Breathing Through the Nose

One of many differences between a yoga practice and other forms of physical activity concerns the breath.  In most physical activities other than yoga the breath is drawn in and expelled through the mouth.  In yoga even during it’s most vigorous sequences the breath should be taken in and expelled through the nose.

The nose is supremely designed for this function.  The nose is not a straight pipe that leads to the lungs.  In fact it is a twisting turning passageway designed to cause the air to pass closely by the walls of the nasal passage.  At first glance this looks inefficient, surely it would be best to get the air from the outside of the body into the lungs where it is needed in the shortest possible time frame and then to expel the stale used air equally as fast.

But the nose doesn’t work that way and here is why.  As the air is inhaled it comes into contact with the warm and moist nasal mucosa.  This contact rapidly warms and moistens, or humidifies, the breath.  During exhalation the same contact moisture from the breath is reclaimed and the nasal passages are warmed by the expelled breath.

So effective is the nose at its function, that the breath on inhalation reaches optimal temperature and humidification in a split of a second.  In a moderate environment of 23ºC and 40% relative humidity, an inhaled breath is warmed to 33ºC and humidified to 98% relative humidity before reaching the glottis – a point just above the voice box.  In this way the lungs are kept moist and warm, which is optimal for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which after all is their primary function of the lungs.

So breath through your nose not your mouth.


Iyengar folk lore.

A senior teacher once told the story of a class, they once attended taught by BKS Iyengar where Iyengar told a student – “if you breath through your mouth I will feed you through your nose”.