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Nasal Breathing - Why breathe through your nose?

Breathing is an essential part of living and yet we don’t think twice about it. It is unconsciously controlled by our brain which automatically determines the rate and depth of breathing depending on our current needs.

How are you breathing right now? Through your nose? Through your mouth? Both? It is important to think twice and pay attention to how we breathe!

So what is nasal breathing?

We have two air passageways to the lungs — the nose and the mouth. Healthy people use both their nose and their mouth to breathe, however, there are many health advantages to breathing through your nose, instead of your mouth. That is because nasal breathing is more natural and helps your body effectively use the air you inhale. Breathing through your nose can help filter out dust and allergens, boost your oxygen uptake, and humidify the air you breathe in.

Mouth breathing, on the other hand, can dry out your mouth. This may increase your risk of bad breath and gum inflammation. Mouth breathing may also make you more prone to allergies, asthma, and coughing.  Breathing through the mouth all the time, including when you’re sleeping, can lead to health problems. Although we have needs for both nose and mouth breathing, ie.when you are exercising strenuously or are congested due to a cold or allergies, here are some benefits to breathing through your nose rather than your mouth.

What are the advantages of nasal breathing? 

Advantages of Nasal Breathing:

  • Nasal breathing helps fight off infection. It acts like a filter and retains small particles in the air, including pollen. The nose adds moisture to the air to prevent dryness in the lungs and bronchial tubes. The nose also warms up cold air to body temperature before it gets to your lungs.
  • Helps improve dental health and hygiene. When you breathe through your nose, the tongue sits at the roof of your mouth and shapes the roof of your mouth. When you breathe with your mouth, your tongue falls to the bottom. The tongue shapes the hard palate of your mouth which affects the spacing and alignment of your teeth as they grow. Nasal breathing also helps with dental health by not breathing in bacteria through your mouth
  • Nasal breathing makes you stronger. It requires for more effort to inhale through your nose allowing your diaphragm to engage and increase intra abdominal pressure. This pressure creates a support mechanism for your lower back so we can increase stability and engage more effectively. You are then able to lift heavier, thus making you stronger.
  • It improves the quality of our sleep. Nasal breathing allows the tongue to sit at the roof of our mouth creating a larger and non-obstructed airway to maximize the air that we take in as we sleep.

Diaphragmatic Breathing:

There are many breathing techniques that can help bring awareness to the body, increase oxygen uptake and bring focus. Diaphragmatic breathing is one effective technique that will help strengthen the diaphragm and increase the intra abdominal pressure. This will decrease the work of breathing by slowing down your breathing rate, which will decrease the oxygen demand, requiring less effort and energy to breathe.

TRY THIS AT HOME! 

Lie down on your back with your legs straight.
Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.

Take 4 full breaths and check:

  • Are you breathing in and out through your nose or mouth?
  • Which hand is rising up as you inhale, chest or stomach?
  • Is there expansion of your abdomen and rib cage?
  • Is your exhale longer than your inhale?

You want to inhale and exhale through your nose and feel your stomach to rise and your rib cage expand (inhale as if you’re filling up like a balloon). As you exhale, it should be a little longer than the inhale and you should empty/deflate as much air as you can before inhaling again. Try this exercise for 5-10 minutes a day and gradually increase the time to improve diaphragmatic breathing.

There are many types of breathing techniques and practices that are great for your health but the first step is to be aware of our own breathing. Becoming aware of our own breathing habits and retraining ourselves is an easy way for us to start taking care of our health. Having a proper breathing pattern can help the body relax and realign the body.


Deborah Kim, CSEP-CPT (Bio)

Certified Personal Trainer with a Specialized Honours in Kinesiology

Deborah is passionate about motivating clients to participate in a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Through her programs, she deals with body awareness, strength training, weight loss and functional rehabilitation in order to help individuals reach their health goals.


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