Breathing is something we do without thinking, but it’s a powerful tool that, when wielded correctly, can help with everything from stress to core strength to digestion. With that in mind, we were curious if the way we exhale—either out from our nose or our mouth—makes a difference in general and while exercising. Long story short: It absolutely does. So what happens to your body when you breathe out through your nose vs. your mouth? Two experts break it down, below.
“The nose possesses over 30 functions,” says Ally Maz, a guided meditation instructor for Open. Key among those are filtering, humidifying, and regulating the temperature of air as we breathe. Jessica Phillips, meditation expert and mindfulness-based life coach with P.volve, adds that there is lots of research about the benefits of breathing—and specifically breathing from the nose. “It’s how our bodies were designed and why we have a nose (we don’t eat from our nose)!” she says.
“Nose breathing is scientifically proven to be the healthiest way to daily breathe. It also helps slow our breathing down which shifts us out of our ‘fight or flight’ stress response into a place of ‘rest and digest,’ known as our parasympathetic nervous system,” says Maz. “Nasal breathing helps us take fuller, deeper breaths, which stimulates a greater distribution of oxygen throughout the body and stimulates the parasympathetic receptors associated with calming the body and mind,” adds Phillips. Both recommend breathing through your nose as much as possible (Maz even recommends mouth taping to help train yourself to breathe through your nose while you sleep).
However, that’s not to say you should never, ever breathe out of your mouth. “Breathing through your mouth (which we do in Open’s Active Breathwork sessions) is used in a short and controlled period of time to shift the dominant parts of the brain giving us access to greater states of release, clarity and presence,” says Maz. Breathing out through your mouth can also help cool your body down.
In summary: “Think: nose = calm, and mouth = short periods of controlled breathing for cathartic, deep release,” says Maz.