Sunday, 27 September 2009

Shut Up And Punch: On Breathing Through Your Nose


The month when mother issues REALLY start to come to the forefront of my training.

Kids' school functions, family celebrations, a new team-taught course I'm participating in, and prepping my Geography students for the first exams of the semester are all sucking up my time and mental energy. This weekend was the first of Si-Fu Oram's seminars that I've missed in I-can't-remember-when. It fell during my anniversary get-away, so I can't complain...much. But it was hard to chill out when I knew my Si-Hings were surging forward without me. I missed the mat.

What I really needed to do was BREATHE.

The subject of breathing came up during one of Si-Fu Shoellhammer's classes, recently. I suppose I'd been a bit too talkative that evening (who ME???) and at one point, Si-Fu reminded me that there were "many benefits" to breathing through my nose. Curious, I asked what they were. "You mean, besides not talking?" he smirked. I shut up and went back to the combination at hand.

After class, though, I cautiously asked again. Here are the ones he offered, though he explained that there were more:


1. It warms the air. As it passes through the sinuses, the air is warmed in its longer path to the lungs. Warm air is more readily-absorbed within the lungs than cold air.

2. It slows the heart rate. When we experience moments of conflict, our brains tell the centers of adrenaline production to pump this chemical into our systems. This speeds up the heart, which prepares us for the human fight-or-flight response. However, at rates of over 100 bpm (beats per minute), fine motor skills begin to decrease. Not a good thing in a fight situation. Missing a critical punch is the stuff my nightmares are made of. Breathing through the nose can slow the heart rate enough to maintain the coordination necessary for overcoming an adversary.

3. It increases saliva production. Breathing through the mouth dries up your saliva. With the mouth closed, however, the tongue rests on the roof of the mouth, which actually increases saliva production. Saliva nourishes the mouth and throat, and moist airways allow for a more efficient flow of air. (Might I add, from personal experience, that a dry throat also HURTS?)

4. It protects your teeth. If your mouth is open, your teeth and jaw can be more easily broken by a hit to the face. Keeping your teeth together can also prevent you from biting your tongue accidentally--or on someone else's purpose.

Such simplicity. Each of these seemed perfectly reasonable. And what's more, when I was in L.A. for a class the following week, I started breathing through my nose and I found I was more focused. Why? Well...

Maybe it was because I just shut up and punched.