Practicing mindful breathing can make a big difference to your life.
Taking greater notice of the way that you’re inhaling and exhaling gets you more in tune with your body and your mind.
And the power of the breath can be channeled in a number of different ways.
One of the best techniques for accessing the calming benefits of breathwork is nasal breathing. In this article, we’ll be exploring the subject, with a focus on these key points:
- The Power Of The Breath
- What Is Nasal Breathing?
- The Benefits Of Nasal Breathing
- How To Practice Nasal Breathing
- Tune Into The Breath And Change Your Everyday Life
Ready to reap the rewards of nasal breathing? Then read on.
The Power Of The Breath
Breathing is something most of us do without really thinking about it. It’s a natural function of the human body that we take for granted.
The thing is, when we do engage with a breath in a more active way, we can seriously enrich our everyday experiences.
Mindful breathing is a breathwork practice that encourages you to become more aware of your breath and observe how it impacts your bodily sensations, feelings and emotions.
Mindful breathing exercises tend to focus on close observation of each inhalation and exhalation, or of physical movements like the rise and fall of the chest.
A more mindful approach to the breath is also about noticing how different breathing patterns affect your mental state.
By becoming more mindful of the breath, we can tune into our minds and bodies and begin acting with more purpose, calmness, and intentionality.
Fully tuning into the breath, particularly when done during dedicated periods of quiet meditation, can have a range of benefits. But we’ll discuss those in more detail later on. First, let’s map out exactly what nasal breathing involves.
What Is Nasal Breathing?
There are two different ways of breathing: through the mouth, and through the nose.
Both methods lead to the throat, which carries oxygen into the lungs. But there are some key differences that are worth knowing about.
Breathing through the nose is healthier, more natural, and more efficient than breathing through the mouth.
Nasal breathing encourages a more effective use of the air you inhale, and it can reduce the chances of you suffering from health issues like dry mouth or bad breath.
But despite this information, it’s estimated that around 30-50% of adults breathe through their mouth (this is especially common early in the morning). That’s a large section of the population who aren’t making the most of what the breath has to offer.
Making a mindful effort to practice nasal breathing instead of mouth breathing can lead to a wide range of physical and mental health benefits.
Let’s get into them.
The Benefits Of Nasal Breathing
It might feel normal to breathe through your mouth, but this process will actually prevent you from taking in high quality oxygen.
Our noses are specially designed for the process of breathing, which is why nasal breathing is so much better for us.
Here are a few benefits of breathing through the nose:
#1. Less Exposure To Foreign Substances
With nasal breathing, the nose acts as a filter. Nasal hair prevents foreign particles like dust, pollen, and allergens from entering the body, making the air you’re breathing in cleaner.
#2. Humified Air
Humidifying the air you breathe in might not seem like a big deal, but it is. By warming and moisturizing the air that you breathe in in order to bring it up to body temperature, the nose makes it easier for your lungs to use that air.
#3. Nitric Oxide Production
Nasal breathing produces nitric oxide, which helps to widen blood vessels and improve oxygen circulation in the body.
#4. Improved Athletic Performance
Breathing through the nose can also help enhance athletic performance by allowing CO2 levels to rise before the CO2 is exhaled. This leads to higher CO2 tolerance during exercise, meaning that you can perform for longer with less breath.
#5. Reduced Stress And Anxiety
This is a big one. Nasal breathing is excellent for helping you deal with moments of stress, anxiety, and panic.
While mouth breathing encourages unhelpful rapid, shallow breaths, the nose helps you slow down your breath and calm racing thoughts.
#6. Better Sleep
Making an effort to practice nasal breathing will improve the quality of the air you’re taking in, which can have positive effects for anyone who struggles to sleep at night. One study even found that it can aid obstructive sleep apnea patients.
#7. Lowered Risk Of Allergies And Hayfever
The link between mouth breathing and allergies is clear. The nose’s highly effective filtration system is great for reducing our exposure to allergens, pollutants, bacteria, and viruses.
If you’re someone who’s prone to suffering from allergies and hayfever, you can seriously benefit from making a mindful effort to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth.
How To Practice Nasal Breathing
The benefits of nasal breathing are wide-ranging; not only does this form of breathwork ensure that you’re taking in good quality oxygen, it also calms you down in the moment and promotes various long-term health improvements.
But in order to access the surprising benefits of nasal breathing, there are a few things you need to be aware of.
Various exercises, techniques, and little tips can be used to encourage the practice of nasal breathing. Check out our list of handy suggestions below for some more guidance on accessing the benefits of nasal breathing.
#1. Become More Aware
Increased awareness is key to better breathing. Start paying closer attention to your daily breathing patterns. Do you ever gasp for breath when walking? Is your nose blocked a lot? Does your mouth naturally drop open? Noting these things can be super helpful.
#2. Slow Your Roll
One of the best things about nasal breathing is that it encourages slower, deeper breaths that engage the diaphragm, calm the mind, and regulate heart rate.
#3. Try Belly Breathing
A technique which focuses explicitly on encouraging nasal breaths is the practice of belly breathing. Yoga instructors often tell their students to breathe into the belly, thereby activating the diaphragm and getting more air into the lungs.
Belly breathing revolves around deep, slow breaths taken in through the nose. You can find out more about this practice in our comprehensive guide to belly breathing.
#4. Try Alternate Nostril Breathing
Another breathwork technique that engages the nose is alternate nostril breathing. This is a common exercise within yoga and meditation that can enhance lung function and decrease stress.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is a simple process. First, you place your right thumb on your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Next, you place your right ring finger on your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril.
You then inhale through the right nostril, before repeating the entire process. Do this for around 5 minutes.
#5. Embrace Buteyko Breathing
Buteyko Breathing is a practice that’s excellent for helping people deal with nasal congestion. The technique consists of breath retention exercises designed to enhance breath control. Our article on Buteyko Breathing explores the subject in more depth.
#6. Breath Of Fire
A more extreme technique that promotes nasal breathing is ‘breath of fire’, or ‘skull shining breath’. This is a Kundalini Yoga technique that involves quick, strong exhalations and normal inhalations.
Breath of fire can improve your mental and physical health by engaging your respiratory muscles and diaphragm and boosting your concentration and focus.
#7. Daily Training
The best way to make nasal breathing a more natural, automatic process is by setting aside time each day for daily nose breathing training. Try one of the techniques we’ve just outlined, or simply sit still and take a few slow, deep breaths in through the nose.
Tune Into The Breath And Change Your Everyday Life
Nasal breathing is a technique that may be difficult to grasp at first, particularly if you suffer from nasal congestion, or if you’re much more used to breathing through the mouth.
However, even if you find it tricky to change your ways, it’s important to be aware of how much better for you nasal breathing is.
Its benefits include increased oxygen quality, less exposure to dust and allergens, reduced anxiety and stress, and better sleep. Whatever your health and fitness levels, you can gain from embracing nasal breathing.
And if you want to dive deeper and develop a more mindful approach to breathing in general, there are loads of other ways you can do so.
Practices like sleep meditation and mindful movement rely heavily on tuning into your breath and observing its relationship with your body and mind.
Or if you don’t have the time to jump into a more formal practice, there are tons of techniques that can be slotted naturally into your daily schedule.
Check out our guide to guide to everyday mindfulness for lots of suggestions on how to easily incorporate mindful moments into your day.