BREATHING is something we do subconsciously without much thought at all.
But a doctor has warned there is a right way to breathe that may help prevent disease.
Dr Zac Turner, a medical practitioner in Australia, urged people to consider whether they are breathing through their nose or their mouth.
But he said most people will believe they are nose-breathers even if they are not.
“About 30-50 per cent of adults breathe through their mouth, especially earlier in the day,” he told the website news.com.au.
“It’s important to pay attention to how you breathe, because it’s healthier to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.
“The simplest reason is because nose breathing is more natural and helps your body effectively use the air you inhale.”
Dr Turner listed the reasons why breathing through the mouth could cause health problems.
Breathing through the nose, however, can protect against bacteria and pathogens.
Dr Turner said: “The beauty of your nose is that it’s perfectly designed to breathe safely.
“It can filter out foreign particles due to its nasal hairs. It can humidify inhaled air which makes it easier for your lungs to use, and it produces nitric oxide which is a vasodilator.
“That’s just a scientific way of saying it widens blood vessels to help improve oxygen circulation in your body.
“Your mouth is perfectly designed to eat, drink and talk, but it doesn’t have any of the nifty features your nose has.”
He added: “The way we breathe is linked to everything from how we think and feel to how we relate to the world, and the health and balance of every system in our body.”
How to change your breathing
Because breathing is an involuntary action, it’s not something you think about very often.
Therefore, you may be wondering how you can actively do it differently.
Dr Turner said to improve your nose breathing and lung efficiency, try exercises like alternate nostril breathing, belly breathing, and Breath of Fire.
“These techniques may help you master nose breathing while enhancing your lung function and reducing stress,” he said.
Alternate nostril breathing is what it says on the tin - when you breathe through one nostril and breathe out of the other, using your hand to block either off.
To do alternate nostril breathing, Healthline has the following steps:
- Sit in a comfortable position with legs crossed
- Place your left hand on your left knee, and bring the right hand up toward your nose
- Exhale completely and then use your right thumb to close the right nostril
- Inhale through the left nostril and then close the left nostril with your fingers
- Open the right nostril and exhale through this side
- Inhale through the right nostril and then close this nostril
- Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side
This is one cycle - you can continue for up to five minutes and you should always complete the practice by finishing with an exhale on the left side.
Belly breathing can help strengthen the muscles (diaphragm) you should be using during breathing, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr Turner explained: “Humans are ‘belly breathers’, and just above your stomach is a major muscle in the respiration process, the diaphragm.
“Proper breathing starts in the nose and then moves to the stomach as your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands, and your lungs fill with air.
“It is the most efficient way to breathe, as it pulls down on the lungs, creating negative pressure in the chest, resulting in air flowing into your lungs.”
To practice belly breathing:
- When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe
- Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out, causing your hand to rise. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible
- Tighten your stomach muscles, so that your stomach moves in, causing your hand to lower as you exhale through pursed lips