If you’ve ever followed a yoga or meditation breathing sequence, you were likely told to breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. This isn’t just to get you to focus on your breath more; it actually delivers more nitric oxide to your blood, which is beneficial for your health, endurance, and even immune system.
Nitric oxide, also known as NO, is produced continuously by the 1 trillion cells that form the inner lining, or endothelium, of the 100,000 miles of arteries and veins in our bodies, especially the lungs. It relaxes the muscles of your arteries, promotes blood flow to your organs, and prevents blood clots. It is also produced by white blood cells and tissue macrophages to promote antimicrobial functions.
Used clinically, NO is used to treat infants born with persistent pulmonary hypertension and, due to its lung-boosting power, it is now being used experimentally to treat COVID-19. When used to treat SARS, a disease similar to COVID-19, NO was effective in treating illness-related pneumonia.
While we all wear our masks and wash our hands, doing daily deep breathing exercises can also help physically, and mentally, make us more resilient during the pandemic. Inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth takes advantage of the sinuses in your nose which are continuously producing NO. Additionally, taking time to breathe purposefully every day will help you mentally refocus and find calm in these stressful times.