Breathing Through the Nose is Really Important!
Breathing is often an ignored topic when it comes to good health, but breathing properly can improve oxygenation through your body, including the brain, and is a powerful strategy for relieving stress and anxiety
- To induce calm, you need to breathe slowly and lightly, from the diaphragm, and breathing through the nose is Key
- Your nose regulates over 30 physical processes, including the release of nitric oxide (NO), a bronchodilator and vasodilator that helps lower blood pressure and helps maintain homeostasis in the body
The 2 most common breathing problems are over-breathing and mouth breathing, both of which have adverse health consequences.
Mouth breathing alters your facial structure, causing your facial features to narrow and droop. Narrow and set back jaws increase the risk of developing lifelong obstructive sleep apnea.
Breathing through the nose and breathing less is the answer to lots of problems.
According to medical data, normal breathing volume is between 4 and 7 liters of air per min, which translates into 12 to 14 breaths.
Clinical trials involving asthmatics show they breathe between 10 to 15 liters of air per min, and people with chronic heart disease tend to breathe between 15 to 18 liters of air per minute.
This suggests breathing less is a sign of better health.
Conversely, the more you breathe, the more likely you are to experience significant health problems.
Your tolerance to CO2 is part of this equation, as good CO2 tolerance equates to higher levels of health and fitness.
When the body and brain have a normal CO2 tolerance, your breathing will be light and smooth as your body is not constantly trying to rid itself of excess CO2.
The primary stimulant signaling your body to take a breath is not lack of O2 (oxygen) it’s an excess CO2.
Oxygen only drives your breathing when oxygen levels drop to about 50%, and that would be an extreme situation. So, the body breathes to get rid of the excess gas, CO2
We always need a certain amount of CO2 for normal functioning. If we have normal CO2, we will have good tolerance to it, which translates into a higher breath-hold time. Also, when we exercise, our body generates more CO2, and if we have good tolerance to it, our breathing rate will remain much lower than someone who has a poor tolerance to CO2.
In his TED talk, Patrick McKeown leads a group demonstration of proper breathing, summarized as follows:
•Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly; feel your belly move slightly in and out with each breath, while your chest remains unmoving.
•Close your mouth and breathe in and out through your nose. Focus your attention on the cold air coming into your nose and the slightly warmer air leaving it on the out breath.
•Slowly decrease the volume of each breath, to the point it feels like you’re almost not breathing at all (you’ll notice your breath getting very quiet at this point). The crucial thing here is to develop a slight air hunger. This simply means there’s a slight accumulation of carbon dioxide in your blood, which signals your brain to breathe.
After 3 or 4 minutes of air hunger, you will start experiencing the beneficial effects of CO2 accumulation, such as an increase in body temperature and an increase in saliva. The former is a sign of improved blood circulation; the latter a sign that your parasympathetic nervous system has been activated, which is important for stress reduction.
When you are breathing properly, your breath will be so soft, quiet and light. It will not be visibly or audibly noticeable. By slowing down the speed of your breathing to the point where the hairs in your nose barely move, you can more easily enter into a calm, meditative state.
Breathe less air into your lungs than what you were breathing before you started the exercise.
The air shortage should be tolerable and not at all stressful. If the air shortage is too much, take a break from the exercise for 15 secs or so before resuming to it again.
This type of breathing will also help lower your blood pressure, and can be a useful technique to address hypertension without Rx drugs. You may also notice that you have less nasal congestion, allowing for easier breathing.
Here is Patrick’s 3 minute primer on Breathing.
Remember, even the most complicated things can be learned if you take them 1 step at a time.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively & Breathe through your Nose