Increase Your Endurance and Reduce Stress With One Simple Technique
Hi there…I just wrote another blog post with some additional techniques for taking your physical endurance to the next level. Check it out here.
For the past three weeks I have been applying a technique that has had more impact of my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being than any other product, system or technique I have tried out in recent memory. It is incredibly simple. It is free. It doesn’t require any props or accoutrement’s. It doesn’t disturb or distract anybody. You can do it while doing other things. You don’t need any special abilities to start doing it. You don’t even need instructions. Oh, and did I mention it’s free? :)
In my own experience, this technique has had a profound effect on my quality of life. My endurance throughout the day has skyrocketed. I rarely become stressed, and when I do, it seems to pass over me like a gentle breeze. My ability to focus on things that are important to me has increased significantly. I am less easily distracted. Do the benefits really match the claims by the title of this post? Yes.
What is this magical technique? It is very simple. Keep your mouth shut! Focus on breathing through your nose. Make nose breathing a habit and you are bound to see a profound change in the quality of your life. Throughout this article I will provide a more thorough description of the scientific basis for nasal breathing, an overview of my own experience using the technique, and some simple guidance for applying the technique in your own daily life (not that you need much in the way of instruction!).
Awaken your inner child
I have had the chance to be around a few babies, and quite a few young children lately. Have you ever taken a step back and observed babies and kids? Have you noticed how they breath? Aside for the occasional temper tantrum or crying fit, they breath in very relaxed fashion completely through their nose. There is no gasping for air through their mouth. Even when kids are at play, they have a rhythmic, fluid and moderate way of breathing. They are having fun. They are completely living in the moment. They are not gasping for air.
The human body was built for nose breathing. The mouth has evolved for eating and drinking. The nose has evolved to breathe.
The nose is filled with cilia, or small hairs that filter out particulate matter. They keep your body clean and safe from harmful objects and organisms. If you live in any city or urban environment (like I do) you should be thankful for these!
Even more intriguing, is that the nose contains a series of ridges or turbinates, that are shaped like elongated sea-shells. Think of these turbinates like your own air conditioning system. They allow inhaled air to adopt a smooth flow and pass through the maximal surface area of cilia and mucous membranes. Air that passes over these built-in Brita Filters is heated up to body temperature, filtered and humidified (up to 98% saturation). The result is that the inhaled air is less shocking to the body and easier to process. In cold weather, the warm air helps to keep the core of your body warm.
Therefore, it would seem that we are built to nose breath all the time. However, when was the last time you went out for a run, and only breathed through your nose? Most of us resort to mouth-breathing at the slightest hint of effort. There is no way we could possibly perform at a high level with such a little amount of air sniffed in through a tiny nose….right? The rest of the animal kingdom, if they speak up, would disagree!
Unleash the race horse within
Horses are majestic, unique and inspiring animals. They are unusual for their ability to not only run long distances while carrying large loads (including their 1000+ pound bodies!), but their apparent enthusiasm with running hard day after day after day! Interestingly enough, a horse can run at amazing speeds, while only breathing through their nose. They were designed to breath in this manner and have no issue providing enough oxygen for their enormous bodies.
Similar to humans, they also sweat through their skin. Therefore, their mouth is of no use at all while riding. You could tape a thoroughbred race horse’s mouth shut during training or a race and it would perform just fine! In fact, some thoroughbred horse trainers use techniques like this to “re-train” horses that have breathing issues, to optimize their speed and performance on track, or simply to improve their temperament.
Dogs are similar, in that they are nose breathers during any level of exercise. Whether you are strolling around town or going for a run together, their nose is hard at work. The one exception is that since they do not sweat through their skin, they must pant to cool themselves down. However, they are still primarily breathing through their nose. Look across various types of mammals, and your will see a similar trend, they are primarily nose breathers.
Are humans really that different? Of course not.
In addition to the filtering and warming mechanisms in the nose, the turbinates (those rides in the nose) and the lungs work together to help you breath more efficiently no matter what you are doing. Specifically, these turbinates control and smooth air flow and pressure so that your lungs are better able to take in the air to their larger lower portions. This is critically important when you consider how the lungs are constructed.
Your lungs are two large sacks that are tapered toward the top and quite wide at the bottom. They are filled with alveoli, small sacks filled with capillaries (tiny blood vessels) that allow carbon dioxide to leave your body and oxygen to enter. Not only are the bottom portion of the lungs larger, they also have a much higher number and concentration of alveoli than the top portion. When you breath shallow breaths through your mouth, you are not utilizing the lung’s maximal oxygen processing capabilities.
When you breath in through your nose, the air flows over the turbinates, which directs and funnels the air stream more effectively to the lower portions of the lungs.
Try this out for yourself right now. Sit back and take normal breaths through your mouth for 20 seconds. Stay relaxed and breath normally. Now, take relaxed breaths through your nose for 20 seconds. Feel a difference? Nose breathing causes your lower belly to move in and out, whereas mouth-breathing will cause more expansion of the upper ribs. Nose breathing more effectively feeds the capillary-rich lower-portions of the lungs. With practice, I have noticed steady improvement in my ability to nose-breath larger quantities of air and breathe more deeply.
Healthy blood for a healthy body
Another crucial aspect of nose-breathing is that it helps the body to maintain a more appropriate level of carbon dioxide in the blood.
Let’s take an example of a runner. When you mouth-breath while running, you are taking in rapid breaths of large volumes of air. The result is that your body is able to throw off large quantities of carbon dioxide, a waste-product of the body. This is good right? Well, yes…..but only to a certain degree. The problem is, mouth breathing quickly puts people into a state where they create an artificially low concentration of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. With low quantities of carbon dioxide in the blood, oxygen is not released as freely into the cells of the body. The body is tricked into thinking it is hyperventilated, or already has enough oxygen! The body needs to maintain a certain level of carbon dioxide in the blood to maxmize its ability to absorb oxygen from inhaled air.
It is like trying to fill up a small cup of water from a fire hydrant. With the water gushing so fast from the hydrant, there would be no way to get anything into your cup! Despite the higher volume of air inhaled through the mouth, your body is actually getting less oxygen. This is counter-intuitive, but makes sense when you study the underlying biological process.
Breathing through your nose allows a smaller and more highly directed stream of air to flow deep into the lungs. As a result, according to Dr. Konstantine Buteyko (creator of the The Buteyko Breathing Technique), the carbon dioxide levels of your blood are able to stay at a more moderate and even level, and the oxygen is able to be efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream.
As an added benefit, the nasal sinuses are large producers of nitric oxide, which is a powerful vassodialator. It’s presence signals blood vessels and capillaries to relax, thereby increasing blood flow to your cells.
Feed your body and your brain
For most vertebrates, the brain require 2-8% of our body’s oxygen to function. Humans, however, with our overgrown brains, require a cosumption of around 20% of our body’s oxygen to function normally. Whether you are running a marathon or just trying to concentrate better at work; proper oxygenation, and therefore breathing, is of the utmost importance and worthy of your attention. If you have any interest to improve your health and well-being, start with your breath.
Additionally, it is the belief of those that follow a Yoga practice, an ancient Indian tradition, that vital energy or prana, is absorbed through the olfactory organ. The prana, which cannot be seen or measured by any instruments, is necessary for the health of the physical and non-physical or subtle bodies. It is thought to travel along the olfactory nerve in the nose directly to the brain. If you believe in the power of subtle energy forces such as prana, you are forgoing this free benefit by breathing through your mouth. It is for this reason that hatha yoga and meditation practices stress the use of nose breathing exclusively.
Make a commitment to change
I have been nose breathing exclusively for the past 30 days. I was intrigued after photoreading about the benefits for endurance athletes in John Douillard’s book, “Body, Mind and Sport.” John’s book cites research showing marked decrease in the heart rates of runners who nose breath during high intensity 5K races. Through a more efficient processing of oxygen in the body, the heart has to pump less frequently. His studies have shown runners who apply the technique crossing the finish line at cross-country races in full sprint, while not being out of breath at all! For anyone training for a sport, particurlarly endurance athleted, nasal breathing holds a great promise for improved efficiency and performance.
I have dedicated myself to this practice, and even while running, weight training and climbing the 8 flights of stairs to and from my apartment every day….I am exclusively breathing through my nose! This change has not been easy. At first, my runs were slowed down considerably. I was forced to slow down by about 20%-30% to maintain the nasal breathing. Throughout my early runs I would get to points where I want to gasp for air. I would not give in…instead, I would simply slow down the pace. Walking up the stairs to my apartment I would feel like lungs literally crying out for more air. I would simply slow my pace down. Within a few days, I saw my body begin to adjust.
Now, after 30 days of steady practice, I would estimate that my runs are about 10-15% slower than if I were mouth breathing. Walking up the stair to my apartment is no issue at all. After eight flights of stairs, I have a slight urge to breath through my mouth, but after five or ten seconds of rest at the top of the stairs, I am back to breathing normally. While weight lifting, even during strenous exercises like squats or deadlifts, I am able to keep my breathing and concentration under complete control without any issues.
Every day I am seeing progress. I am noticing my nose opening up. I have less mucous and stuffyness. I am able to take in larger quantity of air through my nose as well. My breathing is also more controlled.
I have also taken notice of how I was so addicted to mouth breathing throughout other parts of the day. While eating. While talking to others. Sitting in meetings. Even while sleeping! I was mouth breathing all the time, even when my body was sedentary. Switching to nose breathing throughout the day has allowed me to maintain a state of relaxed alertness. I find my energy levels much more even.
Aside from the physical benefits, I am seeing many other benefits in my life since I have become a nose breather. Specifically, I have noticed that I am much more in tune with my environment. I am not trying to sound all hooky-pooky or petaphysical….I just letting you know the exeriences I am having with complete honesty! I am able to relate to people better. I am finding that my senses are sharper. My intuition is more keen (in fact, I started experiencing so many coincidences, I started keeping track here).
Most importantly, I have seen a near elimination of stress from my life. The change has been so drastic that I almost cannot believe it. It seems that whenever I experience a normally stressful situation, I am able to instantly recognize it, and my mental focus instantly goes back to my breath. In the process, the stress dissolves away. Previously, when I would get stressed, I would find myself holding my breath or sucking in air through my mouth. This has changed. This is not something I am consciously doing, it just happens. I have not seen any research correlating these benefits with nasal breathing, but wanted to share them as they have had such a profound impact on my life.
I hope that if you have read this far, that you are open to doing whatever it takes to improve the quality of your life, and the lives of those around you. The switch to nose-breathing has been a huge blessing to my life so far. I am committed to sticking with it, and documenting my progress. I urge others out there to give it a try for ten full days. I am convinced that you will see huge benefits. If you are an athlete, expect it to take a few months before you are performing at your normal speed again. A weight lifter will not see much, if any negative impact. A runner will definitely have to slow down for a few months! Just be aware of this. Treat it like a game and have fun with it.
Just remember, sometimes you must take a step back to take two steps forward. The research and logic behind nose breathing is sound. My own 30 day-trial has erased my doubts. I am willing to put in the time and energy moving forward to see where it takes me. Are you? If you are taking up the challenge, please leave a comment and let me know how it is going.
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