Nostril breathing


In our first article, we spoke about the breath as it relates to our Autonomic Nervous System and how we can use the breath to activate either the Parasympathetic( PNS) or Sympathetic (SNS) states, our rest and digest and fight or flight states. 

The second article is about the Vagus nerve and how this nerve is linked to our PNS.

Today I will be talking about the differences between the nose and mouth breathing.

If you are new to breathwork, you may ask, what is the difference?

One of the many reasons I am so fascinated with breathwork is the continuing information about the relevancy of all facets of the breath and how each element relates to various outcomes.

So let me start with a few basic comparisons between nostril and mouth breathing; As you will see in the diagram below;

Fast v Slow breathing 

Breathing through the limited space of your nostrils slows the breath down. When the breath slows down, the oxygen can reach the lower parts of the lungs, and there is more time for the oxygen to get absorbed into the body.

Mouth breathing is associated with short and shallow breathing patterns and relates to the fight and flight response, which is all about adrenalised energy and focus. While this is great for our fast-paced lifestyles, it is not sustainable and leads to exhaustion.

Becoming comfortable with nostril breathing and a controlled airflow of breath with diaphragmatic breathing will enable you to conserve your energy in a more refined way.

Protection against pollutants and helping the lungs out;

We have little hairs inside our nostrils called cilia, which trap airborne pollutants and prevent them from entering the lungs. These hairs create a bit of friction, heating the oxygen to body temperature, and saving the lungs from doing that extra work, another energy-saving advantage for the body.

Nitric Oxide production

Here is the cool science stuff; when we breathe through the nostrils, our sinus cavities produce nitric oxide, which mouth breathing does not.

Nitric Oxide is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial! A bit like a safety barrier to all infectious germs lingering in the air. 

The lungs also produce Nitric Oxide because it is needed to redistribute the oxygen, but not as much as nostril breathing does.

You can even increase this nitric oxide if you were to add the humming bee breath to your breathing practice. (Articles to follow)

Dry mouth

Alarmingly there is a 42% respiratory water loss when we breathe through our mouth. Leaving the mouth and throat dry, think about how often you get up at night to drink some water. Disrupting your natural sleeping cycle.

The impact on snoring 

There are many factors to be considered for snoring, but one of them is certainly the weakening of throat muscles in the upper airwaves, which happens as we age.

Nostril breathing and various breathing techniques strengthen these muscles. When these muscles are more toned, the tongue in our relaxed sleeping state will not relax to the point of causing the vibrational snore. For more details on the breath and how these muscles influence the snore, have a look at this article;

Nostril breathing for sports performance

Numerous studies show that nostril breathing during exercise has a host of benefits. It is challenging at first, but when you get it right, you will see these benefits;

  • Faster recovery
  • Performing muscles receive more oxygen
  • Less injuries
  • Strengthened core, spine, and pelvis
  • Reduced performance anxiety and oxidative stress.
  • The risk of exercise-induced asthma decreases because your airwaves are protected against inflammation.

When you start training using nostril breathing, you will feel air hunger. The idea is to slow down the pace, get used to the nose breathing, and then slowly increase the exertion. Nostril breathing is 22% more efficient than mouth breathing, which leads to improved stamina and endurance.

With continued practice, you build a tolerance to this breathlessness (air hunger), which enhances lung function and improves oxygen absorption. Research shows a 10-20% improvement in oxygen absorption when breathing through your nostrils while exercising. 

James Nestor wrote an incredible book called Breath; The New Science of a Lost Art, where he documents his journey of experimenting with nostril vs mouth breathing with Anders Olsson. The book is easy to read and an absolute must for anyone interested.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Nostril breathing 

Breathing through the mouth depletes blood CO2 levels, which is not ideal because CO2 helps the body absorb the oxygen from the red blood cells. 

A further risk of depleted CO2 levels is the potential rise of the blood’s PH levels, resulting in alkaline blood, a condition known as Respiratory Alkalosis.

Some tips to start nostril breathing;

I have taken snippets of information from Patrick McKeown of Oxygen Advantage who has an incredible article on the importance of nostril breathing if you would like to have a look at a more comprehensive version, please click here

If you would like some help in getting started with nostril breathing, book a consultation with me

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