Written by Steven Lin, DDS
Breathe in, breathe out. Pretty simple, right? We’ve been breathing since the moment we came into this world, doing it all day, every day—some say nearly 20,000 times per day—so you’d think we’d be pretty skilled at it. But crooked teeth (yes, crooked teeth) show that we’ve been doing it wrong all along.
By design we’re built to breathe through the nose. We see it in children: When babies breastfeed, they’re conditioned to breathe through their noses. This brings the flow of air to the nasal sinuses and helps widen their upper jawbone to properly house their upper teeth. The same goes for older children. When they’re taught to breathe through the nose, their jaws develop as they should and as a result, their teeth grow in straight.
When we think of breathing, we often refer to the huffing and puffing associated with completing a long run, not the constant in-and-out while walking to work, eating breakfast, or lying in bed after a long day. But, when we improve the way we breathe, we can not only get more out of a workout, but we also fix the structure of our jaws and teeth, help lower blood pressure, and even decrease stress. First, let’s address the basics.
Why oxygen is the number one nutrient.
Usually when we talk about diet and nutrition, we’re talking about food. But oxygen is easily the most important nutrient we consume. Our bodies need it every second of every day, our entire life. One way to help to get the right amount of oxygen is to make sure your mouth, tongue, and airways are strengthened and toned. Among other things, that means giving your mouth, tongue, and jaw the right exercise.
Your breathing is the way you deliver the oxygen to all the cells in your body. If you’re breathing poor-quality air, you starve your muscles of oxygen, too. Breathing heavily through your mouth is not the best way to deliver oxygen; slow, nasal, diaphragmatic breathing delivers far more.
These are the basics of breathing.
When it comes to exercise, the best way to deliver oxygen to your body is through diaphragmatic breathing. This kind of breathing fills every part of your lungs, including the lower parts, with plenty of life-giving oxygen. When you exhale, the abdomen pushes in and up. The lower rib cage contracts inward, the diaphragm expands, and the air is forced out.
But before you focus on diaphragmatic breathing, it’s important to master something even more simple: nasal breathing. Proper nasal breathing requires the proper posture of your tongue sitting at the roof of your mouth—with the tip just behind your front teeth—which trains the muscles of your neck and throat to support your airways. It also exerts forces that expand and maintain your palate (which houses your upper teeth and nasal airways). Beyond that, nasal breathing mixes the air you breathe with nitric oxide, which increases the blood flow to your blood vessels and helps your body to absorb more oxygen.
Here’s how to get started.
Whether the goal is running, lifting, or perfecting your yoga poses, the following tips can show you the best breathing technique for optimal performance: breathing through your nose while using your diaphragm.
Practice nasal breathing deep into your belly (abdominal area). Lie on the floor, put your hand on your belly, and breathe so you lift your hand up. Your belly should rise and fall. This is how you should visualize your breath, not going into your chest, or lifting your shoulders, but into your diaphragm. Yes, you may feel as if you are “suffocating” by keeping your mouth closed, but it’s all about practice!
Keep your tongue position in the right place. It should always be to the roof of your mouth. This opens your airways and conditions the muscles to hold your airways open. Try a two- to three-minute exercise putting your tongue behind your front teeth and pushing the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
Once you’re getting the hang of it, try practicing this form of breathing while walking slowly, so you can master how it feels to breathe this deeply as your heart rate rises. Then, take it into your fitness routine.
It sounds so simple, and yet, very few people do it. Join their ranks and be a fitness superstar while also building a simple, healthy habit.
Keywords; Breathwork, fitness routine, oxygen