A Better Way to Breathe- The Benefits of Nasal Breathing

Breathing- it’s something we do every day yet rarely think about. Many of us have never been formally taught how to breathe, nor do we think it is very important. Breathing is breathing, right?

Surprisingly, that is far from the truth. The way in which we breathe on a regular basis plays a fundamental role in our overall health and wellbeing. Breathing effects our nervous system responses, our body’s ability to absorb oxygen (think athletic performance), our quality of sleep, and even the structure of our faces and airways.

Historically, breathing has been an important part of culture and cultural traditions. However, in recent years, it is not something Western cultures think to teach. As a result, the majority of people in the United States experience some sort of breathing dysfunction.

The most common form of breathing dysfunction in the U.S. is what we call “mouth breathing.” Mouth breathing (meaning breathing primarily through the mouth and not the nose) has many negative effects. For example, mouth breathing creates shallow breaths that affect our ability to control how much CO2 is removed,  increases sympathetic tone, leads to over breathing which compromises oxygen release, and affects facial structure and leads to smaller airways. While these effects may not immediately seem important, all of these things play a significant role in overall health and how we experience the world. 

So let’s talk about the alternative- Nasal Breathing!

A better way to breathe is nasal breathing- meaning breathing in and out through the nose. Nasal breathing is the most efficient form of breathing and is helpful because it:

  • filters and cleans air
  • leads to 10-20% better oxygen uptake in blood
  • activates the diaphragm and increases parasympathetic tone (meaning you feel more calm)

If you are like me, this may not be enough information to convince you of the importance of nasal breathing. What helped me was actually connecting nasal breathing to overall health. Dysfunctional breathing effects all the following areas (and more) and nasal breathing helps improve them:

  • cardiovascular health
  • neurological health
  • respiratory health
  • muscular heath
  • psychological health
  • allergies
  • gastrointestinal health
  • and general health including felt sense of weakness and exhaustion.

If you are struggling with any of the above issues (or even if you are not), give nasal breathing a try and see what you notice.

Breathe in and out through your nose as much as possible (yes- even when exercising if you can) for the next week and a half and see if you notice a difference. Improving breathing mechanics may just be the next helpful step in your journey toward health and feeling energized!

**The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).

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