What if I said there was something you could do to boost your immune system, protect your respiratory tract from infections and reduce stress? Sounds pretty great really doesn’t it?!
Well it really is as simple as breathing. More specifically breathing through your nose. I’m not saying it’s the fix to everything but breathing through your nose as much as you can really does have a lot of benefits.
If you’ve every been to a yoga class you’ve maybe wondered why the teacher bangs on about nasal breathing.
One reason for breathing through your nose is that it helps to filter out particles within the air, including bacteria and viruses, by trapping them in the little hairs in the nostrils. As the air travels further into the nose there is a network of little bony “caves” that humidify and warm the air and smaller particles are filtered out by the lining (mucous membranes). This basic act of breathing through your nose is the body’s natural filter and first line defence to protect us against foreign materials and hazards.
Small bones within the nose also increase the velocity of the air coming into the respiratory system which assists with the diffusion of air in the lower part of the lungs and increases oxygenation of the blood.
We are all aware that oxygen is vital for the cells in every organ system in our body to work. Studies have shown that when we inhale through our nose, nitrogen oxide which is produced in the sinuses which communicate with the nasal passages, mixes with the inhaled air and is carried into the lungs. This gas causes the blood vessels, at the point of gas exchange in the lungs, to dilate and this has been shown to increase the oxygenation of the blood by 10-15% more than if you were to inhale through the mouth! I don’t know about you but I personally think that is pretty incredible. Nitrogen oxide also kills some bacteria and viruses!
Given the current events with covid-19 ravaging the world, it is definitely good to know that focusing our attention on the way we breathe can help to reduce our risk of contracting the virus. *DISCLAIMER* That does not mean that all the other protective measures we need to take are irrelevant. It’s just something else to bear in mind!
So what about the stress factor? Well there is definitely peace of mind in knowing that we are helping to purify the air entering our lungs, but in a physical sense breathing through the nose also helps to regulate the nervous system. Nobody can operate full time in a state of stress without suffering negative consequences! Breathing through the nose switches our body from “fight or flight”, which harnesses the sympathetic nervous system and switches on the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for “rest and digest”. It allows our stress response to be downgraded and allows our basic necessary functions to work properly. Our hormonal system works better and (especially important just now) our immune system can work more effectively.
The next time you feel yourself getting harassed etc take a few long and steady breaths through the nose and see if you can feel yourself instantly relax a little.
So here is a little challenge for you. Try and take 5-10 minutes every day to focus on breathing through your nose. Maybe first thing in the morning or last thing at night – you can even do it while you’re still lying in bed. Focus on making the inhale as deep as you can and try to match the length of the exhale to the inhale. Maybe you will start to notice a little more saliva in your mouth as the body gets ready to digest food. Hopefully over the coming days and weeks you will notice that more and more throughout the day you naturally find yourself nasal breathing more than open mouth breathing and start to feel the benefits 🙂
This was my attempt to get a photo of me looking peaceful etc etc but this was the reality of trying to work from home with a toddler 🙂