wellness — By trainer aidan anderson
I have struggled with mental health since the young age of 12. Panic attacks often would happen after a choir class. I know it may come as a surprise that I was in choir, but I will get back to why I think it happened in this class. The sensation was the feeling of being unable to breathe, leading me to believe I was having a heart attack. My life changed from that moment, and I had many years ahead of me where I worked to better understand my own mind and body. I was able to use exercise, therapy, and medication to get to a place where I could function. I still would have hard times like everyone else in life, but sometimes those moments could get extreme, leading to the edge of insanity.
At the age of 23, I was introduced to “nasal breathing” by the owner of VITRU, Johnny Fontana. He told me that he had read a book from James Nestor called Breathe that spoke specifically about the benefits of nasal breathing. I dove into it and, sure enough, noticed how hard it was for me to breathe from my nose. The fact was I didn’t do it often, and it was possibly a huge reason for my anxiety.
Here are a few things I have learned as I have studied and practiced nasal breathing.
1. Breathing from your mouth raises anxiety due to the release of a stress hormone called cortisol.
2. Breathing from your mouth should really only happen as a last result when needing to sprint max speed or run from a puma. Mouth breathing is your last gear to use everything you have. You will notice huge fatigue if you breathe from your mouth all day long.
3. Nasal breathing allows you to breathe from your diaphragm & not your chest. If you breathe from your chest, you never get full breaths which can lead to hyperventilating and can result in anxiety. Looking back, I could see that was possibly why I had a panic attack during choir: my mouth was wide open for a long period of time.
But there are more reasons to keep your mouth shut than just controlling anxiety. Let's dive into them.
4. Your nose is a filter. People get less colds and viruses when breathing from their nose. The nasal passageways are filled with tiny hairs called cilia. Cilia is estimated to protect us against around 20 billion particles in the air a day.
5. Mouth breathing results in the mouth becoming dry. This increases the risk of mouth & throat infections. Also pollutants & germs are able to get direct access to the lungs when you keep your mouth open.
6. Many tooth & jaw issues skyrocket if you breathe from your mouth. With your mouth constantly open, you tend to get more tooth decay, crooked teeth, TMJ, and can have a greater need for braces.
7. Nasal breathing increases circulation and overall lung capacity. The structure of the nose regulates the direction & velocity of the air system to make sure it reaches fine arteries, veins, lymphatics, and nerves.
8. Nasal breathing will increase your vo2 max.
9. Nasal breathing will get rid of sleep apnea & snoring. If you have a deviated septum, see how bad it is closed up by your doctor or, preferably, a specialist. If it is not totally closed, start following nasal breathing exercises to break cartilage up and gain access back.
Taking all this information in, I trained for a marathon where I kept my mouth taped the whole time (only taking it off to get water). I teamed up with “IDONTMIND” to raise money for Mental Health America. I ended up completing the marathon, proving that steady-state cardio can be done with just nasal breathing and also helps with anxiety.
Now it is not necessary to tape your mouth while exercising in order to slowly improve your nasal breathing. Start with slow walks first, keeping your mouth shut. Overtime as your endurance increases you can do cardio where your heart rate is between 110-120 bpm. You do not want to do all out sprints nasal breathing unless you have built a high capacity. Do yourself a huge favor and read James Nestor’s book “Breathe” it will give you simple routines to work on slowly so someday you can run all day with your mouth closed.
Information and clinical review found from “Dr. Alan Ruth”
James Nestor author of Breathe