Last Sunday we invited our community to come down for the ultimate way to end the week, enjoying a session in mobility and breathwork at the newly opened ON store in London. Together, we learned the science of how nasal breathing can improve our recovery, boost performance and even improve immunity from breath work coach James O’Keefe. 

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The basic principle of the nasal breathing technique centers around enhancing our production of nitric oxide. As air passes over paranasal sinus epithelial cells, an enzyme causes the creation of the molecule nitric oxide which mixes with the inhaling air and is absorbed through our lungs.

Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator, meaning it can relax and widen blood vessels. This increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to tissues throughout the body. The benefits are undeniable and have been studied in sports science for some time now. They include:

  • Reduced exercise-induced inflammation: One study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that exercise-induced inflammation can lead to soreness, stiffness, and reduced performance. They analysed how Nitric oxide reduces the inflammation markers of trained athletes in the body, which can help to speed the recovery process.
  • Increased oxygen delivery to muscles: Another study looked at nitric oxide and its function to help to dilate blood vessels, which increased blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles of athletes in the study. This can improve exercise performance and delay fatigue during prolonged or intense exercise.
  • Improved immune function: Something a lot of athletes suffer with is that intense exercise can suppress the immune system, increasing the risk of infection. Nitric oxide has been shown to have immune-boosting effects, which can help to reduce this risk.

What James taught us was a simple breathing technique, we sat up tall, allowing for the shoulders to relax and creating a nice big space for the lungs to expand into. We then inhaled for 5 seconds through the nose and then exhaled for 6. We performed this for several minutes but it’s suggested you do a few several minute sessions of this per day, especially before you go to sleep at night. 

It’s so simple, so powerful and there are ways you can turbo charge your nitric oxide. Eating green leafy vegetables that are rich in nitrates will enhance your natural production. Also, using mouth tape at night forces the mouth shut and causes your body to nasal breath throughout the night.