The Nose — use it or lose it

It is often thought that if you breathe through your mouth it’s because your nose blocked up first, but typically the nose blocks after you start breathing through your mouth. After a while you stop trying to breathe through your nose because it’s uncomfortable. Once mouth breathing has become an established habit, it takes a lot of effort to retrain yourself to breathe through your nose.

Can breathing training unblock my nose?

Tess is a breathing educator, physiotherapist and author from Australia. In her book Relief from Anxiety and Panic (2017) she says,

‘Noses are often blocked as a result of irritation, dehydration, inflammation — all side-effects of chronic over-breathing. When you learn to breathe correctly, airway irritation reduces. In 20 years of breathing retraining, I have rarely seen a nose that won’t, at least partially, clear within the first 5 minutes of changing a poor breathing pattern – not even smashed-up footballers’ noses, of which I have tackled a few.’   

Tess has taught breathing retraining courses to thousands of people and she also teaches other health professionals. 

Nose-clearing exercise

If your nose is blocked or congested, use this exercise to help unblock it so you can breathe more comfortably.

  1. After breathing normally — don’t make any exaggerated breathing manoeuvre — breathe in and out through your nose. 
  2. Close your nostrils gently with finger tips after exhaling.
  3. Hold your breath for as long as is comfortable. 
  4. Try nodding your head while holding the breath.
  5. Release your fingers, then gradually resume very gentle breathing through your nose.

Holding your breath helps to raise carbon dioxide levels in the nasal passages which soothes nasal membrane tissue and reduces inflammation. Gentle nodding helps to increase circulation to the sinuses.

Tips for doing this exercise

When you clear your nose doing this exercise:

  • keep your mouth closed
  • don’t hold your breath for so long that you gasp air in through your mouth at the end
  • if your nose is completely blocked breathe gently through pursed lips.
  • in stubborn cases or when your nose is blocked due to a cold, you may need to repeat this exercise several times.

It’s important to be able to control your breathing within 3 breaths after the hold.  Otherwise the body blows off the accumulated carbon dioxide and this may make the problem worse. If this isn’t possible then next time reduce the length of the hold.

Check your breathing health

Our breathing habits are a major key to health, immunity and good energy levels. There’s a simple test you can do to find out if dysfunctional breathing could be undermining your health.

A simple test to check your breathing health


Nicky McLeod, BA, MBIBH, Breathing Educator and Director of The Breathing Clinic, Nelson

Nicky McLeod — Breathing Clinic Nelson


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