It seems incredible that it took a global pandemic for the world to sit up and notice one of the simplest natural practices we do every moment we are alive – breathe. Globally, practitioners developed a ‘new-found’ interest in breathing and the facts were laid bare about health, healing and recovery.
Read on for 7 truths about your breath and the one simple lesson…
Mouth breathing changes (for the worse) your physical body and your airways
When you breathe in through the mouth (rather than up through the nose) the pressure of airflow decreases and loosens the soft tissue at the back of your throat. This creates less space in your mouth to breathe and makes breathing more difficult! Nasal breathing has the opposite effect – it deliberately forces air against those tissues, the muscles tone and the airway stays consistently wider.
Truth – you can strengthen your nasal muscles!
Shut your mouth!
Sleep, snoring, and sleep apnoea are all improved by breathing in and out of your nose. Read that again… sleep, snoring and sleep apnoea are all improved by nasal breathing. In other words a consistent focus on nasal breathing during the day enhances the airway musculature (see point 1 above). Replicated experiments using mouth tape at night, forcing nasal only breathing, is shown to reduce symptoms of snoring/sleep apnoea by between 70-100%.
Truth – you may not need a CPAP machine
NB. Please only follow any guidance with a medical professional.
Poor breathing leaves you in a partly anxious state
We spend our days half-asleep and our nights half-awake. Meet the grey zone of ‘half-anxiety’ where you never fully relax, nor ever experience true life-threatening stress. Poor breathing leaves you in a partly anxious state from dawn to dusk as the Vagus Nerve, your ‘superhighway’ nerve that connects the major vital organs, sends ‘choppy’ messages to your brain.
Truth – wake-up!
When you breathe too heavily, blood vessels in your brain are narrowed
The amount of blood to fill a wine bottle (750 ml!) flows through your brain every minute. When you breathe too heavily, when your body is forced to take in more oxygen O2 than it needs, you exhale too much carbon dioxide CO2. The result? Blood vessels in your brain narrow and within seconds flow is decreased by 40%. Yes, less blood to the brain! Areas in the brain most affected are the hippocampus (involved in memory), the frontal lobes (involved in planning, reasoning).
Truth – NO thanks!
Over-breathing harms your kidneys
How much or how little that you breathe affects the acidity of your blood (known as your blood pH level). Most cells in your body function best at a sweet spot between alkaline and acid, not too much, not too little. When you breathe slower and retain more carbon dioxide, this assists to maintain the balance. Over breathing causes the kidneys to ‘buffer’ and when this happens continuously over months, nothing works right in the body – nerves malfunction, muscles spasm, bones weaken, and your body starts to break down.
Truth – Think about that…
Your breath is a powerful switch to your vital state
Breathing is not just a physical act! With every breath, you take in tens of billions of molecules into your body. Your breath is a powerful switch for the vast network of your nervous system, affecting your heart rate, digestion, mood, arousal…You can switch on your vital organs to rest and digest – or you can pump them up with adrenal and mind frenzy,
Truth – the choice is yours.
Nasal breathing increases your immunity 6-fold
Breathing through the nose is a primary defense to airborne viruses. A standard practice in hatha yoga, this supports the body’s natural resistance to infection. Breathing through the nose produces a gas called nitric oxide, which research has shown creates anti-viral functions to defend against flu-like illnesses. What is certain is that large amounts of nitric oxide are constantly being released in the airways during nasal breathing.
Truth – Why not try, it costs nothing!
YOUR ONE LESSON = breathing slow, less, through the nose, with a long exhale is the SECRET. It costs nothing, takes little time and effort and you can do it wherever you are, whenever you need…
The ancient and traditional pranayama (breathing) practices teach smooth controlled nostril breathing and are still recommended!
For the relevant research on the above article please read ‘Breath – The New Science of a Lost Art’, James Nestor