Nose breathing is vital to our health (find out why). If you’re like the majority of the population however, you either don’t do it at all, or don’t do it enough during the day. Nose breathing has a range of benefits; from helping you to de-stress and sleep better to improving your blood flow and fighting infections. In the beginning it will feel strange, maybe even uncomfortable, as your body adapts, but the long term payoffs are exponential.
To start, just observe your breathing at various times during the day. When you catch yourself breathing with your mouth open, gently close your mouth and take 5 slow, conscious breaths with your nose. This will help anchor your mind to the activity.
Once you’ve become aware of your breathing, try one or all of the 5 nose breathing exercises below.
Ocean Breath or Ujjayi
Mouth taping for sleep
Nose in-out during light exercise
Nose Unblocking Exercise
Breathing through your mouth increases mucous secretion in the nose, causing it to block. As it says on the box, use this technique, from the Oxygen Advantage, to help unblock it. I like to do this before I start other breathing practices as it helps to warm up my mind-body connection.
Take a small, silent inhale & exhale through your nose
Pinch your nose & hold your breath
Walk as many paces as possible holding your breath (sitting works too). Try to create a strong air hunger (don’t overdo it!)
When you need to breathe, inhale through your nose only
The first breath will usually be bigger than normal. Aim to calm your breathing as soon as possible, by suppressing your 2nd and 3rd breaths
You should be able to recover your breathing within 2-3 breaths. If not, you’ve held your breath for too long
Wait 1 minute and repeat
Repeat for 5-6 rounds or until the nose is decongested
This technique from breathing biohacker Kasper van der Meulen is a variation on box breathing, which he uses to, well, focus & reset! I like that the breath cycles get longer, helping you to train your diaphragm, activate a parasympathetic state and improve CO2 tolerance. I recommend doing this lying down to begin with so you can really focus on your diaphragm.
4 sec inhale / 4 sec exhale x 4 rounds (1:0:1:0 pattern, 8 sec total)
4 sec inhale / 4 sec hold / 4 sec exhale / 4 sec hold x 4 rounds (1:1:1:1 pattern, 16 sec total)
4 sec inhale / 8 sec hold / 4 sec exhale / 8 sec hold x 4 rounds (1:2:1:2 pattern, 24 sec total)
If you can’t sustain the long holds, drop back to Step 2. Don’t force anything. You want to stay relaxed.
Ocean Breath or Ujjayi (nose only)
This yogic breathing technique is great to help learn to control your inhale and exhale using your diaphragm, but also by using your throat. This version uses a nose inhale/exhale which can be a bit tricky to master in the beginning. If that’s the case, switch to a mouth exhale.
Practice this in a seated, relaxed cross-legged position
Take a nice and big inhale through your nose for 5 sec
On the exhale, with your lips gently pressed together, gently constrict your throat and push the air out, making a “haargh” sound (it should sound like the ocean)
Exhale for 5 sec
Continue the 5:5 tempo for 3-5 minutes
Mouth exhale version (Step 3):
On the exhale, open your mouth, relax the jaw, gently constrict the opening of the throat and make a “haaargh” sound as you gently push the air out
Nose exercise for sleep
The chance is high that you mouth breathe when sleeping (a 2015 survey found 61% of adults do). If you’re lucky enough to get 8 hours of sleep a night, that equates to mouth breathing for one third of your day (before you’ve even left the house!).
One remedy for this is to tape your mouth while you sleep.
Use 3M micropore tape (available in supermarkets and pharmacies)
Tear off a 10cm strip
Press it on the back of your hand a few times (makes it easier to remove in the morning)
Wet your lips and gently place the tape over them
Get used to it for a few nights by only wearing it for 30 mins before bed
To avoid your body relying on it to get good sleep, take a break every few weeks
The better you become at tolerating CO2, the easier it will be to keep your mouth closed naturally, without tape
Nose in-out during light exercise
When nose breathing during exercise you’re better able to get oxygen into your cells, to give you the energy you need, and you’ll also fatigue slower. If you’ve never done it before it will take getting used to and during this time you may notice your performance dropping off. Be patient, it can take 6 to 8 weeks for the body to adjust. A 2018 study found that after 6 months of consistent nose breathing during training, all participants were able to achieve the same peak work and maximal oxygen consumption compared to their previous mouth breathing.
Start with a low intensity exercise (walking or a light jog)
Move at a pace that you can breathe in and out with your nose only
If you feel yourself wanting to switch to mouth breathing, slow your pace until you can maintain a nose inhale and exhale again
Keep this pace for the remainder of your exercise
Bring a tissue - it’ll get snotty in the beginning!
Don’t focus on syncing your breathing with your steps, breathe as and when you need
There’s no need to do all of these every day or even every week. Find one or two you like, or that you find beneficial and practice them consistently for a month, then switch.
If you have questions about any of them, feel free to contact me.
Interested to learn more about the breath or want to learn how to go deeper? Join me at one of my upcoming workshops
Like me to teach at your gym, studio, workplace or backyard? Contact me