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NOSTRIL breathing or MOUTH breathing? – The 'Yogic' Recommendation!!

‘Nasal passage’ – a term most of us would have come across, repeatedly, during our yoga sessions. Unless, particularly, specified by the teacher, using the ‘nasal passage’ for breathing is the ‘rule of the thumb’ in the ideology of YOGA. Hence, whether it is normal breathing or pranayama, breath has to be through the nostrils. In fact, breathing through the nostrils is so pivotal that some of the yogic kriyas are solely dedicated for cleansing of the nasal passage. “The internal nose not only provides around 90% of the respiratory system air conditioning requirement but also recovers around 33% of exhaled heat and moisture. Elad, Wolf, Keck 2009 Air conditioning in the human nasal cavity. Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology 163. 121-127

Nasal passage makes the quality of air conducive to be received by the lungs. The transfer of air from the atmosphere through the nostrils to the lungs is not as simple a process as it seems. The air needs to be pure in quality and at a certain temperature before reaching the lungs. This is important not only for a smooth exchange of air but also for protecting the lungs from damage, which can be easily caused, if the air is not conduced at that level.  The nasal passage prepares the air to be conducive to be received by the lungs as:

  1. It makes the air warm to match the temperature of the lungs

  2. It moistens the air so that it does not irritate the sensitive nerves

Defensive Mechanisms in Nasal Passage While breathing through the nostrils, the inhaled air goes through three layers of purification. Each layer is designed to filter foreign bodies from reaching the lungs.  So if some impurities do manage to cross the first layer of cleansing, it will be stopped at the second and if at all, it manages to pass the second layer also, there would not be any scope for it to cross the third layer.  This ensures that the air meets all the required conditions before reaching the lungs.

  1. Layer one – Nasal Hair : Nasal hair is the first security filter present at the nasal portal. It does the first level of screening by preventing particles from entering the nasal cavity.

  2. Layer Two – Mucous Membrane Level: The bony region in the deeper nasal structure further removes the dust and particles which have managed to penetrate past layer one. It is at this level that the inhaled air is heated and moistened to suit lung conditions.

  3. Layer Three – At the glandular level: Deeper in the nose, there are the set of glands, which does the job of final filtration and  makes it impossible for any stubborn residual particles from entering the vicinity of the lungs. Filtered through these strict layers, the air finally reaches the lungs in its most purified version, thereby, nourishing our health and wellness. Breathing through the mouth occurs when one is hyperventilating may be because of emotions or suffering from cold and cough. These are not normal conditions. If one continues to breathe through the mouth despite not having the aforementioned issues, one would get accustomed to an unnatural breathing, which in turn would become a source of many ailments. Sleep Apnea & Snoring could be caused by mouth breathing The breathing process applied during the day, be it ‘Mouth’ or ‘Nose’ breathing, carries the same memory and the application happens during sleep too. “Hospital studies have established that nocturnal mouth breathing is a primary cause of loud snoring. Snoring is a precursor to sleep apnea and apnea a precursor to low cellular oxygen, almost any illness including heart attacks and dying in one’s sleep.”  ( Check out the ways of keeping your nasal passage clean and doing yogic breathing. Other related articles on breathing are "Beat the HEAT with Chandrabhedan" and "Can Yoga Cure Sleep Apnea?" For more articles on breathing go to . Note: Practice yoga asanas under the guidance of a yoga expert. For any query, write to “Ask Shammi” on For other blogs on related subject, check

Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.

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