Most of the time, breathing is an unconscious act. Some will breathe through their nose and some through their mouth. You may think it doesn’t matter which you do but it does. It’s estimated that 30-50% of people breathe through their mouth which means it’s not uncommon at all, but it’s nasal breathing we should be aiming for.
Nasal breathing is what our bodies are designed to do
It’s far superior in many ways to mouth breathing and has some astonishing benefits. As you breathe in through your nose the air is filtered very effectively by your nasal hairs (annoying as they are). The air is also humidified as it passes through your nose and is adjusted to your body temperature.
This nasal intake improves the quality of the oxygen going into your lungs
This in turn leads to increased production of nitric oxide (NO), a chemical involved in many health processes. It’s a vasodilator meaning it helps widen blood vessels thereby improving the circulation of oxygen. It also has anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties thus giving the immune system a boost.
That’s not to say mouth breathing isn’t useful on occasion. If we have nasal congestion or a deviated septum for example, then there’s no choice but to breathe through the mouth. However the oxygen will be unfiltered, of a lesser quality and have less NO. And the mouth tends to become dry and lose moisture.
Mouth breathing can cause bad breath, snoring and tooth decay
And here’s an astonishing fact. Mouth breathing can even affect the shape of your face. Chronic mouth breathers tend to have narrower faces with undefined cheek bones. They often have a set back jaw, a crooked nose and/or crooked teeth. It also affects posture.
There are so many benefits to nasal breathing. Protection from exposure to foreign substances ( thanks to the effective filtration system ) which also helps to lessen allergies and hay fever.
Snoring and sleep apnoea are reduced by nasal breathing
Nose breathing can be used to slow down the breath rate and strengthen diaphragmatic breathing. This puts the body into rest and digest mode. This in turn helps to avoid things like indigestion and helps the body to regenerate thus improving long term health.
Athletic activities will be improved with nasal breathing
This is because it increases oxygenation and endurance.
And as I’ve written about many times, deep nasal breathing helps to calm a stressful mind and alleviate anxiety. I will post my YouTube video on breathing to calm anxiety below.
In the meantime I would suggest becoming aware of how you breathe and if you find you are mouth breathing, make a conscious effort to switch to your nose. It may be hard at first but if you keep doing it, it will eventually become second nature. Also try some alternate nostril breathing and do this every day for a few minutes. Even if you are a nose breather already, this will be beneficial.
Alternate nostril breathing is a common breathing exercise used in yoga
Give it a try:
In this technique, you inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other, while using your finger to close the opposite nostril. Between breaths hold for three and make your in and out breaths quite slow.
This is also great for increasing mindfulness.
Breathing for anxiety video:
( I suggest recording the exercise on your phone which makes it very easy to do when ever you need it)