Inhale through your Nose!

Until a few weeks before she died in May 2021, I was having weekly chanting lessons over Skype with my teacher in Chennai, Mrs Radha Sundararajan. Several months earlier, I’d noticed that Radha never opened her mouth to inhale between lines of the chant. Neither does my mentor, Gill Lloyd, another direct student of TKV Desikachar.

Since then, I’ve aimed to emulate them whenever chanting, speaking or even singing.  This has gradually become easier, over the last three years, to the point where I can quickly ‘drop’ a breath from my nose to my tummy. I’ve also been influenced in this journey by reading Patrick McKeown’s ‘Close Your Mouth’, written to help others overcome asthma, and James Nestor’s ‘Breathe’ (Penguin), in which he explores the perils of mouth breathing.

Every time you breathe in through your nose, a minute level of nitric oxide (NO) is added to the air entering your lungs, helping your air passages stay open and attacking any inhaled pathogens. As you chant, speak or sing in a resonant way, more NO is released from your sinuses, ready to be inhale through your nose between phrases. If, as explained in my earlier blog, you hum, the effect is stronger still, up to a point. Inhaled NO also helps improve circulation to the parts of your lungs that are better ventilated, thus aiding oxygenation. All this from simple nose inhalation!

Yet I’m tired of hearing newsreaders, the people they interview and actors in films or on TV repeatedly gasping for breath between phrases. Listening to programmes recorded decades ago, this is a relatively recent disease, a part of the breathless rush of modern life. And the solution is SO easy! All it takes, for most people, is a little patience and a bit of awareness.

My advice is to start practising nose inhalation during more relaxed conversations. Pay attention to your breathing while others are talking. This will help you both to listen to what they are saying and to be clearer in your own mind as to what to say next. Practice breathing out more firmly, from your tummy, and you’ll find you often don’t need to gasp for breath before speaking. You’ll have more reserve air than you thought and be able to speak a short sentence before needing another breath in – through your nose!

 How to ORDER

Breath for Health can be ordered from all good book shops or online outlets:

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