It just kind of “happens” automatically.
While your brain does regulate the rate of your breaths, that doesn’t mean you are breathing correctly. You could be breathing through your mouth and not through your nose.
Does it matter? It turns out that, yes, it does.
Why nasal breathing?
Research has found that breathing through your mouth means that you miss out on much of the oxygen – up to 90 percent – your body needs to support your organs, tissues, and cells. Without this oxygen, you face the risk of damage to your body and tissue and cell death. Over long periods, living with reduced oxygen levels can leave you at risk of developing a severe illness or even a chronic health condition, such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.
Many reports I have read on my quest for stress reduction agree, when you breathe through your nose, you get more oxygen compared to what you take in when you breathe through your mouth.
Other benefits of nasal breathing include:
The air you take in is filtered by tiny hairs (cilia) in your nose to remove germs and environmental debris. The cilia also warm the air that you have taken in before it travels to your lungs.
Breathing through your nose allows you to take deeper breaths – which engages the lower lungs. When the lower lungs become active, they pump out more oxygen to the rest of your body. More oxygen means more support your cells and maintains healthy tissue and organ function.
Deeper breaths mean that oxygen is in your lungs longer, and your body can covert more oxygen to carbon dioxide waste. Reduction of carbon dioxide levels in the body helps to maintain your blood pH levels. When there is less carbon dioxide in the blood also means that your cells experience less stress and free radicals are reduced.
Another discovered benefit of nasal breathing is that when the lower lungs are engaged a calming effect happens. This is because the lower lungs contain the parasympathetic (calming) nerve receptors of the body. When these nerves are activated, they tell the brain to send calming hormones to battle stress.
When you breathe through your mouth, the body activates its sympathetic (stress) nerves. When these nerves turn on, they tell the brain to send the stress hormone cortisol and turn on the immune system and increase to prepare for an “attack”. If you regularly breathe your mouth, your body believes it is under attack all of the time, leaving you with chronic, damaging inflammation.
Breathing through your nose can be especially beneficial during your forest walks to help ower your stress levels and help you to tune in closer to your surroundings – the sights and the sounds and the “feels” …
Enjoy the trail! And, don’t forget to breathe.