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Hardy Blogs
Matt Hardy

Breathing isn’t as easy as you think

Welcome to (or back) to my blog.

In this blog I want to talk about breathing, specifically nasal breathing. Now before you move along and think I already know how to breathe, ask yourself this. Do I breathe through my nose or my mouth?

It is estimated that up to half of people breathe through their mouth. This is not the best way to breathe. Let me explain.

Here’s an obvious statement, we have evolved with a nose and because we’ve evolved that way breathing through it is more advantageous than mouth breathing.

What does the nose do?

The first thing is does is filter out particles by catching them in the mucus covered hairs that line the nose, also known as bogies. This is our first line of defence against virus and bacteria

The next thing the nose does is warms and humidifies the air. As we breathe in, the air passes over a complex area at the back of the nose that acts like a radiator in your house. This warms the air and ads moisture to it. This area also releases a gas called nitric oxide. These 3 things help with gas exchange in the lungs so you get more oxygen going into the blood. This increase of oxygen is of benefit to all blood vessels around the body, not just in the lungs.

Thirdly due to the passages being smaller it takes more effort to get the air through the nose so we use our diaphragm more and this pulls more air into the bottom of the lungs. This is advantageous because there is simply more blood at the bottom of the lungs therefore increasing the likelihood of gas transfer to your red blood cells.

Breathing through your mouth has none of these benefits. As we touched on there are numerous benefits to this improvement of breathing dynamics. These also include:

  1. Improved lung health and volume
  2. Lower risk of allergic reactions
  3. Immune system boost
  4. Increase performance (up to 5% improvement in aerobic exercise times (running, cycling, swimming))
  5. Lower risk of snoring and sleep apnoea
  6. Supports correct formation of teeth and jaw in children
  7. Aids relaxation and management of anxiety

Mouth breathing is also linked to pain. Whilst I was working with the military we conducted a study on our patients that we saw that had pain for more than 12 months. What we found was every single person that we saw that fit that criteria over a 6 month period had poor breathing dynamics aka mouth breathers.

Signs of ‘breathing pattern dysfunction’

  1. Inability to breath deeply
  2. Shortness of breath or tightness in the chest
  3. Excessive yawning or sighing
  4. Taking more than 12 breaths a minute
  5. Regular dizziness
  6. Tingling fingers, face and feet
  7. Cold hands and feet
  8. Rapid heart rate
  9. Bloating

How do I change my breathing pattern?

Well the first thing to note is it takes about 3 months to change your subconscious breathing pattern. So you have to work on it. The first thing to do is consciously breathe through your nose as much as you can.

The second thing I like people to do is my favourite breathing exercise called beach pose. It’s simple, lay on your back, bend you knees so your feet are flat on the floor or bed, place both hands behind your head and breathe in and out through your nose, into your ‘belly’. Do this every day for 2 minutes and it will train your diaphragm to work.

So the takeaways are, there’s a high chance if you’re reading this that you have a breathing pattern dysfunction and you breath through your mouth. Even if you’re not, breathing exercises are a great way to relax and ease symptoms or anxiety and for recovery post exercise.

If you do want to book in for a 1-1 session to assess your breathing or you have an injury, ache or pain you can do so by using this link, I’d love to help.

Until next time

Matt