Nose breathing exercises for health benefits
How This Helps
Breathing is a non-stop unconscious act that we perform from arrival. Breathing offers necessary oxygen into your body, without which the cells of your own body will quickly perish. The air we breathe is processed through the nose and into the mucus-lined windpipe. The nose performs the filtering function as it is lined with little hairs called cilia. The cilia is a multipurpose workhorse for filtering, humidifying, warming or cooling the air depending on the temperature before it makes an entry into the lungs. After it leaves the nose, air moves through the windpipe. This is another route to filter out any undesirable particles prior to entering the lungs. When the air finally enters the lungs, the oxygen is pumped into the blood and pumped throughout the body. The lungs also exchange this air leaving the body to carry the carbon dioxide from the cells. When you exhale the air from the lungs, a complete cycle of oxygen-in and the waste of carbon dioxide-out has been completed.
Breathing through the nose is how our bodies were created. According to Ayurveda & Yoga, most individuals breathe at 10-20 percent of the entire capacity. Restricted breathing greatly decreases respiratory function, which then reduces energy levels in the body. Since oxygen is our chief source of life, and exhalation is the major approach to expel toxins from our bodies, bad breathing can promote a large number of health problems.
Why is nasal breathing important?
In the daily hustle of life, people are exposed to tremendous stress, pollution, and hectic life experiences. All these situations can deteriorate the health of an individual to a higher level. But to fight the ongoing stress and rejuvenate yourself, you don't have to hit a spa center or a gym. What can help us to locate our inner energies and attain a balance within our bodies? Apart from changing your dietary behavior, the one thing that can help you rejuvenate yourself is pranayama or breathing exercises.
Breathing exercises like Kapal Bhati, Bhastrika Pranayama, Anulom Vilom, Ujjayi, Nadi Shodhana, and Kumbhaka may require a minimum effort to perform and also fetch you with a plethora of benefits. These breathing exercise techniques flush out all the toxic materials from your body and cleanses it from within, thus providing various mental and physical health benefits.
Nose breathing exercise benefits
Some of the benefits of nose breathing exercises are listed below:
Neurocognitive effects - With continuous practice of nose breathing exercise, an individual's ability to concentrate and remain focussed increases. Scientific evidence suggests that slow breathing techniques that involve respiration through nostrils stimulate the mechanoreceptors present in the olfactory epithelium. This promotes psychophysiological effects through various neurophysiological mechanisms. Nasal breathing exercise enhances the ability to concentrate via the autonomic and neuroendocrine systems. It alters the processing of information and reorganizes the neural representation within the central nervous system. It also improves bidirectional communication between the thalamocortical level and the respiratory system.1.
Respiratory benefits - Deep breathing exercises performed can help correct the abnormal breathing patterns, snoring, and respiratory muscle tone. Practicing pranayama allows bronchial-dilatation and strengthens the inspiratory as well as expiratory muscles. The overall capacity of the lungs is also improved, which promotes the ventilatory functioning of the lungs. Practicing pranayama on a routine basis can improve pulmonary function by maintaining normal homeostasis of the body and thus prevent respiratory diseases from happening.1.
PCOS- PCOS is a metabolic disorder that arises due to hyperinsulinemia, which is a result of stress. Insulin resistance is closely linked to an increase in androgen production by ovarian theca cells. An increase in androgen production causes polycystic ovary syndrome in women. Deep breathing techniques not only involve the contraction and relaxation of thoracic muscles but also contracts specific abdominal muscles. This promotes the flow of oxygen into the blood, which purifies it and clears all the toxins from the blood. The purified blood flow is maintained across the whole body and nourishes the reproductive organs. Yogic breathing exercises tend to reduce oxidative stress, improve autonomic function, and regulate hormones. Thereby these deep breathing techniques hold excellent properties against the PCOS too.1.
Stress- Stress is a common factor that is prevalent over a significant global population. Stress and life pressures are a precursor to various physiological responses that occur due to increased sympathetic firing. Stress can disrupt the normal body homeostasis making prone to multiple health-related disorders. Nose breathing exercises tend to benefit an individual by regulating various neuroendocrine and autonomic nervous system mechanisms, producing antioxidant effects on damaging cells and thus maintain the regular functioning of the body.1,7.
Weight loss - Scientific evidence has suggested that nose breathing exercise can result in subcutaneous fat loss. Thus benefiting the people with a higher waist-to-hip ratio. Breathing techniques, if followed on a routine basis, are known to tone the abdominal muscles, thereby decreasing the lean body mass and body fat. Continuous practice of pranayama can manage to reduce the abdominal, reducing the thickness of abdominal skin in obese individuals.it also promotes increased uptake of triglycerides increases hepatic and lipoprotein lipases, which induce increased uptake of triglycerides.1.
Hyperglycemia - Hyperglycemia is a result of impaired insulin secretion from pancreatic glands. Breathing, when performed with the high force for a short span, can produce a more significant impact on the abdominal muscles and glands present in the abdomen. These exercises can reduce stress and blood sugar levels by promoting blood supply to all body parts. They also stimulate the pancreatic gland to enhance insulin secretions in people suffering from type-2 diabetes. Thus Diaphragmatic breathing can control hyperglycemia by reducing the fasting blood sugar levels and post-prandial blood glucose.
See: Diabetic shock
Arthritis- Deep, slow breathing exercises may help relieve arthritic pain, improves mood, and allows the osteoarthritic patients to sleep nicely. Deep slow breathing techniques are known to reduce accumulation at the site by exerting anti-inflammatory effects. It can effectively regulate the pain signaling pathway through the autonomic nervous system (ANS) activation. Thus it reduces pain by increasing the pain threshold. 1,2,3.
Cardiovascular disorders - Nose breathing exercises practiced daily can reduce serum cholesterol and LDL levels. Furthermore, it can also prevent the progression of atherosclerosis by exerting antioxidant effects. The risk for cardiovascular disease is increased in patients suffering from depression and anxiety. In such cases, practicing yoga may help fight with depression and anxiety and thus reduce the risk of CVD. 1,2,3.
Antioxidative effects - oxidative stress may damage the cells and cause improper functioning of the organ. For example, oxidative stress damages the pancreatic cells causing impaired insulin secretion. However, pranayama tends to reduce oxidative stress and hence aid in antioxidant defense mechanisms. 1,2,3.
Skin health - Pranayama boosts the oxygen supply into your blood and purifies it. Pranayama involves holding the breath inhaled for a certain period. During this time, the oxygen inhaled is supplied to the skin cells, which nourishes your skin and thus prevents premature aging, wrinkles, and dark spots.
IBS and IBD - Inflammatory bowel disease is known to result from the altered brain-gut axis. In such a case, pranayama or nose breathing exercises may stimulate brain activity and modifies the brain-gut axis helping fight IBS and IBD. Anxiety and stress, which may cause digestive problems, can also be controlled by pranayama, which helps calm the mind and provide digestive relief issues.
Neurodegeneration- Diaphragmatic breathing can directly influence the sympathetic and parasympathetic activity in the autonomic nervous system. The breathing techniques practiced daily may expressively decrease the neurotransmitters which are involved in neurodegeneration or other illness. Thus pranayama relaxes the mind, enhances the quality of life, and helps individuals interact more socially.
Purifies blood- The more you inhale oxygen, the better you live your life. Nose breathing exercises involve deep breathing, which can carry the oxygen to the deepest part of your lungs like alveoli. The oxygenated blood is transported from the lungs to various parts of the body via the heart. Your body needs this oxygen to maintain proper homeostasis. As you know, blood is composed of hemoglobin, which has an affinity for four oxygen molecules. The more oxygen you inhale through your nose breathing exercise, the more your blood will be purified.
Immunity - Stress being rampant in this world is a precursor to numerous diseases. This is because stress decreases an individual's ability to fight the disease. Pranayama or nose breathing exercise has shown to improve the functioning of the immune system.
Sinuses - Sinusitis is an inflammation in the sinuses, which is characterized by nasal congestion, throbbing headaches, and rhinitis. Pranayama can clear the blockages present in the nasal cavity. It may seem complicated but can mechanically clean the sinuses and relieve the symptoms of sinusitis.
It was not too long ago that practices such as yoga, meditation and fasting brought skepticism from the scientific world. Currently, there are endless research & scientific studies on PubMed covering those subjects, with highly educated scientists that are currently traveling the world as police on the health benefits of some of those techniques. Bear in mind that whenever you attempt something which may feel a little awkward now, you might be way ahead of your time and the scientists will eventually catch up decades later. Give nasal breathing a try and give yourself a rest.
1. Ansari, Reshma Mohamed. (2016). Kapalabhati pranayama: An answer to modern-day polycystic ovarian syndrome and coexisting metabolic syndrome?. International Journal of Yoga. 9. 163. 10.4103/0973-6131.183705.
2. Larsen, Kalee & Brilla, L. & McLaughlin, Wren & Li, Ying. (2019). Effect of Deep Slow Breathing on Pain-Related Variables in Osteoarthritis. Pain Research and Management. 2019. 1-9. 10.1155/2019/5487050.
3. Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing
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8. Harvey, J. (1983). The effect of yogic breathing exercises on mood. The Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine. 30. 39-48.