so the lungs have more time to extract oxygen from them. When there is proper oxygen carbon dioxide exchange, the blood will maintain a balanced pH. If carbon dioxide is lost too quickly, as in mouth breathing, oxygen absorption is decreased resulting in light headedness and fainting.
- Inhaled air passing through the nasal mucosa carries the stimuli to the reflex nerves that control breathing. Mouth breathing bypasses the nasal mucosa and makes regular breathing difficult, Which can lead to snoring, breath irregularities and sleep apnea.
- Breathing through the nose forces us to slow down until proper breath is trained; therefore proper nose breathing reduces hypertension and stress. It also prevents over training.
- Nostrils and sinuses filter and warm/cool air going in
- Sinuses produce nitric oxide (NO), which is harmful to bacteria in our bodies, regulates blood pressure, boost immune system, kills bacteria and viruses.
- Increase blood supply to cells aids muscular control, balance and coordination. Protects against certain disease
- Mouth breathing also accelerates water loss, therefore contributing to dehydration.
- Nose houses olfactory bulbs, which are direct extensions of part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is responsible for many functions in our bodies, particularly those that are automatic, like heartbeat, blood pressure, thirst, appetite, and sleep cycles. The hypothalamus is also responsible for generating chemicals that influence memory and emotion.
- Lungs become more efficient and stay more resilient when nasal breath is used
- Training nose to breath while awake with help to use it while sleeping reducing loud snoring
- Increased oxygen through nasal breath increases energy and vitality
According to experts, most people breathe at 10-20% of their full capacity. Restricted breathing greatly decreases respiratory function and therefore energy levels in the body. Oxygen being our main source of life, and exhalations is the main way to expel toxins from our bodies. Poor breathing contributes to a multitude of health problems, to extensive to list. I will mention one, cancer cells are anaerobic. Otto Warburg won a Nobel Prize in 1931 for determining that only oxygen starved cells will mutate and become cancerous. That is proof enough for me to learn to breathe properly.
Among all natural self healing techniques, breath work is unique because breathing is the only conscious means of improving, maintaining, and repairing the other unconsciously run systems of the body. Heartbeat, heart rate, blood pressure, circulation, digestion, hormone secretion mental and emotional states all can be controlled regulated and healed through proper breathing practices. Ancient yogi’s knew this and modern research and science agree. Once the body is healthy, nourished and calmed through proper breath work the body can soar to its full potential.
Belly breathing in conjunction with nasal breathing is the most efficient way to achieve optimal health. Most people not only breathe through the nose but are also shallow chest breathers. Poor posture and sedentary lifestyles contribute to this lazy ineffective unhealthy way of breathing. The muscle of breathing is the diaphragm. It should rise and fall with each breath producing a belly movement. This movement massages the stomach, and vital organs of digestion promoting good elimination, another way to remove toxins from the body. This type of breathing also stimulates the Vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve and is the only nerve that starts in the brainstem and extends, down below the head, to the neck, chest and abdomen, where it contributes to the innervations of the organs of the body. Besides output to the various organs in the body the vagus nerve conveys sensory information about the state of the body’s organs to the central nervous system. Another huge argument won for me as to why to maintain proper nasal and belly breathing.
Our stressful over worked lives, over stimulation, long work hours all contribute to the stress in our life giving us a feeling of constant chronic fight or flight response to life. Breathing in through the nose helps us take fuller deeper breathes. Breathing deep into the lung stimulates the blood rich lower lung distributing oxygen to the body. Also, the lower lung is rich with parasympathetic nerve receptors associated with calming the body and mind while the upper lungs stimulated through chest and mouth breathing lead us to hyperventilation and trigger sympathetic nerve receptors…fight or flight. If nose and belly breathing are performed correctly, with proper training an athlete can and will experience the high or training in the zone that is so sought after.
John Doulliard, Author of Body Mind Sport says:
“To experience the zone in training is our birthright and it is within the design of our human nervous system to access it. To push ourselves to exhaustion when we have the capacity to allow effortless perfect performance to flow naturally, from the inside out, seems somehow primitive and a waste of time. I have never heard of a peak experience that was described as painful, grueling, or exhausting. Rather, the descriptions always fit the original definition of exercise , rejuvenating, stress reliving, and accessing full human potential “
Slow down enough to begin to listen and breathe.
A reason people do not utilize the nose for optimal breathing is that it is chronically congested. The age old practice of Jala Neti, nasal rinsing is the answer. This practice is thousands of years old adapted from Eastern medicine. It is as common in the yoga community as brushing your teeth.
Proper breathing oxygenates the body and helps eliminate free radicals by removing pollutants, toxins and allergens. Accumulation of toxins takes place all the time and it is necessary to find safe NATURAL not addictive ways to rid the body of them and restore cells to normal. Nasal irrigation techniques especially with a product like Afrin Puresea are a great way to accomplish this. It will leave you feeling invigorated, help with drowsiness if breathing is clear and free, balance and strengthen the nervous system, reinforce the lungs and brighten your face. It is an isotonic solution the same thickness as human blood. The salt creates a higher osmotic pressure than water alone, meaning that it helps nasal and sinus fluids flow into the water and get flushed out rather that absorbed in the water and stay put. Nasal saline irrigation has been shown to be a beneficial therapy in the treatment and prevention of sinus infection and allergic rhinitis. This non-pharmacologic therapy involves rinsing the nasal passages with a salt-water solution, helping to rid the nose of allergens and mucus. This may reduce the need for antibiotics in those people prone to sinus infections.
Saline rinses help to prevent the crusting of secretions in the nasal passages, which may otherwise block the sinuses from draining. If the sinus drainage sites become blocked, which could also occur with swelling from allergies or irritants, a sinus infection may develop. Saline rinses also serve to reduce tissue swelling in the nasal passages, and improve the clearance of mucus.
Finally, some easy to do yoga poses to aid the opening of your ribcage and achieve optimum breath are:
- Seated twists in easy cross leg
- Any twisting and gentle back bend actions
- Triangle and revolving triangle
- Lying spinal twists
Recommended breathing practices:
- Breath of fire
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Three part yogic breath
Yoga journal everyday ayurveda
Body Mind Sport, by John Doulliard
Double your Vitality, by Denis Ouellette
Nose breathing benefits internet article
Miracles in our Bodies, by Harun Yahya