It was outlined in earlier blog entry how a reduction in carbon dioxide levels causes an increase in mucus secretion and constriction of the airways. The nose forms part of the air system and is usually the ﬁrst part to become constricted. The following is a simple exercise which will unblock the nose in as little as ﬁve minutes. It is based on temporarily increasing carbon dioxide levels in the blood, which will in turn open the nasal passages. This exercise is the same for both children and adults. At this point it is worth practising the exercise before you read further.
✦ Sit upright on a straight-backed chair.
✦ Normalise and calm your breathing. Take a small breath (two seconds) in through your nose, if possible, and a small breath out (three seconds). If you are unable to take a breath in through your nose, take a tiny breath in through the corner of your mouth.
✦ Pinch your nose and hold your breath. Keep your mouth closed.
✦ Gently nod your head or sway your body until you feel that you cannot hold your breath any longer. (Hold your nose until you feel a relatively strong need for air.)
✦ When you need to breathe in, let go of your nose and breathe gently through it, in and out, with your mouth closed. Avoid taking a deep breath when you breathe in, and calm your breathing as soon as possible by focusing on relaxation. Repeat to yourself ‘relax and breathe less’.
✦ Continue to do this exercise until you can breathe through your nose fully. If your nose does not become totally unblocked, wait about one minute and perform this exercise again. Initially you may need to do this a number of times before your nose is completely unblocked.
After doing this exercise a few times your nose will be unblocked. If you continue to overbreathe, or take a deep breath, you will lose the additional carbon dioxide and your nose will become blocked again. Perform this exercise each time that your nose becomes blocked. Even if you have a cold, make sure to breathe through your nose. You may think you can’t clear your nose when you have a heavy cold, but you can.
Holding the breath traps additional carbon dioxide which has been produced from the physical activity involved in moving the muscles. It is quite common for the nose to become blocked again shortly after doing this exercise. This is because the underlying breathing has not been changed and the body has not become accustomed to the increased carbon dioxide level. However, after some time, and with regular practice of breathing exercises, the body will adapt to a higher level of carbon dioxide and the nose will remain unblocked.
Your nose is your ﬁrst warning call – it is the ﬁrst part of the airways to constrict if you are beginning to hyperventilate. For example, much of my work involves presentations to groups of people: this can involve talking for up to four hours at a time. Frequently it happens that, towards the end of the four hours, I feel my nose becoming a little blocked. This is a direct result of the loss of carbon dioxide from excessive talking. My blocked nose is my indicator that I am breathing more than I should, so I take a break from talking and normalise my breathing. Talking involves continuous air exhalation through the open mouth and the continuous loss of carbon dioxide. With a short period of reduced talking, or not talking, breathing will begin to normalise and the nose will unblock automatically.
Breathing too deeply through the nose will result in it becoming partially blocked. However it will not become fully blocked unless the switch is made to mouth breathing. This is because of the body’s breathing defence mechanism. As soon as the nose becomes partially blocked, the volume of air is decreased; this causes the level of carbon dioxide to increase and in turn to dilate the nasal passages. Continuous overbreathing means the nose will become partially blocked once more which will again increase carbon dioxide. In turn, this will open the nasal passages and so on. It can feel a little uncomfortable trying to continue breathing through the nose as it starts to block. The best action to take therefore is to do the nose unblocking exercise or walk a number of steps holding your breath. This will quickly unblock the nose and make it feel comfortable again.
If you can hear yourself breathe through your nose (whistling) this is a warning that you are breathing too much. Breathing through the nose should be a silent activity.
When the switch is ﬁrst made from mouth to nasal breathing, the volume of air being inhaled will reduce. The body may begin to play tricks and convince individuals to breathe more by inducing yawning, sighing, regular snifﬁng or the odd mouth breath. Try not to increase breathing at this point. When the need to deep breathe arises, for example during a sigh, swallow immediately. If the need to yawn also occurs, avoid taking the deep breath that accompanies a yawn. Instead stiﬂe the yawn by keeping the mouth closed, or swallow.
It takes just a few days for a habitual mouth breather to change breathing to permanent nose breathing. Increasing observation of breathing, reducing volume of breathing and practising nose unblocking exercises are important elements in trying to make this change.
After the change to nasal breathing has been made, it will become uncomfortable to mouth breathe because the effects of cold dry air entering through the mouth will be felt. Often people begin to wonder how on earth they managed to go through life with a permanent, and very uncomfortable, blocked nose – a condition which is frequently, and usually unsuccessfully, addressed by the use of nasal sprays, decongestants or even an operation.
Those suffering constant nasal congestion and inﬂammation should practise nose unblocking exercises but also wash out the nose daily with the following remedy – especially those who have become dependent on nasal sprays:
Dissolve half a teaspoon of sea salt and half a teaspoon of bread soda (bicarbonate) in one pint of boiled water and let it cool. A plastic syringe with a rubber bulb can be purchased from a pharmacy. Fill this syringe with the solution and squeeze into one nostril while blocking the other nostril with a ﬁnger. Sniff the water in until it reaches the back of the throat. Spit it out and then repeat with the other nostril.
Another option is to cup the warm salt water into the hand and sniff the water up into the nose one nostril at a time (again with the other nostril blocked). People who live near the sea ﬁnd that snifﬁng up clean sea water is also effective. This is a traditional remedy which also works well for sinus problems. Yogi have, for thousands of years, realised the beneﬁts of nasal cleansing and use a special vessel called a neti pot to pour the solution into each nostril.