Breathing through your nose may come naturally to some, but it can require some practice for other people. Even if you are a regular nose breather, exercising with different techniques can improve your breathing.
Plenty of people practice nasal breathing exercises for better breathing and help calm down and refresh their minds. We wanted to share some of our favorite exercises to improve your nasal breathing skills and overall breathing.
Benefits of Nose Breathing
Scientists have studied nasal breathing for years, and plenty of this research shows that nasal breathing provides multiple benefits.
Better Breathing 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.
This can help filter bacteria and allergens, which means that the oxygen entering your lungs is bound to be cleaner. Nasal breathing also leads to nitric oxide production, which helps to open up airways and enhance the uptake of oxygen in your bloodstream.
People who struggle with endurance during their workouts may benefit from nasal breathing. Breathing through your mouth when running or other athletic activities can make it harder to breathe or lead to dry mouth and side pain.
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.
Nasal breathing can also improve your athletic performance by leading to a rise in carbon dioxide levels before exhaling. This results in a better tolerance of CO2 when you exercise, which allows you to perform longer with less breath.
You may recall in certain television shows, some characters will rapidly breathe in and out of a paper bag in times of stress or panic. While some television shows can exaggerate, this stereotype is somewhat accurate.
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.
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. 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. Engaging in these practices frequently will also help you breathe at a slower pace.
Many yoga or mindfulness meditation teachers will use nasal breathing exercises to promote a clear, calm mind.
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.
Prevents Dry Air
This may sound confusing at first, but nasal breathing actually helps to moisturize the air you breathe into your lungs. Your nose will warm, filter, and humidify the air as you breathe in, which benefits your health because it’s good for the lungs.
4 Simple Nasal Breathing Exercises
Here are four different exercises you can practice to improve your nasal breathing for healthy, refreshing benefits.
1. Box Breathing
This simple exercise helps you to relax through the practice of nasal breathing. When doing this technique, you want to make sure that your breath moves from your stomach to your chest. To ensure this, your stomach should expand first as you inhale, then the diaphragm, and lastly, the rib cage. As you exhale, it should release in the opposite order.
Start by inhaling for five seconds, then hold the breath for five seconds. Exhale for a total of five seconds, and hold for five seconds, then repeat.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This exercise is common in Yoga classes - you might hear it identified in Sanskrit as nadi shodhana pranayama. To engage in this practice, start by positioning yourself in a seated position with your back straight. Maintain this tall posture throughout the breathing exercise.
Once you’re seated, relax your shoulders, relax your neck, and relax your tongue. 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 ring finger and right pinky to your left nostril. (You may also hold your right pointer finger and middle finger between your eyebrows during this practice.)
Exhale your breath through the right nostril, then inhale through your right nostril to repeat the exercise.
3. Diaphragmatic Breathing
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. Place one hand on your stomach, and 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. If you feel your stomach rising as you inhale, then that means you are exercising those diaphragm muscles. Exhale, then repeat as needed.
This method can provide benefits like slowing your heart rate, reducing stress levels and fatigue, and increasing your oxygen intake.
4. 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, working your diaphragm muscles. 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.
Nose Breathing vs. Mouth Breathing
Mouth breathing may be hard for some people to kick, especially when they suffer from allergies or congestion. However, the negative side effects of mouth breathing should convince you to switch your technique.
While nose breathing provides multiple benefits that we’ve listed above, mouth breathing does not. When you breathe orally, it can lead to dry mouth, poor oxygen quality, and potential health risks. Mouth breathing can also decrease your energy and productivity or lead to abnormalities in dental development and posture.
Overall, it’s better for your health to be a nose breather. If you’re not one yet, the exercises above can help you get more comfortable with breathing through your nose on a more consistent basis.