We breathe about 22,000 breaths every day. You’re doing it right now. Inhaling, and exhaling, one of the only automatic processes in your body that you have control over.

And if we talk about breathing techniques, we could pop down a rabbit hole and not come up until next year (try this breathing technique for instant calm). But what about day-to-day breathing? There’s one simple thing you can do to improve every single breath: breathe through your nose.

Try it now. Just close your mouth (if it’s open), and breath nasally. This way of breathing—in rest as well as exercise—is a total game-changer, especially if you suffer with asthma or allergies, sleep apnea or insomnia. It’s probably one of the easiest things to do to hugely impact your health, with zero barriers or side-effects.

Why nasal breathing? What are the benefits?

It might seem a small thing, but this overlooked breathing (and holistic wellness) hack has three massive benefits that make it one of the most important tools for your health. Of course, these benefits listed below also impact other areas of your body, like your nervous system, and hormonal balance.

1. Your nose is a filter

Your nose is the world’s most intricate and evolved filtration system. If you’re breathing through your mouth, right now or in exercise, you’re missing out on using this incredibly well-designed system.

Your nose warms up air and moisturises it, filters all the nasties from it (like germs and particulates), and acts as our in-built air-conditioning. Put simply, it means the air is the correct temperature and is much cleaner by the time it reaches our lungs.

There’s also a pressure to nasal breathing, which means it strengthens the tissue in the back of your throat and nasal passages. This is good news if you’re a sleep apnea sort of person, or if you’re prone to snoring. Nasal breathing, as James Nestor, the king of breath says, begets more nasal breathing. So if you’re struggling with it right now, keep trying; the mere act of breathing through your nose helps you breathe through your nose.

2. It improves your oxygen absorption

This is actually to do with carbon dioxide—a hugely important gas that determines your oxygen absorption and physiological resilience. CO2 basically acts as the gate-keeper for oxygen, so if we have too little CO2 in our bloodstream, the bioavailability of oxygen becomes reduced. This happens when we’re breathing fast, shallow breaths, and especially when we’re breathing through our mouths.

An interesting thing to note here: someone experiencing a panic attack is often told to take a deep breath by well-meaning onlookers, when actually what we might need in that moment is to pause; holding the breath for a moment in a moment of sheer panic can increase CO2 which, in turn, releases more oxygen into the bloodstream, helping us to feel calmer and more in control.

Breathing through your nose actually helps you build up a tolerance to CO2 by slowing down the breath. Slowing the breathing and breathing less generally actually helps you make better use of the oxygen you’ve already got in your system. It helps your entire body—all tissues and cells—utilise and benefit from oxygen in a way mouth breathing never can.

3. More nitric oxide

A final reason to make sure nose-breathing is your only way of breathing: the associated increase of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide isn’t created by mouth breathing at all, but it’s a powerhouse molecule for your body and immunity.

Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, allowing muscles, like your heart and arteries, to relax and expand, improving circulation of nutrients, hormones, and yes, oxygen. It lowers blood pressure, and significantly increases the lungs’ oxygen-absorbing capacity. Its anti-fungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties also mean it’s an amazing immune-booster, too. There’s even studies showing its potential in fighting COVID-19. All through just breathing through your nose (and humming can help this, too).

The takeaway

Just breathe through your nose, mkay? It’s one of the biggest and most important ways to improve your health (and yes, this means any sort of regular mouth breathing such as smoking and vaping are to be avoided at all costs). Whether you’re practicing a vinyasa class, going for a run, or sitting at your desk trying to be more productive, nasal breathing will make you stronger, more energised, and more capable than mouth breathing ever will.

Check in with your breath often. If you’re used to breathing through your mouth, especially during exercise, it can take a little getting used to. But keep going and remember: nasal breathing begets nasal breathing. The more you do it, the easier it’ll become (and don’t beat yourself up for slipping).

If you’d like more insights like these, free resources and classes, make sure to join The Yoga Revolution’s inner circle; this is you living your most joyful life.

Chloe - TYR Founder & Joyful Living Coach

POSTED: 27/10/2023

Chloe is a yoga teacher, mindfulness guide, and joyful living coach, and she thinks the meaning of life is probably to be as happy as possible.

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