We all breathe.
In and out, about 20,000 times a day.
It’s something that your body does automatically, so you’ve probably never given much thought as to how you breathe. But this couldn’t be more important for your health.
Today we’re taking a look at the essential practice of nose breathing to show you why it could be the answer to a foundation of health + aging gracefully.
What is nose breathing, you ask?
Well, it’s pretty much what it sounds like. But despite the self-explanatory nature of nose breathing, many of us are not doing it correctly – if at all. Mouth breathing has become our dominant form of taking in air, and it’s detrimental to our bodies and minds.
The science behind the benefits of nose breathing will stop you in your tracks + forever change your perspective on how you take those 20,000 breaths each day.
Nose Breathing vs. Mouth Breathing
This may seem like a silly subject to address, but like many things in life, the change is in the details.
Let’s talk about why nose breathing is superior to mouth breathing.
James Nestor is an author and science journalist who has studied breathing techniques, habits, and data across the world. As he points out, breathing (good or bad) affects every major system of the body including:1
- Cardiovascular system
- Digestive system
- Brain function
You’re probably already catching on to why breathing correctly is such a big deal:1
“Dysfunctional breathing and overworking ourselves put other systems of our body under stress.”
James Nestor, the master of breath, believes you can find vibrant health through the simple practice of nose breathing.
He goes on to discuss the main difference between mouth and nose breathing: the nose is a filter. Your body is designed to perfectly prepare air to enter your body by:
And air that’s been primed through nose breathing provides more oxygen with each breath.
In fact, James Nestor has found that you can breathe 20% more oxygen throughout the day through nose breathing compared to mouth breathing. Breathing through your mouth takes in too much air, doesn’t filter it, and easily ramps up our sympathetic nervous system. There’s a reason animals breathe through their noses – it’s more efficient.
As he puts it, “ [Mouth breathing] gets enough oxygen to survive, not be healthy.”1
That hits home. If it’s up to us, we’ll choose to be healthy, not just survive. That’s what holistic health is all about! But how else can nose breathing provide us with such vibrant, noticeable health?
Nose Breathing Benefits You Should Know About
It might seem strange that you could experience so many benefits from nose breathing. It’s such a simple change. But your body functions on a higher level when you breathe correctly, the way nature intended.
Here are all the ways you can benefit from switching to nose breathing:
Breathing through your nose supports mouth health. Mouth breathing, on the other hand, can lead to poor jaw positioning, poor gum health, and dental complications like cavities.2
Holistic health, naturopathic medicine, and TCM tell us that mouth health is directly related to gut health since your mouth leads to the digestive tract. And by extension, mouth health and gut health affect full-body health.
Increased brain activation and connection
One study found improved cognitive brain function during nose breathing compared to mouth breathing. Studies even go as far as to say that oral breathing is an inappropriate method for intellectual activity.3
Yep, it’s that simple. Nose breathing can help you focus and mentally perform at a higher level. Next time you need a good dose of concentration, ditch the mouth breathing and see how you feel.
Lungs are one of the essential detox pathways in the body. Any time we can support them, we improve our overall health. Studies even show that lung health is directly related to longevity.4
After about the age of 35, your lung function gradually declines as you age.5 So if you’re not intentionally supporting them, lung function will decline. Nose breathing actually helps build lung strength because you are taking deeper and fuller breaths than mouth breathing. It’s like weight lifting for your lungs.
The nose is capable of filtering, pressurizing, and moisturizing air in the ideal way for our body to absorb the most oxygen.
Rhythmic breathing through the nose combats stress in all areas of the body, bringing calming energy and healing power. It also activates your vagus nerve, which helps regulate your stress response.
Breathing balances your autonomic nervous system, which controls all of your vital functions in the body. Less stress is beneficial for your health, so intentional breathing is a must.
According to breath expert Patrick McKeown, 75-80% of people suffering from anxiety have dysfunctional breathing. This usually entails heavier, irregular, and faster breathing that comes from the upper chest. It’s likely they also sleep with their mouth open at night.6
These irregular breathing patterns feed into anxiety. Nose breathing, on the other hand, has the power to address anxiety in a powerful way by reducing stress and regulating the breathing cycle.
Many studies show that sleep quality improves with nose breathing, especially when the subject has sleeping struggles, like sleep apnea.7
If you’ve ever struggled with sleep problems, you know how much it trickles into every area of your life. Nose breathing could help you achieve deeper, quality sleep that boosts full-body health.
The way you breathe has actually been proven to change your face. Jaw and cheekbone definition, sagging skin, and vibrancy are all impacted by incorrect breathing. Mouth breathing puts an added strain on the facial muscles + bones.8
There are plenty of other reasons why nose breathing could improve your skin health. For example, less stress is linked to better skin health. And more oxygen delivered through nose breathing = more oxygen available in the body to send nutrients and blood flow to the skin.
If you live in today’s world of busyness and chaos, chances are a few of these nose breathing benefits really hit home for you. Us too! So let’s dive into practices you can start using nose breathing to transform your health – and your life.
Nose Breathing Exercises + Tips
Okay, admittedly, nose breathing sounds simple, right? You might be thinking, “Do I really need guidance?”
Maybe, maybe not.
But turning nose breathing into a long-lasting habit can come with challenges. So we wanted to lighten your load a little bit and provide some of our best tips, nose breathing exercises, and tricks from our time spent researching and learning over the years.
Here’s how you can practice nose breathing exercises and master the art of nose breathing:
Breathe through your belly, not your chest.
Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing is the best way to activate your diaphragm and get more oxygen into your lungs.9
- If you struggle to breathe through your nose, try a nose-unblocking exercise.
This video from expert Patrick McKeown gives a great visualization of how to do this exercise. Here’s a simple explanation:
Take a breath in and out. Then pinch your nose. Holding your breath, begin to sway your body to the side until you feel a strong urge to breathe. You can begin breathing through your nose, but don’t breathe through your mouth. Wait a minute or two and start the process again. It may take five or six times to open up the nasal cavity.
- Alternate nostril nose breathing exercise.
This is a simple practice of switching nostrils between inhaling and exhaling. Here’s how to do it:
Exhale as much oxygen from your lungs as possible. Use your thumb to close one nostril. Inhale through the other nostril and then close that same nostril with your fingers. Now release your hold on the first nostril and exhale.
Repeat this process, alternating which side you inhale and exhale the air. You can also add a pause in between. Continue for five minutes or as long as you’d like.
This is another simple practice that focuses on breathing fully and activating the diaphragm – instead of puffing up the chest. Here’s how:
Inhale for five seconds, sending air to your stomach. This will expand the diaphragm and rib cage. Then send the air all the way up to your chest. Hold it there for five seconds. Exhale for five seconds. Hold for five seconds before inhaling again. Repeat the cycle.
Holding your breath unintentionally is NOT good for the body. But doing it in an intentional + controlled way builds lung capacity and strength. When you hold your breath, you increase your carbon dioxide intake, eventually building tolerance. But don’t worry – oxygen doesn’t decrease when you hold your breath. It would take a solid few minutes for that to be an issue.
Increasing CO2 also stimulates your vagus nerve to send calming signals to your body.
Ever felt like taking a deep breath is just, well, easier when you step outside into the sunshine? Not only does nature provide nutrients your skin needs, it provides a multitude of full-body health benefits, plus mental and emotional benefits that affect your breathing. At Primally Pure, we believe in the power of nature for health + well-being. So if you’re looking for a new relaxing outdoor hobby, try the Japanese art of forest bathing and get outside.
While you’ll want to be mindful of your infradian rhythms and energy levels, a workout regimen can improve the strength of both your body and lungs.
Tip: If you struggle to carve out space for exercise, check out this post.
Too much food at once pushes the diaphragm up and restricts full movement/breathing.9
Yoga uses breathwork (and usually nose breathing) paired with strength-building poses. As James Nestor points out, yoga was simply breathing before it had flow. The original yoga was simply about controlling breath and being flexible.1
Hormonal cycles can affect breathing for females. Mid-luteal to mid-follicular phase, your increase in progesterone and estrogen makes breathing harder. Carbon dioxide levels fall in the body, increasing pain, sympathetic activity, hunger, etc. Keep this in mind and consider tracking your breathing throughout cycles to understand the patterns. This lets you adjust as needed.6
Internal moisture in your body helps with nose breathing by keeping airways moistened and thins secretions to allow better airflow.9
Nose strips are an excellent way to get more oxygen through your nose. You can use them at night – or during the day (if your environment allows it). They improve nose breathing by separating the space between your nostrils to allow better airflow.
And no, they aren’t uncomfortable – many people love sleeping in nose strips and find they wake up rejuvenated and ready for the day thanks to their increased oxygen intake!
Another great solution to help you practice nose breathing at night. It might sound scary to tape your mouth shut, but science shows it not only improves nose breathing but also potentially your skin.
- Wherever you are, any time – slow down your breath.
Learn to start inhaling and exhaling slowly.1 This signals your brain that you’re in a calm state. Short breathing, on the other hand, sends panic signs to your brain which stimulates the release of hormones and adrenaline.
Tip: Inhale for three seconds, but extend exhale to six to eight seconds. This further relaxes the body and gives a parasympathetic response.1
Just a few minutes a day can start to build a nose breathing habit. Give yourself grace for the process. Similar to converting to a non-toxic lifestyle, it just won’t happen overnight.
Breath expert Patrick McKeown suggests taking ten minutes twice a day or 20 minutes daily and paying attention to your breathing.6 Maybe that looks like observing areas you can improve, or maybe you’re just taking the time to practice nose breathing
The best thing about nose breathing? It’s something you can access at any time of the day, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
Try Nose Breathing – It Just Might Change Your Life
What do you think of nose breathing?
It’s pretty incredible that our bodies give us access to such a simple yet often overlooked method of restoring + supporting health. Science shows us that changing how we breathe really does carry immense possibilities to improve our health and support graceful aging.
It’s a tool we can take with us anywhere we go for longevity + vibrant health.
Try nose breathing for yourself, it just might change your life.
- Penguin Books: YouTube | 5 Ways to Improve Your Breathing With James Nestor
- Medical News Today | What’s Wrong With Breathing Through the Mouth?
- Mdpi Open Access Journals | Investigation on the Effect of Oral Breathing on Cognitive Activity Using Functional Brain Imaging
National Library of Medicine | Pulmonary Function Is a Long-Term Predictor of Mortality in the General Population: 29-Year Follow-up of the Buffalo Health Study
- American Lung Association | Lung Capacity and Aging
- The Human Upgrade Podcast | Shut Your Mouth! Nose Breathing Improves All Your Body Systems – Patrick McKeown With Dave Asprey – #835
- National Library of Medicine | Effect of Improved Nasal Breathing on Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Martin Higgins Physiotherapy | Nose Breather Vs Mouth Breather
- American Lung Association | Five Ways You Might Be Breathing Wrong
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