Breathing techniques are not just for yogis and tree huggers, and have been used for thousands of years in many cultures and practices. Almost everyone who has ever been guided through a meditation practice knows how important the rhythm of breath is. Although encouraged to breathe through our nose, for many, that is easier said than done.
You may or may not know if you are a mouth or nose breather, and, you may be saying, so what! But guess what? How you breathe and how much oxygen you take in can make life-altering changes for someone who suffers from sinus issues, snoring, sleep apnea, or emphysema. When the quality of breathing goes down, the stress on the body goes up. How you breathe can also contribute to inflammation that could trigger autoimmune disease.
Nose vs. Mouth
Mouth breathing can not only cause sleep disorders, but it can actually distort the structure of your face. As our brains grew bigger and our faces narrowed, we developed crowded teeth and the roofs of our mouths arched higher. For some, this created a series of sinus and breathing problems including snoring and sleep apnea.
When you breathe through your nose, the hairs in your nose filters out airborne particles including allergens, pollution, and even insects (ew!). Where do you think those critters go when you breathe through your mouth? Your mouth does not have this filtering system and bacteria could be more prevalent, creating a whirlwind of health issues that can also be linked to behavioral problems and autoimmunity. Breathing through your nose also warms the oxygen which creates a moist environment for your mouth and lungs.
So what can you do to change this lifelong, potentially life-altering habit? You can practice putting your tongue to the roof of your mouth and closing your lips, and breathing out of your nose. Bring awareness to your breath and practice nasal breathing frequently. Some tape their mouths when sleeping. There are many techniques and tapes on the market, so do your research and find one that may work best for you.
Balance is Key
Since breathing is controlled by your autonomic (automatic) nervous system, which controls unconscious bodily functions, some believe that it cannot be controlled consciously. Studies show that breathing can tap into your autonomic nervous system and you can activate your relaxing nerve responses with oxygen control. Many people with high levels of stress or chronic illness live largely in a sympathetic state of “fight or flight”. This in turn, wreaks havoc on many bodily systems including your hormones, brain health, and your immune system.
Chinese medicine’s philosophy is to balance your yin and yang (everyone has seen the black and white logo with two tear drops hugging), which is comparable to our western terms of parasympathetic and sympathetic systems. Finding balance is paramount for our health and keeping chronic and autoimmune disorders at bay.
Immune to Inflammation
Inflammation is the root cause of all disease. This is a bold statement, but it is the one common link we find in all of our clients. Our innate immune system is what keeps us alive and well, but persistent inflammation and improper working cells can trigger tissue and organ damage, leading to autoimmune disorders. Stress is a nasty beast! When our sympathetic functions are flared, increased levels of hormones like cortisol, are not in balance and can cause a landslide of symptoms.
Techniques to Reduce Stress
By practicing breath techniques including nostril breathing (Nadi Shadhana), breathing coordination, Buteyko, conscious breathing, carbon dioxide training, tummo, and modified techniques by acclaimed immune biohacker Wim Hof, you can reset your autonomic functions through stretch-induced signals which can synchronize the heart, lungs, limbic system and cortex. The book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor follows the author’s challenges with chronic health issues and his quest to uncover the mysteries and healing stories of breath.
Cold plunging and exposure to uncomfortable chilly temperatures can also trigger a reset, and with proper training and practice, individuals have been able to control their breathing and voluntarily influence their sympathetic nervous systems. Wim Hof himself has been injected with E. coli and after a few breaths, got up with no symptoms or effect and fetched himself a cup of coffee. Practice makes perfect, or at least can create a more balanced outcome for many chronic illnesses.
In today’s electronic age, there are multiple biohacking devices available that track your blood sugar, tell you if you will burn more fat or carbohydrates that day, monitor your steps and calories and heart rate variability. These tools are costly and sought after by the most extreme athletes and dieters that track every detail of their consumption. Why not tap into something that costs nothing but time, with proven results dating back for thousands of years?
When someone is hyperventilating, advice is given to breath in a bag, slowly and rhythmically. It works by putting some of the lost carbon dioxide back into your lungs and body. Next time you are feeling stressed, frustrated, or anxious, try taking slow breaths in and out of your nose for 5 counts. With practice and patience, you can tap into your parasympathetic nervous system at a time of need, and reduce or reverse those emotions. You can be the master of your own body, mind and health.
If you suspect you may be running in a state of stress, have symptoms, suspect or have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page. We can help you get to the root cause of your imbalance.