Breathing through the nose = freeing the breath

I went to qigong yesterday in Oslo, with the same teacher I had when I immersed myself in taichi for a few years following high school. After class, we had tea and talked a bit, and one of the senior students mentioned something I found insightful and important.

I have heard the recommendation to breathe through the nose from people from a variety of backgrounds, including various yogic traditions. (With yogic I mean any tradition that uses a mindful body-oriented practice.)


There may be several reasons, but I assume a big part of the answer is something simple and something we can all explore in daily life.

What happens when I breathe through the nose in situations where I feel I need more air, for instance when I am in more physical activity?

For me, I notice that breathing through the nose requires me to breathe with my belly. My belly needs to expand in all directions – forward, down, to the sides, even in the back – so the diaphragm is pulled down which, in turn, pulls air into the lungs. I have to free up my breath to get enough air. I have to let go of restricting it.

If I breathe through my mouth, my body can hold onto breath-related tightness and restrictions.

If I breathe through my nose, it’s required to breathe with more freedom.

See below for ChatGPT’s take on this, with a few more reasons it may be beneficial.

Note: Another way to explore the breath that I find helpful is to breathe fully out, and then allow my body to fill the lungs again on its own. This too helps to free up the breath.

The image is a section from an image created by me and Midjourney


Breathing through the nose offers several benefits compared to breathing through the mouth:

  1. Filtration: The nasal passages are lined with tiny hairs called cilia and mucous membranes that act as natural filters, trapping dust, pollen, bacteria, and other particles. This helps to purify the air before it enters the lungs, reducing the risk of respiratory infections and allergies.
  2. Moisturization: The nasal passages humidify and warm the air as it passes through, which helps to prevent the delicate tissues of the respiratory tract from becoming dry and irritated.
  3. Nitric Oxide Production: The sinuses produce nitric oxide, a molecule that has antimicrobial properties and helps to dilate blood vessels, improving oxygen uptake in the lungs and enhancing overall lung function.
  4. Improved Lung Function: Breathing through the nose promotes diaphragmatic breathing, which involves deep breaths that engage the diaphragm muscle fully. This type of breathing is more efficient and helps to maximize oxygen uptake in the lungs.
  5. Stress Reduction: Nasal breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” system, which helps to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.
  6. Enhanced Smell: The olfactory receptors in the nose allow us to detect a wide range of odors, contributing to our sense of taste and overall enjoyment of food and beverages.

Overall, nasal breathing is the body’s natural and preferred way of taking in air, offering a range of benefits for respiratory health, immune function, and overall well-being.

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