I remember first hearing about the importance of nose breathing when I read the Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown a couple years back. It intrigued me. I experimented with sleeping with my mouth taped shut for 30 days to see if it changed anything. I felt a little more relaxed in the morning when I woke up.
Sometime later as I was reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I vividly recall the story of the Native American tribe who lived to run and produced some of the best long distance runners. How did they train their people to run? Well, you had to keep your mouth full of water for 10 kilometers then at the end of your run you were expected to spit all the water out. I experimented with this too. Almost choking once or twice because I didn’t expect it to be that difficult and require so much attention. It was a fun experiment but it showed me that the point of the exercise was to train you to nose-breathe. I continued running without the water. I didn’t need it.
I used to track my runs and look at my heart rate zones to make sure I was in aerobic breathing for optimal training. After nose breathing for a couple weeks I noticed that if I’m nose-breathing during a run, it’s like a barometer for my aerobic threshold. Essentially the moment I needed to open my mouth I would be leaving the aerobic heart rate zone.
This gives you a pretty simple heuristic, if you need to open your mouth while running it means you’re running too fast. If you want to train for endurance you had better shut your mouth and run.
Then, over the years my interests evolved when I discovered classical hatha yoga as offered by the Isha Foundation. It was all about breathing through your nose too. I was stunned. It produced fantastic results for me. Mental and emotional balance. Physical agility. A sense of exuberance and vibrancy. Who would have guessed that if you use your body the way it is designed, it actually works wonderfully well !
Now when I go to the hospital to see patients I can’t help but notice how many of them are breathing through their mouth. I can’t say it is the only reason they are sick. But it is strongly correlated. What is more amazing to me is the level of ignorance regarding this subject even amongst medical doctors. Most simply don’t know about nose breathing. It is time this changed.
It’s been proven scientifically now that nose breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system and helps you relax. Mouth breathing activates your sympathetic nervous system. If you chronically mouth breath you are at risk of structural deformations of your face (namely adenoid face), increased risk of sleep apnea, hypertension and even metabolic disorders.
In fact if you mouth breath, you aren’t able to fill your lungs the same way you would if you were to close your mouth. Your body gets less oxygen and can’t use it as well.
Plus your nose is designed for breathing. It warms up the air you inhale, humidifies it, and filters out the dust. But if you mouth breathe it just goes into your lungs without all the needed preparation and transformation. Everything that goes into our bodies needs to be adequately prepared, otherwise it will eventually cause problems. This is why we clean vegetables and process our food, cutting it, cooking it, spicing it up. All this just to make it palatable and easily digestible, in order to absorb as many nutrients as possible.
Your nose in a way digests the air you breath. If you don’t digest your air, you won’t absorb it in the best possible way. Essentially the quality of the air you take in will be worse and you will slowly breathe yourself to disease and ultimately to death.
Now we all know that if the next inhalation does not happen we will fall dead. The breath is that important. But we aren’t always aware that the quality of air we take into our bodies is equally important. How fast your breathe also dictates your lifespan. Animals that breath fast like dogs rarely exceed 25 years old. Whereas animals that can breath much slower like turtles can live up to 190 years. If you breathe through your nose your respiratory process will become more efficient and your breath will eventually settle down and slow down. Health and quality breath are intimately connected.
Please take care of your body. Breath through your nose. If you need to get used to it, sleep with some tape on your mouth to keep it shut for a couple weeks. Test and see the results you get. Who knows, people might even enjoy spending more time with you if you talk less and breath more.
If you’re still wondering how big of a difference mouth breathing and nose breathing makes for your own body you can do a simple 4 minute experiment.
Simply sit down and breath through your mouth for 2 minutes and see how you breath, how you feel, how your chest expands, how deeply you’re able to inhale.
Next shut your mouth for 2 minutes and notice the difference. How does your body feel? More relaxed? Do you breath deeper?
You can take 5 minutes to experiment and see for yourself.
There are so many simple things like this that one can do on a day to day basis to maintain health. As most things, this only works if you do it.
And most importantly,
Shut up and breathe.
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