The Mouth is For Talking, Kissing & Eating – Nothing Else!
Buteyko was not the first to understand that the nostrils play a vital part in our health. The Yogi’s also practised Alternate Nostril Breathing 7,000 years ago in order to maintain optimal health. Breathing through the mouth also makes you look errrr… less your best shall we say (do it now and look in the mirror). So, apart from looking better, why are the nasal passages the best apparatus for the job of both inhalation and exhalation?
- The nose filters air and functions like air conditioning for your brain
- The nose reabsorbs moisture from the air that you exhale. This helps conserve moisture in your body so you won’t feel very thirsty
- Nasal breathing improves nitric oxide (NO) levels in the body, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. NO is produced in the nasal passages and enters the lungs only when you inhale using the nose.
- According to the Buteyko Institute, nostril breathing makes your breathing better by 10%
- Nasal breathing increases your lung volume
Why does breathing through the mouth make you healthier?
Buteyko’s research took off because he noticed in his role as a medical doctor that the sickest patients in his care were those who were breathing deeply through the mouth. He had a special interest in asthmatics who were the worst offenders of this habit. His laboratory understandings were that breathing through the correct apparatus into the lower lungs (which do 75% of the gaseous exchange work for us) helps to raise the oxygen levels in our tissues. This only happens in the presence of carbon dioxide (more on the mechanism of breathing in this blog) therefore it is wise to reduce the amount you gulp in air into the abdomen or shallow breath only into the top part of the lungs. Nasal breathing increases circulation, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels and slows the breath rate, improving overall lung volumes.
In these days of COVID-19 infection it is obvious why using a smaller breathing apparatus designed for the job will make you less liable to picking up the infection since there is a smaller surface area for the droplets to land on. And if, God forbid, you caught the disease and you’ve trained yourself to be calmer through Yoga breathing exercises and Buteyko techniques designed to increase your lung capacity, you will be better at fighting off the infection.
Night-time Mouth Breathing Dangers
Heavy Breathing at Night can also draw oxygen away from the tissues, especially if this is done with the mouth open (snoring). This is why the highest mortality rates for asthma, angina, stroke and epileptic patients are between 4 and 7am when they are in the deepest sleep and breathing far too heavily. 90% of people have the lowest body-oxygen levels during these early hours so it’s wise not to collect more and more light sleep during which time your oxygen level is dropping and dropping. I have said in this blog that sleep is best if short and effective and many of my students are testament to this as they feel better when they have had a shorter time in bed with a higher sleep efficiency (ie more hours in deep and REM sleep
- Develop a habit of noticing which you are using to breathe – nose or mouth and closing your mouth whenever you notice you’ve done it. Believe me, you can very quickly train yourself not to do that
- Use the nose when you are dancing, running and playing tennis etc. Only exercise to the level at which you can manage it with the mouth closed. That is your fitness level for now but you will soon develop