Breathing, our direct connection to the primary source of energy, dances on the border of the conscious and the unconscious. For our common good, for the work of all our systems, mental, physical, and energy, it is vital that it is healthy and natural. Only one in five Westerners breathes normally, that is, naturally. Many people are convinced that they cannot or do not even know how to breathe through the nose. However, the only natural and healthy breathing is – nasal breathing.
As with many other things in yoga, opinions about breathing are also divided. Some believe that pranayama refers to the control of breathing that is achieved by specific techniques and control of breathing, ie. life energy. For others, pranayama means free, natural, unrestrained breathing, and the dance of life energy is possible only when we leave that control to nature. Breathing is of primary importance for both life and yoga. Normally, natural breathing opens the possibility of insight into the connection between breathing and life energy, the experience of breathing with the whole body, that is, awakening the awareness of the energy body. Yogis say that only then does real research in yoga begin.
The first and most important instruction for practicing yoga is: inhale and exhale only on the nose. Why is this so, when it is known that this is not the case in other exercise systems? Why breathe through the nose when many people seem to find it easier to breathe through their mouths, especially when they exercise?
There are many different problems related to the breathing of modern man, and a significant place among them is occupied by breathing through the mouth instead of the nose. This bad habit, whose causes range from anatomical to deeply suppressed psychological, can very easily cause a whole range of health problems, and seriously disrupt normal life. In addition to respiratory problems, rhinitis, and allergies, dominant mouth breathing causes hyperventilation, provokes high blood pressure, asthma, obstructive sleep apnea (sleep apnea), heart rhythm disturbances and can cause heart disease.
The nose is an air conditioner that heats the air, purifies, moisturizes, dehumidifies, and of course, smells. The nose is a sophisticated killer of bacteria, recognizes their communication, and destroys them. The air stimulates the nasal mucous membranes and stimulates the reflex nerves responsible for breathing. Breathing through the mouth does not stimulate these nerves, and breathing itself is harder and shallower. Breathing through the nose strengthens the lungs, diaphragm, and all participants, primary and secondary in respiration.
The lungs take in oxygen during exhalation. The path of air through the nose is narrower, so the exhalation on the nose is longer than the exhalation on the mouth, which leaves the lungs time to take in more oxygen. Contrary to popular belief, we get the energy we need – oxygen – during exhalation. A longer exhalation means more oxygen to the whole body. Inhaling in that sense serves only to exhale. Breathing through the nose prevents the rapid loss of carbon dioxide, and maintains the normal pH value of the blood, and the supply of oxygen to the whole body. This is especially important during exercise because hyperventilation slows down breathing, compromises circulation, and provokes mucus secretion because the brain thinks that carbon dioxide is lost too quickly. The nose is also an effective energy saver: when exhaled, it manages to retain a third of the heat and humidity.
The nostrils are separately innervated with five carnal nerves connected to opposite sides of the brain. The nostrils function independently and in synergy. It is possible to consciously breathe only on one or the other nostril.
The body knows how to breathe. Wisdom is as old as life is there. Let her express herself in her grace, and let our being breathe with full lungs – through the nose.