All you nose breathers don’t know how lucky you are. Nasal is new for me and I’ve had to work at it. I managed to get through 3 decades without using my nose that much. I’ve only half enjoyed my food and the pleasures of perfume were wasted on me. I was in a vicious cycle of asthma, blocked nose, disrupted sleep and fatigue. I wasn’t aware that mouth respiration was reducing the efficiency of many body functions. But it’s better to breathe through the mouth than not at all. As you can see from the photo above, I wasn’t looking well at all!
The first noticeable improvement in my nose breathing came when I gave up dairy foods about 6 months ago. I had the lumpy neck thing and while waiting for the next doctor’s appointment and the next one after that, I was trying out being a freegan vegan. I knew that dairy is mucus-producing and it was remarkable how my stuffy nose was so much clearer with this dietary change. Since the oncologist has ordered me to be Fat and Fit while on chemo, I’ve gone back to some dairy foods (they also ensure I have ample calcium and vitamin D). I find my sinuses can tolerate butter and a bit of cheese, but not much else.
Then, I checked out the Buteyko Technique and got some good tips on how to clear a stuffy nose so that nasal breathing can be maintained. The exercise that worked best for me involves sitting down and letting the air out of your lungs. When they are empty, shut your mouth and pinch your nose closed. Now, ensuring you look very silly, nod your head up and down for as long as you can without breathing. Be gentle and don’t hurt your neck. If you think you really need to breathe, try holding for another few seconds. Then, when you’re desperate for a breath, use your nose to inhale. The build-up of carbon dioxide in your blood will have dilated the arteries in your sinuses, increasing blood and oxygen supply to those muscles. This relaxes your sinuses and opens the passages. You might have to do the silly nose-nodding a few times to get a good airflow.
My goal was to be able to nasal breathe through the night, so I could awake refreshed and properly rested. Mouth breathing used to wake me up with dry mouth and I’d lose out on REM sleep. I’m not in control of my night-time breathing so I knew I’d just have to train my body and brain during the day. It actually didn’t take long for my system to accept this new method, maybe a week or two.
I’m not going to list the benefits of nasal breathing, because you can just google them – there are many, many reasons we are designed to breathe through our noses. My life has changed since nasal breathing has become my habit. I feel more relaxed deep inside my body because my parasympathetic nervous system (rest) is getting properly stimulated. Wow, it’s so nice to be able to meditate and really connect to relaxation without battling a drippy, agitated nose.
One of the chemo drugs I’m on is known to stiffen the lungs, so mine get x-rayed every month. Nasal breathing properly uses the lung muscles. It slows the breath down, forcing the muscles to work to their capacity. My lungs are in great shape, even with this drug on board, so I’m delighted I started practicing months ago.
So, here’s a little exercise for you:
There’s a story in every breath cycle – a beginning, a middle and an end. Sit with your breath for a while and feel the story of your breath. Feel where it flows nicely, where it jitters, where there is struggle, where the pauses are. Notice the narrative. Now, bring your attention away from the story and tune in only to the physical sensation of your breath. Feel the cool air coming in through your nostrils. Feel the expansion of your tummy as your diaphragm drops to let the air in. Feel your back broaden as the intercostal muscles expand. And feel the relaxation of your whole body as you exhale. Try to get to this point of total relaxation on the out-breath. It might take a while. When you can achieve a relaxed exhale, you have a happy ending to your story. Smile and be grateful you never got that rhinectomy – you need your nose after all!
Ooh! And I have this gorgeous perfume-fiend friend. When she heard my olfactory functions are restored, she got super excited and sent me some perfs – mmm! I’m getting citrusy lemon, beautifully balanced on a heart of rose and violet, all poised on a musk and cedar base (I had to look that up). I can also appreciate the couple of bottles that I already own from The Burren Perfumery, a highly recommended haven of colour, beauty and fabulous fragrances in our local karst landscape.