For the past year, I have been working on improving my breathing and have had great success. I believe there is nothing in my life that I will spend more time doing than breathing. It is well-known that the way we breathe can have a profound impact on our health. The pace, duration, and frequency of our breath can be changed instantly. For example, when we are frightened or excited our breaths tend to become short and quick or when we are content or relaxed our breaths tend to be longer and slower and we may even let out a sigh. In our daily lives, harnessing the power of our breath can reap tremendous benefits. (As we know, meditation has the capacity to heal and change our brains. The focus on the breath is essential to most practices.)
In this post, I want to discuss the importance of nasal breathing as opposed to mouth breathing. I have worked my way through Anders Olsson’s book, The Power of Your Breath, and I wanted to share some of its wisdom with you.
The nose actually prepares the air around us to be efficiently used by our lungs to ensure proper gas exchange in the alveoli (air sacs found at the base of the lungs (end of the airways). The nose warms and moistens and filters the air. The cilia (hair like structures which line the walls of the nasal passages) act as the body’s first line of defense against germs and other harmful organisms. The cilia sweep these substances down to the pharynx (the cavity found behind the nose and mouth) where they can eventually be swallowed and neutralized by the digestive system. Anders explains that regardless whether we wash our hands or not, if we do not breathe through our nose, we are still very likely to catch colds. Also, each nostril contains several nasal turbines which help consolidate the air we breathe into a unified stream, which further enhances the air’s potential for reaching the alveoli. Lastly, the nose contains a large concentration of Nitrous Oxide (NO), which helps relax the smooth muscle of our vascular system. This is important because smooth muscle is what makes up our airways. So, to speak, NO acts like a traffic cop ensuring that the walls and tunnels that lead to our lungs stay open so that the air we inhale can efficiently reach the alveoli. None of the effects above occur efficiently with mouth breathing. Oddly enough, mouth breathing is one of the main reasons that your nose can become blocked. The best ways to clear it is to use your nose for breathing again, as it was intended, a super powered breathing machine. You can actually train yourself to nose breathe in a day or two; I certainly did. You may wonder why you did not start years ago…
I will be speaking more on this and a device I use to help me train my breath in the future. Stay tuned!
David Avram Wolfe