Noses Are for Breathing

Mouth for Eating

In order to address breathing volume, the first step is to go back to basics and learn to breathe through the nose both day and night. As any child is aware, our nose is made for breathing, the mouth for eating. You were born breathing through your nose, and it has been our primary conduit for breathing for hundreds of thousands of years.

It was only when our ancient ancestors were in dangerous situations that they reverted to mouth breathing to take in greater volumes of air in preparation for intense physical activity.

It is for this reason that mouth breathing is synonymous with emergency, activating the same fight-or-flight response that our ancestors experienced but these days usually without the accompanying physical exercise to allow our operating systems to revert to normal. From the perspective of breathing physiology, mouth breathing activates use of the upper chest, while nasal breathing results in abdominal breathing. You can verify the difference by sitting in front of a mirror and placing one hand on your chest and one hand above your navel. Once settled, take a moderate-size breath in through your mouth and note the movements of your hands. Next, compare your breathing movements to a similar size breath drawn in through your nose.

Oxygenating The Body

Upper-chest breathing is more likely to be associated with a stress response, while nasal breathing helps ensure regular, calm, steady breathing using the diaphragm. The common misconception of taking a “deep” breath is to puff out the chest and raise the shoulders, but this is neither deep nor beneficial to oxygenating the body. To help deal with stress, the instruction to take a deep breath is actually correct, but a truly deep breath is abdominal, gentle and quiet; the exact opposite of the big breaths usually taken in an attempt to calm down.

Mouth Breathing Reduces Oxygen

Mouth breathing activates the upper chest, involves larger breaths, and may cause reduced oxygen uptake in the arterial blood. It is no wonder that habitual mouth breathers often suffer from poor energy, a lack of concentration, and moodiness. We all know the stereotype of the mouth breather, portrayed by moviemakers from Hollywood to Bollywood as an idiot. But in case you think I am being unduly critical, I was a mouth breather for more than twenty years, so I know all too well the effects. Furthermore, every time I look in the mirror I see the results from my years of mouth breathing. Dentists and orthodontists have also documented these profound facial changes as a result of habitual mouth breathing: narrow jaws, crooked teeth, sunken cheekbones, and smaller nasal cavities. While orthodontic treatment and the wearing of braces are epidemic among modern-day teenagers, it was normal for our ancestors to have wide faces with perfectly shaped teeth.

Alkaline Forming Foods

On the other hand, alkaline-forming foods such as fruit and vegetables, along with plain water, are easy for the body to process; they are “breathing-friendly” foods. But while these types of foods are highly beneficial, I’m not saying you need to become a vegetarian. Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet, and meat provides a natural, nutrient-rich source. The most important change is to get rid of processed foods in your diet. They may take up the most space in our supermarkets, but they are effectively suitable food for no one.

Nasal Breathing

As air enters through the nose, it is swirled through scrolled, spongy bones called turbinates, which condition and guide inhaled air into a steady, regular pattern. The internal nose, with its cul de sacs, valves, and turbinates, regulates the direction and velocity of the air to maximize exposure to a network of small arteries and veins and to the mucous blanket in order to warm, humidify, and sterilize the air before it is drawn to the lungs. The late Dr. Maurice Cottle, who founded the American Rhinologic Society in 1954, stated that the nose performs at least thirty functions, all of which are important supplements to the roles played by the lungs, heart, and other organs. The large amount of space in the skull devoted to the nasal cavity provides an indication of the importance of the functions of the nose.

To attain a higher BOLT score and improved sports performance, it is imperative that nasal breathing is practiced at all times during rest. If your BOLT score is less than 20 seconds, the only way to avoid overbreathing during exercise is to breathe through the nose at all times, even while training. An exception to nasal breathing can be made for a short period of time during intensive physical exercise, but this kind of training should only be attempted when your BOLT score is greater than 20 seconds.

The Oxygen Advantage

REFERENCE: THE OXYGEN ADVANTAGE. The Simple, scientifically proven breathing techniques for a healthier, slimmer, faster, and fitter you. by Patrick McKeown. @2015

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