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Friday, May 8, 2015

Nose Breathing Vs Mouth Breathing: Huge Benefits

Lest you think this is about yoga - it is not, although there are extensive references to this in yoga. How do you breathe when you walk, sit, or basically do most activities? Do you get much of your oxygen through your nose or do you get it through your mouth? If you're not sure, just observe yourself for several moments.

It turns out that about 80% of those of us who live in the Western world breathe through the mouth. The lungs are a primary source of our energy level. They extract oxygen from the air we breathe primarily on the exhale. Because the nostrils are smaller then the mouth, air exhaled through the nose creates back pressure when one exhales. It slows the air escape so the lungs have more time to extract oxygen from them. When there is proper oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, the blood will maintain a balanced pH. If carbon dioxide is lost too quickly, as in mouth breathing, oxygen absorption is decreased (1). Our nasal passages are created to humidify, clean and warm the incoming flow of air due to the layers of protective mucus. This thin layer of mucus can trap about 98-99% of bacteria, viruses, dust particles, and other airborne objects (4).

  • Your nose is the only organ able to properly prepare the air you breathe; mouth breathing leads to over-breathing, chronic hyperventilation, depleted carbon dioxide levels, reduced blood circulation, buildup of toxins and narrowing of the airways.
  • Mouth breathing and resultant over-breathing elevates your blood pressure and heart rate and worsens asthma, allergies, rhinitis, sleep apnea, and deprives your heart, brain and other organs of optimal oxygenation
  • Overbreathing and hyperventilation during exercise can lead to reduced performance, and can also cause vasoconstriction, which increases your risk for arrhythmias and heart problems, even if you have none of the usual cardiac risk factors 
  • Some researchers believe that mouth breathing and associated hyperventilation causes or exacerbates asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease
  • Nose breathing 24 hours a day is extremely important for those who desire the longest and most healthy life. (1)
  • Nasal breathing is inherently slower than mouth breathing and will help reduce stress and hypertension. (2)
  • Nasal breathing promotes good oral health. Mouth breathing causes a drying out of the gums, increases the acidity in the mouth encouraging both cavities and gum disease (3)

Nasal breathing is more efficient than mouth breathing in terms of supplying oxygen to the body. When performing cardiovascular exercise it is therefore preferable to inhale and exhale through the nose. If you are exercising and become out of breath, it is faster to exhale through the mouth than the nose, but this will reduce the amount of oxygen extracted from each exhalation. Additionally, the nostrils and sinuses play a part in filtering and warming the air that is inhaled into the lungs. This filtering effect is helpful in keeping bacteria and particles out of your body. When exercising in chilly weather, breathing through the nose prevents cold air from going straight to your lungs and causing chest and throat pain. (2)

  • Asthma
  • Sinusitis
  • Allergies including hayfever
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder)
  • ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
  • Anxiety & panic attacks

Almost all the sources listed here have information for those of you who find nasal breathing challenging due to a blocked nose, deviated septum, etc.


I have been a chronic mouth breather (during exercise) for some time, although during exercise I would often try to consciously inhale nasally and exhale through the mouth. Once I read the article (5) below, and watched the videos in it about the Buteyko Breathing Method, I became aware of all of the issues discussed in this post, and decided I would change, and began to do so during my daily exercise which consists of about 45 minutes walking in the sand on the beach, and also progressively incorporate it to the rest of the day. Note: not on the sand, but in the sand, which is considerably more strenuous than walking on packed dirt, grass or cement. The first days I had great difficulty maintaining my mouth shut for more than a minute or so. It almost felt as though I would suffocate. However, with each progressive day, I noticed how much easier it became, and how much longer I was able to do it (although I had to think about it all the time; i.e., I had to be mindful, because if not, I would revert to mouth breathing, even when I wasn't having a hard time). Finally, after about eight days, I was able to nose breathe the entire time, opening my mouth only to drink water. 

  1. http://www.breathing.com/articles/nose-breathing.htm 
  2. http://www.livestrong.com/article/255298-mouth-breathing-vs-nasal-breathing/
  3. http://www.breathingremedies.co.uk/2014/01/29/nasal-breathing/
  4. http://www.normalbreathing.com/index-nasal.php
  5. Learn normal breathing: http://www.normalbreathing.com/learn.php
  6. http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2015/04/24/breathing-techniques.aspx 

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