The importance of nasal breathing in yoga and meditation

Whether you practice Ashtanga Yoga, Hatha Yoga or Chair Yoga, nasal breathing is an important technique to use in and out of class.

Breathing is an automatic process, which many of us practice unconsciously. Even when we sleep, we are drawing air into our lungs, oxygenating the blood and supplying our muscles and vital organs with oxygen.

It’s something I didn’t really pay too much attention to, until I started to practice Yoga and Meditation. Something so natural to us as breathing can have a dramatic effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. Even breathing through the mouth vs breathing through the nose can effect us physically and mentally. Why is this?

If our breath is shallow, or if we cannot breathe through the nose when it is blocked and have to breathe through the mouth, we can feel anxious, tired and laboured. What causes these changes?

When we breathe through the nose, we breathe more deeply and fully, it calms and soothes the nervous system and invokes a sense of calm and relaxation. – How is this so and why is it the opposite to breathing through the mouth?

It is something I have always been interested in, the science behind Yoga and the positive effects it has on mind, body and spirit. The concept of nasal breathing is really important in Yoga and Meditation, but it is something we should be incorporating into all our lives daily.

Why are we guided to breathe through the nose in our Yoga Practice?

blue sky with white clouds

Nasal breathing VS breathing through the mouth

The nose is specifically designed for breathing, it is its sole purpose. The mouth, although can be used for breathing, is designed primarily for eating.
The nose has its own filtration system, helping clean and cleanse air before it enters the body. It also has a built in thermostat, that warms up the air we breathe. The mouth doesn’t have this ability and when we breathe through the mouth, cold air aggravates the back of the throat and lungs. This is observed when our nose is blocked and we have to regularly breathe through the mouth.

Nasal breathing naturally slows down the breath

Nasal breathing naturally slows down the breath, which allows the lungs more time to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream. The slower breath calms the nervous system, allowing the body to operate from the parasympathetic nervous system. When we operate from the parasympathetic nervous system, we experience a sense of peace, calm and tranquility. When we breathe through the mouth, breath tends to come from the upper thoracic parts of the lungs and breathing is shallow. This turns the nervous system towards the sympathetic state, where we experience anxiety and feel under threat. This is often referred to as ‘fight or flight mode’.

When we breathe through the nose, we breathe into all dimensions of the lungs. We breathe more deeply and fuller.

Try it for yourself!

man wearing black cap with eyes closed under cloudy sky

Try breathing through the nose for 10 rounds, then breathing through the mouth for 10 rounds. You will be able to observe the differences for yourself. How do the different breathing techniques make you feel, in mind and body?

Nitrous Oxide and The Nasal Cavity

Another fascinating reason why we should be practicing nasal breathing more often is that a gas known as nitrous oxide is formed in the nasal cavity. Nitrous Oxide helps open the airways, this means we experience a higher concentration of oxygen being transferred into the bloodstream from the lungs. This means the muscles, major organs and mind is supplied with more oxygen.

Oxygen uptake by the body is much greater when we breathe through the nose.

Ajna (third eye) Chakra and Nasal Breathing

The Ajna Chakra is often referred to as the third eye chakra. It is located between the eyebrows, where the top of the nasal cavity is. The nasal cavity is in close proximity to the front of the brain. when we focus on nasal breathing, it helps to balance this chakra, allowing us to focus on one pointed focus (known as Dharana in Yoga).

Nasal breathing is a really important technique in our Yoga practice, whatever level or stage you are at. It is also something important to take away out of class.

Whether you are practicing asana, gentle breathwork, pranayama or meditation, it is something to consider in your practice.

I hope you enjoyed reading this! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a comment below, we would love to hear from you!

Aimee is a Yoga, Meditation and Chair Yoga and Exercise teacher in Teesside. Running AMALAwellness CIC, she loves making Yoga, meditation and gentle exercise accessible to all.

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