Why Should You Try Nasal Breathing?

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I am always striving to learn, to experiment, to try new things. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t, but you always learn something.

Last Spring I decided to try nasal breathing in my running (breathing in and out through my nose). As a Yoga teacher, I know the power of breath. Ancient Yogis thought that we only have so many breaths in our lifetime — slowing down our breath so that we took fewer breaths per minute was partially an attempt to live longer.

Paying attention to our breath gives us clues to how we’re feeling. How often do you hold your breath as you go about your daily lives? You might be surprised. If you’re scared or excited, your breath will speed up — it helps to invoke the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), our fight or flight response.

That worked great when we were living in caves and suddenly encountered a saber tooth tiger. Once we got away from the tiger, though, we would calm down and eventually shift back into our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), our rest and digest system.

We’re not as evolved as we like to think we are. The problem today is that we are often being pushed into our SNS by modern day stressors — almost constatnly — but we’re not facing a real tiger and we’re going from one stress to the next and not spending enough time in our PNS.

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Why breath through your nose?
One of the main reasons I decided to give nasal breathing such a long trial (almost 6 months!) was the fact that it is supposed to help you engage your PNS, and thus supposedly get into the flow state immediately.

Nasal breathing can (supposedly) help you increase the amount of oxygen to get to you hard working muscles, and perhaps boost athletic performance. This post from the Washington post (read it here) says:

It can allow for more oxygen to get to active tissues. That is because breathing through the nose releases nitric oxide, which is necessary to increase carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood, which, in turn, is what releases oxygen. Mouth breathing does not effectively release nitric oxide, which means the cells are not getting as much oxygen as through nasal breathing, which could lead to fatigue and stress.

Who doesn’t want to boost their performance? And hey, it’s free! Nasal breathing may actually help boost your immune system, too — who doesn’t want that right now? Check out this post here for more information.

Our nasal passages are able to filter bacteria and viruses in the air. We have little hair follicles in our nose (in fact, we have as many hair follicles inside our nose as we do on our head, according to Mackenzie) that are able to filter the air as you inhale, which can block dust and bacteria from reaching your lungs. Our mouths, on the other hand, don’t have the same knack for filtering out particles.

It all sounds good, doesn’t it?

So what went wrong?
I knew going into this experiment that it could take time. Up to three months, in fact, to switch over. I knew that it would mean slower running, but with no races in sight, no big deal.

At first I couldn’t seem to maintain nasal breathing. Which mostly meant I was running too fast. You really do have to slow way down. Then I decided to go back to run/walk intervals, and that helped a lot. I was beginning to see a little progress . . . then Summer came along.

I found it extremely difficult to breathe through my nose in the heat and humidity of Summer. I wasn’t feeling in the flow, either. My runs didn’t leave me feeling good. So I finally stopped nasal breathing while running.

Final Thoughts
I still believe that mastering nasal breathing could be helpful. Even though it’s cooler now, and should be easier, I’m not sure I want to go back and try. On the other hand, it still might be good to work on it just in daily life — I believe with everything going on right now, it may be helpful.

Trying new things is never a bad thing. That’s how we grow and learn. It’s a form of self study. But sometimes you need to know when to fold up. — Chocolaterunsjudy

What do you do to keep your immune system strong?

Have you ever even heard of nasal breathing before? 

What things have you tried and had to let go? 

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Linking up with Zenaida Arroyo and Kim @ Kookyrunner

This week I am also joining up with the new Runners’ Roundup linkup.

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13 thoughts on “Why Should You Try Nasal Breathing?

  1. I love that you keep on trying new things, Judy! I didn’t know that the nose releases nitric oxide.
    Even though it’s difficult to implement with running, I am sure it’s beneficial when walking or while doing other things around the house.
    There are many things I have tried and given up… A keto diet, for example. It wasn’t good for my digestion. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nope. I’ve heard by coaches to breathe through your mouth so never thought to try nasal breathing. Running is hard enough. I don’t care about running slow. I’m enjoying my 13 or 14 min pace.

    I’ve tried running without stopping in a run or race but gave that up in a race. it doesn’t bother me to walk. In fact I’ve had 5k and 10k PRs when I walked more often.

    Knock on wood my immune system has always been good. I try not to depend on vitamins or supplements. I take none and just eat normal food. And get your shots. Shingles flu etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had heard of nasal breathing, but it sounded like more work (aka-discipline) than it was worth for me. I often times, in the winter, exhale through my nose while running. On the bike, after work today, I had to nasal breathe by default because the bugs were terrible LOL And I could feel my heart rate skyrocketing at how much more work it required.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting! I’ve tried it before during the start of my runs but I can’t really keep up with it the whole time. I found it was hard in the winter when I have a bit of a runny nose from the cold. And of course its hard in the summer when its so hot out. Glad you could give this a try, and good for you for sticking with it for so long!

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  5. I had never hard of nasal breathing till you mentioned it a few months ago. There has been a few times where I have tried it but it is difficult. It is something I am not used to. I guess I can keep doing it since it forces you to slow down and well I do slow down on my easy runs anyway.

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  6. This is really interesting. When I first started running, my trainer taught me to breathe in through my nose twice then exhale through my mouth. Over the years I settled into my own breathing pattern but whenever I feel like my heart rate is too high I intentionally revert back to this pattern and it does slow down. Sounds like it takes a huge amount of focus just like changing my form 🙂

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  7. This is interesting! I use nasal breathing to check my effort on an easy run if I’m not running with anyone – a few strides of nasal breathing is sort of similar to speaking in a conversation.

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  8. I tried nasal breathing a long time ago after getting stung in the face by a jellow jacket while running. I was afraid I’d inhale one and get stung in the throat some day. But it was so hard to inhale enough air that I gave up. I think nasal breathing would be possible on a run but not at any kind of strong effort! If you think about getting into a flow state, running fast is kind of the opposite of that!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m terrible at breathing. It’s never been my thing and I think I hold my breath more often than I breathe. I don’t know why I can’t get a handle on it. I hold my breath in when I’m working out, when I’m stressed, when I’m focused, and even when I was in labor! It’s just my default.

    Liked by 1 person

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