I recently made the discovery that I’m bad at breathing.
(Cool End of 2020, cool cool cool).
The idea that breathing could be anything OTHER than something one does “Non-Badly” is a concept first introduced to me years ago when I was at the dentist and, mid-cleaning, the sweet Dr. Goh sighed heavily in mingled pity and frustration.
I thought maybe she was having trouble navigating the tiny orifice of my child-sized mouth-hole, but instead, she said with a tone of gentle chiding: “Can you breathe with your nose? You keep fogging up my tools.”
I was stunned.
“Wait, what?” I thought to myself, “Was I...NOT breathing with my nose?”
I attempted to draw air in through my nasal cavities and was met with a stuffy sputter as a wisp-thin trickle of O2 tried desperately to spelunk through my shnoz to the final destination of my lung-cavern. Suffocating from the lack of sufficient breath, I gulped a swallow of air in through my mouth like a gaping minnow.
“Is this….” I thought worriedly “NOT normal?”
Turns out it’s not.
Apparenttttlllllyyyy, humans are “supposed” to breathe through their noses—reaping the benefits of increased oxygen, expert filtration by shnozhairs, and better support for our bodies’ cells, tissues, and organs.
Apparentttttllllyyyyy, breathing through your mouth causes tooth decay, recessed gums, jaw pain, weak chin, mouth cramping, bad breath, poor sleep, snoring, brain fog, undereye circles, depression, anxiety, and WEIRD FACE SHAPE.
Apparenttttllllyyyy, even if you DO breathe through your nose you could be breathing through your nose POORLY, depriving your body of optimal oxygen.
Apparenttttllllyyy, most people breathe too shallowly AND too much all at the same time (Too MUCH breathing? HOW THIS POSSIBLE?!)
As if 21st Century Living wasn’t hard enough.
As Patrick McKeown explains in his book The Oxygen Advantage and in the informational video below (Of COURSE Ireland’s TedTalks take place in a pub) you should actually be limiting your air intake and practicing “air hunger,” or what I like to call “feeling like I’m going to die from not having enough air in my lungs.”
(His accent, however, IS wonderfully soothing to listen to, even if “mouth breather” DOES sound like “mouse breeder.”)
Something I’ve noticed with my anxiety is a tendency to take in a deep breath, hold it snugly in the heart-garage of my lungs, and then expel it out like a gusty car exhaust pipe. This has always made me feel more relaxed.
Turns out that’s An Entirely Wrong Thing To Do(™).
When I took a deep-dive into realizing how broken my breathing was, I felt a bit dejected. 2020 was really really really really very hard for a lot of people, myself included, and now I have to worry about whether or not I’m BREATHING correctly?
And yet…there’s been so much about the past year that we haven’t been able to control, and I’ve noticed a tendency to gravitate to these sort of things I CAN have agency over. So I’ve been taping my mouth at night, and doing breathing exercises during the day.
It might feel superfluous, or excessive, or dramatic (just BREATHE for cryin’ out loud!), but every time I find something like this that I can tweak in my life I feel a weeeeeeee lil’ bit of empowerment.
And that’s good.
What about you? Have you found yourself obsessing over some seemingly trivial thing that actually makes a tangible impact in your sense of control? Maybe you’ve taken up needlepoint, or figuring out how investments work, or watercolor, or mewing, or learning a language, or doing yoga, or making tiny human figurines?
Whatever it is, I hope it continues to fill your soul like the air going in your lungs. (And I’d love to hear about it in the comments!)
THREE GOOD THINGS
This virtual fantasy tavern is where I want to live now.
GOD I MISS LIVE MUSIC AND HUGGING. ::sob:: If you feel the same way, here’s a t-shirt for you to wear to all those Zoom livestreams.
This story from Weird AL Yankovic about finding the middle school classmate he drew a picture for will delight your awkward teen heart.