Don’t Be A Mouth Breather! Eliminate Disease And Increase Vitality!
Today, in spite of our advances in modern technology, many people remain ignorant of one of the most basic functions for not only sustaining life but increasing it: breathing.
The percentage of city people who breathe correctly is actually quite small – demonstrated in narrow, contracted chests, stooping ‘hunched’ shoulders and by the onset of disease in the respiratory system.
On top of breathing incorrectly, people add insult to injury by indulging in smoking, either to relieve stress, or to look cool.
Ignorance isn’t bliss though – the results of our actions have to be paid for, sooner or later.
Recently, we’ve been experiencing a heat wave in the Mediterranean where my wife and I reside for many months of the year, with average temperatures of 35C and top temperatures reaching 40C plus. This means that the air conditioning is on most of the time in most places. Most people also sleep with the air conditioning on due to the extreme heat and high humidity.
Several people I know have ‘suddenly’ been taken ill, visiting their doctor because of a sudden onset of pneumonia and/or other respiratory problems. They are all mouth breathers – even though I know one of them practices yoga on a regular basis!
Yoga, as I keep reminding said person, is not just doing physical ‘asana’ – it is about becoming conscious of the breath (and ‘prana’), and adopting correct breathing habits to increase vitality and fight off disease.
Doing yoga asanas whilst breathing through the mouth is like eating a rotting piece of fruit. You get none of the health benefits, and actually increase your chances of getting sick.
Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by bacteria or viruses directly entering the lungs – which begs the question, how does the bacteria or virus typically enter the lungs?
Through the mouth.
Symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Cough. You will likely cough up mucus (sputum) from your lungs. Mucus may be rusty or green or tinged with blood.
- Fast breathing and feeling short of breath.
- Shaking and “teeth-chattering” chills.
- Chest pain that often feels worse when you cough or breathe in.
- Fast heartbeat.
- Feeling very tired or very weak.
- Nausea and vomiting.
So, it’s a serious matter.
Babies and animals breathe correctly, as nature intended. Yet, civilised men and women have learned bad habits from their environment: namely, their parents and teachers.
To undo this, we must simply become conscious of our basic physiology again.
So, the most important thing is to breathe through the nose, not the mouth.
We don’t eat through our noses (unless we need to be fed intravenously in hospital), so why breathe in through the mouth?
When we breathe in, we are supposed to draw in fresh, oxygenated air through the nose, which is warmed by contact with the mucous membrane, richly supplied by blood. After it has passed through the pharynx and larynx, the air passes into the trachea (windpipe) which subdivides into numerous tubes called bronchia. These in turn subdivide into and terminate in minute subdivisions (millions) in all the small air spaces in the lungs.
Unless fresh air, in sufficient quantities, reaches the lungs, the blood cannot be purified.
By breathing incorrectly, not only is the body robbed of vital nourishment but the waste products which should have been destroyed are returned to the circulation and poison the system. This causes premature ageing, and makes death come sooner.
If you didn’t take out the trash for a month, imagine how foul smelling and disease-ridden your home would become.
Mouth breathing affords zero protection to the respiratory organs, and cold air, dust, impurities and germs readily enter through that open door.
On the other hand, the nostrils and nasal passages show the careful and intelligent design of nature to safeguard our health.
The nostrils contain numerous bristly hairs (yes, all women have these hairs, despite the tendency to strip all hair from the body) which serve the purpose of a filter to strain the air of its germs and impurities. They also warm the air slightly, which is vital in colder climates, and when sleeping with the air conditioning on! Wim Hof, aka ‘Ice Man’, could not achieve his superhuman feats of endurance if he breathed in through his mouth!
The Yogic Complete Breath
In addition to eliminating mouth breathing entirely, one should be aware of the four types of breathing, from worst to best:
- High Breathing (Worst)
- Mid Breathing (Better)
- Low Breathing/Diaphragmatic Breathing (Better / Adopted by Western performance singers)
- Complete Breath (the most efficient and dynamic)
1) High Breathing
This is the absolute worst form of breathing, requiring the greatest expenditure of energy with the smallest return. It is energy wasting, yet often taught to young recruits in the Military.
To see how utterly useless it is, stand tall with your hands by your sides, expel all the air from your lungs and raise your shoulders and collar-bone. Then inhale.
The amount of air inhaled is far below normal.
2) Mid Breathing
This is also known as Rib Breathing, or Intercostal Breathing.
Whilst better than High Breathing, it is far inferior to even Low Breathing.
In Mid Breathing, the diaphragm is pushed upward and the abdomen drawn in. The ribs are raised and the chest is partially expanded – but the lower part of the belly and ribcage never ‘push out’.
This breathing method is often used by those who wish to keep their stomachs flat in public, largely due to vanity.
3) Low Breathing
Also called Abdominal Breathing, Deep Breathing, Diaphragmatic Breathing and so on.
In Low Breathing the lungs are given freer play than in high or mid breathing. To fill the lower part of the lungs, lie down and put your hand on your belly, just below your navel.
As you breathe in (through your nose!), allow the air to push the belly out, much like when you blow up a balloon. The lower and middle parts of the lungs will be filled, yet the upper parts of the lungs will remain largely empty.
4) The Yogic Complete Breath
The Complete Breath in yoga includes all of the good points of High, Mid and Low Breathing, and eliminates all of the bad parts.
The entire respiratory organism responds to this powerful method of breathing – indeed, the maximum amount of energy is derived from a minimum expenditure of energy! If you’re an athlete, pay attention.
To perform the complete breath, firstly visualise yourself standing on a beach and seeing the waves rolling in and then rolling out. This fluid rhythm is important to understand.
- Sit erect on a chair, with the spine straight – or simply lie down (but make sure you don’t fall asleep!).
- Breath in slowly and steadily through the nostrils, filling the lower part of the lungs, pushing out the front walls of the abdomen
- Then fill the middle part of the lungs, pushing out the lower ribs, breastbone (centre of the chest) and chest.
- Then fill the upper part of the lungs, protruding the upper chest slightly, lifting the upper six or seven pairs of ribs.
- in the final movement, the lower part of the abdomen will draw in slightly, giving the lungs support, and helping to fill the highest parts of the lungs.
- Retain the breath (for a few seconds)
- Exhale slowly and consciously, holding the chest firm, drawing in the abdomen a little and lifting it up slowly as the air leaves the lungs. Think “navel in”.
- When the air is entirely exhaled, relax the chest and abdomen.
Practice this a few times until you can breathe in and out fluidly, filling and then emptying all parts of the lungs.
If you breathe correctly for a month, you will be amazed at how much more energy and vitality you have! And many diseases of the body and mind may simply evaporate.