By Dr. Jeff Leiter

In the last edition, we discussed the difference between diaphragmatic (horizontal) breathing and shoulder (vertical) breathing. We also provided pro tips for breathing exercises and how to use your diaphragm to breathe more efficiently to maximize performance in sports and life. The next step to optimize breathing is to breathe through your nose (i.e., nasal) and make that your dominant method of breathing.

There are three main advantages to nasal breathing that include the following: (1) the anatomical structure of the nasal cavity (i.e., nasal conchae, Figure 1) forms a filtration system that purifies and warms the air you breathe before it enters the lungs; (2) the increased production and release of nitric oxide (NO), which dilates blood vessels to lower blood pressure and increases the capacity of the lungs to absorb oxygen'; and (3) allows air to reach the lower lobes of your lungs to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system.? Your parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for relaxation and rejuvenation, which are essential states for physical and mental development and recovery following intense exercise or an exhausting day of work.

Nasal breathing should be the preferred method of breathing for the majority of your activities, including bouts of submaximal exercise, such as a light jog or bike ride. As exercise becomes more intense, it will become difficult to breathe only through your nose since oxygen demand increases and you will want to take in more air. Your nasal cavity is smaller than your oral cavity, so you will have to switch to mouth breathing during intense bouts of exercise to inhale adequate amounts of air for the increased energy demand.

Like any skill, breathing through your nose during exercise will take practice and may be difficult at first. But, as you breathe through your nose, you will also engage your diaphragm and enjoy the benefits of horizontal breathing as discussed in the last edition.

Scott Taylor | Game On Magazine