Before we begin this article, I would love for you to try out this simple exercise. Sit still for a bit, close your eyes and just take a mental diagnostic check of how you are feeling physically. Check in with your breath rate, your thoughts, and your surroundings. Once you get a feel for how you are feeling, open your mouth and take about 10 breaths in and out through your mouth. Right after, do the same thing but use your nose to breath now, and try to become more aware of how slow you are exhaling.
Did you notice any differences? Did you feel your heart rate drop? Do you feel more aware of your surroundings? Do you feel more down to earth?
What may seem as simple as “how you are breathing”, actually has a profound effect upon your daily optimization and function. Your breath has the ability to either prime you for your workout that day, or leave in a state of oxygen deprivation. It has the ability to affect your cravings for food that day, affecting your tastebuds. It has the ability to keep you from falling into a deep sleep or keeping you restless as you lay at night. It also has the ability to create more of a negative stress response in your nervous system or mitigate the negative stress response, allowing your body the ability to recover from a long day of mental and physical exertion.
Let's just discuss something that might get bypassed in your high school chemistry or biology class termed the Bohr effect. It basically speaks to the interaction of Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen. I think we all understand how important oxygen is to your health and daily function but Carbon Dioxide is the metabolic byproduct of your body’s tissues and cells utilizing oxygen. It is like the waste gas that is produced when using oxygen in your body. Now, people will often believe, if I open my mouth and breath in more oxygen, that will give my body more potential to utilize oxygen, so that has to be beneficial. Unfortunately, that is not how your system works; your body needs a specific level of Carbon dioxide in your system in order for you to actually utilize oxygen in your muscles, organs and all other cells. This is exactly why breathing through your nose is beneficial as it allows the appropriate ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide within your body.
Instead of thinking that exhaling harder and breathing out more is better for you in order to utilize more oxygen, it is actually the opposite train of thought. Not to mention that if we do not have an optimal rate of Carbon dioxide and oxygen in the system, this means that certain metabolic functions that your body relies on to stay healthy and functioning at a high rate will begin to drop off and this will leave your body in a negative stress response. So does this mean we don’t want to exhale? Should we be taking note of how much we exhale and inhale?
One of the best ways to help regulate such breathing questions is to simply take your breathing to your nose instead of your mouth. Breathing through your nose is able to:
- Increase natural production of Nitric oxide (increases the diameter of blood vessels to decrease blood pressure and increase oxygen delivery)
- Stimulate the diaphragm to become the main breathing mechanism which in turn helps stimulate the vagus nerve (vagus nerve stimulation helps shift from sympathetic aka “fight or flight” to parasympathetic aka “rest and digest”) .
- Serve as the first line of defense for your immune system as your nasal cavity contains certain receptors and chemicals to aid in immune system activity.
Our breath is able to influence a plethora of positive adaptations for our body. It is the simplest way to shift your body from overdrive and burnout to present and calm. There are plenty of people who reach out, all asking the same question: “ What is the one thing I can start to do right now that will assist me in recovering from my day? “. 10/10 times, it is beginning to implement some type of breath practice that could be done anywhere at anytime. Regardless if it is before a game or after a long day of work, let your breath work for you instead of against you.
Interested in learning more about simple ways to modulate your breath and receive the positive benefits of down-regulating your nervous system? Looking to find a quick way to help your mind and body simple feel and move better? Then check out our Hii-Tide subscription where you can find instructional videos on how to optimize your breath.