We have always been taught that in order to breathe efficiently we need to take a huge lung full of air and a massive exhale. This would support the common belief to get rid of as much carbon dioxide CO2 as possible. If you breathe through your mouth (now classed as over-breathing), you bypass many important stages in the breathing process. However, with slow, silent-like nasal breathing, you can oxygenate the body far more efficiently than with mouth breathing. The health benefits of nose breathing range from improving sleep, eliminating snoring and sleep apnea, to reducing inflammation, enhancing memory and an overall increase in your immune system function. As newborn babies, we all use nasal breathing almost exclusively. So I wonder why only 30 % of adults are still nose breathers. This is time to retrain these forgotten skills. These next 5 tips will retrain them, improve your health, dampen your stress levels and make a massive difference to your sleep quality.
So let’s start now, close your mouth, breathe through your nose as you read these next paragraphs.
These following tips are based on the Buteyko Breathing Concept,
Tip 1 – Buteyko Breathing:
According to its creator, a Russian physician, when you stop breathing from your mouth and instead engage in slow, deep, almost silent nasal breathing, you oxygenate your tissues and organs far more efficiently. This breathing keeps you from excessive oxygen ( O2) consumption and also excessive carbon dioxide (CO2) exhalation. When you breathe in through your nose, the air is warmed, moistened, conditioned and mixed with nitric oxide (NO). This NO neutralises germs, bacteria and works as a vasodilator on your airways, arteries and capillaries.
I know you are probably thinking this is counter-intuitive, I did too at the beginning. I was always told that efficient breathing was lungs full of air and a big exhale. After listening to Patrick Mckeown, author of the book “ The Oxygen Advantage “, I realised I was over-breathing. But after more research and more practice of the Buteyko Breathing, I realised what a powerful yet gentle tool this technique is.
How to do the Buteyko Breathing?
The control-pause technique (CP):
- Rest for ten minutes prior to this technique.
- Next start gently breathing through your nose.
- Then after a normal exhale, squeeze the tip of your nose, and time yourself.
- When you are feeling the slightest need to take a breath, inhale, and check the time.
- If you were able to hold for more than 10 seconds, for example, your CP is 10. A good CP is 30 seconds and Buteyko claimed that with a CP of sixty seconds, “ he/she is insured against illness”. Mine is at 35 seconds now so although it’s not bad there is room for improvement. Hence why I consciously nasal breath throughout the day, and when I do some exercise, I maintain it as much as possible. My goal is to be able to engage in any type of moderate to high-intensity workout whilst nasal breathing.
- Mouth Taping: Just tape your mouth before going to sleep so you oblige your body to learn nasal breathing. Test it first during the day by putting some tape on your mouth and start nasal breathing. No air should be able to go through your mouth. Once tested, you can simply fall asleep confident that all through the night you will continue nasal breathing. There is a tape called Somnifix that uses a hypoallergenic adhesive with fewer chemicals. Some people apply a thin layer of olive oil on their lips so the tape removal process is easy and less painful.
Tip 2- Nostril breathing:
- If you want to activate the left side of the body for example, just breathe in through the right nostril (keeping in mind that the right side of the brain is associated with the left side of the body and vice versa). So, in a practical sense, if you need to engage in a creative/ artistic task (right brain), you will need to breathe for 1 to 2 minutes from your left nostril only. The opposite would be if you have a more logical, analytical or mathematical task to achieve (left brain) you will prepare for it by breathing for 1 to 2 minutes with your right nostril.
- Another application of this breathing would be prior to going to sleep, breathe through your left nostril for a few minutes. This is an effective way of activating the parasympathetic nervous system and further deepening your relaxation.
- Alternate nostril breathing is also used in Kundalini Yoga as a potent stress-reducing tactic.
- Press your thumb on the left nostril and gently breath out through the right nostril.
– Then gently breathe in through the right nostril, press the right nostril with a different finger.
– Remove the thumb from your left nostril and exhale.
– Finally, breathe in through the left nostril, press the thumb on it again and repeat.
Tip 3- Box Breathing:
This technique is part of the Navy Seal training, it helps to stay calm and focused even in the most stressful of situations. This technique is easy and effective; close your mouth and slowly inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds, then hold for 4 seconds and repeat. This will quickly put you back in a state of calm and control.
Tip 4 – Belly Breathing:
I learnt this tip from Paul Chek, he calls it inverted breathing. Simply tie a string around your waist and focus on consciously expanding it, in and out,with abdominal breaths. When used properly, this will make you more aware of your belly breathing, and seriously decrease your levels of stress. Taking 3 deep abdominal breaths when you sit down prior to a meal will centre your body and improve your nutrient intake.
This is particularly important as most of us use shallow chest breathing, which activates pressure receptors in our chest, and stimulates the stress hormone cortisol by raising your heart rate and blood pressure.
Tip 5 – Breath hold walks;
Walking in nature is one of my favourite basic longevity hacks to do after work or during my weekends. Living in Mallorca I can walk along the seafront or in the countryside, or engage in more challenging hills walks. Now I have added a breath-holding activity to my walks. On the seafront for example, when I pass a lamppost, I take a deep belly breath and hold it for as long as possible. When I feel the need to breathe I exhale slowly and then inhale through my nose. At the next lamp post, I repeat the same procedure. After a few months of playing with this exercise, I can almost hold my breath for a distance of the space between 2 lamp posts. With a bit of practice, you can almost get into a slight meditative state.
What’s my take on this :
Breathing is one of my number one longevity hacks. So for me, the Buteyko Breathing has become as important as my daily Wim Hof practice. After a few months of nasal breathing, it has become more natural to me. I can go about my daily activities without taking air through my mouth. However, It will take longer to achieve the same level of ease whilst engaging in moderate to high-intensity physical activities. I have experienced massive improvements in my freediving capacity, a general sense of calm and more mental focus throughout the day. Most importantly I have reconnected with the way nature intended me to breathe.
In conclusion, nasal breathing is one of my non-negotiable skills to master, to optimize my health and propel me along my journey to 100.
I hope this helps you too, and somehow ignites your interest and practise of the Buteyko Breathing…
Take care my friends, until next week.
Smart Living To 100.
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