Breathe Through your Nose and Not your Mouth for all these Health Benefits!
We were made - from the time we were born - to breathe through our noses. It is what we were always supposed to do.
It is the way we have evolved and there are lots of good reasons for this.
If you think about it, you only have to look at new born babies to see why this is how it should be. They breathe and suckle at the same time.
What happens when we breathe in through our noses
Our noses are specifically designed to process the air that comes in - in many different ways.
- Temperature control. Your lungs do not like air that is too hot or too cold. If they are working properly, your nasal passageways will warm (and sometimes cool when needed) the air to your lungs but your mouth does not have a way to do this.
- Filtering. The cilia in your nose passageway filters out debris and toxins in the air and sends them directly down your throat instead of your lungs while mouth breathing sends everything that is in the air directly into your lungs.
- Humidifying. The passages in your nose are specifically designed to humidify the air you breathe. Your mouth cannot do this. Do you ever find yourself waking up with a very dry mouth or a sore throat? This could well be because you were breathing through your mouth - minus the humidifying or moisture-balancing benefits of nasal breathing.
- Smell. When you use your sense of smell (through the olfactory system that’s mostly present in your nose), this can help you detect harmful toxins in the air and in food.
- Boosting your immune system. How we breathe is an integral part of strengthening our immunity with the nose being the first line of defense for the immune system. Those little hair follicles in our noses are able to filter the air as you inhale, blocking dust and bacteria from reaching your lungs. There is also another reason our noses are linked to immunity. On each hair in the nose, there is a mucus coating which launches defense immune cells whenever necessary.
- Sleeping more soundly. Nasal breathing while sleeping means you wake up more refreshed. It can provide an improved quality of breathing that may help people with sleep disorders.
How to become better at nose breathing?
While it is okay to breathe through your mouth occasionally, at least 80% of your day should be through your nose only. Try to be more aware to shut your mouth especially when exercising, noticing when you feel the urge to open your mouth so you can strengthen your nasal breathing by consciously resisting that urge.
Here are four exercises to help with nose breathing
1. BOX BREATHING
This simple exercise helps you to relax through the practice of nasal breathing, making sure that your breath moves from your stomach to your chest. Your stomach should expand first as you inhale, then the diaphragm - and lastly, the rib cage. As you exhale, it should release in the opposite order. Start by inhaling for five seconds, then hold the breath for five seconds. Exhale for a total of five seconds, and hold for five seconds, then repeat.
2. ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING
This exercise is common in Yoga classes and often known as nadi shodhana pranayama. Start by positioning yourself in a seated position with your back straight. Maintain this tall posture throughout the breathing exercise. Once seated, relax your shoulders, your neck and your tongue. Place your left hand on your left knee, and press your right thumb onto your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril, hold your breath, and then move your ring finger and right pinky to your left nostril. Exhale your breath through the right nostril, then inhale through your right nostril to repeat the exercise.
3. DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING
Start by positioning yourself in a seated, upright position (or you can lay down) with relaxed shoulders while ensuring your mouth is closed to avoid any mouth breathing. Place one hand on your stomach and your other hand on your chest. Inhale slowly through your nose, focusing the breath towards your stomach. You should feel the sensation of your belly rising as it fills with air and your chest remains in place to confirm you are exercising those diaphragm muscles. Exhale, then repeat as needed.
4. BREATH OF FIRE
This technique may take some practice, but it’s a helpful method to improve concentration and respiratory function. Sit up straight with relaxed shoulders before taking both of your hands and placing them on your stomach with your palms facing upward. Close your mouth and take a deep breath through your nose, allowing your stomach to expand as it fills with air, working your diaphragm muscles. Then quickly exhale through your nose with force, allowing your stomach to move back in. Continue without stopping so you have a good rhythm with your breathing before increasing your intensity. Repeat for thirty seconds.
We have written before about taping the mouth when sleeping here. This is another method to stop you breathing through the nose.
When should you switch to breathing through your nose?
The only time you really need to temporarily resist natural nose breathing and engage in mouth-breathing is when you’re doing strenuous exercise and need more air to your lungs more quickly, or when your nasal passage is blocked due to congestion, allergies or a cold. But remember, this does however cancel most the benefits that breathing through your nose provides.
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by