Breathing: it’s that thing we do without thinking, like blinking or pretending to listen during long meetings.
But did you know that not all breaths are created equal? Enter nasal breathing – the superhero of respiration.
Nasal breathing, the act of inhaling and exhaling through the nose, is a practice that offers numerous benefits for physical, mental, and emotional health.
In this article, we’ll delve into the importance of breathing through the nose, its advantages over mouth breathing, and the multifaceted ways it can enhance your overall quality of life.
What is nasal breathing?
Nasal breathing is the act of drawing air in and expelling it through the nostrils. It is a natural and instinctive way of breathing that serves as the primary respiratory route for humans.
The nose, beyond being a mere passageway for air, plays a crucial role in conditioning and filtering the inhaled air before it reaches the lungs.
Nasal breathing also involves engaging the diaphragm and creating a rhythm that optimises oxygen exchange, making nosing breathing the ideal mode of respiration for various reasons.
Nasal vs mouth breathing: what is better?
Generally speaking, nasal breathing offers more health benefits than breathing through the mouth.
These two methods of breathing differ significantly in their physiological and health-related implications, which we’ll explain in more detail below.
Nasal breathing is the preferred and natural mode of respiration for humans.
There are several reasons why you may want to emphasise breathing through the nostrils:
The nose acts as a natural filter, removing impurities and pathogens from the air, thereby reducing the risk of respiratory infections. Noise hairs alone can filter out toxins such as pollen and harmful bacteria.
Nasal passages humidify the inhaled air. This works to prevent the dryness of the airways and protecting delicate lung tissues.
The nose helps regulate the temperature of the inhaled air. This ensures it is closer to the body’s internal temperature, which minimises stress on the respiratory system.
Nitric oxide production
Breathing through the nostrils facilitates the release of nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes blood vessels, improves oxygen uptake in the lungs and enhances overall cardiovascular health.
You do a lot with your mouth – breathing, talking, eating, drinking. You may need to breathe through your mouth if you have nasal congestion, small nostrils or a deviated septum. But mainly breathing through your mouth can be problematic.
Limited air conditioning
Inhaling through the mouth skips the air conditioning processes of the nose, potentially leading to drier, cooler and less filtered air entering the lungs. Breathing through mouth also leads to your mouth losing moisture, contributing to dry mouth.
Increased risk of infections
Mouth breathing may expose the respiratory system to a higher risk of infections due to the absence of the nose’s filtering mechanisms.
Less efficient oxygen exchange
Mouth breathing can result in shallow breathing, reduced oxygen uptake and less efficient removal of carbon dioxide, potentially leading to negative health consequences.
Orthodontic and dental issues
Chronic mouth breathing can contribute to orthodontic problems, including improper jaw and teeth alignment.
Health benefits of breathing through the nose
Nasal breathing isn’t just good for your body. It’s practically your body’s personal trainer.
Below we’ve listed the range of health benefits you can take advantage of by breathing through the nose:
When you opt for nasal breathing, your lungs get a steady supply of high-quality oxygen, which is like rocket fuel for your body.
This means better endurance during workouts, quicker recovery, and an overall boost in physical performance.
Nasal breathing is like having a bodyguard for your respiratory system. The nose filters out those harmful germs and allergens, reducing your chances of getting sick. It’s like your immune system’s trusty sidekick in the battle against colds and flu.
Nasal breathing is the key to unlocking a good night’s sleep. By breathing through the nose at night, you can reduce or even eliminate snoring and sleep apnea, ensuring you and your partner have undisturbed nights of beauty rest.
Your cardiovascular system loves a good dose of nitric oxide, which nasal breathing provides in abundance. This molecule helps your blood vessels relax and expand, promoting healthy blood flow and reducing the risk of heart-related issues.
Strengthen your diaphragm
Nasal breathing is your diaphragm’s personal trainer. Breathing through the nostrils strengthens this important muscle, which is essential for efficient breathing and core stability. You’ll find yourself with better posture and improved overall strength.
Improve your flexibility
Believe it or not, breathing through the nose can make you more flexible. It promotes a relaxed state, reducing muscle tension and making stretching exercises more effective. You’ll be touching your toes in no time.
Boost your lung capacity
Nasal breathing is like a gym for your lungs. It helps improve your lung capacity over time, enhancing your ability to take in more air with each breath. This increased capacity can make physical activities feel easier and reduce the risk of respiratory issues.
Nasal breathing can act like a stress antidote. When you engage in slow, deliberate nasal breaths, it triggers the relaxation response in your body. This reduces stress levels and helping you stay cool under pressure.
Your brain loves a good oxygen bath, and nasal breathing provides just that. It enhances oxygenation to your brain, leading to improved mental clarity, sharper focus, and better cognitive function. Think of it as a mental boost button you can activate anytime.
If anxiety is your occasional nemesis, nasal breathing can be your ally. It’s like a gentle, reassuring pat on the back for your nervous system, helping you manage anxious thoughts and reactions more effectively.
Manage your mood
Breathing through the nostrils can act as your mood stabilizer. By maintaining a steady flow of oxygen, it helps balance neurotransmitters, reducing mood swings and fostering a more positive emotional state. It’s like your daily dose of emotional resilience.
You can read more in our article on 30 reasons to nose breathe.
Examples of nasal breathing exercises
Incorporating nasal breathing exercises into your daily routine can have a profound impact on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Below, we’ll explore four effective nasal breathing techniques, each with its unique benefits and instructions on how to perform them.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep breathing, abdominal breathing or “belly breathing”, involves engaging the diaphragm muscle to take slow, deep breaths. This technique promotes efficient air exchange and relaxation.
How to do it:
· Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
· Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen (i.e. your belly).
· Inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise as you breathe in. Your chest should remain relatively still.
· Exhale through your nose, allowing your abdomen to fall. Try to make your exhalation longer than your inhalation.
· Continue this deep, rhythmic breathing for a few minutes (5-10 minutes), focusing on the rise and fall of your abdomen.
Nadishodhana is a pranayama (breath control) technique from yoga that balances the flow of energy in the body and calms the mind. It is also known as simply “alternate nostril breathing”.
How to do it:
· Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight. Make sure to relax your shoulders.
· Using your right thumb, close off your right nostril.
· Inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril.
· Close off your left nostril with your right ring finger, releasing your right nostril
· Exhale slowly and completely through your right nostril.
· Inhale deeply through your right nostril.
· Close off your right nostril again, releasing your left nostril.
· Exhale slowly and completely through your left nostril. This completes one round.
· Repeat for 5-10 rounds, focusing on your breath and maintaining a steady, calm rhythm.
3. Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati)
Kapalabhati (also known as “breath of fire” or “skull shining breath”) is a breathing exercise from yoga that involves short, forceful exhalations through the nose. It is believed to clear the mind and invigorate the body.
How to do it:
· Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight. Relax your shoulders.
· Place your hands on your abdomen or on your knees (palms facing upwards).
· Take a deep inhalation through your nose.
· Exhale forcefully through your nose by contracting your abdominal muscles.
· Allow the inhalation to happen naturally, without conscious effort.
· Continue this pumping action, making each exhalation short and strong.
· Repeat for around 30 seconds.
If you’re new to this technique, you may feel lightheaded at first. Start slowly if you’re new. You can try speeding it up over time as you become more comfortable.
4. Using mouth tape (taping your mouth during sleep)
Taping your mouth during sleep is a method to encourage nasal breathing, which has numerous health benefits. It can help prevent mouth breathing during the night.
How to do it:
· Before bedtime, ensure your nose is clear and not congested.
· Use medical or specialised mouth tape (designed for this purpose) to gently tape your lips together.
· Make sure the tape is secure but not too tight. You should still be able to open your mouth if necessary in case of discomfort.
· Sleep in a position that encourages nasal breathing, such as on your side.
· Over time, taping your mouth can help train your body to breathe through your nose during sleep and improve the quality of your rest.
Be sure to consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or underlying conditions.
Want to learn more about nasal breathing and breathwork?
If you’re intrigued by the potential of nasal breathing and breathwork to enhance your life, there’s so much more to discover. The journey of mastering your breath can lead to a world of transformation, resilience, and inner peace.
To take your understanding and practice of breathwork to the next level, we invite you to connect with the dedicated team at Breathless Expeditions.
Our team can offer expert guidance and breathwork classes that can truly transform your life. Whether you’re looking to improve your physical health, achieve mental clarity, or nurture emotional well-being, the power of the breath is a tool waiting to be harnessed.
Reach out to the team at Breathless Expeditions and embark on a journey that can truly change the way you experience life.
Breathe in, and let the journey begin.