7 keys to good health through good breathing

A very common slogan among asthmatics is “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters”, alluding to the despair of those who cannot inhale the air that gives life. Is the air that gives life the whole story about breathing? This article takes common breathing tips and gives reasons for their effectiveness. It goes further and provides essential elements in the breathing technique for better health.

Breathing is perhaps one of the most centrally integrated autonomic behaviors that goes far beyond a simple filling of the lungs. Garcia AJ writes in 2011:

“Respiration emerges through complex network interactions involving neurons distributed throughout the nervous system. The respiratory rhythm-generating network is composed of micro-networks that function within larger networks to generate distinct rhythms and patterns that characterize respiration” .

The result of Garcia’s study can be best seen when a person is affected by strong emotions such as fear and anger.

The main advice for breathing is to override autonomic control and consciously inhale deeply through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth with pursed lips.

Dr. Carla Naumburg PhD of ‘Ready, Set, Breathe’ fame suggests that breathing exercises bring mindfulness into daily life. By remembering to breathe, a space is created to restore calm and reduce blood pressure and stress hormones, thus creating the opportunity to control the situation.

Professor Konstantin Buteyko (Russia 1923-2003) is credited with a technique characterized by slow, shallow breathing combined with spaced breathless pauses that allow carbon dioxide to build up to the point of bursting.

Breathing is a relevant component of the practice of Yoga. Yoga breathing techniques usually accompany different poses or some form of meditation. Therefore, it is difficult to separate and attribute the result to the breath, the poses or the meditation.

Pandit JJ, in 2003 tested 3 breathing techniques for optimal oxygen uptake, as follows:

1. Three (3) minutes of regular breathing

2. Four (4) deep breaths taken in 30 seconds

3. Eight (8) deep breaths taken in 60 seconds

Oxygen consumption was the same for items 1 and 3 and higher efficiency than for item 2. Their work illustrates that breathing technique is important.

Enter nitric oxide (NO), a colorless gas with a half-life of just a few seconds. Nitric oxide (NO) was named “molecule of the year” in 1994 by the journal Science.

In 1998, the Karolinska Institute awarded the Nobel Prize to American pharmacologists Robert F. Furchgott, PhD, Ferid Murad, MD, PhD, and Louis J. Ignarro, PhD for their discoveries on the role of nitric oxide (NO) as a signaling molecule . in the cardiovascular system.

NO relaxes the smooth muscle of the arteries providing a larger flow area for blood, thereby lowering blood pressure and bringing more nutrients where they are needed. The importance of NO in human bodily functions cannot be overstated. Even though thousands of research articles have been written, global research continues. NO is implicated in heart health, lower blood pressure, better sleep quality, and even erectile dysfunction.

NO is produced in the paranasal sinuses, the largest being the maxillary sinuses on both sides of the nose. They are closed chambers except for a small soft tissue opening called an ossium that opens the olfactory airways.

There is no right or wrong way to breathe: autonomic brain function ensures that you get adequate oxygen into your system. However, there are ways to breathe to get the most NO out of your system. Here are 7 tips to help get this amazing gas into your bloodstream.


Constricted nose hair and nasal passages ensure that there is negative pressure in the airways. This partial vacuum causes the sinuses to deliver a small amount of NO-laden air in the inhaled breath. The harder you breathe, the more your sinuses will NOT deliver.

2. BLOCK ONE nostril and inhale.

Blocking one nostril and, in turn, the other nostril will increase the partial vacuum to cause NO-laden air to be injected into the inhaled breath.

3. BLOCK BOTH NORSALS and try to breathe in.

Close both nostrils and try to inhale. This creates the greatest amount of vacuum in your respiratory system, allowing NO-laden air to be sucked out of your sinuses. Of course, you can only do this for a short time before you resume normal breathing.


It does NOT need time to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Consequently, it is good to hold your breath for as long as is convenient. Alternatively, exhale slowly to allow the lungs to absorb the NO.


Lundberg et al showed in 2003 that humming increases exhaled NO by 700%. Another investigator found an even greater increase in exhaled NO during humming. The problem is that it’s hard to inhale while humming. Therefore, the suggested sequence is to hum for 3 seconds and then immediately inhale.


To overcome the problem of humming and inhaling simultaneously, it is suggested to simulate snoring, making the sound as if you are snoring. The sound frequencies of snoring are in the range of the natural frequencies of the maxillary sinuses, approximately 110 to 350 Hz. Allowing the maxillary sinuses to resonate will drive NO-laden air into the inhaled breath volume. Because snoring is an inhalation maneuver, NO will reach the lungs in greater volume.


During an airplane descent procedure, headaches are often avoided by using the Valsalva maneuver. This maneuver involves closing both nostrils while trying to exhale until the eardrums ‘pop’. This has the effect of pressurizing the sinuses which, upon subsequent inhalation, release the pressure and inject NO-laden air into the olfactory airways.

Frequent questions

A. NO in the sinuses is a finite resource and can be depleted. How can it be replenished? Eat plenty of nitrate-rich foods, eg beets, fenugreek, etc., and give your body time to convert nitrates to NO.

B. Why not inhale NO gas like babies with pulmonary hypertension do? NO dosing in a medical setting is carefully controlled. Exposure of animals to NO has caused drowsiness, unconsciousness, and death.

C. Why not sit in a high-traffic area and breathe in the NO produced by cars? Exhaust gases from motor vehicles contain NO. However, exhaust gases are a toxic cocktail of other gases such as carbon monoxide. The risk of poisoning far outweighs any benefit to be gained.