The way you breathe now, while reading, is automatic breathing and your body’s various systems are controlling each element of it. Once you choose to manage all the parts yourself, you start to breathe mindfully. In every breath you take, you can manipulate its length, speed and the parts of the body that are engaged in it.
Essential Element 1
Consciously adjust the speed
Adjusting the length and ratio of inhalation, exhalation, and the pause in between will directly and rapidly influence the levels of CO2 in the body.
Practical application for a congested nose
Essential Element 2
Breathe through your diaphragm
The second element is your chest and the part it plays during inhalation and exhalation. When you use your belly, or more precisely your diaphragm, you breathe deeply, and when you use your upper chest, you breathe shallowly. Upward and downward movements of the diaphragm gently massage your internal organs and the Vagus Nerve, resulting in improved blood flow in the abdomen, better digestion and toxins removal. Massaging of the Vagus Nerve stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which improves communication between the gut and the brain with positive influences on the mood and better wellbeing of the gut microbiota.
Deep breathing through your diaphragm also lowers your blood pressure, stimulates hormone secretion and carries more oxygen to the cells in the digestive tract, improving nutrient absorption for better physical and mental health.
Practical application for releasing of tension
Close your eyes, take a deep, slow breath, pause for few seconds and breathe out. Repeat this five times and be attentive of the calmness you are experiencing. Slow and deep breathing is an integral part of meditation and often becomes meditation itself because you concentrate on the way you breathe and forget the chatter in your head.
Essential Element 3
Inhaling and exhaling through the nose and mouth
Let’s look at what happens when you inhale and exhale through the nose:
- you breathe slowly due to the dimensions of the nasal passages, and this influences the level of CO2
- air circulates in the lungs longer, resulting in better blood oxygenation by about 10% in comparison to mouth breathing
- the air you inhale is filtered to reduce the possibility of a pathogen entering the body
- to prevent upper respiratory tract infections the air you inhale is warmed up and moisturized
- a potent antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-viral and vasodilator substance – Nitric Oxide (NO) produced in the sinuses is secreted into the nose. It is mixed with the air we inhale helping the body to control blood pressure and ward off infections
- it feels more comfortable to breathe in deeply via the nose
- you lose less water from your body
By contrast when inhaling and exhaling through the mouth:
- you mostly use the upper chest, resulting in shallow breathing
- it is easy to over breathe or hyperventilate
- the air is not filtered or warmed up and may bring pathogens into the lungs
- the air does not contain Nitric Oxide
- it can cause choking if done while eating
- exhaling through the mouth allows for more air to be released quickly, and is useful during certain breathing exercises
Practical application for a runny nose when exercising
We now know more about inhalation and exhalation, the role of CO2, Oxygen, Nitric Oxide, the effects of speed and duration of breathing, as well as the contrasting options of breathing through the nose or mouth.
Let’s put it into practice
Try noticing how you breathe, do your shoulders lift up and down (shallow breathing) or does your diaphragm expand and contract (deep breathing)? Based on an informed choice, you can alter the way you breathe, improving both your physical and psychological wellbeing. Enjoy this short demonstration.
In our next blog we will explain the various benefits of some of the most popular breathing techniques which you can apply to achieve practical and useful results every day.
All the best.