Do you wonder if there was a simple way to not only feel relaxed and focused but also have better energy levels throughout the day? Or perhaps you are an athlete and want to improve your endurance without spending even more time exercising?
The good news is that you can both lower your stress levels and increase your endurance by breathing better! Breathing the right way has changed my daily attitude by helping me cultivate positive emotions while building up my ability to keep stress in check.
I’ve noticed that no-one talks about breathing when it comes to workplace performance or athletic training. The focus instead is on everything but breathing! I have no idea why this is the case, but this blog post is my attempt to share a simple piece of knowledge that can have a huge impact on your quality of life and happiness at work. Perhaps one day the popular media and “experts” will catch up.
Why I care about breathing
I have been fascinated with breathing techniques and breathing exercises my entire life. Breathing is an integral part of my yoga and meditation practice (pranayama breathing). I see an important link between the quality of my breath and my mental and emotional states as well.
Almost ten years ago, I began applying a very specific form of breathing to my exercise. It was a simple technique, but maintaining it while running, cycling or skiing could prove difficult. Over time, it became easier and easier to do.
This one technique has had more impact on my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being than any other product, system or technique I have tried out in recent memory. It is incredibly simple. It is free. It doesn’t require any props or accoutrement. It doesn’t disturb or distract anybody. You can do it while doing other things. You don’t need any special abilities to start doing it. You don’t even need instructions. Oh, and did I mention it’s free? 🙂
In my experience, this technique has had a profound effect on my quality of life. When I practice it religiously, my endurance throughout the day has skyrocketed. I rarely become stressed, and when I do, it seems to pass over me like a gentle breeze. My ability to focus on things that are important to me has increased significantly.
What is this technique?
It is very simple. Keep your mouth shut!
Focus on breathing through your nose.
Make nose breathing a habit and you are bound to see a profound change in the quality of your life. Throughout this article, I will provide a more thorough description of the scientific basis for nasal breathing, an overview of my experience using the technique, and some simple guidance for applying the technique in your daily life (not that you need much in the way of instruction!).
Awaken your inner child
I have had the chance to be around a few babies, and quite a few young children lately. Have you ever taken a step back and observed babies and kids? Have you noticed how they breathe? Aside for the occasional temper tantrum or crying fit, they breathe in a relaxed fashion through their nose. There is no gasping for air through their mouth. Even when kids are at play, they have a rhythmic, fluid and moderate way of breathing. They are having fun. They are completely living in the moment. They are not gasping for air.
The human body is built for nose breathing. The mouth has evolved for eating and drinking. The nose has evolved to breathe.
The nose is filled with cilia, small hairs that filter out particulate matter. They keep your body clean and safe from harmful objects and organisms. If you live in any city or urban environment (like I do) you should be thankful for these!
Even more intriguing, is that the nose contains a series of ridges or turbinates, that are shaped like elongated sea-shells. Think of these turbinates like your air conditioning system. They allow inhaled air to adopt a smooth flow and pass through the maximal surface area of cilia and mucous membranes.
Air that passes over these built-in Brita Filters is heated up to body temperature, filtered and humidified (up to 98% saturation). The result is that the inhaled air is less shocking to the body and easier to process. In cold weather, the warm air helps to keep the core of your body warm.
Therefore, it would seem that we are built to nose breath all the time.
However, when was the last time you went out for a run, and only breathed through your nose? Most of us resort to mouth-breathing at the slightest hint of effort. There is no way we could perform at a high level with such a little amount of air sniffed in through a tiny nose….right?
The rest of the animal kingdom, if they could speak up, would disagree!
Unleash the race-horse within
Horses are majestic, unique and inspiring animals. They are unusual for their ability to not only run long distances while carrying large loads (including their 1000+ pound bodies!), but their apparent enthusiasm with running hard day after day after day. Interestingly enough, a horse can run at amazing speeds while only breathing through their nose. They are designed to breathe in this manner and have no issue providing enough oxygen for their enormous bodies.
Similar to humans, they also sweat through their skin. Therefore, their mouth is of no use at all while riding. You could tape a thoroughbred race horse’s mouth shut during training or a race and it would perform just fine! In fact, some thoroughbred horse trainers use techniques like this to “re-train” horses that have breathing issues, to optimize their speed and performance on the track, or simply to improve their temperament.
Dogs are similar, in that they are nose breathers during any level of exercise. Whether you are strolling around town or going for a run together, their nose is hard at work. The one exception is that since they do not sweat through their skin, they must pant to cool themselves down. However, they are still primarily breathing through their nose. Look across various types of mammals, and your will see a similar trend, they are primarily nose breathers.
Are humans that different? Nope!
In addition to the filtering and warming mechanisms in the nose, the turbinates (those ridges in the nose) and the lungs work together to help you breathe more efficiently no matter what you are doing. Specifically, these turbinates control and smooth air flow and pressure so that your lungs are better able to take in the air to their larger lower portions. This is critically important when you consider how the lungs are built.
Your lungs are two large sacks that are tapered toward the top and quite wide at the bottom. They are filled with alveoli, small sacks filled with capillaries (tiny blood vessels) that allow carbon dioxide to leave your body and oxygen to enter. Not only are the bottom portion of the lungs larger, but they also have a much higher number and concentration of alveoli than the top portion. When you breath shallow breaths through your mouth, you are not utilizing the lung’s maximal oxygen processing capabilities.
When you breathe in through your nose, the air flows over the turbinates, which directs and funnels the air stream more effectively to the lower portions of the lungs.
Try this out for yourself right now. Sit back and take normal breaths through your mouth for 20 seconds. Stay relaxed and breathe normally. Now, take relaxed breaths through your nose for 20 seconds. Feel a difference?
Nose breathing causes your lower belly to move in and out, whereas mouth-breathing will cause more expansion of the upper ribs.
Nose breathing more effectively feeds the capillary-rich lower-portions of the lungs. With practice, I have noticed a steady improvement in my ability to nose-breath larger quantities of air.
Healthy blood for a healthy body
Another crucial aspect of nose-breathing is that it helps the body to maintain a more appropriate level of carbon dioxide in the blood.
Let’s take an example of a runner. When you mouth-breath while running, you are taking in rapid breaths of large volumes of air. The result is that your body can throw off large quantities of carbon dioxide, a waste-product of the body. Isn’t this a good thing? Well, yes but only to a certain degree.
The problem is, mouth breathing quickly puts you into a state where you create an artificially low concentration of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. With low quantities of carbon dioxide in the blood, oxygen is not released as freely into the cells of the body. The body is tricked into thinking it is hyperventilated, or already has enough oxygen! The body needs to maintain a certain level of carbon dioxide in the blood to maximize its ability to absorb oxygen from inhaled air.
Mouth breathing is like trying to fill up a small cup of water from a fire hydrant. With the water gushing so fast from the hydrant, there would be no way to get anything into your cup! Despite the higher volume of air inhaled through the mouth, your body is getting less oxygen. This is counter-intuitive but makes sense when you study the underlying biological process.
Breathing through your nose allows a smaller and more highly directed stream of air to flow deep into the lungs. As a result, according to Dr. Konstantine Buteyko (creator of The Buteyko Breathing Technique), the carbon dioxide levels of your blood can stay at a more moderate and even level, and the oxygen can be efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream.
As an added benefit, the nasal sinuses are large producers of nitric oxide, which is a powerful vasodialator. It’s presence signals blood vessels and capillaries to relax, thereby increasing blood flow to your cells.
Feed your body and your brain
For most vertebrates, the brain requires 2-8% of our body’s oxygen to function. Humans, however, with our overgrown brains, require a consumption of around 20% of our body’s oxygen to function normally. Whether you are running a marathon or just trying to concentrate better at work; proper oxygenation, and, therefore breathing, is of the utmost importance and worthy of your attention. If you have any interest to improve your health and well-being, start with your breath.
Additionally, it is the belief of those that follow a Yoga practice, an ancient Indian tradition, that vital energy or prana, is absorbed through the olfactory organ. The prana, which cannot be seen or measured by any instruments, is necessary for the health of the physical and non-physical or subtle bodies. It is thought to travel along the olfactory nerve in the nose directly to the brain. If you believe in the power of subtle energy forces such as prana, you are forgoing this free benefit by breathing through your mouth. It is for this reason that hatha yoga and meditation practices stress the use of nasal breathing exclusively, even during intense hatha yoga practice.
Committing to change
About nine years ago, when I first realized that nose breathing could support endurance performance, I practiced it exclusively for 30 days. I was intrigued after reading about the benefits for endurance athletes in John Douillard’s book, “Body, Mind and Sport.”
John’s book cites research showing a marked decrease in the heart rates of runners who nose breath during high intensity 5K races. Through a more efficient processing of oxygen in the body, the heart has to pump less frequently. His studies have shown runners who apply the technique crossing the finish line at cross-country races in full sprint, while not being out of breath at all! For anyone training for a sport, particularly endurance athletes, nasal breathing holds a great promise for improved efficiency and performance.
I dedicated myself to this practice for 30 days, even while running, weight training and climbing eight flights of stairs to and from the apartment I was living in at the time. The change was not easy. At first, my runs were slowed down considerably. I was forced to slow down my pace by 30% to maintain the nasal breathing. Throughout my early runs, I would get to points where I want to gasp for air. I would not give in…instead, I would simply slow down the pace. Walking up the stairs to my apartment I would feel my lungs crying out for more air. I would simply slow my pace down. Within a few days, I saw my body begin to adjust.
However, I vividly recall how after 30 days of steady practice, I would estimate that my runs were only about 10% slower than if I were mouth breathing. Walking up the stair to my apartment was no issue at all. After eight flights of stairs, I recall a slight urge to breathe through my mouth, but after five or ten seconds of rest at the top of the stairs, I was back to breathing normally. While weight lifting, even during strenuous exercises like squats or deadlifts, I was able to keep my breathing and concentration under complete control without any issues.
Every day I saw progress. I noticed my nose opening up. I had less mucous and stuffiness in my nose. I was able to take in a larger quantity of air through my nose as well. My breathing was more controlled.
Nose breathing all day long
I also noticed how I was so addicted to mouth breathing throughout other parts of the day. While eating. While talking to others. Sitting in meetings. Even while sleeping! I was mouth breathing all the time, even when my body was sedentary. Switching to nose breathing throughout the day has allowed me to maintain a state of relaxed alertness. I find my energy levels much more even.
Aside from the physical benefits, I am see many other benefits in my life since I have become a nose breather. Specifically, I have noticed that I am much more in tune with my environment. I am not trying to sound all metaphysical. I am just letting you know the experiences I am having with complete honesty! I can relate to people better. I am finding that my senses are sharper. My intuition is more keen.
Lower stress naturally
Most importantly, I have seen a dramatic decrease in stress from my life. The change was so drastic that I almost cannot believe it. It seems that whenever I experience a normally stressful situation, I can instantly recognize it, and my mental focus instantly goes back to my breath. In the process, the stress dissolves away. Previously, when I would get stressed, I would find myself holding my breath or sucking in air through my mouth. This has changed. This is not something I am consciously doing, it just happens. I have not seen any research correlating these benefits with nasal breathing but wanted to share them as they have had such a profound impact on my life.
I hope that if you have read this far, that you are open to doing whatever it takes to improve the quality of your life, and the lives of those around you.
The switch to nose-breathing has been a huge blessing to my life so far. I urge others out there to give it a try for ten full days.
The breathing exercises you should do are two-fold:
Breath through your nose throughout your day.
During meetings, driving, shopping, while eating. All day long!
Breath through your nose during exercise of any form.
Slow down and take brakes if it becomes too uncomfortable.
I am convinced that you will see huge benefits. If you are an athlete, expect it to take a few months before you are performing at your normal speed again. A weight lifter will not see much, if any negative impact. A runner will have to slow down for a few months! Just be aware of this. Treat it like a game and have fun with it.
At work, notice how your breathing helps you deal with stress, improve focus and help you sustain your energy levels through the day. It’s possible to see big results in even a single day. This is what happened to me. The key thing is to breathe through your nose all the time.
It has been many years since I first started practicing nose breathing and I still find myself sticking to it all day long. It has become my natural way of breathing. However, I constantly find myself reverted to mouth breathing during intense exercise. Keeping up the nose breathing during workouts take a lot of focus and vigilance. It is worth doing but like any habit takes some tine and finesse to stick to it over the long term.
One tip for those who want to give nose breathing a try during exercise: sometimes you must take a step back to take two steps forward. The research and logic behind nose breathing is sound. My 30 day-trial erased my doubts. I was willing to put in the time and energy moving forward to see where it took me, even though it meant training at a slower pace and dealing with a little discomfort early on.
Have fun with it. I hope you give it a try!
Excellent post. Your readers may be interested in the following published case study. A group study will follow in the next 6 months.
Triathlete Adapts to Breathing Restricted to the Nasal Passage Without loss in VO2max or vVO2max
Karen Hostetter, Steven R Steven R. McClaran, Daniel G Cox, George M Dallam
This case study investigated the effect of restricting breathing to the nasopharynx versus the oropharynx on the ability to perform maximal and high level steady state running in a highly trained triathlete who previously adapted himself to nasal only breathing during exercise as a means of inhibiting exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB). The subject was tested using a maximal graded treadmill protocol (GXT) to voluntary exhaustion followed 10 minutes later by a 6 minute steady state treadmill protocol (SS) at 85% of the previously achieved maximal velocity in both breathing conditions. Oxygen uptake was measured via indirect calorimetry and 1 second forced expiratory volumes (FEV1) were measured with spirometry. In the GXT trials the subject produced a time to exhaustion (TE) of 6:24, a maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) of 3.92 L/min. and a velocity at VO2max (VVO2max) of 9.7 mph while breathing only through the nasopharynx (NB). While breathing only through the oropharynx (OB) he produced a TE of 6:15, a VO2max of 3.80 L/min. and a VVO2max of 9.7 mph.. During the 6 minute SS trials running at 8.0 mph, his mean oxygen consumption was 4.16 L/min. in NB and 3.99 L/min. in OB. The subject experienced a 17% reduction in FEV1 (Pre = 5.03 L/sec., Post = 4.17 L/sec.) following the OB GXT not seen following the NB GXT. This case study confirms the ability of a highly trained competitive triathlete to adapt to breathing restricted to the nasopharynx during running at both a maximal effort and a subsequent high level steady state effort without a loss in performance or peak aerobic capacity, as a means of inhibiting EIB.
nasal breathing, running, VO2max, VVO2max, exercise-induced bronchospasm, oxygen consumption, triathlete
I just recently started breathing through my nose. I have been doing it for about a week. Im not sure that I stick with it while sleeping although I’m trying to be conscious of it as I go to sleep. I have even done one high intensity work out. On a splitboard I skinned about two thousand feet straight up hill in about 45 minutes, I did feel a strong desire to suck in air through my mouth but I managed to fight the urge and would just pause my pace for a few seconds to recover. I don’t think I would have gone much faster breather through my mouth. Keep in mind I was also going over 12000 feet in elevation. It feels good breathing through my nose doing everything throughout the day it has been an easy adjustment. The only strange thing has been that I notice some tingeling or very light pins and needles feeling throughout my body. It’s very slight but noticable throughout the day. I’m wondering if anyone has experienced this or if there is an explanation. I’m only guessing that it is in some way related to me switching to nose breathing because I started to notice it around the same time I started practicing nose breathing. I suppose it could be something else and unrelated.
Excellent post! I have been experimenting with nose breathing for many years and always thought that should our most natural way to breathe. I agree with all your observations and amazingly it helps one focus and build endurance.
Thx for sharing!
Indeed, it’s a powerful technique!
A very interesting piece, I read about nasal breathing by chance and I was so intrigued I decided to take it seriously, after only four weeks their are some changes, the first thing I noticed was my nose was clear, no snot! I’m 74 and of late if I wanted to pick something up I had dropped I had to bend down then think about getting up, I now just bend over, a simple improvement, getting in and out of the car is a lot easier, I’m sleeping better, no back ache in the morning, no nasty taste in my mouth when I get up, here us a really strange one but very important to me, I have been playing jazz clarinet for a long time, my tonguing on the instrument is much more accurate,, I’m not worrying about fluffing my articulation anymore, This must be due to my tongue being constantly against my upper pallet and improving its performance, my speech is better and clearer, and tongue twisters are a lot easier this is only after four weeks, I do a gig every Sunday, walking back to my car up a long slope was a bit of a pain, not anymore, not perfect but improved, overall I just feel more alive and at my age that is a wonderful thing, recommend conscious nasal breathing all day and night to everybody, you benefits may not be as strong as mine but improvements will occur.
I’m a breathing educator and I’ve been working with athletes, recreational through to elites, for the past two years. I teach them to breathe through the nose only even at peak effort. The results have been amazing. They see increased speed, endurance, faster recovery times, reduced lactic acid levels, increased VO2 Max, reduced injuries and more enjoyment in exercise including more time in the zone. As a masters level cyclist, I’ve seen seven personal bests and five podiums since I changed how I breathe, nose only, three years ago.
Several folks in this blog were skeptical about nasal breathing, stating they need to maximize oxygen intake. That’s what most of my athletes believe when they start my program. Please do the following simple test, one I do with my skeptical athletes. Place a pulse-oximeter on your finger and go all out breathing only through your nose. With my athletes, their blood/oxygen saturation remains in the mid to high 90’s where it should be.
The issue is not how much oxygen we take in, we get plenty of it even through the nose. The real issue is how well we utilize the available oxygen at the cellular level where it matters most. And here is the secret to that … breathing small and relaxed breathes through the nose increases oxygen transport into working muscles during exercise. Read about the Bohr Effect to understand how this works; the science behind all this.
I have a free white paper I’ve written about all this that I’d be glad to share with anyone. Send a email to don@CasacadeBreath.com and I will send you the white paper. Or go to my website http://www.TheBreathingGuy.weebly.com.
The breath is an extraordinarily powerful thing. We can take advantage of it to power our exercise, training and racing. But we can only do this if we breathe through the nose.
Great article Ravi! Thanks for writing it – you are spot on.
All the best and health,
Don, thanks for visiting and I appreciate your valuable insight! I would love to get that paper. Will drop you a note!
Don, thanks for taking the time to meet with me in person and help me improve the quality of my breathing! Folks – if you are ever in Bend, Oregon – please look Don up!
I appreciate the time you took to write this. Thank you for sharing. Most helpful.
This is really very nice blog indeed. Firstly I would like to thank you for your dedication and efforts.
Concerning nasal breathing, I would like to know whether you still continue to have nasal breathing only and what kind of implications you have personally encountered in the long term for the nasal breathing.
Thank you in advance for your replies, Murat
Another great benefit to this is that it will lower blood pressure…
great article. Im 27, go gym around 3-4 times a week and have been doing so for the last 3 years. My diet is fairly good and aside from the odd junk i mostly eat well, plenty of water, occasional alcohol and am a non smoker.
Yet in spite of all this, for the last few years a combination of work and bit n pieces in life have made me a very tense, stressed and anxious person. The slightest of things stress me out and i can physically feel the effects of stress as i regularly fall short of breathe and experience tightness in my chest. Almost always breathe through my mouth, and always feel tired and drained. Something ive never had issues with previously.
Since trying the nose breathing only yesterday it certainly has calmed me down a bit. I feel relaxed, composed. I feel the breathe i take in via my nose really hits deep into my body (very calming and good feeling). I have a nasal issue which prevents me from nose breathing 100% clearly, but visited the GP today so hopefully the meds clear that up.
This is something which anyone suferring from similar symptoms should try. Its a natural healer and that is not me over-reacting either!
I have been doing nosebrething for the last 4-5 years. I compeed in Mountainbike races on elite levels. I have experienced that I can nosebreathe at a heartrate regimen up to 168 bpm. My AT is 175 and max is 190. It feels totally naturally for me now and I never think about using my mouth for breathing. I think there is a lot of benefits of nosebrething on many levels. Ob
Ob- I totally agree with your comment. I’ve been a nosebreather ever since I came down with EIA(Excercise Induced Asthma) almost 6yrs ago. l learned Buteyko Breathing Tech and since never included open mouth breathing. My mtbiking performance has really improved since without any issue including some steep climb in races on singlespeed 29’r.
Power by C02
i am 30 years old,nose breath give me new life.really its change my life style .now i am feeling more healthier and mind working sharply.further one thing more that i really impress as my sexual organ has ED problem and always its active.so it also play a vital role in my sexual life. As nitric oxide (NO) is produced in the nasal passages upon breathing. NO is a vasodilator. This would be important in long distance running, in several regards. Apparently, it is also “the transmitter that results in engorgement of the sexual organs
I am 52 and started running about two years ago.Slowly I have been making progress. I like your posts and read them regularly.
You have discussed about breathing thru the nose, mostly about inhaling. What about exhaling? When I am running I find that I inhale thru my nose but use both my nose and the mouth for exhaling.
Could you please respond what good/ bad this will do me.
Fascinating. I’ve been thinking about whether I could train myself to even do hard interval sessions with only nasal breathing. What you say makes sense to me. I’ll have to experiment with that. Thanks!
Fantastic thread. And something I am going to commit to. I have challenges with my sinuses and I will report back after 30 days. Would be interesting to know if anybody uses nasal flushing (I believe it is part of yoga teachings) to help with sinuses problems?
Yes, I use a Neti Pot and it is very helpful.
If you have allergies or a stuffed nose it can help to ease the symptoms and make nose breathing far easier.
Thanks Ravi. How often do you use the Neti pot? Ive also just read your blog on training and I too have over exerted myself for the last 20 years consistently training in the anerobic zone. I would highly recommend people buy a heart rate monitor and a quality reference book and build a good aerobic base as you suggest.
Yes, I do practise Nasal Flushing, which is known as Neti Kriyas in Yoga. I do both water in from one nostril and letting it out through other nostrel and inserting a rubber catheter through one nostril and bring that out through mouth and rub the passage by pulling ends one after the other. It gives a tremendous health benefits!
I carry out this exercise once a week
Thanks for a great article, I fully agree with nose-breathing being superior! I’ve been doing it for the last 2½ years and it has really lowered my stress considerably.
I am a trained Buteyko-instructor and have also read John Douillards book. After being in touch with dr Douillard, I decided to do my own study on the benefits of nosebreathing, 10 people, here in Sweden, biked as fast as they could on two occasions. First they had their nose taped and breathed only through their mouth. A week later they biked with their mouth taped, breathing only through their nose. Before the tests they had a minimum of three weeks training where they performed 30 minutes or more of physical activity 3 times a week. They also used the Relaxator breathing-trainer (similiar to the Frolov device, but much easier to use) for 15 minutes a day.
The results were interesting in that:
* Lactic acid was lowered by 11% with nosebreathing (from 9,0 mmol/L to 8,0 mmol/L)
* The breathing-rate was lowered by 22% with nosebreathing (from 40 breaths/minute to 32 breaths/minute)
* 4 out of 10 participants managed to bike at a higher load when nosebreathing, 4 could do the same load. 2 participants only managed to bike at a lower load when nosebreathing.
Although this is great, the most interesting outcome of the study I think is the fact that all the 10 participants were so thrilled about the effects that they will continue with nose-breathing as much as possible both during exercise and in their daily lives.
It was a mixed group of people where some was very fit and some not so fit. One of the participants is extremely fit. He is a triathlete and his record is 8 hours 15 minutes on the Ironman-distance. He was one of the 2 that could not perform with the same load while nose-breathing. But when we compared his maximal load when nose-breathing, 295 watt, with mouth-breathing his pulse was 10% lower – going down from 155 to 139 and his lactate was 38% lower – down from 3,4 mmol/L with nose-breathing compared to 5,5 mmol/L with mouth-breathing. Also, 6 months after the initial study this triathlete has now increased his capacity when nosebreathing. During the test he could only go with a pulse of 139 and 6 month later, after mostly doing nose-breathing while exercising he can go with a pulse of 162.
I am a 50-year old distance runner who has been running for 37 years. Over the past couple of years, I’ve experimented quite a bit with nasal breathing, with great success. Today, I do all of my runs (other than track workouts or shorter races) exclusively breathing through my nose. I run just as fast, and probably faster than I would have breathing through my nose, so I don’t seen any diminished performance at all. I feel much more comfortable, and stay much more relaxed, physically and psychologically. In fact, since I sometimes struggle with asthma, the nose breathing helps me to open up my airways and keep them more relaxed.
I took a little while to get used to this, but not too long, and is certainly well worth the effort. At this point, it’s second nature for me. When I do an intense track workout, I have a sense that I need all the oxygen I can get, so I begin to employ mouth breathing. I’m curious, though, to test this more and see if, in fact, I can actually do a fast intense workout only breathing through my nose. I’ll post here with the results as I experiment.
Looking forward to hear more about your experience.
My experience with nose-breathing when doing intense work is that a lot of it is mental – that we think we cannot do it because we just need all that air. When I finally tried high intentsity, before long I was able to do interval-training with 100% nose-breathing.
I believe that we with nose-breathing replaces quantity with quality, so that the body more efficiently can use the oxygen inhaled. Thereby we can reduce the amount of air we’re breathing.
When we inhale through the mouth the airways get filled with cold, dry air filled with bacteria. This leads to inflammation and more mucus in the airways which makes the airways smaller. The smooth muscles in the airways also gets constricted. Nose-breathing prepares the air for the airways by moisturizing and warming the air. The nose also cleanses out many bacteria. If the airways are reduced by 50%, which can easily happen during exercise and vast amount of air is taken in through the mouth, it takes 16 times more energy to move the air in and out through the lungs.
Further, narrow airways leads to an increase of the stress-hormones adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin has the effect of opening up the airways, and cortisol is anti-inflammatory. But if we’re exercising with high levels of stress-hormones, our endurance will decrease. One of the reasons is that the body switches to more anaerobic exercise, because during stress we need energy fast. Producing energy anaerobically (without oxygen) is up to 6 times faster than producing energy aerobically (with oxygen). The downside though is that anaerobically only yields 2 ATP per glucosemolecule (plus lactate), whereas oxygen is much more efficient in converting nutrients to energy and yields up to 38 ATP from the same glucomsemolecule.
I must say that I do enjoy the way you have framed this particular situation. Keep the posts flowing 🙂
Interestingly enough i find my stamina is far worse doing high intensity sports like football, if i breath through my mouth. I think mouth breathing actually causes my lungs to constrict more. I am going to try and nose breathe more. I will let you know how it goes.
I am interested in your url. My site is snoring mouthguard and if you could have a look, let me know what your impression is it would be appreciated
Hi Ravi! This is great to read and am very happy that more people are experiencing better health by 1 simple change in their breathing. 4 months ago I made the decision to nose breathing ALL of the time. This was especially difficult while running. It took me about 3-4 weeks to get used to this nose breathing. But now I can do a 4-5 mile run, hills included, only with nose breathing.
What I am noticing was/is a fast recovery after finishing the run. My first try though ended up in several times walking because of gasping for air. I am also practicing with the Frolov’s device every day to get my body cells oxygenated. You can look this up at Artour Rakhimovs great informative website “normal breathing”. All these changes makes me a calmer and more joyful being with way less anxiety than I used to have with the mouth breathing. My goal is to change my unconscious breathing by continuing my breathing practice. This will take me at least a whole year I guess. Again thank you very much, Ravi for bringing this up!!!
well, if you really want to be healthy, i believe that veggan foods are the best :~*
Ooops threw=through >_<
Hey there I believe this works. I do martial arts, and strenous exercise and breathing in threw my nose out threw my mouth was always beneficial to me. Never did I think to just breath threw my nose, it makes total sense.
I have been trying this method just sinse I have been reading your experience, and it already has been helping me. I always knew sometimes I was not stressing 1% even in a very stressful situation and it was because I was actually only breathing threw my nose (subconciously). Try it for 20 minutes.
Nose breathing works ever better if you mentally change the place where you nose breathe from – instead of the nostrils – picture moving back further in the sinuses, and draw in breathe deeply from the top of your trachea- sucking the air in from the back of you throat. With your mouth closed, a much greater volume will enter the wind pipe. “Nasal intake” is too limiting.
In yoga they call it ujjayi breadth or victorious breadth.
Oops…I meant breath.
Great article. I have been breathing through my nose for a couple days now due to hyperventilation but have found it extremely beneficial in all areas of life. You really don’t realize how much you breath through your mouth until you don’t.
One thing that I wanted to recommend to everyone is supplementing with fish oil. I’m sure many of you already do, but it has truly done wonders for me in the area of controlling inflammation in my sinuses. I lived the first 20 years of my life almost a 100% mouth breather. It has given me the ability to nose breathe.
Best of luck.
I also suffer from Chronic hyperventilation and am keen to start breathing just through my nose. Did you find it uncomfortable at first?
My email address is email@example.com. Would be really grateful for advice/tips!
Thank you. This is a very important message and topic: breathing route during exercise. It explains why modern people usually feel worse after exercise, why the sick die during exercise, why asthmatics get EI (exercise-induced) asthma attacks, why people were much healthier 100 years ago (even competitive athlete breathed through the nose!), etc. I wrote several articles on this topic. They can be found here: http://www.normalbreathing.com/more.php
Their titles are:
Simple Breathing Exercise For Higher VO2max
Changing VO2max by Breathing Differently at Rest
Exercise is Joy Only When Body is Oxygenated at Rest
When exercise is 100% safe for chronic diseases
Why modern man gets little, if any, benefits from exercise
Which exercise parameters increase body oxygenation
Thanks for the link. I’ll check out your site!
Fantastic article and I am really enjoying your website! There is so much inspirational information you share on so many varied topics. Wondering if you are familiar with the Art of Living breathing? It is a 20-30 minute practice that incorporates 3 different nasal breathing cycles. I found after practicing for 40 days I could run farther with more ease and comfort (just one of the benefits).
Hi, thank you for the wonderful article. I completely stumbled upon nasal breathing yesterday during a run – I was forced to keep my mouth closed for the whole 5 kms because of massive clouds of mayflies (I didn’t really want to spend my whole run choking on them). Anyway, I have mitral valve prolapse, and have always struggled with running, as it felt like I just couldn’t get enough air. I am otherwise very fit (I am also in the military), so it is frustrating for me to not be able to run well. Anyway, after doing my run breathing only through my nose, I felt so much better, both during and after the run! I usually end up completely exhausted at the end of a run, and I have to force myself just to get through the run. This time, even though I’m still not a huge fan of running, it felt like I was able to complete the run much more easily, and with much less stress than I could before. My time was only 30 seconds slower than last time (probably because my time was never that good to begin with), but my heart rate felt better, and I could breathe more easily. It was a little odd at first, as I felt like I wasn’t getting enough air, but then I realized I actually was. I will be trying this out every time I run from now on, including during interval training, and I will definitely be doing it as much as I can when I do my summer training (apart from having to sing cadences!). Thanks again for the article!
Do you want to know where mouth breathing begins? If you have small children, you’ll want to see this.
Evidence is a short film by Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi, etc.) that watches children watching television. Its focus is not on mouth breathing, but on how television sucks people in.
Read the director’s brief comments here: http://www.koyaanisqatsi.org/films/evidence.php
“Evidence looks into the eyes of children watching television – in this case Walt Disney’s ‘Dumbo’. Though engaged in a daily routine, they appear drugged, retarded, like the patients of a mental hospital. Evidence is about the behavior of children watching television – an activity whose physiological aspects have been overlooked in the current controversy surrounding television.”
Watch the 07:40 min film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuI_nCADnW0
Check out the mouths.
(Also, notice how little fun they appear to be having. They’re watching Dumbo, but look like they’re watching something scary.)
Thanks for the link! Great info. And I just ordered the Nose Breathe Mouthpiece from that site. We’ll see if it works!
I have worked with several thousands of people and with the exception of ive people- they were all able to make the shift. The dvd is watched by tens of thousands of people and of course- I have to cover all eventualities.
Try the nose unblocking exercises- try many times. Measure your control pause- increase it. If you spend ten minutes doing nose unblocking exercise and it does not work or show improvement, then you need further help. But when you do the nose unblocking exercise, you muct hold your breath on the outbreath for as long as you can.
Hi – have a look at nosebreathe.com – some interesting info there. Don’t know if that’s useful but give it a try anyway. Cheers
Patrick I’m sorry but I must disagree with that to an extent, the nasal cycle allows me on scant rare occasion to properly tolerate nasal breathing for about one to five minutes. One ENT said I have a “moderate” deviated septum, while the 2nd one (the surgeon he recommended) said I have a “severe” deviated septum and he told me they came to different conclusions due to the nasal cycle. Also in your video, you say “only in the event that you may have a polyp or a deviated septum that you’ll find it quite difficult to shift.” Please forgive my questioning, I am personally EXTREMELY stressed out right now over getting insurance to pay for this surgery, and I REALLY don’t want to delay it again.
You are very welcome. Good to hear that you got a lot from it. I did too, and the results that I have seen over the past eight years leave me in no doubt as to the importance of nasal breathing for everybody.
Nasal breathing is the first step. The second step is bringing breathing volume to more normal levels.
The control pause which is a measurement of comfortable breath hold time is a very good indicator of breathing volume. Regarding nasal breathing, there has only being a handful of people unable to make the switch to nasal breathing. All of these had nasal polyps.
The rule is- if you can breathe through your nose for one minute, you can breathe through your nose for life. Deviated septums dont often present a problem. After all, we use one nostril for the majority of time.
Good luck with your efforts Christopher. It is time well spent.
Thanks for responding Christopher and Patrick, but as he says in the video, if you have a deviated septum it’s another story. So wish me luck, I am pulling my hair out in anticipation of proper breathing.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!!!!!
I am surprised and delighted that you are on here, and read my post!
You are the one I learned that nasal clearing exercise from. Thanks to you, I can breathe through my nose more and more of the time. Thank you soooooo much for your book, ‘Asthma-Free Naturally’. I only bought it about a month ago, and it has already changed my life. More specifically, the information in your book ranks as one of the Top 3 Breakthroughs in my life, ever. What more can I say.
I had absolutely despised being dependent on inhalers and meds, basically for the last 38 years, since my birth. I went much more radical than you suggest, and I haven’t used any medication in a month, since the day I began implementing your info. I remember when I first started, I was so radical that at some points in the middle of the night when I was having an ‘attack’, I used your method to the point of vowing to die, before I took a puff of my inhaler. I know, I know… not what you advise. Sorry. Lucky for me, the method worked. 🙂
Basically, though, I am just starting my Buteyko Method journey, and I would love to talk with you more! You are literally a hero to me.
Thank You So Much,
Yes, I use this exercise all the time. I teach it to thousands of children and adults. That along with other means of increasing breath hold time. It is based on the work of russian professor konstanin buteyko.
I have also put free video downloads about correct breathing during physical exercise, how to unblock the nose, how to stop asthma attack, how to increase breath hold time, included in this information will be how to improve sports performance.
oops- the link to see the free videos is http://www.buteykodvd.com/freedownloads/
It is myself giving the talks.
I learned of an exercise to clear nasal blockage that works for me. You breathe out, then close your mouth and pinch your nose closed with your fingers, hold your breath until you feel a strong need for air, while nodding your head up and down. When you release and breathe in, only breathe through your nose, and only gently, while relaxing. The increased CO2 in the bloodstream will trigger a physiological response that opens and clears the nasal passages. Sometimes this exercise needs to be repeated, and the results sometimes take several minutes to appear. Usually it clears right after, though. It doesn’t work for me 100% of the time. If I have a cold, the clearing will be only minimal. But most of the time, this does the trick.
As a side note, I have asthma, and these and other breathing exercises I learned just in the last month, have helped eliminate my need for inhalers this last month. I’m extrememly stoked! And one of the main principles of this breath retraining to eliminate asthma is this… only breathe through your nose.
The problem with this post is people with nasal blockages like me would get discouraged at the absolute lack of ability to nose breathe. Specialists have informed me you cannot exercise your nose open, etc you need surgical intervention. Luckily, much nasal blockage can be resolved with simple non invasive surgical procedures.
I’ve recently discovered the massive breadth of advantages nasal breathing has over mouth breathing (no thanks to any doctor or teacher or coach throughout my life.) It outrages me that I slipped through the cracks, let alone the countless others out there. Watch the tv show “The Biggest Loser,” observe how they mouth breathe. Why aren’t the coaches demanding proper breathing? I’m about to get surgery to correct my deviated septum, and I’ve never been more excited for anything in my life. The problem with chronic mouth breathers like me is we have no exposure to what GOOD breathing is like. And doctors just don’t seem to give a shit. They just don’t look for it. They tell you to “breathe deep,” and as I gasp through my mouth, they are probably in a hurry to rush me out the door for the next cashcow patient.
I think that breathing through your mouth can affect your mentallity more then anything it has ruined mine up untill I read this 🙂
I have been brething through my mouth as long as I can remember, when I sleep when I’m working, All the time. It has affected my mentallity. Life is just not the same for me as other people! I always have a sense of urgency that dominates everything else so much that it’s almost like I’m not focusing as much on life in general that includes work friends and music it like I’m just dreaming while I’m awake lime I’m looking At my life through a window I can’t explain how it feels but it’s like life is just there and u can’t enjoy it . Now I have been breathing through my nose for a few hOurs and I already feel like andifferint person! I can not believe how much of a differince it makes! Breathing through your nose is life changing! I wish I knew of more people had this problem of not feeling like your living . Thanks
Thanks for the post! I have started breathing through my nose recently because I heard it somewhere but never really knew the benefits.
It’s good to know that it is benefiting my life and the quality of it!
Thanks for sharing!
I think the theory is that the nose is lined with hairs to trap and stop foreign bodies coming in. At the same time as you exhale through the nose you blow any trapped rubbish out. Also air is warmed up when it comes through the nose into the lungs rather than straight in through the mouth.
Thanks for the highlighting and challenging various points, it’s a great help in trying to get clear our own personal understanding of how we can get the best from ourselves. Very good point.
“I’d rather be chatting with my teammates rather than focusing on nose breathing”
I tend to run on my own, but i don’t think i would enjoy running around silently with running partners. I shall read your blog post in due course – ta.
I am very interested in finding the science-based answer to nose vs. mouth breathing efficiency. I plan on being a guinea pig.
What I have found in the last few months, is that if I want to do maximum work (wattage), I need to open my mouth and breath in a pattern similar to what you recommend in your article (my optimal pattern seems to be the equivalent of an ‘uneven 4-3’).
However, when I do sub-maximal training, and stay at a maximum of 85% of my max heart rate (MHR), it is better for me to maintain nose breathing to produce maximum wattage. This may have something to do with the fight-or-flight response, and the vagus nerve. I am going to pay more specific attention to this in the coming months, to get more precise and controlled measurements.
Of course, if you don’t do sub-maximal training, then this will be irrelevant. If that is the case, then I agree that nose-breathing is not best for performance, since I can’t maintain nose-breathing at maximal effort. However, for psychological mood and overall well-being, nose-breathing seems superior. When not working out, I have shifted to nose-breathing almost exclusively, and I feel calmer.
As for working out, I have tried to increase my workload above 85% MHR while maintaining nose-breathing, but I find that I have to open my mouth at some point between 85% – 90% MHR in order to maintain the increased workload.
You certainly made me think about what the purpose of nose-breathing is, if I can’t use it when I am at maximum workload. However, I still like to mix up my training days, some sub-maximal endurance, some maximal endurance, and some interval training (repeated sprints). For sub-maximal days, it seems that nose-breathing is best.
And yes, I do miss talking to my teammates during nose-breathing days. I still do talk on those days, but just very little, and only when necessary.
I am going to do some controlled experiments regarding this. Specifically, one day I will maintain a specific wattage while mouth-breathing, for an hour. Then, after two days rest, I will maintain that same specific wattage while nose-breathing, for an hour. Then, I will compare the graphs of my heart rate between the two sessions.
Based on my experience so far, I think I will have a lower heart rate on the nose-breathing day. On both days, I expect some cardio-drift, where my heart rate increases very slowly over the hour, at the same workload. Frankly, I would not be surprised if the graphs are the same, or very similar, either, since I was not being scientific before. I am interested to find out, though.
One last thing, I have read that nose-breathing, in general, reduces chances of getting a cold or other viruses.
According to the article, nose breathing forces you to slow down. Used on recovery days, it probably makes little difference how you breath since intensity is so low. I’d rather be chatting with my teammates rather than focusing on nose breathing. I certainly doubt that the diaphragm is strengthened through nose breathing as has been suggested. I find Mr. Moran’s comment interesting that he can maintain specific work at a lower HR- I’d love to see that demonstrated in a laboratory setting.
I work with the military who have long been told to nose breath- I recently retrained one soldier and taught him to inhale with mouth open and exhale out every other time his left foot strikes the ground. Low and behold he dropped a minute from his 2 mile in a week. Here is a link of my article on proper breathing while running. http://www.daveelger.net/2007/08/proper-breathing-for-runners.html
I looove nasal breathing. Since implementing it about 6 months ago, after reading about it here, I have noticed many performance improvements. While cycling, I can sustain the same power output wattage to my back tire, at 85% of my max heart rate, that it used to take me about 92% of my max heart rate to achieve. The great benefit, is that I can sustain 85% of max heart rate for a loooong time, whereas 92% is unsustainable for me for longer periods (greater than 15-30 minutes).
Thank You Sooo Much,
Enjoyed your post and your questioning of whether there is the evidence that nose breathing offers an advantage in terms of endurance.
Here is an interesting article – The importance of Nasal Breathing: http://ultimatefitness.wordpress.com/2006/10/13/the-importance-of-nasal-breathing/
I think you are right it is hard to nasal breathe when really putting yourself through the mill, but i think there are more long term, general benefits to be gained from nasal breathing. here is an excerpt from the article.
I have been doing fartlek type training recently, trying to build up my ability to nasal breathe under pressure. within a 1 minute cycle. i’ll stide out at 80% for either 15,20 or 30 seconds and use the rest of the one minute cycle to recover – trying to nasal breathe.
i am definitely over the initial awkward phase of nasal breathing when just jogging. although i do wonder sometimes if i cheat a bit when i spit out and sometimes grab some sneaky air through the mouth.
I’ve jusy got this feeling that nasal breathing is the right life choice and i agree with Rav that it has a good effect on my mental state and calming demeanour. I have run some 10k’s nasal only breathing with no significant tail off in times (hoping to improve soon)- but again towards the end i tend to breath out just through my nose, with my slightly mouth open and not sure this is totally within the spirit of total nasal breathing.
Hey Dave – I am not implying that I will be able to do high intensity events or hill sprints while only breathing through my nose, or that I could run faster breathing only through my nose than breathing only through my mouth.
However I do believe that for other lower-intensity runs it totally has changed my experience (I feel more efficient and less worn out). I’ve also been able to gradually build up my ability to run while nasal breathing. It takes time but I find it worthwhile.
Does nose breathing make my body more efficient at using oxygen? I have no idea from scientific standpoint…and frankly I don’t race anymore so don’t really care. However it makes sense that it would since I am breathing far less volume of air but running during my training runs (nose breathing) just as fast as before (mouth breathing).
I am also a yoga instructor and long-time practictioner. And practicing while nose breathing (vs mouth breathing) has a profound effective on my mental state and the overall experience of my practice – I get into the zone and really focus much better and more quickly.
I don’t believe you’ll find any scientific evidence that nose breathing offers an advantage in terms of endurance- if you have it I’d like to see the refrence. I also don’ t believe you can nose breath while busting out hills or 10 x 400 meters at 100% of your VO2 without severely limiting your speed. I see no value in running at a speed 10-15% below your norm.
Just curious- are you implying that eventually you’ll fully adapt to nose breathing and be able to perform at a higher level?
I loved the article! i also have a problem with my breathing, and now that you’ve brought it to my attention, I realize that I breathe more through my mouth than my nose….I’m going to take you up on your challenge, and try to breathe exclusively through my nose for 10 days! I suffer from a mild form of asthma, and I’m hoping this will help with that as well. I walk my German Shepherd 3 miles everyday, so we’ll see how that goes, but again, thank you for this article! I’m truly excited about trying this out.
This all seems so revolutionary and new age but it’s pure intuition and common-sense. I am a chronic ‘mouth-breather’ looking to make the change – You’re website never ceases, Ravi! Thank you and I hope to reap the multiple benefits of deep relaxed nasal breathing you outlined so well.
Thanks for a great article. I’ve spent about an hour this morning reading through a number of your posts, all very unique and informative, answering a number of questions I’ve been grappling with over the last month or so. Thanks for maintaining this excellent blog 🙂
Hey Juli, thanks for the comment! Let me know how the breathing technique works for u 🙂
Hey Ravi. I read this and became very intrigued. I’ve been breathing through my nose for about a week now. I really want to continue this strategy, but I’ve been having some problems. I always feel short of breath and then I turn to breathing faster and faster with about 18 breaths per minute. I’ve taken my resting pulse which is way higher now than it was before. I know that you aren’t really supposed to take deep breaths with your chest but I always end up taking deep breaths with my diaphragm then I work my way up and use my chest and I feel thats the only way to cure my shortness of breath, but I know its wrong. I don’t know. Am i doing it wrong? Whenever I do breathing exercises, my lungs never feel fully filled up unless I use my chest as well.
It’d be great if you could get back to me.
Hey Mike, it takes a while to get used to this new way of breathing. So don’t worry if you have to breath a bit through your nose or even into your chest a little. Take it one step at a time. In terms of breathing into the chest, yes you will fill up the chest a little – don’t worry about that. Try to just breathe in a relaxed manner…your lungs should not be filling completely with each breath…
I have just started this yesterday, and as a side note I’d like to add that in boxing (very high intensity as well as stamina-demanding sport) it is the conventional wisdom to only breathe through the nose as well.
For those who are further interested in nasal breathing during sports, you might be interested to know that a Russian Dr konstantin Buteyko spent several decades working in this area. Not alone nasal breathing but correct volume. His method is instrumental in improving oxygenation of tissues and organs. In other words, the heavier you breathe relative to metabolic requirements- the greater blood vessel constriction and reduced delivery of oxygen. He has a measurement called the control pause. The higher your control pause, the easier it will be to nasal breathe during intense exercise. If the control pause is less than ten seconds, you will be just able to walk while nasal breathing. There are free videos for those who would like to measure their control pause, how to stop an asthma attack, how to unblock the nose and how to breathe during physical exercise.
The website for free segments is http://www.buteykodvd.com
Website with international practitioners for Buteyko is http://www.buteykoclinic.com
I’m trying out breathing out through my nose during my morning jog. This was easier than I expected. Will test out this theory extensively.
@ Chris Moran: Thanks for your comment. Glad you found some interesting content on this site. Please let me know how your own progression goes with regards to yoga, personal development and vegetarianism!
I just wanted to thank you for your blog, and all the great advice and inspiration. I found your blog while searching for breathing techniques to increase endurance. Then I ended up spending hours reading your other posts! They are excellent, real, and inspired. I feel like I can really relate to you.
For me, just knowing your actual experiences, and that you could do it… helps me know that I can do it. You have inspired me with your posts on nose-breathing, yoga, yoga retreats, endurance activities, vegetarianism, setting high standards, selecting friends wisely, and cultivating presence.
I have been nose breathing for 4 weeks, using a Buteyko coach for the first 2 weeks. I was always a mouthbreather, rapid shallow breaths or breath holding when stressed (chronic bronchitis as a child, and some asthma as an adult). I have just started running, which I have never been able to do and at present only run till I get puffed, so slow to a walk until I get my breathing under control…I can now do circuits at the gym breathing entirely through my nose. I tape my mouth closed at night, in an X – not “hostage style” with a gentle paper tape which just keeps me nose breathing at night. I am now upping my exercise in an effort to reduce my blood pressure and in order to not have to start taking medication for high blood pressure, as my doctor is suggesting! Given my progress in such an incredibly short time I know I can improve my health for the long term. I suggest anyone wanting to seriously try nasal breathing to get in touch with a Buteyko coach, as they will monitor your breathing technique and get you into a good habit/routine which you can then continue with forever.
How’s it going. You must be feeling like a million dollars now 2-3 years down the line. I have just got into adopting a 100% nasal breathing policy, instigated by bikram yoga with follow up reading up on hatha yoga techniques.
thanks for the extra comparisons, discussions and links. I feel the same way as you that this is going to be an awesome life enhancing thing to do. My initial thoughts and experiences can be found here – http://learnadoodledastic.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/nasal-breathing/
for those of you who are having trouble incorporating nose breathing into your exercise – try using nose strips [http://www.breatheright.com/] as a way to get used to it. It does hold the nose slightly open but I think it is the presence of the nose strip that continuously reminds the wearer to breathe through he nose. So, they can help you form a good habit.
Hi John, I found that eating a high quality diet and staying hydrated is a big help. For me, when I eat fewer processed/refined foods and avoid wheat gluten (I have a mild allergy to it), my nasal airway is more clear.
I learned about nasal breathing during exercise from John Douillard’s book, and have used it, though it is pretty hard at first and slows you down.
Any advice on how to get the nostrils as clear as possible before starting to exercise?
Joe – too funny! Maybe I’ll see you again. There are some great workshops coming up at Shakti West….I’ll be at most of them!
Whoah, man, you’re not going to believe this, but I’ve had a class with you… two or three months ago–before the holidays. You were subbing for someone (Eric or Scott?) in Ballard. I didn’t recognize you with all of the paint on… that’s pretty amazing.
Awesome Joe, right on with the Yoga!
I teach at Shakti Vinyasa Yoga in Ballard and Bellevue.
Stick with the nasal breathing….it gets “easier” though for runs it is still a challenge sometimes. For me, my diet has a big effect. When I eat “clean” food, it is a lot easier to get air in through my nose.
Greetings from Ballard, Ravi. I started taking Bikram a couple of weeks ago, and the teachers insist upon nose breathing only… as they say mouth breathing prompts the body’s fight/flight system to crank up. This would raise stress hormones and lowers your good hormones (like testosterone and other fat burners). I struggled through 3 miles with nose breathing only… my sinuses are still burning a bit… however, my stamina has been through the roof today–very important this time of year in Seattle. You did a great job of putting this information together.
Nasal breathing has a huge impact on my level of stress during the day. I don’t think what you are experiencing is a coincidence 🙂
Have an outstanding 2009!
i have found nose breathing to help with stress related tension. However it has only been two days of trying so i will keep it up and see if it continues to benefit me or if it is simply coincedance.
in the article u have said to keep your mouth shut,how do u expect people to talk if your mouth is shut..pls help?
I’ve been nose-breathing at sleep and while running for about ten weeks.
At night, I tape my mouth shut with a small piece (about 3cm long) of 5cm wide micropore tape. It’s not necessary to ‘seal the hole’; it’s enough that you ‘encourage’ your mouth to remain closed. As such, I KNOW that I am breathing exclusively through my nose during sleep. I wonder how others do, without having taken a similar precaution? In the morning, the tape may be easily removed, although I find that I don’t want to remove it until I have to. There is something of a relaxed, contented feeling associated with the tape, probably due more though to the prior 8 hours of nose-breathing sleep. The one problem that exists is that sneezing with a taped mouth is unpleasant (though possible).
Since I began exclusively nose-breathing while running (recently on runs lasting between 45-75 mins), I have faithfully stuck with it. I didn’t notice a great loss of speed, so much as a feeling of panic that I wasn’t going to be able to get enough oxygen (e.g., at the end of a hill climb) and a general feeling of breathing through a straw. However, that appears to be the result of a lifetime of bad breathing habits, and simply the reaction of a brain that takes its time to adjust to new ways of physically doing things. I probably started to get used to it after the customary 3 week change window had passed.
I’ve noticed two (apparent – it remains to be seen if they are genuine and lasting) benefits of exclusively nose-breathing while running:
1) As I up my mileage (after a hiatus from running), I experience no next day muscle stiffness or soreness. I’ll be monitoring this as I increase my training times/distances.
2) Even after 75 minutes, my mouth has adequate saliva and I have no desire for water. I suppose that’s due to nose-breathing resulting in less water vapour being exhaled than is with mouth-breathing. When mouth-breathing, I’d get a cotton wool mouth after about 40 mins max, and would crave water after a run. I’ll be carefully experimenting further with this over longer times/distances. I have experience running more than marathon distances and I know my body, and would NOT recommend less experienced runners to follow my lead here.
Downsides include a constant nasal drip, or feeling of a drip in the nostril, that requires the carrying of a tissue. Big deal. I’m hoping that drip will go away in time, though. (FYI, I run in very comfortable air temperatures.)
I don’t tape my mouth shut during a run as it looks silly and isn’t really necessary. However, I don’t speak or otherwise open my mouth while running if I can help it.
The idea that most intrigues me with regard to nose-breathing while running is that which concerns oxygen uptake by the muscle cells. I believe the original author erred in stating that adequate CO2 is required for good uptake of oxygen into the bloodstream. In fact, adequate CO2 is necessary for the efficient release of oxygen attached to the haemoglobin in the blood to the muscles cells. Mouth-breathing, and any violent, hyperventilating-type breathing tends to blow off too much CO2, thus making the efficient release of oxygen from the blood to the cells impossible. So, you have a big bucket of water with a locked lid, and you can’t get a drink from it because the CO2 key has been thrown away. Did you ever wonder why you suck in so much air and only use a quarter of its 21% oxygen content on each breath?
Right now, further to exclusively nose-breathing on the run, I’m experimenting with trying to breathe more gently, and trying to extend the time between inhalation and exhalation, with a view to ‘carbon-dioxidising’ (it’s not the waste product the experts would have you believe it is) my system more efficiently.
I’ve also read that nitric oxide (NO) is produced in the nasal passages upon breathing. NO is a vasodilator. This would be important in long distance running, in several regards. Apparently, it is also “the transmitter that results in engorgement of the sexual organs — the drug Viagra has its effect on the second messenger, cyclic GMP, but other treatments for impotency involve delivery of NO.” according to the following web page: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~molbio/nitric.html
Perhaps the so-called diseases of civilisation – impotency, alzheimer’s, stroke, cardiovascular disease, asthma, allergies, etc. (who knows, perhaps even ADHD and autism?), have come about as the result of widespread bad breathing habits, i.e., breathing through the mouth.
Shut your mouth and open your vascules!
I am inspired.
I like to read about things i can immediately take action on.
Excellent article. I’ve been aware of nasal breathing some time, but i’ve not been really comitted to do it.
But what was new to be, but logical when i think of it, was the oxygen absorption is inverted proportional with the amout of air inhaled. Hence fast breathing result in “light headed ness”.
Regardless, thanks again mate.
I never ever thought of this concept, and today I will institute the 10 day test. It sounds like a very rewarding journey. I look forward to practicing this technique for the rest of my life.
I kayak 3-5 times per week,2-2.5 hrs,and cycle and run also,I am going to try this,I have gps on me “speed etc” and a heart monitor so will let you know in a couple of months,:)
I dont think that this claim has any logic in it. We need more oxygen when we do some strenous exercise or when we are stressed. Breathing through nose and mouth gives us more volume of air to be inhaled inside our bodies. By the way this is the very first time that i have come across any such theory of nose breathing. I would urge all my friends to first do a thorough research before attempting anything like this.On a personal level i remain skeptical.
I just got done reading your very informative article, and the useful links that you provided and also the one that Patrick mentioned.
After done reading with all, I am greatly motivated.
I am starting this practice right now.
And will give it a full 10-day shot.
Will update after that.
many thanks for your thoughts on this. truly excellent. this is BIG.
HERE’S A GREAT TIP,
if you want to breath through your nose.
Hold your tongue against the top of your mouth.
It has let me breath through my nose even when I sleep, and now nose breathing is just as normal as mouth breathing is to me. Mind you though, it will take some adjusting.
I remember seeing study where a high school running coach used nasal breathing techniques to increase the fitness and performance of his team. I can’t recall exactly where I saw it.
I’ve also read a lot of anecdotal stuff, but nothing scientifically done.
I’m a firm believer in the benefits…based on my personal experience. It isn’t easy (especially initially) but is worth the journey.
Curious if anyone has access to any ‘hard science’ that proves physiologically that nose breathing during aerobic activity is superior? Any studies done on orthopedic injuries, postural changes, blood chemistry changes (lactic acid etc), recovery times, tissue healing or rate of VO2max improvement? In fact any strong supportive evidence that is not anecdotal?? I love this concept and want to get it out there to everyone!!
Hey Jim, nosebreathing is really an incredible way to elevate and stablize your energy. I wish I focused more on this when I was a kid!
Thanks for visiting my blog.
Great work in spreading the word, nose breathing is fundamental to real health. I followed a similar learning curve, read John Douillard’s book, found Buteyko and realised I was a mouth breather, mainly during sleep and exercise. I had also developed a rounded, forward head posture, which contributed to the mouth breathing.
I’ve since trained myself to be a nose breather during sleep and exercise, infact at all times. I enjoy consistent good health and love passing this important information to others.
I have just returned from a walking holiday in Northern Tuscany, Italy, where the nose breathing helped me get up and down the mountains to great effect despite high temperatures. It was interesting to observe other members of the group who were obvious mouth breathers with only little exertion. One man used to be a semi professional cyclist, however his habit of mouth breathing and forward head posture led to a mild episode of dizziness and asthma, not clever some 6000ft up.
Regarding the question of how to make nasal breathing an unconscious habit.
This becomes a habit when breathing volume is correct or when one can comfortably hold their breath on the out breath for greater than 20 seconds.
If I can mention my book CLOSE YOUR MOUTH as it contains the instructions so that one can practise from the comfort of their own homes. The book is simple and has received excellent feedback from readers worldwide. It is written by Patrick McKeown and is available from amazon.com
Hi Tom. I find that the more you practice it, the more it becomes your natural way of breathing.
For me….nosebreathing while sleeping was a first step. I use to always mouth breath while sleeping…however, after a conscious effort for a few weeks to breath through my nose as I was going to bed, it became natural. I now nose breath the entire night!
I’d just recommend keeping up with it. Eventually, it will just happen without thinking.
As per your comment on sharper vision and being in touch with things around you…yes, I’ve noticed the same!
Let me know how it goes for you.
Ravi do you have any comments about how to make nose breathing an unconscious habit? Is it just a matter of practice?
I do find that periods of nose breathing calm me down and make me more aware of my environment – my vision seems sharper and I notice a lot more going on around me. I also feel more in touch with other people.
Exhaling via the mouth compromises your health: loosing CO2, NO, humidity, strength from the diaphragm/face/throat/tongue muscles as well as diminishes proper muscles synergies, which can initiate back-pains and others; endangering your teeth in cases of strong differenced between external/internal temperatures; changes the ph in the mouth hence intensifies bacterial activity damaging the teeth and causing bad breath.
â€˜Mouth-exhaleresâ€™ usually donâ€™t close their mouth for every inhale (that would really be fishyâ€¦) hence all the above and others â€“ are intensified.
Bottom line: BOTH INHALE & EXHALE VIA THE NOSE!
and yes â€“ it takes determination but worth a zillion!
Great documenting, spread the word further & good luck!
Hi, Very Interesting. I am always interested in anything that can make me less stressed and a better person!! IÂ´ve just started Kundalini yoga with Ravi Singh (you are not the same Ravi by chance?)and Ana Brett and will give this a try. I also do weight training and will concentrate on my breathing to see what happens.
Thanks, great info!
Hey Paul, meditating for 25 years? My hat is off to you! I wish I discovered this when I was much younger.
I find that exhaling through mouth over long periods of time makes me more either 1) more agitated or 2) feel more lethargic (yes, I know they are contradictory, but this is what I experience).
I am not aware of any physiological benefit to exhale through the nose, but it seems to producea more calming effect on the body.
Try it and let me know how it goes!
There does seem to be truth to that. I meditated for around 25 years, until just a couple years ago when my very unusual physical disability reached a point where that kind of concentration is no longer physically possible .
It’s because my nose is clogged, LOL!
Sorry, I couldn’t resist… But seriously, I did find the best pattern for me was breathing in through my nose. Exhaling I didn’t find that it mattered so much – think I did a combination of through the nose and mouth.
Hi Rajasekhar, it is not a problem to exhale through the mouth if you absolutely need to, however, you should make your best effort to only inhale and exhale through your nose. Over time, this will become more comfortable, even during exercise!
Let me know how you are progressing with this practice.
I have a small doubt, is it ok if I inhale using nose and exhale using mouth? Not always ofcourse but sometimes when needed.
Please let me know.
is this really accurate information? i’m a very seroius runner and can’t prossibly believe this would work for me. i never heard of it before but i’ll try it out i guess.
Hi runningirl, I didn’t believe that this could actually work until I tried it myself. I have been exclusively nosebreathing for the past three months. I still am not able to run as fast as when I was mouth breathing, but the progress has been incredible.
I also feel much better when I done working out. That alone is worth giving it a try. Let me know how it is going for you.
Ravi in Sunny Seattle.
ARE YOU SURE THIS IS ACURATE INFORMATION AND NOT FRAUD !
Patrick…I did see your books listed after all….turns out I was looking at the wrong site!
Let me know if you have feedback about my other questions. Thanks!
Hi Patrick, thanks for visiting the site and leaving the comment. How can I get a hold of your books? I did not see them listed on your site.
Specifically, I am interested in learning more about the techniques…specifically as they relate to improving athletic performance and endurance. I have no health issues (asthma, etc).
Have you seen such performance benefits in working with your client?
A very well written article which gets the message across clearly. Buteyko breathing is an excellent method to teach how to unblock the nose and nasal breathe. While the method is most often used for asthma, it can provide considerable health benefits to any person.
I have wittnessed results from hundreds of people who have applied this method. You could learn it self help from books of which I have written three of them. However, to reap the full benefits a well trained experienced practitioner is the best avenue. For further information on the Buteyko method- visit http://www.buteykointernational.com
Hi healthybpm….I have also been doing pranayama exercises for the longest time….but making the 100% shift to nose breathing in daily life is something that never occurred to me.
This shift has produced a huge impact on my life. It’s not something I’ve ever heard discussed in yoga classes or even in alternative health circles. I only hear talk of nose breathing during specific exercises…but never throughout daily life! I am sure some people just do this naturally, but for me, I had to make a conscious shift.
I’ve been doing pranayama for some time and I never really thought about it this deeply.
Being aware of your breath really does change you. It makes you a better person in all aspects.