Matt Heath: A short guide to breathing properly

Mouth-breather noun INFORMAL 1. a stupid person.

New Zealanders are breathing and chewing incorrectly, and it’s distorting our faces. Our air passages aren’t forming correctly. Our pipes are pathetic. If an ancient human saw us, they would laugh at our small jaws and big noses. I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Breath The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor, and It’s a fascinating 100 per cent breathing focused 7 hours and 19 mins.

We humans should be good at breathing. We practise all the time. On average, we take 16 breaths per minute, 960 an hour, 23040 breaths a day and 8409600 a year. Across your life, you’ll likely take 672768000 breaths. Yet there is a good chance you are rubbish at it. Up to half of all New Zealanders are breathing incorrectly.

According to Nestor, all your breaths should be through your nose. Never through your mouth. The way we breathe can have an enormous effect on our health. Breathing and chewing correctly can restructure our faces, expand our airways and help us overcome stress.

Breathing through your nose doesn’t just take in air, it cleans it, warms it, moistens it. It leads to the release of chemicals that lower blood pressure and regulate the heart. Unprocessed mouth air gets you none of these benefits. Mouth breathing might even be making you dumber.

As a mouth breather, I find this disappointing.I run every day. I’m reasonably fit, but when I try to breathe through my nose, I can’t get enough air in. According to Nester, this is due to malformed passages. The more we breathe through our mouths, the more clogged and small our nasal airways get.

Mouth breathing is making an evolutionary problem worse. Two million years ago, our ancestors started to grow enormous brains. These giant thinking organs were helpful in many ways. They enabled us to invent, civilise and become the undisputed rulers of the world.

They have, however, been terrible for our breathing. Our huge brains pushed our sinuses and airways into a smaller and smaller area. Things got even worse in the 18th century when soft processed food became common, and we started chewing less. Our mouths no longer grow enough bone or muscle to create the size needed to suck in the air we require.

With small gobs, crooked teeth and obstructed airways, many of us turned to mouth breathing. It’s a nose clogging loop. The less we use our evolutionarily stunted nose passages, the more useless they become.

So what can you do? According to Nester, you should chew your food more. If you use your back molars a lot, it can lead to the creation of stems cells, which can grow new bone around your mouth and face even in adults. This increased size helps clear your airwaves. He also recommends nose workouts.

Spending 10minutes a day sitting upright with your mouth closed breathing through your nose. Engaging your diaphragm by pushing your tummy out to suck in. Six seconds inhale, six seconds exhale. There are plenty of free phone apps out there to guide you. This concentrated nose breathing is not only great for your mental health; it widens your nose holes. Finally, whenever you notice yourself mouth breathing,stop, shut your gob and breath through your nose.

I’ve been using these Nester techniques for a month, and my jaw already feels more Henry Cavill, Tom Cruise and Gal Godot than before. My nose pathways snort air like a steaming racehorse on a cold day. It feels like a two-lane superhighway has been fast-tracked where my nostrils once were. My stress is at Neil Armstrong on the ground levels.

So come on New Zealand don’t be a mouth-breather,if you have a nose sitting between your eyes doing nothing, you might as well shut your face and pull your air through it.

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