Have you ever stopped to appreciate how marvelous your nose is? For some, It is more than just an attractive feature on the face, and for others well their noses may not be so attractive, but nasal anatomy is brilliant. The nose is essential for warming air and adding moisture when we inhale. The internal nasal cavities and sinuses provide 90% of the required ‘air conditioning’ of inhaled air and also recover a third of exhaled heat and moisture. The other thing I like about having a nose is I can inhale essential oils, smell beautiful food cooking and enjoy the perfume of nature, the smell of trees, earth, dust, rain, and ocean, just to name a few.
Stop for a moment and consider how you are breathing right now; is it through your mouth or comfortably and effortlessly through your nose?
Few of us ever consider how the nostrils of every living person pulse to their own rhythm, opening and closing like a flower in response to our moods, mental states, and perhaps even the sun and the moon. The ancient text from Shiva Swarodaya described how one nostril will open to let breath in as the other will softly close throughout the day. Some days, the right nostril yawns awake to greet the sun other days, the left awakens to the fullness of the moon. According to the text, these rhythms are the same throughout every month and they’re shared by all humanity. It’s a method our bodies use to stay balanced and grounded to the rhythms of the cosmos and each other.
On average, a person takes approximately 20 breaths per minute, which equals approximately 28,000 breaths a day. That’s 10,220,000 breaths a year! By the time you have turned ’50’ years of age, you have taken 511,000.000 breaths. I’ll just let that sink in………… We generally inhale between 4 - 6 liters of air per minute. Breathing is completely taken for granted. You realize when you can’t get any air how serious the situation is. My main message from this blog is to increase your respect and aim for your inhales breaths to be ‘magnificent’ by ensuring they are mostly through your nose!
Journalist/author of ‘Breath’ The New Science of a Lost Art, James Nestor travels the world to figure out what went wrong with our breathing and how to fix it. The answers aren’t found in pulmonology labs, as we might expect, but in the muddy digs of ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, New Jersey choir schools, and the smoggy streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Nestor tracks down men and women exploring the hidden science behind ancient breathing practices like Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya, and Tummo and teams up with pulmonary tinkerers to scientifically test long-held beliefs about how we breathe.
I found James’ book remarkable and especially found the personal experiments that he carried out, including having his nose pinched so he couldn’t nose breathe for ten days, fascinating. James Nestor mentions that for the past century, the prevailing belief in Western medicine was that the nose was more or less an ancillary organ. We can breathe out of it if we can, the thinking went, but if we couldn’t breathe from our nose, no big deal, as the mouth is our back up. According to scientists like Nayak, this is not the case. So if you have recently had a cold or flu, or COVID virus, and part of your experience with the virus, or any virus was a blocked nose, you would know how uncomfortable it became as you could only breathe out of your mouth. James shares more findings from Nayak (as the chief of rhinology research at Stanford). Nayak heads an internationally renowned laboratory focused entirely on understanding the hidden power of the nose. He’s found the structures in the nasal cavity are in there for a very good reason, to not employ them fully would be to the detriment of our very existence.
Because mouth breathing causes the body to lose 40 percent more water, with forced blocking of the nose, you will wake up parched, dry, and thirsty! This part is fascinating, the pituitary gland, a pea-size ball at the base of the brain, secretes hormones that control the release of adrenaline, endorphins, growth hormones, and other substances, including vasopressin, which communicates with cells to store more water. This is how animals can sleep through the night without feeling thirsty or needing to relieve themselves.
If the body has inadequate time in deep sleep, as it does when it experiences chronic sleep apnea, vasopressin won’t be secreted normally. The kidneys will release water, which triggers the need to urinate and signals to our brains that we should consume more liquid. We get thirsty, and we need to pee more. A lack of vasopressin explains not only why some people experience irritable bladder, but the constant, seemingly unquenchable thirst from only being able to mouth breathe every night. Snoring is not normal, and sleep apnea can lead to risks of serious health effects. If that isn’t enough to remind you to keep your mouth shut, then take this fact into consideration. Breathing through the mouth develops fewer brain cells and takes twice as long to make their way through a maze as nasal breathing.
So for ten days James Nestor, had silicone plugs blocking his nostrils and surgical tape over the plugs to stop even the faintest amount of air from entering or exiting his nose. Here’s the thing, whenever oxygen falls below 90 percent, the blood can’t carry enough of it to support body tissues. If this goes on too long, it can lead to heart failure, depression, memory problems, and early death. Snoring and sleep apnea are still far below that of any medically diagnosed condition, but James’ personal scores were getting worse the longer he stayed plugged up.
How To Breathe Through Your Nose: Start by sitting or standing with awareness of your breath. Breathe in deeply, hold for just a second or two. Exhale and repeat the process. Note how you feel, was there resistance, and were you comfortable? To breathe your best, you may need to re-educate your understanding of breathing, and take note of the following tips:
- Breathe through your nose. This helps use your diaphragm (most important breathing muscle). Nasal diaphragmatic breathing results in deeper breaths.
- Take light nasal breaths, not big mouth breaths. This helps switch on the diaphragm.
- Breathe lightly in and out through the nose, so gently that the nose hairs don’t move.
- Aim to quieten your breath during practice drills, and deliberately take shorter quieter breaths during practice.
- Big mouth breaths are more common when we are unfit, or under stress (huffing and puffing).
- Breathe first in your lower belly and lower back, the ribs shouldn’t expand at all.
- Healthy nasal breathing should be hardly noticeable. Aim to keep breaths light and relaxed.
If you are mostly breathing through your mouth during the day, it’s inevitable that you also breathe through the mouth at night. At night, mouth breathing results in lighter sleep with more apnoea and easier arousal. Snoring is more common in mouth breathers, which isn’t ideal if it’s the guy or gal next to you in bed! Nasal breathing not only improves sporting performance and breathing efficiency but can also improve sleep quality. It has evidence-based benefits for those with complaints such as sleep apnoea, anxiety, excessive tiredness, and rhinitis.
Yoga and stretching:
The art and practice of nasal breathing is nothing new. For centuries, yoga and especially pranayama (control of breath), have placed a large focus on isolating the nostrils to breathe more effectively, in order to improve energy and facilitate meditation and mindfulness. Today, aspiring yogis all over the country and world incorporate nasal breaths and pranayama into their yoga practice for stress relief and relaxation.
Stress increases our sympathetic nervous system response, leading to a dry mouth and less saliva (not ideal during public speaking). Scientific evidence has highlighted that by deliberately regulating nasal breaths, we change our heart rate, which can improve parasympathetic nervous system health. Aim to practice breathing through your nose at rest and during light activity, this slows the speed and frequency of your respiratory rate.
Pay attention to your animals and pets, as all animals are nose breathers apart from when they are trying to cool themselves down! Breathe lightly and from the lower belly rather than the upper chest. In the long term, nasal breathing will improve blood oxygenation and overall lung volumes, leading to benefits for the entire body and improved health and wellness.
Final words on breathing through your nose, if you find yourself not having a very good sense of smell, try using the ‘EASY AIR‘ essential oil blend, this one is a winner, with consistent steady inhalations you will improve your sense of smell.