This is a question I was asked by Magda in the Northwood class and is commonly asked by many students;

Q. When breathing is it best to breathe through the nose or the mouth?

A. The main function of the nose is to allow air to pass though it so we can breathe therefore generally I would recommend you breathe in and out through your nose. The nose warms and moisturisers the air and there are hairs in it to clean the air whereas the mouth does not and if you breathe in through the mouth you may dry out the throat. Only in specific breathing techniques such as Sheetali or Seetkari do we inhale through the mouth.

At times I may instruct students to exhale through the mouth as this can encourage the student to let go and relax which can aid you to go further into a yoga pose. We often find it easier to exhale through the mouth as it requires less muscle strength and the opening is far larger so can allow more air to come out of the body giving a greater sense of release. Plus you can also combine the exhalation with a deep sigh and the vibration and sound of a sigh can also be very relaxing.

However the lungs absorb oxygen on the exhale therefore if you exhale through the mouth the air is released much quicker as the mouth has a larger opening than the nose therefore the lungs may not have enough time to absorb the oxygen from the breath. Exhaling through the mouth can also increase the loss of moisture from the body which can cause dehydration.

Also in yoga it is believed that there are two energy channels (nadis) running through the left and right nostril, Ida and Pingala respectively. When breathing through the nose it helps to balance out these energy channels to stimulate the opening of the third eye.

Occasionally exhaling through the mouth will not cause any great harm however if it becomes a habit and over used it can cause problems. Exhaling through the mouth is like eating a sweet… it feels good for a few moments but it doesn’t have any long term benefits! Therefore the general rule in yoga is to encourage yourself to breathe through your nose as much as possible.

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