Mouth Breathing is Bad for You Or Is It?
Posted on 18th November 2021 at 09:04
Disruption to your sleep, snoring, increased daily blood sugars, stress and anxiety are just some of the symptoms from chronic mouth breathing all day and at night. But is all mouth breathing bad for you?
The chronics disease aspect to mouth breathing has been discussed ad-naseum in works like James Nestor’s international best-selling book, Breath; and Patrick McKeown’s work with the Oxygen Advantage and The Breathing Cure. All works are awesome by the way and I’d highly recommend you reading them if you haven’t done before. Although I agree for the most part with Patrick and James, there is another conversation to mouth breathing that’s not being discussed. In this post, I want to share with you 4 ways mouth breathing can actually benefit you once you've your foundations trained.
Verbal Communication is a controlled mouth-exhalation combined with a vocalization of that exhale. Extremely obvious you might say but it is still optimal for communicating vocally! Now they do say you have two ear and one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you speak. But still, the fact you can talk alone means that mouth breathing isn’t all evil, rather there is a time and a place for it. Having said that, I still recommend you inhale through your nose when speaking. By inhaling through your nose, you’ll slow your breath, filter the air and get all the great benefits of breathing, even when speaking.
#2: Express Emotion
Love and Joy, anger and hatred are all expressed by the body in the movements we make and the way we breathe. Laughing, crying and shouting are all expressions of emotions through the breath, the voice and the body. Just look at a baby that wants something. It can't tell you what it wants because it doesn't have the vocabulary nor the skill to express it but the baby can tell you how it feels by expressing emotion - loudly!
When you stop expressing yourself as clearly as children do, you still create those feelings, they just don't get released. Instead they are suppressed inside your body. Suppressing these emotions results in the emotions being locked into your body. If you continue this habit, it becomes ingrained into your mind, posture and breath. You embody these emotions and adapt around them. With enough time suppressing emotions, youc hange your whole outlook on life, your personality and your quality of life.
You can see these trends when you analyse people’s breath and posture often enough. Think of a depressed person for example. They are withdrawn from the world typically. Head down, rounded shoulders and upper back, turned in to protect themselves from the world. Their breath is low and slow. The exhale is controlled and they react to stress with either a breath hold or a controlled exhale. I’m not saying this is a diagnosis. Rather, I’m explaining the common threads I see when working with people almost every day of my life. I can see the same trends with other states of being too. Your body and breath reflect your state of mind.
#3: Release Tension
When you suppress your breath and ingrain it into our system your muscles tighten and you can develop tension in your mouth, jaw, tongue, throat, neck, shoulders and upper chest. You can release this tension by opening your mouth wide with a large inhale. This is a reset for the body. By stretching, inhaling and yawning we teach the brain that its ok to let go of all that tension. The brain listens to our action and let’s go of it all. Without your ability to breathe in and out of the mouth you would have wired this tension into your systems for life.
#4. Enhance High Performance
Almost all high-performance sports people breathe through their mouth at some stage of competition. I know this is a big no, no for proponents of methods like the Oxygen Advantage but here me out until the end remembering I am both a Master Instructor in the Oxygen Advantage, Buteyko Educator and nasal breathing is one of the main practices I teach in my Breath Training Foundations programme.
First up, I agree that you need to train nasal only breathing for a healthy body and for all aerobic activity. I agree that all sports people need to train nasal breathing to optimize the use of their body and mind in sport. I also recognise that most people (including elite athletes) don’t train this aspect of breathing and they miss out on all the amazing benefits of it. However, once you’ve trained your nasal breathing foundations, it is time to move on.
Sometimes you need to push your body to benefit both your body, sport and your life. You love your sport after all and you want to perform well in it. Removing this love for performance in sport could be more detrimental to your health than sticking stringently to nasal only breathing. This is particularly true for your mental health.
Technically speaking, when you mouth breathe during sport, you are pushing yourself to your limit. It is a stressful breathing pattern, it uses more blood sugars and it represents a more stressful state but that’s ok in the context of sports performance (provided you’ve trained your foundations first). If anything, this is the state you will naturally arrive in, if you are truly pushing your boundaries and performing at our highest levels.
The difference in a trained person and an untrained one is that a trained nasal breather will consciously progress to forms of mouth breathing, moving up the level one at a time until they’ve reached their maximum ability. Meanwhile, an untrained-breathing athlete will naturally drop into mouth breathing very early in their performance. They push their body’s unnecessarily hard and cause undue stress to their system. This commonly results in over-training, a higher risk of injury and performance decrements over time.
As you can see, there is a time and a place for mouth breathing. It’s important for the health of your body, mind and sports performance. However, you must remember that it needs to be built on a strong foundation. That foundation is nasal breathing all day and all night and a nice supple body. Opening the mouth to communicate, express emotion and release tension is important for this process. Mouth breathing during sport enhances performance, provided it is built on strong foundations.
If you want to develop those foundations, improve your health and sports performance then check out the details of my Breath Training Foundations programme.
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