I come from a family of mouth breathers. If you catch us all sleeping on a couch or plane, every single one of us has our mouth hanging open. I can’t breathe through my nose. I don’t know if my nasal passages are smaller than normal or what but all I know is that I can’t get a deep down to the bottom of my lungs breath unless it’s through my mouth.
Yoga breathing or pranayama is part of the foundation of yoga. Pranayama is the formal practice of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force. And this breathing is almost all done through the nose.
There are some specific yogic exercises where you breathe through your mouth but during practice it’s supposed to be in your nose.
My most hated breathing exercises? Single Nostril Breath (Surya Bhedana Pranayama) where you block one nostril with your fingers and breath exclusively through one nostril. That one is torture for me! Luckily, your hand partially covers your mouth during this one so I sneakily open my mouth and let in some air.
When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath. – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
That’s all well and dandy if you’re in Hatha or Yin but what about Bikram or power yoga when your heart is pounding and your body needs some air?
I spent years trying to control my breath to get enough air through my nose but that just wasn’t happening. I’ve finally accepted that yoga is supposed to be done your way and my way is with my mouth open and plenty of air coming in.
I know I’m not alone; many runners struggle with breathing through the nostrils because when running you train your body to take controlled and deep breaths through your mouth to power your muscles.
I break the rules and I breathe through my mouth. I tend to wait until we’re in an inversion, or I’m facing away from the instructor. So to all the instructors out there who tell me to close my mouth and breath through my nose: I know you mean well, but that is one suggestion I will be ignoring, thank you.
Don’t be ashamed mouth breathers! Open up and drink in all that nice air!