The Importance of Breathing Through the Nose
For some people, it can be quite difficult to breathe through the nose, be it because of congestion, physical obstruction, or habit. But breathing through the nose is important in Tai Chi. Here's why, and something you can do about it if you struggle with this.
Dave from Manchester, England asks:
"I have difficulty breathing through my nose. Will it make any difference if, when I am performing Tai Chi, I breathe through my mouth?"
Yes, I think breathing through your mouth will reduce your ability to benefit from your practice of Tai Chi, or at the least make it harder for you to develop some of the skills of Tai Chi.
I feel more in control of the breath when I breathe through the nose. It is easier to keep my breath and feel comfortable. When I practice with a cold, and cannot establish a clear nasal airway, I lose my breath more easily. When that happens I find it more difficult to move as slowly as I should, and be as relaxed as I want to be, and know that I can be.
I always experience less Chi. Whether this is because of the sinuses being a part of the process, or because I am less relaxed when I do not have a clear airway, the result is less, often almost no sense of Chi.
I am not saying that you will feel the same way, if you have not already. However, it may be more of a challenge to enjoy all the benefits and achieve the skills of Tai Chi while breathing from the mouth.
As an aside, you might want to consider trying Breathe Right Nasal Strips. These Band Aid-like strips have a springy piece of plastic in them so that when they are put on the nose, they gently lift your nasal passageways open. I have used them for years, as my nose is often congested. They help me sleep at night. Sometimes I also wear them during the day. There are clear ones available for this purpose, but I find the tan ones stick to my nose better.
In Tai Chi,
PS - I would like to add a comment sent to us after this QOTW went live. This is from Jim Evans, a Licensed Acupuncturist from Colorado, who wished to offer additional reasons why breathing through the nose is important:
I would like to suggest a couple of reasons why breathing through the nose while practicing Tai Chi Chuan is important.
First, breathing through the nose forces the practitioner to move more slowly so as to not become winded thus enhancing the practitioner's ability to relax.
Secondly, when we breathe through the nose the mouth is naturally closed; when the mouth is closed the natural placement for the tongue is against the roof of the mouth and touching the back of the front teeth. This position, besides being natural -- watch a baby sleep, their tongue will be rested there, completes a connection between the Ren and Du acupuncture meridians, thus completing the microcosmic orbit used in various qi gong systems. Once the Ren and Du channels are full of qi then the other meridians can be filled creating energetic fullness, balance, and promoting internal organ health.
Jim Evans, L.Ac.
Colorado Springs, CO
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William C. Phillips began his study of the martial arts in 1965. He currently holds a 7th degree black belt in Karate, and a 5th degree black belt in Ju Jitsu. He began his studies of Tai Chi in l967, studying with Prof. Cheng Man-Ch'ing from '70-'75. He became the most junior student ever to become a teacher in Cheng Man Ch'ing's New York school, the Shr Jung. Sifu Phillips became interested in the field of holistic health in the early 1970's, when a lifelong allergy problem was alleviated with Chinese herbal medicine. Since then, he has studied widely in that field as well. Sifu Phillips is available for seminars, lectures and demonstrations. He has produced two very successful Tai Chi DVDs, and is currently working on a book on Tai Chi form and a third DVD.For more information...