How We Breathe: Mouthbreathing


Mouth breathing is an all too common habit, and one that can be broken through yogic breathing techniques called pranayama.  In today’s post, I am going to talk about how mouth breathing can become habitual, the problems brought on my this bad habit and some ideas on how to correct mouth breathing.

The mouth-breathing habit

Mouth breathing is always an acquired habit as newborns are anatomically unable to breathe through their mouths.  This is why many a parent of a newborn with a stuffy noses sweats in fear as the baby struggles to breathe.
As the muscles of the neck and throat develop, though, the baby becomes able to breathe through the mouth.  If the child suffers from repeated bouts of  sinusitis, catarrh or rhinitis, mouth breathing may becoming habitual.  The child may become so accustomed to mouth breathing the shape of the mouth and teeth is permanently altered.  
If a person gets through childhood without developing a mouth breathing habit, they may still fall prey in adulthood.  Many high-intensity sports, like aerobics, running, spinning, tennis etc. can exert the cardiovascular system and make some mouth-breathing necessary.  However, external stressors like a very competitive attitude, pushing far past the pain barrier or a lack of awareness while exercising (the body is moving, but the brain is chewing over past or future events) can transform an otherwise healthy activity into a less healthy one.

So, why is mouth-breathing so bad?

The lungs work best with clean, moist, warm air.  They are made of an extremely fine tissue and produce mucus to protect themselves.  In fact, the whole respiratory system has a mucus lining.  What do the lungs, bronchii and throat need protecting from?  Bacteria.  Dust and particulate matter.  Dry air.  Aerosols.   Smoke.  Anything that can get into the breathing apparatus should be stopped before it gets to the lungs.
When we breathe through the nose, the cavernous area behind the visible nose, called the nasal turbinate, warms, moistens and cleans the air before it enters into the lungs.  When we breathe through the mouth, this happens to a far lesser extent, stressing the lungs.
Then, there is the adenoid tonsil.  This is a lump of lymphatic tissue that is a first defence against invaders.  If you breathe through the nose, the air passes over the adenoid tonsil.  If  any invaders are detected, the early-warning team of the immune system, the helper T-cells, kicks into action.  Keep in mind a cute and simple fact about immunity:  an early response keeps infection contained because the invader has less time to reproduce, so the extent of infection is lower.  That’s why you need a strong, quick immune response.  Bacteria and viruses reproduce very, very quickly.  You don’t want to give them even a few hours in the body without immune response!

Helper T cells are arguably the most important cells in adaptive immunity, as they are required for almost all adaptive immune responses. They not only help activate B cells to secrete antibodies and macrophages to destroy ingested microbes, but they also help activate cytotoxic T cells to kill infected target cells. As dramatically demonstrated in AIDS patients, without helper T cells we cannot defend ourselves even against many microbes that are normally harmless. (

The nasal turbinate also slows down the entry of air into the respiratory system because the air has to circulate a little bit in there. In slowing down the passage of air, the turbinate performs another very important function:  it warms and moistens the air.  How does this happen:  The air comes into contact with the mucus membrane of the turbinate and the blood in the capillaries which is at body temperature, transfers some heat to the air.  The mucus transfers a little bit of water, and ta-dah! cold and dry air becomes warm and moist air, just right for your lovely alveoli.
So, to resume:  the lungs want warm, moist, clean air.  The nose is the structure that can deliver air in the right conditions to the lungs.  Anything else is second-rate.

How to correct mouth-breathing.

As with anything, becoming aware is the first step. Watch yourself and see when and if you breathe through the mouth.  What are you doing when it happens? Do you breathe through the mouth at night?  Does that Netflix series you like so much keep you on the edge of your seat and alter your breath?  Just keep an eye.
When you figure out the triggers, you can put the brakes on when you need to.
If you find it generally hard to breathe through the nose and are prone to a stuffy nose, maybe you can use some neti nasal irrigation, or saline cleansing.
If physical exertion makes you mouth breathe, or pant, maybe you need to tone down the pace so that you can breathe steadily and correctly?  I know that is hard in a group class, or when we want to reach goals.  But doesn’t it make sense to not harm yourself while exercising?
Finally, if it is emotional stuff that makes your mouth breathe, try to keep your cool. Most of us seek out stimulating stuff like video games, television series and movies.  When the adrenaline gets moving, the heart rate increases and we are more likely to breathe through the mouth.  This is a totally unintentional and avoidable side-effect of a very normal activity.  Becoming aware of this can help you stop it happening.

Mouth breathing and sex.

There is one area where mouth breathing seems almost unavoidable:  lovemaking. If you are lucky enough to have a beloved to cuddle and canoodle with, right now, I’d say go for it, mouth breathing be damned! ha!  I mean, if your lover makes you pant, it is probably a good thing, right? hah!  Still, correct breathing will make it even better:   if you want to learn about tantra, or multiple orgasms for men, you will have to work on your breathing technique.    Having said all that, the good folks over at Conscious Breathing have published a very complete article about the links between good, nasal breathing and sexuality.


Since this is a yoga blog, I will resume by saying that the practice of hatha yoga, and pranayama will help you to breathe nasally and makes all the above easier, more pleasant and more natural.
So, come on down to class, get on your mat, breathe deeply, feel peace and joy within, and shine your little light, dear people.  The guru is within you.

Series: How we breathe – Introduction

Yoga can teach us many things, but perhaps the most important one is how to breathe.  Since I know a lot about breathing, I have decided to begin writing a little series entitled “How we breathe”.  I know that, with great frequency, bloggers start of with big plans to write a series, but things tail off after two or three entries.  Rest assured that here with Miss Rachel, this will not happen.  I am far, far too stubborn to do such a thing.  Ha!
Reflect, for a moment, if you will on this:  There is little else, other than the breath, that accompanies you, absolutely surely accompanies you, from the first moment you are born until the last moment you live.
You can lose a kidney, a spleen.  A heart can be transplantedA brain can be induced into a coma.  But the breath is there, coming and going, rising and falling.

Breathing and Anxiety

Anxiety is crippling us these days and the breath may hold one of the keys to overcoming it.  The defining quality of a panic attack is the feeling that one cannot breathe.  I have had two panic attacks in my life, now thankfully, many years ago.  But I recall the constricted feeling all too well.  I doubt that it could happen to me now.  Why?  Because I know “how to breathe”.  To touch ever so lightly on the matter, and more will follow, paradoxical breathing is the main problem here.

How does one breathe?

Breathing is one of those things that we thing we all just know.  But how many of you can name the accessory muscles of breathing?  Or say whether the internal or external intercostal muscles aid the inhale or the exhale?  Gotcha?  So, can you say you know how to breathe if you don’t know the mechanics of breathing?

Biochemistry of Breathing.

And how many of you know about the interchange of gases (CO2 and O2) across the alveolar wall?  Or the difference between breathing and respiration?  Or what the heck happens to all that oxygen, anyway?  There are so many facets to breathing and there is so much to learn.


Yoga has some amazing techniques to deepen and broaden the breath. I have tried many systems of yoga and practised for ages.  I will stand here and say that Viniyoga, the style I teach, is the one that taught me to breathe.  I can teach you what my teachers taught me.

Best of all, breathing properly is free!  Yes, people, you may have to invest in yoga lessons in order to learn, but once you’ve learnt, ain’t no one going to take it away from you…you are your master, baby!
So, this will be the first post in a series dedicated to the mechanics, biochemistry and yogic technique of breathing.  Like and subscribe, people.  And hey, if you have a coherent answer to any of the questions above, comment below.

Yoga is meant to calm me…so why do I feel so nervous?

This is a brilliant question that I received this week from a newcomer to class.  This particular lady was recommended yoga by her doctor, so comes as a special case.  Ideally, it must be said, such a person would have private tuition.  But, the mere fact that she has managed to make contact and come to class is practically a miracle.
Before the second class, she asked me this

During class last week, I felt very good.  But afterwards, I went home and felt more nervous than ever.  Isn’t yoga meant to calm me down?

Thus I replied:  Most anxiety arises from repression of emotions.  Anxiety and depression are often mixed, and sometimes confused.  But they are vastly different.  While depression has to do with a lowered level of mental activity, anxiety is a heightened state.  In yoga terms, anxiety is rajas and depression is tamas.  
Anxiety seems to arise when the brain is over-active.  This can be an excess of information, or an excess of emotion.  Most people with anxiety develop coping mechanisms.  The best way to plunge on through life when your brain is screaming red murder is to pretend it isn’t happening.  Here is the delightful Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s explaining it much more clearly than I ever could:

So, this lady suffers from chronic anxiety.  ie:  running to Tiffany’s every time she gets the mean reds.  And Tiffany’s can be a place in your mind, it can be a bottle, it can be distraction, an addiction, whatever.  You’re afraid and you don’t even know what you’re afraid of, the best response is to run, right?
Well, yes, until it isn’t the best response.  Because, just like Holly Golightly, if we could find a real live place that makes us feel like Tiffany’s, then we would buy some furniture and give the cat a name.
You see, dear readers, dear students, dear seekers, yoga brings you home to that real live place. When suddenly you have contact with the Still Point inside of you, simply through breathing, movement and the right teacher, you realise that all your running was in vain.  And you relax a little bit.  But… the minute you relax a little bit and then go back to breathing fast and shallow, fighting with the traffic, being surrounded by people who are NOT on the Path and almost seem to wish to shove YOU off the Path, you have to start running away again.  And you feel even more nervous than before.  
You can think of it as a study of contrasts.  If you are always in the mean reds, then a little deeper tone of red is hardly noticeable.  But if you are suddenly “in the pinks” and you go back to the reds…ouch.
Why does yoga make me feel good in class but nervous afterwards? Because yoga holds a mirror up to your inner state and makes you look at the things you don’t want to see and have probably spent a lifetime avoiding.  For that reason it is very, very, very important to have a trusting relationship with a qualified teacher.
Upon receiving that information from my student, a person I know hardly at all, I modified the pranayama at the end of the class and gave a technique specifically indicated for her, but that would cause no harm to any other members of the class.  And then, the next morning, I texted her, to make sure she was okay.  And she was.  And what’s more, she felt good.
So, people, there are Youtube videos a-plenty, gymnasium yoga fit classes galore, all sorts of bells and whistles.  But yoga is a practice that transcends all of this stuff and has tools to help everybody and the teacher is the one who will show you the path.  Get on your mats, comes to class, breathe deeply, be joyful.  The Spirit is within you, let it move you.

Class Schedule – Horarios de clases

Hello beautiful people!  here is a quick resumé of the classes that I am offering as of January, 2018:

  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday mornings at 9:30AM 
  • Martes, Miércoles, Jueves, Viernes por la mañana a las 9:30AM:

GOA Altea, Carretera del Albir, 17, Altea (03590).

  • Tuesday and Friday afternoons at 4:00PM
  • Martes y Viernes por la tarde a las 4:00PM

Alfaz Paradise, Calle Badia, 50, el Albir, (03581).  

Bhastrika, or bellows yogic breathing for healing from a cold

Even yogis get sick.  Yep, you read it here:  the end of the year is upon us and with it, the cold and dark months of the northern winter.  Now, admittedly here in Altea, the winters are not as rough as those of my native Canada.  But, the rhythm of life is just as hectic, if not more given the general disorganisation of the Iberian culture.  So, I have just spent a week on the sofa, sick as sick thing.  I thought I would share with you a pranayama technique called Bhastrika or bellows breathing.  It is a useful technique for clearing excess cold and damp from the body by nourishing the fire element.  So, watch the video and give it a try.  Any questions or doubts, leave a comment and I will get back to you.


Namasté.  You are probably aware that yoga pays  very special attention to the breath.  It is considered that the breath is the link between body and mind.  The first three angas (limbs) of yoga are concerned with the outer world.  Then comes pranayama, acting as a link from the outer to the inner realms.
Of course, we are all breathing, right now.  But some of us are breathing more efficiently than others.  Efficient breathing is slow and deep.  Slow and deep breathing is very relaxing to mind and body.  When we are well hydrated and have a good supply of oxygen in our blood, our muscles relax.  When our bellies are relaxed and the diaphragm can descend into the abdomen, we feel relaxed.  Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most effective health remedies that I have ever come across.  And best of all, it’s free!  (Of course, you may decide to part with your cash in order to learn pranayama from a qualified teacher, but the basic principles are gratis.)  Why not surf over to and take their breathing tests?  The results may prove interesting.
There are three basic forms of breathing:  chest, belly and paradoxical.  In chest breathing, the lungs and chest expand due to the action of the intercostal muscles, not the diaphragm.  This is an inefficient, and very common form of breathing and results in the higher rate of breathing (more breaths are needed to bring in oxygen).  Belly breathing is the correct form of breathing – the diaphragm pulls down, the lungs expand both their lower and upper lobes and a full, deep breath is taken.  Paradoxical breathing is interesting because it seems to be associated with states of nervous anxiety.     The abdominal muscles are rigid, preventing the diaphragm from descending.  Therefore, although the lungs are inflating, the chest muscles are needed to expand the thorax because the diaphragm is pulling up.  It is called paradoxical because the normal movements of breathing (inflate abdomen on inhale, deflate on exhale) are reversed.  Odd, eh?