Swami Satchidananda said that we don’t eat through our nose, so we shouldn’t breathe through our mouth. But why? Why do we practice breathing through the nose in yoga?
According to ancient yogis, the five traditional elements (earth, water, fire, air, and space) are all present in localized spots on the inner lining of the nostrils. This means that you can affect the quality of those elements in your body simply by channeling your breath over the different sites.
We may not think about it very often, but we do hold tension in our noses and that tension does have an effect on how we breathe. Picture your nose. The little rounded bumps on the sides of your nostrils are called the wings. They should remain passive and soft while breathing, regardless of rapidity and strength of respiration.
Try to rest your wings, first becoming physically aware of them. Use your index finger to gently stroke down along the side and wing of the nose from the inner corner of your eye all the way to your upper lip and finally to the corner of your mouth. Do this several times. picturing the wings releasing downward. Keep moving the wings downward as you breathe, especially on the inhale. This softening will help the breath flow more easily in and out of the body.
Here’s another way to become very aware of your nose while breathing. On the inhale, direct the breath over the lining of the inner nostril (along the septum) and exhale over the lining of the outer nostril (under the wings). By doing so, you deepen the space of the inhale and smooth the texture of the exhale. You can also imagine that your nostrils are mirror images of your lungs (they are the same shape, after all). So when you breathe in along the inner nostril, you are breathing in along the inner lining of your lungs nearest the heart. As you exhale along the outer edges of the nostril, your breath is moving along the outer edges of your lungs. To learn more about your incredible nostrils, study Light on Pranayama.