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Nasal Breathing 101- Important Concepts to Understand

Benefits of Nasal Breathing

For so long, breathing mechanics and just focusing on breathing in general have been overlooked and taken for granted. Few people were even aware of the complexity of breath work, let alone the physical and physiological effects that can go unnoticed.  The emphasis on exploring the importance of breath work is an area that has exploded in the last 10-15 years and awareness has been raised, as evidence of the many books, posts and even studios that focus on breath work.  This has also led to some common misconceptions, errors in practice and a very weak understanding of what actually happens physiologically when breath work is done properly.  Previous posts have talked about using breath for downregulating your nervous system; but let’s dive deeper into nasal breathing specifically and some basic tenets of what it is and how it works.

Nasal Breathing Top 5 List:

nose hair trim

1: The nose hairs along with the internal structures of the nose filter, clean and humidify the air as it enters the body.  This is important for many reasons such as providing increased protection from airborne pathogens and equilibrates the air to the body’s temperature reducing damage to the trachea and lungs that cold air can cause.

Respiration Screen Shot

2: The science of gas exchange (in a nutshell). Nitric oxide (NO2) release is much greater and more efficient with nasal breathing.  Nitric oxide is important because it helps to increase the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood, which in turn is what releases oxygen (O2) in our system.  Mouth breathing is not nearly as effective at this task and can lead to less oxygen uptake reaching cells, which can lead to fatigue and stress.

3: Nasal breathing helps to promote better diaphragmatic engagement during the breath cycle which plays a pivotal role in regulating stress by moving the body towards a more parasympathetic state.  See our post on down regulation for more on why this is so important.

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4: In respiratory physiology, the ventilation/perfusion ratio is used to assess the efficiency and totality of the air that reaches the alveoli and the blood that reaches the alveoli in the lungs.  Nasal breathing can help to achieve a more optimal ratio as opposed to mouth breathing, leading to better performance possibilities and recovery potential.

tense traps

5: Breathing predominantly through the mouth forces people to use accessory respiratory muscles as opposed to the diaphragm doing most of the work.  This means people use their neck, shoulders and upper back to do the work, leading them to become inhibited, shortened and overworked. This can translate to neck pain, headaches, rib pain, bad breath and dental issues as the mouth dries out and leads to an environment ripe for bacteria growth.

Now it is time to put this into practice. 

Awareness is step 1, so after reading this, you are already off to a great start.  Some other ways to incorporate this would be to tape your mouth shut at night to solely nose breathe.  Too extreme?  For some, maybe.  Another way is to focus on inhaling through the nose and exhale through your mouth, a process that can easily be done even during exercise. What are some other ways you currently or could immediately implement to improve your nasal breathing practice? Habits take time to fully realize, so no better time that right now to make it a focus to improve your overall health and performance!

Take the first step towards your fitness goals today!

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