When you want to plan your self-care routine, you may think of including cardio workout, weight training, or whatever involves movement and sweating, clean foods, and quality sleep. However, you feel exhausted just after 10 minutes of running, you feel uncomfortable while lifting weight, you feel too moody to stick to the clean food routine and finish a whole pint of ice cream instead, and you can’t fall asleep even though you have been lying in bed for hours already. Your willpower can be gone to waste, if you ignore the very foundation of your life: breathing.
Breathing is an unconscious and involuntary act, which means you are doing it all the time whether you know it or not, want it or not. This taken-for-granted action can possibly be the reason behind deteriorated physical and mental health. Like all things, when the foundation is laid firmly, other parts run smoothly and securely. Now that you realize that you are laying a foundation for 24/7 and will continue to do so as long as you are alive, don’t you want to do it right?
USE YOUR NOSE
Naturally, the nose is a major part of respiratory system, whereas the mouth belongs more to digestive system. By using the organs in the way they are designed for, you give them a chance to perform its best potential.
Here is what happens when you breathe with your nose, instead of your mouth.
- Breathing cleaner
With cilia, special tiny hairs in the nose, the air is filtered before it reaches your lungs.
- Less infection
As air enters your nose, it gets warmed up and mixed with nitric oxide (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8971255), the bad bacteria killer and vasodilator.
- More oxygen
Through nostrils, your lungs gain more time to absorb oxygen, which is extracted from the air during exhalation process.
- No irregularities
The nasal mucosa in the nose helps control breathing, so irregularities like snoring or sleep apnea is less likely to occur.
- Better brain function
Breathing through the noses has an impact on the hypothalamus, the most important part of the brain that controls many bodily functions and emotions.(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8063547)
- Reducing stress
The size of the nostrils forces your airflow to slow down until it reaches the proper breathing rhythm, and this process helps reduce stress.
- Improved performance
As previously mentioned, nasal breathing allows more time for the lungs to absorb oxygen. Breathing through mouth may seem helpful, but it actually makes you feel more tired as you lose carbon dioxide too quickly, which causes hyperventilation.
TO RUN IS TO BREATHE
Many people give up running because they feel “out of breath” just after a few minutes, especially for beginners. Those people are more likely to breathe with their mouth, because it feels like a relief, while mouth breathing actually does the opposite. Again, the nose is designed for breathing, not the mouth. Breathing with your nose slows down the air on its way out, allowing more time for your lungs to absorb oxygen, creating proper oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange. Try closing your mouth throughout a running session, and you will feel much easier with pushing yourself for extra miles.
In addition to hamstrings and other leg muscles, there is one more important player in running: diaphragm. When using it properly, your lungs expand and absorb more oxygen, so you feel less tired. This “belly breathing” is the key to optimize this bodily function. If you feel uncomfortable in the chest during a run, it could be that you are not doing it properly. Also, with mouth breathing, you are not using the diaphragm correctly.
If you have a goal in mind to finish your first half marathon or improve your PB, breathing techniques (https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20822091/running-on-air-breathing-technique/) are the key to pushing yourself forward.
BREATHE TO EASE
At night, do you often find yourself lying awake on bed with many messy thoughts that you can’t sleep? Your mind wanders to places, and before you know it, it is 3am already.
Like other things that keep your body going, your breath needs exercising as well, especially now that you have been unconsciously breathing for all your life. By paying attention to your breath and work it out, you can ease away from your late night thoughts and improve your daytime focus.
Usually, your unconscious breathing tends to be shallow and uneaseful, as we are always paying attention to other stuffs. In events that trigger fear or anxiety, your body reacts with “flight-or-fight response” (https://www.sfh-tr.nhs.uk/media/3782/fight_or_flight_and_relaxed_breathing.pdf) that quickens your breath, causing the imbalance of oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange. These actions have, undoubtedly, negative consequences in the long run.
Pranayama yoga (https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/healing-breath) is a practice that focuses merely on breathing, and the name itself means “controlling the vital energy”. Deep and slow belly breathing is the key, but there are more detailed techniques that can regulate the energy within your body and have profound impact when practicing them routinely. Besides, by focusing on your breath, your mind won’t travel elsewhere. It is not that simple, as it means you are doing the opposite of what your mind wants, but isn’t this how we achieve all good things in life?
CHANGE YOUR BREATH, CHANGE YOUR LIFE
With attentive practices to your breath, aside from the relaxing feeling it gives, it can impact your body mechanisms, cell-deep. According to a study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137615/), slow breathing techniques affects autonomic and central nervous systems, resulting in more regulated heart rate. The same study also indicates that deep and slow breathing does help increase relaxation and improve mood, while reducing symptoms of anxiety, anger, depression, and confusion.
Please bear in mind that such deep and slow breathing with your mouth is almost unattainable. It is still about nasal breathing.
Breathing through your mouth is not a prohibition. You may do it from time to time in case of emergency or as a part of breathing exercise, but you should not make it a habit. The very heart of healthy breathing? Pay attention. Use