June through August tends to be the high point of wildfire season in most years nationally. As we approach this dangerous season where the air quality may be reduced, here are 7 easy to implement tricks to keep your lungs and respiratory system healthy:
1. Breathe Through Your Nose. Your nose is your built in air purifier. It is like a sponge the air must go through, where particles are trapped, and pathogens can largely be captured and destroyed before entering the lungs. Unfortunately, most people have a habit of breathing through the mouth, especially during sleep and exercise. Another benefit to nasal breathing is that it brings in more of the anti-viral Nitric Oxide, which is produced in the nasal passageway and enters the blood through the lungs during nasal breathing.
2. Tape your mouth shut while sleeping. This sounds freaky to the uninitiated, but is actually quite mild. The goal actually isn't to force your lips shut, but just to give a subtle signal for the mouth to keep itself shut. Use light tape like masking tape rather than something super sticky like duct tape. Masking tape should allow your mouth to open with just a little effort if needed. Keep using smaller and smaller peices of tape over a few weeks until you are just using one the size of a small postage stamp. You will notice it stays on better and better the more your body learns to breathe nasally during sleep.
3. Use a nasal dilator. These are very cheap and you can get them quick on Amazon here. They are basically a small plastic pair of hoops that hold the entrance of your nostrils open. These are great for people who snore, have sleep apnea, or who find they can't get enough air in and out the nose when exercising. If you notice your nostrils feel too small or collapsed when sleeping or exercising, try one of these instead of relying on your mouth.
4. Breathe through your nose, when possible, while exercising. During endurance training, yoga, or Qigong, I recommend pushing yourself only to the point where you can't breathe through the nose anymore, then backing off from there and staying below that threshold of intensity. Over time, endurance athletes find they actually gain more endurance breathing this way, although it takes some training at first. If you do a more intense sport or workout that requires quick bursts of effort, then just breathe through your nose until you can't anymore, then use mouth breathing until you can recover back to the nose. The Oxygen Advantage, by Patrick McKeown covers this topic in great detail.
6. Invest in a good air purifier. Especially if you live in a smoke zone, this one is a must. However if you have environmental allergies, asthma, or any reason to believe your house may have mold, you also should seriously consider investing in one. The best one I'm aware of is the IQ Air Healthpro Plus. It's a bit pricey, so a good second choice is the Molecule Ai Purifier, which comes in a variety of sizes and price options.
7. When not in fire season, open your windows. (Although, with a powerful enough air filter, you can even open your windows intermittently and then purify the air afterwards during fire or pollen seasons). An air purifier is great for removing contaminants, but it cannot replace the oxygen we use up while breathing indoors. Yes, I know, opening your windows lets out the AC or heating, which costs you a bit more, but it is so worth it to get that fresh O2 into your home. In fact, it is so worthwhile that according to a recent study by Harvard on COVID-19, chronic exposure to air pollution may increase the death rate of the virus by 8% (!!). So, suck it up during the winter or summer and open two windows for a cross draft for at least 10 minutes a day, then filter that air once it's in your home if needed.
So, kind of common sense stuff, eh? Filter your air, either through your nose, or an air purifier, or a good mask if needed, or all of the above! Whether or not you are in fire season, these are good tips to keep in mind, especially as we continue to face this global respiratory illness.
And of course, another great thing we can do for our lungs, immunity, and even cellular respiration is practice Qigong. Below is my free video just for that, which features the notorious "Tiger" exercise with its intense postures and breath holds to train the lungs and mitochondria. This is a great 30 minute, well rounded practice that combines a good workout with breathwork and moving meditation to lower your stress as well.
Featured just below that is my interview with breath expert (breathxpert?) David Deppeler that will take you deeper into this topic if desired.