“Shut your mouth and listen.”
How many times have you been the recipient of that remark, or god forbid you have directed it to one of your offspring?
Cringe? Well, not anymore because we are going to lay the foundations of intrigue to challenge you that ‘breathing through your nose and not your mouth’ should become your self-mantra until the action is on autopilot.
Disclaimer – we are not medical professionals, scientists or in the slightest coaching experts. We are also not trying to sell you the latest ground-breaking pharmaceutical- sponsored product. Most importantly we are not adding more activities or priorities to your schedule and headspace. We simply feel an obligation to share a personal awakening experience of a very normal phenomenon and feeling the positive effects of doing so.
How did we encounter this light-bulb moment? You know when you scan a headline or someone mentions a topic to you in-passing and you think “I don’t have the capacity to learn anything new right now” and simply turn off. But then in the ensuing months it feels like you are peppered from every non-related angle with signs that all seem to relate to that previously ignored topic.
– chronic sinus congestion and blocked nose
– crooked teeth and re-occurring cavities
– dry mouth and bad breath
– dribble stains on pillows or ‘ahem’ snoring
– lacking motivation to exercise and not desiring a competition goal as a combat
– covid-induced social distancing preventative measures
– winter virus protection
– pondering why you feel relaxed and rejuvenated on the yoga mat that disappears the moment you step off
– you think you already nasal breathe but not the minute you exercise
And finally when you realise the dots all connect, on a whim one night you dig deeper and fall down the rabbit hole of researching and wondering why did you not know this before. You put it into practice and the benefits are life changing, you feel good both mentally and physically.
So let’s first start with science – an anatomy and biology show-reel of the nose:
– The nose is built with a specific purpose to support our respiratory system (where as the primary purpose of the mouth is to start the digestive process).
– The nostrils, hair and nasal membranes are designed to assist in filtering allergens and foreign bodies from entering the lungs (first immune response).
– The nose adds moisture and warmth to inhaled air for smoother entry to the lungs.
– The noses’ intricate passageway regulates (i.e. slows) airflow.
– On exhalation the nose retains some moisture from exhaled air preventing nasal
Perhaps the above may he nothing new, but the below is the kicker…
– Nasal breathing enhances the amount of oxygen that can get into active tissues because breathing through the nose releases the chemical nitric oxide which opens up the airways and blood vessels. This increased oxygen increases energy and vitality.
– Nasal breathing helps us to take fuller and deeper breaths which reach the lower lung that is rich in parasympathetic nerve receptors that calm and relax the body, slows breathing and heart rate and promotes digestion. As opposed to the upper lung that is stimulated by shallow chest and mouth breathing that prompts hyperventilating and trigger sympathetic nerve receptors that are responsible for fight or flight.
– Nasal breathing is also key for the exhale. When you exhale through small nostrils compared to your mouth, a back-pressure is created and exhaled air is restricted and slows down, which is exactly the time lungs use to absorb even more oxygen.
– Nasal breathing allows the correct position of the tongue (against the upper palate) and lips (together) assisting formation of the dental arches and straight teeth.
So it seems the nose is a vital and much underrated organ in the role of our health, wellness and performance. Of course ancient yogis knew this. Modern science also validates this. But when evaluating how to improve our wellbeing or performance, of all the details health experts consider, how you breathe is usually not one of them.
What can you do to break your habit of mouth-breathing?
The first step is to be conscious of how you breathe when you are awake. Training yourself to nose breathe during the day guides the way you breath while sleeping. And overtime, the technique becomes instinctive.
However, when exercising it is not initially easy. Talking from experience, the first few times (maybe months) it will be tough. I found lowering my walking/running pace and setting mini distance goals before you have to taken a mouth breath gave focus. In time those distance goals increased by 10 minute increments. Running started to feel more natural. Nose breathing created a mindful focus where I didn’t feel any stiff muscles or twinges. What’s more, my recovery is significantly accelerated. I can run every day – quite the opposite to needing days for my decades old body to recover from the pounding.
Perhaps it’s coincidental. Perhaps it’s not. You have nothing to lose by returning to how our bodies were designed to breathe in the first place – in and out through the nose. After all, it’s been said that breathing through your mouth is about as practical as trying to eat through your nose!