Our breathing and respiratory system is unique in that we are both a passenger and its pilot. We can leave it to our autonomic nervous system responsible for unconscious actions such as our heart beat and digestion or we can override and take over the rhythm of our breath consciously.
The health benefits of nose breathing include the sinuses releasing a huge boost of nitric oxide with the inhale back into the lungs and respiratory system. This nitric oxide is a molecule that plays an essential role in increasing circulation and delivering oxygen to the cells. Immune function, weight, circulation and mood can be influenced by the amount of nitric oxide in the body.
When we breath slow and deep using the whole of the lungs our parasympathetic nervous system is activated and we come out of our fight / flight mode allowing the body to rest/ digest.
Yoga movements and breathing techniques increase both lung capacity and efficiency. When we move and stretch in yoga asana we can ..
a) change the dimensions of the rib cage, allowing the intercostal muscles of the ribs to be more free to allow for contraction and relaxation.
b) find mobility in the thoracic spine which moves subtly with each in and exhale.
c) open the pectoralis muscles allowing the shoulders to be more open. Tight pectoralis can create a compression in the front of the upper body, which can limit movement of the thoracic spine, the intercostals and the diaphragm.
d) find movement in the diaphragm, the major muscle of respiration…when breathing deeply imagine expanding out into the bottom two ribs letting the belly rise and fall with the breath. The vagus nerve descends through the diaphragm too and facia connects the diaphragm to the pericardium so when we’re breathing deeply we’re giving the heart a little massage too.
If we mouth breath, we are more likely to snore, have high blood pressure, insomnia and health problems such as diabetes. Today’s scientists are just catching up with what the yogi’s have been doing for thousands of years. Inhaling and exhaling slow deep breaths through the nose.
I’ve been reading a great book, Breath, The New Science of a lost Art by James Nestor and its incredible how much of our basic health is linked to quality of breath and nose breathing. Here is a fairly recent podcast interviewing James…”your breath as important as foods you eat”. Worth a listen if you have time.
For your further investigation and information.
Patrick McKeown of Oxygen Advantage is a driving force behind the Buteyko method (a controlled type of hypoventilation) breathing based on Light, Slow, Deep inhales extending time between inhalations and exhalations using mini breath holds to train the body to breathe in line with its metabolic needs. Buteyko breathing increases carbon dioxide which we need to open blood vessels and breathing through the nose increases nitric oxide which is a molecule that plays an essential role in increasing circulation. Athletes have benefited greatly from using Buteyko breathing but it is not fully supported by the NHS.
Wim Hof is another famous breath user and uses a controlled hyperventilation to increase oxygen levels in tissues that then flood the body with adrenaline. He famously uses cold therapy alongside this breathing technique. “You are inducing voluntary a short stress response which ultimately will lead to more resilience towards everyday stress, mentally and physiologically” – Wim Hof.
All agree with those ancient yogi’s, breathing through your nose is superior to mouth breathing and will have positive affects on your health. Namaste, 🙏🏼