Patrick McKeown shares helpful breathing tips for a 'better quality of life'

Virgin Radio

17 Apr 2024, 13:14

Patrick McKeown talks to Chris Evans at Virgin Radio.

Credit: Virgin Radio

World-leading breathing expert Patrick McKeown joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar to share some tips about breathing through the nose, and why it is so beneficial. 

The founder and creator of the science-backed breath work training program, Oxygen Advantage, said: “If you want to have a better quality of life. Think about your breathing.”

He added: “Mouth breathing just isn't where it's at!”

Patrick explained: “When it comes to the main pillars of health, breathing does play a role. And the biggest one for me is state of mind. We all need that. All of us are overthinking to a greater or lesser degree. And it's not just about mindfulness, we need to be able to change our physiology. And we can't have a calm state of mind with a gap between thoughts and control over our thinking unless we have good sleep quality, and good breathing quality.”

Speaking about nose-breathing, he told Chris: “The mouth, there's nothing in it that's devoted to breathing, your teeth, your tongue, your hard palate, your soft palate, your throat, none of those things do anything for breathing. So, if nature designed the mouth for breathing, something in the mouth would be there for the breath. It's not. That says it all.” 

Regarding exercise and breathing, the expert said: “Any physical exercise you do with your mouth closed is tremendous. Even if we just talk about a few of the benefits, It will increase oxygen transfer from the lungs to the blood and the blood to the working muscles, It improves blood flow to the brain, It increases oxygen delivery to the brain. If you go for a jog with your mouth closed, I would - based on our calculations - expect an increase of blood flow to the brain between six and ten percent. 

“Many people do physical exercise to help with their mental health. But how about just switching, going a little bit slower at the start, because the air hunger is that little bit stronger. And what you do is you continue breathing through your nose, your body then adapts to nose breathing during physical exercise. This improves your breathing pattern so that you don't need as much ventilation during exercise. But you've got so many benefits. And also it reduces the risk of over-training. You're protecting your teeth, you’re protecting your mouth, you're protecting your airways, you're activating your diaphragm.”

Explaining that when he went from mouth to nose breathing, he felt “uncomfortable,” and “suffocated, because the carbon dioxide that was being produced in his body couldn't leave “quickly enough,” Patrick added: “The more we expose ourselves to it, we develop a higher tolerance to the gas, carbon dioxide. And now our breathing becomes lighter and slower and comfortable.”

Regarding how we can get into nose-breathing, Patrick said: “There were two exercises that got me into breathing, 25 years ago. One was I always had a stuffy nose. And one of the techniques that I was using back then was to breathe in and out through my nose, gently hold my nose and nod my head up and down maybe for a count of 10 or 15 head nods, because when you hold your breath, carbon dioxide accumulates in the lungs and blood and activates a stress response. And the blood vessels in the nose which are swollen and dilated, they constrict. So then that allowed me to switch to nasal breathing.”

And as for the second one? “I would like people in the comfort of your home this evening, when they’re maybe sitting down, watching television, just put one hand on their chest, one hand just above their navel, allow their shoulders to relax, tune into their breathing, and really slow down the speed of the air coming into the nose, almost that the breath in is imperceptible. So you're really having a soft and slow, gentle breath in through your nose, and a really relaxed and a slow and a gentle breath out.”

He continued: “The purpose of this is to slow down and reduce the volume of air that you are breathing to the point of air hunger. Now this is about improving CO2 tolerance, which is more applicable to everybody. Breath-holding should be done by some but not by everybody. So with this, you're just gently softening and slowing down the speed of your breathing. By breathing less air, carbon dioxide increases slightly in your lungs and blood. So you feel air hunger. Now this is about getting the air hunger right. Not too little, not too much, just right, when we get it just right - in other words, that you're feeling your hunger, but it's tolerable, you can you can cope with it - you will notice that you will have increased watery saliva in the mouth, you’ll feel sleepy, and your blood circulation improves. 

He added: “This exercise is my go-to exercise. I use about 25, 26 different tools. But this is by far and away the best one.”

Listen to the full, 30-minute conversation - which touches on a number of breathing-related topics - here.

For more information, visit The Oxygen Advantage app is available now from app stores.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.