Yoga Breathing – Nose? Mouth? or Both?

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“the intent of this blog is to incrementally build a body of thought that works toward integrating various topics, yoga, fitness, and the arts – it’s a process…”


yoga breathing – nose? mouth? or both?


basically, if this was only a question of beliefs, or philosophy, or even spiritual teachings, then my stance would simply be, that’s up to you 😉

freedom of religion as a belief system, is fundamental to our country –

and constitutionally separate from the “state” –

so, my position, rests on fitness…


me me me 😉

what do i need to be able to do the routines that provide my foundation of health to let me share more than heart felt wishes for the people around me and to myself?



afaa, in their group fitness certification text book, “fitness, theory and practice,” provides some nice pages comparing differences between typical western fitness routines, pilates, and yoga

breathing is one of the comparison / contrasts


it appears that not holding one’s breath is agreed by all…

First Breath Connections
First Breath Connections

and, generally speaking –

it appears that the main difference is in regard to the exhalation –

while yoga has traditionally taught nostril breathes for both the inhalations and exhalations  [1] , fitness theory and pilates emphasize exhalations through the mouth

the idea, i believe, is two-fold:

increase the air way for greater air movement

increase the ability to eliminate toxins and waste material


yoga, on the other hand, as i’ve heard or seen it taught (early 21st century u.s.a.) –

seems to feel that, if you have to exhale via the mouth, too much exertion or other problems (too much stress, not enough peacefulness, etc) are occurring

that these type exhalations are a signal to stop or change one’s activity

changing one’s activity is usually thought of as slowing down


but for me, these are simply variations on intent

for example, if in playing my “edge” (the apparently yogic-correct way of saying being assertive or self-goal-competitive) i determine my edge is receding and i can push further, there may be a short period of further physical conditioning (days? weeks?) where i simply need more air –

or need to expel more co2 –

i would never have reached my “intent” to be able to enjoy the level i enjoyed jogging in my 20’s and 30’s, if i had ceased my efforts when i couldn’t “only” breathe through my nose


i’ve thought about this question of the breath since way back

back to the days when wild turkeys (this is in houston!) would chase me on my bicycle with training wheels and i learned early what ray long is talking about in his chest expansion articles 😉

back to my junior high sprinting days when i learned a full belly of pizza, and wind sprints didn’t go well together –

back to moments of grief when heaving was the only way to breathe, period…

i’ve been aware of my breath in varying ways and wondered about it for many years, but without anything more than vague wonderings to grasp to…


More Recently

…as i re-examined yoga in light of the current fitness information available, that old style yoga adamancy i remembered from the early 70’s, that only one style breathing was appropriate for yoga, came roaring back  [2]

yet lately, it seems like several posts, either brought the subject up explicitly, or that even simple yoga movements kept bringing the subject up to me again for attention

More Breath Connections
More Breath Connections

jill miller’s yoga tune up video (short simple very effective routine & video) –

adding arm movements to bridge pose, co-ordinated with the inhale and exhale –

evoked almost an ache to ask, again, why why why the “how” regarding exhalations and inhalations

core power yoga has a nice article from last dec speaking more directly to my issue, saying “More importantly, the body’s movements…then put your nose to do if you are able to….”

so some people were challenging the notion of one pathway for the breath


Pros Regarding Nostril Breathing

undoubtably there are many pluses attached to pure nostril breathing, among them:

filtering the air more adequately than via the mouth

warming the air more completely before it enters the lungs

regulating the oxygen / carbon dioxide flow

calming the mind and heart

serving as a signal when exertion of mind or body creates a need for more pronounced breathing effort

reported astral or subtle energy or spiritual effects  [3]

so what could i quibble with that?

not much really 😉

it’s the when and why i have trouble with…


My Quibble, Individuated Practice

i’ll leave aside i have a deviated septum, since that’s just me 😉


i’ll start with my “why” of why i quibble with nostril-only breathing

let’s say, to begin with, i grew up in houston, worked summers outdoors since i was a young teen, and have known years of months of 100+ days

and no, it wasn’t a dry heat, even in austin 😉

so “warming” the breath is like putting the ac on in vermont in the winter (my wife’s from vt and i’ll take her word for it ;-))

filtering the nose?

well, gotta admit, with the allergies i have and the pollutants in the air, that’s probably a good idea, but nostril breathing’s not gonna filter out enough pollen or smut to make enough difference for me –

yet, staying aerobically active, in any aerobic activity, does…

third eye activation?

well, for better or for worse, since my more playful experiments in the early 70’s, i’ll leave this effect for those more inclined to pursue this

if there’s truth to this, it’ll come to me in its own best time, and i’ll be waiting for it 😉


Breath Connection
Breath Connection


more important for me then, is the “when” of nostril breathing

like, all the time? really?

true, it may be a great discipline builder, and probably was, in its time

and believe me, if taking full deep breaths via my nose does the trick, yah! for me 😉

but if not, and i need air, or need to expel it, i do…anyway i can

there’s lots of good info supporting this stance in fitness theory – i believe one day, probably in my lifetime (i’m 60) the separation of fitness theory and the promise of yoga, will be seen as having been, just another illusion 😉


Closing Thoughts, uh, Breaths 😉

my closing thought involves another early memory of the importance of my breath

age 9 or 10, i was having occasional dreams of drowning –

it was no co-incidence i was learning to swim at the neighborhood public pool, and had carefully been avoiding any depth deeper than the height to my nose 😉

i’d slid my way along the pool’s rounded tiled edge, skirting my fear by pretending not to notice i’d slipped past my safe depth,and  joined my friends already playing push-pretend; once among them, i forgot my fear, all of us playfully pushing and pulling each other along the slick sun shimmered wet of the pool’s busy edge til a push unseen sent me into deeper water than i wanted to be in to be sinking in to be not-breathing in

i remember staring wide eyed at the clearness of the water, i could see kid’s feet dog-peddling, numbered markings on the pool floor, and my arms and legs rising slowly as my back led me lower

i remember thinking – i’m gonna die i went to confession that morning i was clear no hell for me, i relaxed

my feet touched the firm pool floor

and gently

pushed me to air


i knew instinctively, that my faith in having no sin, saved me

i also knew, less instinctively, more guiltily, it was my belief that gave my faith its power to save me – it felt like cheating 😉

all i’d had to do was believe, and i could breathe

would i be so fortunate all my life 😉


yoga, my yoga, is like that

fortunate in my life, allowing me to breathe more fully – when i believe i can, i do

allowing me to breathe between the sea of feelings and worlds of thought

helping me join what feels like art with what i know is science

letting me picture a pose, pristine in my poised mind

connecting concept with ligament and bone

caring that i’m whole

my yoga is integrating the art of living with the tissues of the living

my yoga says i can breathe any way i need, when i need, so…relax, and breathe….


late postscript

one of the better breath articles i’ve come across recently, appealing to me on several levels – knowledge, breathing reference tie-ins to our everyday language, and most importantly for me, it’s balanced reasonable presentation, is judy lasater’s article on yoga journal online, “breathing lessons


The Breath Connected
The Breath Connected


namaste – con dios – god be with you



[1]  exceptions in yoga show up in particular breathing exercises

i couldn’t find a nice comprehensive listing of the various exceptions allowing mouth-exhalations, but a search among various google searches, like this one, has them showing up in scattered form

exceptions include, the ohm meditative sound, the victorious breath, deep cleansing breaths, and the golden thread exhalation

[2]  was this the fabled “lion’s breath” ?

not quite, not much tension relief going on there 😉

[3]  my intent in this article is in regard to fitness yoga and the arts, and i assume each person has beliefs they pursue, so i leave the detailing of what these other effects may be to each person



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One comment

  1. […] useful; or at least certainly great food for thought, lol!My tweet directly below, with a link to my April 2011 blog post, “Yoga Breathing – Nose? Mouth? or Both?” is kinda interesting in general, and very interesting to myself personally.I was, mostly, where I […]

    Liked by 1 person

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