The Astonishing Science and Benefits of Nasal Breathing
In stressful situations, it’s always helpful to remind yourself to just breathe. That being said, if you really want to enjoy the full benefits of deep breathing, why not try a new technique?
Nasal breathing may sound like a simple method, but the technique itself is slightly complex. This is known as the nasal inspiratory technique, which can be highly beneficial to your everyday life. It takes some time and practice to execute nasal breathing properly, so we’re here to break down all of the information you need.
What is Nasal Breathing?
As we function throughout the day, we breathe as an unconscious act. Since breathing is something we’re so comfortable with, we rarely give our breathing technique a second thought.
If you begin to consider the way you breathe, you might notice the difference between nasal breathing and breathing through the mouth. Is there any benefit in doing one over the other?
The truth is, our bodies are designed to breathe nasally. When we breathe through the nose, we are essentially filtering the oxygen before it enters the lungs. Those nose hairs you might be trimming actually act to filter out dust, allergens, and other foreign particles from reaching your lungs.
Mouth breathing is sometimes an essential method when our bodies are preventing us from nose breathing. This may be due to congestion, nasal blockages, or even small nostrils. However, when you are breathing through the mouth, it does not filter the air as with your nose.
Bestselling author & fitness guru Ben Greenfield notes in his 2020 book, Boundless, that our nose hairs (otherwise known as cilia) are estimated to protect our bodies from about 20 billion particles of foreign matter each day. In addition to this effective filtration system, nasal breathing also humidifies the air you breathe in, allowing it to adjust to your body temperature (this helps the lungs be more productive).
You breathe in through your nose, and it becomes filtered and humidified, but when you release the nasal breath, it releases nitric oxide. The release of nitric oxide is beneficial for the circulation of oxygen in your body and helps expand blood vessels.
Mouth breathing on the other hand comes with unwanted side effects such as bad breath, tooth decay, snoring, and more.
So as you can see, nasal breathing is a much more natural and healthy breathing technique in comparison.
Benefits & Science Behind Nasal Breathing
Scientists have studied nasal breathing for years, and plenty of this research shows that nasal breathing provides multiple benefits. Among these benefits, we found the most notable to be (1) improved oxygen quality, (2) improved athletic performance, (3) decreased stress/anxiety, and (4) better sleep.
1. Improved Oxygen Quality
When you breathe through your nose, the oxygen you bring into your lungs is of better quality than the oxygen you breathe in through your mouth.
As we previously mentioned, the hairs in your nose act as a filter that sterilizes incoming air before reaching your lungs. Nasal breathing also leads to nitric oxide production, which helps to open up airways and enhance the uptake of oxygen in your bloodstream.
2. Improved Athletic Performance
Many athletes are familiar with the power of nasal breathing techniques. When you’ve been exercising for a certain amount of time, it can cause you to lose your breath, leading to the need for a break or drop in performance abilities. When you breathe through your nose, it allows you to breathe slower.
This article explains the science behind slower/nose breathing for enhanced performance, noting that it “allows CO2 levels to rise before the CO2 is exhaled.” This results in a higher tolerance of CO2 when exercising, so your body is learning to perform longer with less breath.
This technique is also helpful to prevent side pain due to mouth breathing while running or exercising.
3. Decreased Stress/Anxiety
If you’ve ever experienced severe anxiety, you were likely advised to take some deep breaths. This is good advice, but it deserves a slight modification. When you’re in a stressful situation, it’s better to breathe deeply through your nose rather than your mouth. This is because mouth breathing can result in rapid, shallow breaths that may lead to hyperventilating.
However, when you breathe through your nose, it allows you to breathe slowly. This technique helps to calm your mind and fight through feelings of anxiety.
4. Better Sleep
Breathing through your nose can improve your sleep in multiple ways (it may even get rid of your snoring). Nasal breathing while asleep helps you wake up more refreshed, as it allows you to avoid dry mouth & sore throats. But overall, it can provide an improved quality of breathing that may help people with sleep disorders.
This research study from 2000 showed that improved nasal breathing could even have promising results for obstructive sleep apnea patients.
Different Nasal Breathing Techniques
While nasal breathing comes naturally to some people, it’s not as easy for everyone. If you are accustomed to breathing through your mouth and would like to transition to nasal breathing, there are a few techniques that can help.
Some of the most useful & effective techniques for nasal breathing are (1) alternate nostril breathing, (2) diaphragmatic breathing, and (3) the “breath of fire” technique.
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This technique is commonly used when practicing mindfulness meditation, as well as yoga. The method is pretty simple, but it requires focus to get the full benefits. To practice alternate nostril breathing, start by positioning yourself in a seated position with your back straight/tall.
Once you’re seated, relax your shoulders, place your left hand on your left knee, and press your right thumb onto your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril, hold your breath, and then move your right finger to your left nostril.
Exhale your breath through the right nostril, then inhale through your right nostril to repeat the exercise.
2. Diaphragmatic Breathing
This breathing technique is also known as belly breathing or abdominal breathing. This technique can provide benefits like slowing your heart rate, reducing stress levels, and helping to clear your mind. The method is simple, so here’s how it works.
Start by positioning yourself in a seated, upright position (or you can lay down) with relaxed shoulders. Ensure your mouth is closed to avoid any mouth breathing and place one hand on your stomach, then place your other hand on your chest. Inhale slowly through your nose, focusing the breath towards your stomach.
You can be sure you’re doing it correctly if you feel the sensation of your belly rising as it fills with air and your chest remains in place. Exhale, then repeat as needed.
3. Breath of Fire
This technique may take some practice, but it’s a helpful method to improve concentration and respiratory function. Begin this exercise by sitting up straight with relaxed shoulders.
Take both of your hands and place them on your stomach with your palms facing upward. Close your mouth and take a deep breath through your nose, allowing your stomach to expand as it fills with air. Then quickly exhale through your nose with force, allowing your stomach to move back in.
Continue this cycle without stopping, and try to find a nice rhythm with your breathing. Once you’ve achieved a rhythm, increase your intensity. It is recommended that once you speed up your rhythm, repeat for 30 seconds.
4. BONUS: Triangle Breathe
Our good friend Dan Brulé introduces a basic breathwork exercise in the video below called triangle breathe.
Since 1970, Dan Brulé has personally trained over 250,000 people in 67 countries to use breath and breathing for self-improvement, self-healing, and spiritual awakening. He has trained Olympic athletes, elite warriors and martial artists. He coaches leading medical experts, corporate executives, and peak performers including Tony Robbins.
Exercises like these can provide numerous benefits including: increasing energy, enhancing mental clarity, boosting mood, detoxifying the body and more!
How Essential Oils Can Improve Nasal Breathing & Airflow
While some people find it easy to adjust to nasal breathing, it’s different for every person. People with respiratory conditions or occasional breathing issues may benefit from the use of essential oils.
Essential oils have been studied for years, and research shows that they can provide therapeutic benefits for people who struggle with nasal breathing or have other breathing issues. While you may be used to common medications used to treat congestion, essential oils provide a natural alternative that can be very effective.
Over-the-counter medications may work, but they can also come with unwanted side effects such as drowsiness, high blood pressure, or rapid heart rate. To avoid these side effects, many people prefer natural solutions like essential oils to help improve their nasal breathing and airflow.
Certain essential oils such as peppermint, frankincense, and tea tree oil can improve your breathing & airflow. These oils work by providing anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and allergy-fighting properties to help relieve symptoms of congestion & open your airflow. They are commonly used through aromatherapy, which allows you to inhale the aroma of the essential oil to open up your airways and offer immediate relief.
Nasal breathing is a helpful skill that can improve your daily life in multiple ways. If you aren’t comfortable with nasal breathing just yet, you can practice using the exercises we shared.
Also, if you want to try essential oils to help improve your airflow and clear your sinuses with nasal breathing, be sure to check out our collection of Nasal Inhalers here.