How Is Your Breathing?

Many people don’t give the slightest attention to how they breathe until they are told to do it a certain way – like in a yoga class. Unconscious breathing patterns can have a huge impact on the overall health of one’s body. Improper breathing can increase emotional and mental stress, create muscular tension and diminish the body’s supply of oxygen.

When teaching yoga I often tell my students “the breath is the most important element of your yoga practice.” And literally, it’s one of the most important elements in keeping us alive and healthy. Just like cars need gas to function, our bodies need breath to survive. In yogic terms, breath is our life force (aka prana). So okay maybe you breathe fully, but how do you breathe?

One of the best ways to start to fully access the simple power of your breath is to practice slowly inhaling and exhaling through the nose. As you inhale through the nose the air is purified thanks to the nose’s filtering system, which helps prevent pollutants such as dust, pollen and bacteria from entering into the lungs. When the breath exits through the nose, we tend to exhale a bit slower since the nasal passages offer some resistance vs. when we exhale out through the mouth. This is important because when the breath slows down (especially the exhale), the nervous system relaxes which in turn leads to reducing stress, calming the mind and soothing the body.

Not sold on nose breathing? Consider the drawbacks of mouth breathing: Mouth breathing dries out the mouth and throat, which can contribute to dehydration and bad breath. Mouth breathing has been associated with snoring, sleep apnea, hyperventilation, asthma and high blood pressure —all contributors to heart disease. When you breathe through the mouth, the air is colder which is shocking to the lungs, can cause irritation in the airways and exacerbate a current infection or cold.

The proof is in the pudding. Try nose breathing for a week. What do you have to lose? It’s free!

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