The Best Benefit of Yoga No One Mentions

In a recent study on the National Institute of Health website entitled, “Could nasal nitric oxide help to mitigate the severity of COVID-19?” the authors explain the role of nose breathing in creating Nitric Oxide. You know all about this if you come to class, but for the uninitiated, here’s the intro to the study:

The nasal cavity and turbinates play important physiological functions by filtering, warming and humidifying inhaled air. Paranasal sinuses continually produce nitric oxide (NO), a reactive oxygen species that diffuses to the bronchi and lungstoproduce bronchodilatory and vasodilatory effects. Studies indicate that NO may also help to reduce respiratory tract infection by inactivating viruses and inhibiting their replication in epithelial cells. In view of the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), clinical trials have been designed to examine the effects of inhaled nitric oxide in COVID-19 subjects. We discuss here additional lifestyle factors such as mouth breathing which may affect the antiviral response against SARS-CoV-2 by bypassing the filtering effect of the nose and by decreasing NO levels in the airways.   

So what’s a longtime mouth breather to do? You can’t just start breathing through your nose overnight.  No, but you can start yoga with an instructor who emphasizes pranayama (breathing exercises) and gives constant coaching on the in’s and out’s (sorry) of exactly how to breathe!

Such an instructor isn’t easy to find. In America’s search for the perfect yoga booty in an hour or less, a few things had to go–top of the list were breathing exercises. It’s a practice that’s extremely subtle, frustrating for many, and difficult to teach. Besides, how are you supposed to nose breathe when you’re whipping through your vinyasa flow to get your cardio in?  There’s the other problem: classical yoga was never meant to be cardio in the first place. Sure, the gurus of yore had troops of adolescent boys who would perform almost circus-like routines to attract attention pre-Instagram, but that wasn’t for the “regular” folk coming to yoga for health and wellness.  

Big Yoga (gyms, CorePower, ) knows you’re busy and want a Total Body Workout in under an hour.  That’s great for them as they want to cram as many classes into a day as possible for their business model.  Poof!  There goes breathing exercises!  Besides, “I think my lungs are getting fat” said no one, ever.

To do even a basic breathing practice takes at least an extra 10 minutes. Over time, you develop a kind of nose breathing momentum that gradually seeps into your posture practice so that you’re rarely, if ever mouth breathing — not even on exhalations. Stick with it, and you continue to breathe through your nose even after your leave class.

I know this progression as I was a mouth breather too, due to decades of allergies. Think about how much people spend on filtered water! You breath something like 20,000 times per day, so how about some filtered air?Finally, one day, you’re no longer a mouth breather. Once you start breathing the filtered, upscale variety of air, you never go back.

Still not convinced? Here’s an article outlining the negative effects of mouth breathing. Link here.

In children, mouth breathing is just as serious, possibly resulting in an ADD/ADHD misdiagnosis. Link here.

Why not set a basic #Covidgoal to become a nose breather if you’re not already? You’d be doing yourself a favor, as well as everyone else. The latest UMN study on indoor COVID transmission assumes that participants are all mouthbreathers– Whaaaat? #ew. At a minimum, your stress levels will decrease while practicing as nose breathing calms the nervous system and we could all use some more calm, right?

So yes, nose breathing can make you a calmer version of yourself, as well as improve your posture /spinal and even heart health. Shallow mouth breathers don’t create the micro-undulations of the spine diaphragmatic nose breathers do. Their hearts don’t get the calming effect of the nitric oxide (know anyone who pops those little pills for heart issues?). Diaphragmatic nose breathing keeps your joints and internal organs lubricated. They slip and slide instead of stick. YogaHotDish runs 1-2 all-breathing practices per month and includes breathing exercises in every class. Your spine, nervous system, and heart will thank you– so will the people you live with!



  1. Tim McKinnon says:

    I am 70 years old, have been doing yoga for about 15 years. Not only has yoga kept me almost pain free from lots of upper torso issues because of being a court reporter for 25 years, I have managed to avoid the usual colds I used to get. I have 13 grandkids, so I am exposed. I was a mouth-breather my whole life because of narrow sinuses. I do deep breathing every day, during yoga and lots of other times, and feel pretty darn good for a person 70 years old. It really helps relieve stress also, which there is a lot of nowadays.

    • Thanks for your story– proof you can change the way you breathe, no matter what age/stage of life! I feel like it’s common with a lot of men, but not sure why. No one ever teaches us how to breathe, stand up straight , or relax– the basics. Technique matters, just like anything else!

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