Breathing through your nose is one of the best things you could be doing for your body. It’s so simple, I want to say it’s as easy as breathing except, well, it IS just breathing!
Bikram yoga teaches the importance of breathing through the majority of its poses. Both the first and last postures of Bikram yoga involve breathing and incorporate both mouth and nasal breathing for different reasons.
The first pose is the Standing Deep Breathing (pranayama pose) which helps prevent respiratory problems, like emphysema, bronchitis and shortness of breath.
The last post, Blowing in Firm (Kapalbhati pose), promotes circulation and healthy digestion, as well as increases your lungs elasticity with forceful exhales.
Yoga is a great way to strengthen abdominal organs and increase blood circulation to vital organs. This is because of the specific focus on breathing exercises, techniques, and proper breathing.
What’s So Important About Proper Breathing?
Nasal breathing is heavily emphasized in any 90-minute Bikram yoga session and it’s not just because no one wants to smell your garlic-heavy diet in the air.
The reason has to do with your body’s carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and not your oxygen levels like many believe.
Our bodies manufacture CO2 naturally as a by-product of bodily processes. Meaning it’s actually quite good for you and most of it isn’t coming from the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide levels in the body regulate pH range in the blood and allows for the release of oxygen to the brain and tissues. Proper CO2 levels keep this range healthy which triggers red blood cells to release the much needed oxygen our bodies need.
How Your Breathing Affects Your Body
Our lungs store a balanced amount of CO2, but that perfect level can fall below the healthy level of pressure and our bodies will feel an imbalance and experience symptoms.
When our lungs hold the appropriate levels of CO2, our brain is able to trigger proper breathing though our diaphragm. There is one simple way to maintain the perfect level of CO2 in your lungs; functional breathing.
Functional breathing in adults is 8-10 breaths every minute while resting. It is done through inhaling and exhaling through the nose and diaphragm and not through the mouth and upper chest.
If you can hear your breathing, it’s not functional.
Nasal Breathing vs. Mouth Breathing
Your nose has a natural filtration system for the air you take in.
When breathing in through the nose, air is first filtered through the hair to catch particles in the air. The mucous then kills viruses and bacteria with enzymes.
Next in the filtration process are the turbinates and sinuses that warm and condition the air to produce nitric oxide which improves lung function.
There are two more final filters air goes through before reaching your lungs – the adenoids and the tonsils.
Your lungs are a sensitive organ and work better with air that has been filtered through this system when inhaled through the nose and not the mouth.
In a recent study, those who relayed on their mouth to breathe had three immediate problems.
- Lower levels of CO2 in the lungs
- Lower concentration of CO2 in the blood steam
- Limited flow of CO2 to the brain and tissues
These problems if having a low level of CO2 raises the blood pH to a higher alkaline level, which then alerts the brain to stop the diaphragm working until CO2 levels rise to their proper levels.
Using Your Mouth to Breathe
When you use your mouth to breathe, you’ll notice your upper chest rising as oppose to your diaphragm, which we now know is the proper way to breathe. Using your mouth will disrupt the breathing cycle and throw off our body chemistry.
This will lead to a decrease in CO2 in the lungs, which will then lead the diaphragm to stop working. As stated above, the brain halts our diaphragm in order to increase the CO2 to a normal level. This will halt will cause a tight feeling in the chest or even lead to trouble breathing.
But when we breathe through our nose, we can control our diaphragm and therefore control our CO2 levels.
The Healthiest Reason to Control CO2 Levels
Our brain doesn’t only have the power to stop our diaphragm to affect our breathing, but also will tighten our tubes to try and increase CO2 levels.
By tubes, I pretty much mean our entire body. From the esophagus to the intestines, our bodies are made up of various tubes to keep things running.
This also includes our veins and capillaries. By constricting these, our body will see a decrease in blood flow which can affect digestion and cognition.
By breathing through our nose, we can keep our body working properly through the power of proper carbon dioxide levels.
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