Breathing is intimately connected to every part of your body. Your breath is your life!
We take approximately 25,000 breaths a day but many of us are not breathing correctly. We breathe through the mouth or shallow breathe, resulting in other parts of the body having to compensate for this.
Breathing correctly with awareness is a huge component of mindfulness, meditation and yoga. This blog post explores more of the fascinating benefits of nasal breathing from James Nestor and Patrick McKeown.
We have smaller airways and the high upper palate of the mouth has decreased and penetrated into the sinuses.
Coupled with the fact that humans are not breathing correctly, this has led to a range of breath-related problems.
This includes snoring, sleep apnea (your breath stops and starts while you sleep), bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, hypertension and allergies.
Benefits of Nasal Breathing
When we breathe through the nose as opposed to breathing through the mouth:
- The tiny hairs in the nostrils (cilia) filter the air and remove particulates
- The nose and sinuses humidify and warm or cool the air depending on what is required so the air matches your own body temperature
- You retain more water when you breathe through the nose
- The nose releases Nitric Oxide into the body which fights off pathogens and viruses
- Nose breathing increases oxygenation therefore increases your vitality and energy
- Lowers heart rate
- Slowing down your breath and breathing through your nose elicits the body’s sympathetic nervous system which reduces hypertension and stress
- Balanced respiration maintains a steady PH
Left and Right Nostril Breathing
Your nostrils are coated with erectile tissue and engorged with blood. Throughout the day, your right and left nostrils open, back and forth for minutes and hours at a time. It has been discovered that this is part of the body’s way of regulating itself. It happens naturally but you may have tried proactively working with left and right nostril breathing in yoga, for example.
When you breathe through the right nostril, it increases your temperature and heart rate, stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, which can give you a burst of energy. It’s also closely linked to the Left side of your brain, the analytical side.
Breathe through your Left nostril, and it cools your body and lowers your heart rate. It is stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system which relaxes you. The Left nostril is closely linked to the Right side of your brain, the creative side.
After the age of 35 years your lung function and capacity declines, though you can still remain very healthy.
Nestor mentions a study of 5000 people which found that the most accurate marker of longevity is lung capacity. On average the maximum capacity of the lungs is 6 litres.
You may notice how elderly people breathe more through their mouths as they are trying to access more oxygen. There is a range of reasons for this.
And some people benefit from surgery if there are breathing blockages. But for most adults, and children, training the self to breathe through the nose has huge benefits.
It is said that 25-50% of humans are mouth breathers.
Children with asthma, for example, would benefit from learning nasal breathing. It is known within scientific and ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) Specialists, but still not promoted enough, according to Patrick McKeown, who works within this field.
Nitric Oxide and Humming!
When you breathe through the nose, the body produces nitric oxide. This fights off pathogens and viruses. It helps to open up the airways of the lungs. Nitric Oxide has been used to treat Sars and is currently being included in treating patients with Covid-19.
James Nestor mentions how humming with your mouth closed several times a day, helps to increase your levels of Nitric Oxide! Humming also stimulates the PNS (parasympathetic nervous system), which relaxes your body.
I love how he describes the fact that humans have a sinus system which is like a ‘shell’ the size of a snooker ball. It is positioned across the brow and top of the nose consisting of an intricate set of pathways that weed out invaders.
There is a huge range of breathwork. In its essence,
Breathwork is about becoming more conscious of a biological function that most people forget about.
~ James Nestor
They all have benefits according to your needs. I invite you to explore some of them.
And why not start now with some nasal breathing? When you practice mindfulness you bring awareness to your body and breath. Close your mouth and drop your shoulders and any other areas where there is tension. Engage your diaphragm. Breathe through your nose deeply and slowly:
Breathing is like rowing a boat.
Focus on deep, long, slow strokes.
~ James Nestor
Make those 25,000 breaths a day work their very best for you!
I wrote the above blog post after I watched several interviews, all fascinating. They focus on James Nestor’s latest book entitled, ‘Breath – The New Science of a Lost Art’.
- WATCH OR LISTEN:
Dr Chatterjee interviews Patrick McKeown: How breathing through your nose will change your life
James Nestor, ‘Breath – The New Science of a Lost Art’
Patrick McKeown, ‘The Oxygen Advantage’
- BLOG POSTS:
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Guide