Breathing is the most essential act for staying alive. If you monitor people and their breathing patterns though you recognize some very distinct and unusual patterns. Let’s take a baby for example. A baby laying in a crib will breathe deeply and smoothly and the babies stomach will expand and contract as it breathes. The baby breathes intuitively in a non-stressful manner and is calm, relaxed and tranquil.
Take an adult now, any adult will do… The adult is breathing faster, shorter breaths and instead of breathing deeply the breath is more shallow. Instead of the stomach expanding and contracting the chest rises and falls. These shallow breaths are only chest deep, meaning that if the breath were deeper it would penetrate the body deeper into the stomach.
The deeper the breath you take the more your stomach will expand and contract as you inhale and exhale. This is a good thing. Healthy breathing patterns benefit the body, brain, nervous system and stress response in various ways.
Breathing shallow or deeply is one indicator of how we breathe and it’s important to breathe deeply into our stomach so that the oxygen expands and contracts our stomach. This benefits our life and health long-term. Did you know that close to 80% of the western population breathes incorrectly and this has negative health implications? Breathing shallow is only one of the ways in which proper breathing is misguided.
Another indicator of how we breathe that is all too often overlooked is where you breathe. Do you breathe with your mouth? or do you breathe with your nose? do you inhale with one and exhale out the other? This is often overlooked and ignored because breathing is much more common than eating, drinking or exercising when it comes to your health.
You take 17,000 to 30,000 breaths a day. How many times a day do you drink water, eat and exercise each day? Well, you may eat up to 5 times or so, drink water maybe 10 times and exercise once. So keeping track of and managing under 20 activities in a day is a much easier task then 17 to 30 thousand tasks each day, wouldn’t you say?
Breathework (as it’s called) is simply the conscious control of your breathe to influence your mental, emotional and physical state. Practices such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, qi gong, martial arts and other spiritual and physical practices tend to engage in breathework often. Being conscious of your breathe takes a lot of work. But if you can take the time to engage your breathe and improve it, you can benefit from it.
Breathing deeply into the stomach is one way to improve your breathework. By doing this you’re increasing your intake of oxygen. By doing that you’re giving your body more to work with. When your body has more oxygen it can function in a more optimal state. Breathing short breaths into your chest compromise how much oxygen you have. Your state of stress is easier maintained with short, shallow, chest breathing.
Another way you can improve breathework is to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.
Did You Know That Breathing Through Your Nose Benefits Your Health in These Ways?
- Nose breathing can prevent snoring and sleep apnea. The research is showing us that breathing through the nose is the proper way to breathe. It’s the designed pathway for proper health and snoring and sleep apnea can be prevented simply by retraining yourself to breathe through your nose.
- Breathing through the nose stimulates the nose’s bitter receptors which are then actively reacting to chemicals that bacteria use to communicate. The nose breathing then stimulates nitric oxide which kills bacteria. Breathing through your nose kills harmful bacteria, acting as an air purification filter for your body.
- Nasal breathing (as opposed to mouth breathing) increases circulation. Blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels are also increased. It slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung volume.
- The inside of your nose acts as an air conditioning (cooler) for your respiratory system. In fact, about 90% of what you need comes from breathing through your nose. Not only that but nose breathing also recovers around 33% of exhaled heat and moisture. Breathing through your nose is a more efficient use of your breathing energy, which makes it easier on your body to function.
- Breathing through your nose makes you smarter, a better communicator and more creative. It has been found that increased airflow in the right and left nostril have individual benefits. The more airflow through the right nostril the better the left hemisphere of the brain works. Enhanced verbal performance come as an added benefit. More airflow through the left nostril is benefits right brain activity as well as enhanced spatial performance. The left brain is the logical thinking brain and the right brain is the creative brain. Becoming a better communicator, more intelligent and creative isn’t a bad benefit is it?
How is Mouth Breathing Harmful?
It’s clear that nose breathing has its benefits. But what about mouth breathing? are their any benefits or downsides to it? Well, i’m glad you’re curious. Here are the what some researchers believe downsides of mouth breathing to be:
- Mouth breathing leads to chronic hyperventilation as well as depleted carbon dioxide levels. Breathing through the mouth causes ‘overbreathing’ which essentially takes in too much oxygen too soon. This depletes carbon dioxide levels. Carbon dioxide is needed in an important ratio to keep the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your body at any given time. Mouth breathing causes too much breathing or too shallow of breathing. The inconsistency harms your body in the long run by causing your body to have more difficulty releasing oxygen into your bloodstream. Breathing in more oxygen from your mouth actually causes your body to have less oxygen in your blood, which is where you need it most. Quite counter-intuitive isn’t it?
- Mouth breathing reduces blood circulation. Not only are oxygen levels in the blood hindered but blood circulation is decreased as well. Enhanced blood circulation improves recovery, sleep, energy levels, detoxification of the body and so much more.
- Mouth breathing causes more of a buildup of toxins and narrows airways in the body.
- Mouth breathing and the overbreathing caused by it elevates your blood pressure and heart rate and worsens conditions such as asthma, allergies, rhinitis, sleep apnea. Mouth breathing leads to vasoconstriction which constricts blood vessels and as a by-product increases blood pressure. It also actively deprives your heart, brain and other organs of optimal oxygenation!
- Mouth breathing leads to overbreathing and hyperventilation which causes a reduction in physical and athletic performance. If you want to stay youthful, energetic and strong for long then breathe through your nose.
- Mouth breathing imbalances the pH of your blood! Breathing through your mouth causes imbalanced levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body at any given time. By breathing through your nose your body begins to balance these levels which properly oxygenates and balances the pH of your blood.
- Erectile dysfunction can be caused by mouth breathing. Your nitric oxide levels, circulation and oxygen int he blood are all taken care of when you breathe through your nose. Nitric oxide is a chemical responsible for getting and keeping an erection. Enhanced circulation and oxygen benefit also.We can say with certainty that breathing through your nose is a much healthier and adequate way to breathe than breathing through your mouth. This doesn’t even take into account that nose hairs act as a particle filter making it easier to ‘digest’ the air we take in along with the benefit of being able to smell our environment better. The research is clear. Spend time practicing breathing through your nose each day in order to make it a habit. Put a sticky note reminder on your desk, do whatever it takes. I can say that while writing this article my nose breathing has been 100% perfect! What you focus on and bring attention to expands so make this an everyday practice for a healthy life.