This is a question that you may have asked yourself on numerous occasions when you have been planning on doing any kind of breathing exercise, such as yoga, qigong, meditation, or even a workout at the gym. So here is my answer from a qigong perspective.
In Oriental medicine the nose is regarded as the outlet to the lungs and the mouth is the outlet for the spleen. Common sense tells us that we breathe with our nose and we eat with our mouth! So in qigong exercises, or any form of exercise involved in qi cultivation, nostril breathing is always recommended. The nose acts like a filter in our home air conditioner. Fine hairs (cilia) and mucus in the nostrils help to trap and prevent any germs, pollutants and dust in the air from entering the respiratory tract. These harmful particles are swallowed or dispersed through a sneeze, cough or blowing the nose. Any bacteria trapped in the nose is destroyed by the many capillaries and white blood cells found in the mucus membranes. The membranes, mucus and blood flowing through the nose, warm and moisturize the air on an inhale and exhale before it continues its journey to the lungs. One more filtration is carried out at the upper end of the nose before the air enters the trachea.
When we breathe through our nose it requires less effort – no opening and closing of the mouth – and makes us feel calm, warm and comfortable. That is, if there is no blockage caused by a cold, infection or breathing disorder. Meditation is easier with nostril breathing and also less distracting for the mind. Each nostril is responsible for either yin (left) or yang (right) energy and helps to keep qi in harmony.
Next time you do any physical exercise, check your breathing. If you are having to breathe through the mouth, it may be a sign of overexertion. Slow down and see what happens.
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