Q&A Video #2: Should I breathe through the nose or the mouth when I’m practicing Clinical Somatics?

Transcript of video:

Today I’m going to answer a question I’ve gotten a number of times from students, which is: Should I breathe through the nose or the mouth when I’m practicing Clinical Somatics? And does it matter?

First, the most important thing is that you keep breathing. If you hold your breath, you’re reducing your oxygen intake, triggering your stress response, and making it more difficult to relax your muscles and retrain your nervous system.

Second, I don’t want you to be so focused on how you’re breathing that you can’t focus on the movement that you’re doing. The way in which you’re contracting and releasing your muscles is THE most important thing to focus on. Slowly, consciously pandiculating your muscles is how you retrain your nervous system. So, let yourself breathe in a way that feels natural to you, so that you can focus your conscious attention on your movement.

Now, to answer the original question: If it’s easy for you to breathe through your nose or your mouth without taking too much focus away from your movement, then I definitely recommend that you breathe through your nose. Nose breathing is preferable for several reasons.

  • Breathing through your nose tends to deepen your breath and make you breathe diaphragmatically, allowing your lower belly to expand as you inhale.

  • Breathing through the nose triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down. If you breathe through your nose, you’ll notice that your breathing naturally slows down and that your body and mind feel more relaxed.

  • Breathing through your nose is also helpful for emotional regulation. This can be especially helpful for people who have experienced trauma and might feel emotions coming to the surface when they practice Somatic movements.

On the flip side, breathing through our mouth triggers our sympathetic nervous system, which controls our stress response. So, breathing through our mouth can make us feel stressed or anxious. It also tends to make us take faster, more shallow breaths up into our chest.

So, since the purpose of Clinical Somatics is to relax our nervous system and release tension, we definitely want to allow ourselves to inhale and exhale through our nose while we’re practicing the movements. And if you can get comfortable breathing through your nose throughout the rest of your day as well, you’ll feel more relaxed and hold less tension in your muscles.