We have to breathe in order to survive. Which makes breathing a cornerstone of our wellness practices. One of the great things about breath being such an integral part of our wellness routine, is that we breathe tens of thousands of times every single day. That means we have an opportunity to improve our breath tens of thousands of times throughout the day.
As a yoga teacher, breathwork (or pranayama as it’s called in Sanskrit) has also been an integral part of my health and wellness practice for decades. As yogis, we know the importance of breath alongside our movement. And, hopefully, your teachers are guiding you through a variety of breathing techniques in classes. If not, check out the Pranayama section on my app.
This post will share the optimal way to breathe throughout the day, why nostril breathing is so important, and 3 ways in which we improve the quality of our breathing 24 hours a day. Yep, that’s right, even when we sleep.
Let’s dive into it, shall we.
How to Improve the Quality of Your Breathing
What is the optimal way to breathe?
The way we breathe, the pace we breathe, and the different parts of our body we use or don’t use as we breathe all contribute to the quality of our breath. Ideally, we’re looking to bring in as much oxygen as possible. I mean, c’mon, you know how much I love the hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
While we can never replicate that level of oxygen through breathwork, alone, we can still increase our oxygen intake really simply: by breathing through the nose.
I know what you’re thinking: that’s it? Just breathe through my nose? But let me ask you something- is your mouth closed, and are you breathing through your nose right now? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Most of us are involuntarily opening our mouths, and resorting to mouth breathing without even realizing it.
The importance of nostril breathing
What’s the big deal about breathing through the nose, you ask. Well, there’s a lot that simple nostril breathing can do for you.
Filter Foreign Particles
Nostril breathing works to filter out all the gunk that you don’t want to breathe in through the mouth. This is really helpful when it comes to decreasing chances of getting sick. Yay for nose hairs doing their damn job filtering out the bad stuff.
Increase Oxygen Intake
Breathing in and out through the nose helps you to bring in more oxygen, which we love. Why? Because oxygen helps every single cell in your body, by improving function and health. That’s a pretty big deal. Now all of your systems are running more smoothly, regulated and balanced. Plus, inflammation goes down.
Mouth breathing tends to dry out your mouth. Think about if you wake up after sleeping with your mouth open, and how you feel extra dry and gooey. Gross. When you breathe in and out through the nostrils, you’re able to add humidity to your insides- reaching your lungs and bronchial tubes as well as your mouth.
How To Increase Mindfulness with Nostril Breathing
Hopefully you’re hooked already, and you want to commit to trying nostril breathing more throughout your day. The question is, how? Especially for those of you, like me, who involuntarily open your mouth. Well, the answer is simple, really. It’s all about mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the ability to increase your self-awareness by observing yourself, rather than judging yourself. That means you work on simply noticing your actions, patterns, and responses. In your observation, you’re able to better understand yourself, and make small adjustments along the way to better yourself.
One of my favorite ways for building a new habit is the habit stacking method, outlined in the book Atomic Habits. I’ve shared my version of habit stacking in this blog post if you don’t feel like going through the entire book. Essentially, you can attach your new habit of nostril breathing, to an existing habit that’s already ingrained in your daily routine to ensure you actually do it.
Starting a yoga practice is the perfect way to improve your mindfulness, as yoga is all about self-awareness, non judgment, and self control on a physical, mental, and emotional level. Practicing yoga will help you to observe yourself through non-attachment, rather than identify with your habits or patterns. Plus, yoga revolves around breath, so you’ll get a chance to breathe mindfully throughout the entire class.
You can always allot certain times of the day for mindfulness if it feels too hard to integrate throughout the day. While the goal is to remain mindful no matter what you’re doing, life can do its thing, and sweep you up in the nonsense of it all. So, make sure to carve out time for mindfulness where you can. Perhaps it’s in your morning routine, your meditation, journaling, or other pockets of your day where it makes sense.
3 Ways To Improve The Quality of Your Breathing
You’re officially ready to improve the quality of your breath right NOW. Trust me, this is going to be a game changer for you in your health and wellness. And remember, you’re breathing tens of thousands of times per day. That’s a whole lot of chances for you to try, and try again.
As much as I’ve already drilled home the importance of nostril breathing, I’ll just highlight it again here. Breathing in and out through your nose as much as possible throughout the day and night is one of the best ways to improve the quality of your breath right now.
You can breathe through your nose while still doing all of your daily tasks, rather than feeling the need to sit on a meditation cushion and do a full on pranayama practice. While different breathing techniques will certainly help to soothe your nervous system, or even provide a sense of euphoria, nostril breathing is the most effective breathing technique you can implement right away.
Now that you’re ready to nostril breathe more, you need to make sure that your nose is clear enough to breathe through. Remember those nose hairs helping to trap debris and toxins? Well, they can get clogged up real quick with the amount of dust, pollution, or allergens that we breathe in on a daily basis. All of which leads to congestion, and inflammation.
If your nose is stuffy, then it’s going to be hard to breathe through, making mouth breathing your default. Perhaps without realizing it. If your nose is clear, you’re more likely to keep your mouth shut, and breathe through your nose. The best way to keep it clear is to neti pot on a daily basis. I do this every single day without fail, which is why I wrote a whole post about why it’s my number one health and wellness tip.
Hopefully you’re sleeping 7 – 9 hours every night. If you’re not, check out my post on how to get more sleep for help. Needless to say, we spend a good chunk of time sleeping. And that whole chunk of time we’re also breathing. However, we’re unable to be mindful when we sleep, so it’s a lot harder to control our ability to nostril breathe while we sleep.
This is where mouth tape comes into play. Mouth tape provides a physical reminder to keep our mouths closed since our mind isn’t able to. Mouth tape might look a little silly, but it does wonders for your sleep and breath hygiene for those 7 – 9 hours of rest you get every day. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to use mouth tape if you’ve been keeping your nose clear with your neti pot practice.
There you have it, you’re ready to improve the quality of your breath, and- in turn- improve the quality of your life. Say hello to your new favorite wellness practice.
Happy nostril breathing, my friends.