There are several reasons yoga is so good for your health, but one of the biggest is the breath practice that naturally accompanies it.
The simple, biological function of breathing is a vital part of your well-being.
Your nose knows what to do for your body.
The physiology of your nose is meant to protect you.
When air enters your nose, the many small hairs in your nose immediately filter out larger particles. Air then proceeds to the nasal conchae, where it is humidified and warmed. At the same time, smaller particles are filtered out by the surrounding mucous membranes.
So, in addition to filtering, warming, and humidifying the air you breathe, the nose is your first line of defense against allergens and pathogens. The mucus and cilia inside are designed to block outside invaders from going farther down the respiratory tract and making you sick.
And NO (nitric oxide), which the sinuses release when you breathe through your nose, is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.
Studies have shown that people who exhale more NO (which means breathing through the nose) have fewer common cold symptoms, suggesting that nasally-produced NO may help protect humans from other respiratory viruses like Covid-19.
And since your nasal cavity receives nerve fibers from the nervous system, it directly influences your health and state of mind – this is why slow, relaxed, conscious breathing through your nose can slow your heart rate and reverse the stress response.
Detrimental effects of mouth-breathing.
We all breathe through our mouths now and then – especially during intense exercise when it feels like we’ll get more air that way. That’s not necessarily a big problem (although try to notice when you do it and correct it); it’s when breathing through the mouth is habitual that real problems can begin to show up.
Mild symptoms include difficulty falling and staying asleep, dry mouth and throat, gum disease, bad breath, and snoring. Potential long-term effects are changes in jaw shape and position and chronic respiratory problems such as sleep apnea, which can eventually lead to pulmonary and cardiovascular complications.
Nasal breathing is preferred over mouth breathing due to its filtration system and immune response.
Notice how you breathe regularly—most of us take very short, shallow breaths, never allowing the lungs to either fully fill or fully empty. Measured breath, in and out of your nose to the count of five or so, is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body and mind. This is one reason yoga is so good for you-it matches breath to movement helping you slow down.
Nasal breathing alone won’t ward off viruses like Covid-19, but it is one of your body’s built-in defense mechanisms against them.
It’ll also just make you feel better in general. And considering the current state of things, we need all the help we can get, right?