The Nose Knows
Joseph Wilson, RMT - Registered Massage Therapist
“Blessed are the big-nosed!” – Monty Python, The Life of Brian
I don’t massage noses but if I did, I would be doing my clients a great service. Recent science has confirmed what Yoga practitioners have known for centuries – that deep breathing through the nostrils has a tangible, positive effect on both the human body and mind.
It has long been recognized that deep, controlled breathing can calm someone having an anxiety attack or help anyone in need of a little more stress-relief and mental clarity. But what’s new is that scientists have found a physical link between breathing and what they call “emotionality.” There is a direct anatomical link between the parts of the brain that control voluntary breathing and the parts that control emotionality.
The idea is that people can alter and strengthen the neural pathways that link breathing with emotion regulation centers in the brain, which can help them feel calmer and more alert as well as sleep better.
So, why are the big-nosed blessed and what does this have to do with massage?
Along with these effects of deep breathing on the mind, there is a measurable physiological effect specific to nostril breathing. Within the nasal passages are enzymes that increase the production of nitric oxide (NO). Whenever you breathe through the nose, you stimulate the production of NO in the sinuses which is then absorbed through the lungs into your bloodstream.
What are the benefits of NO?
Increases oxygen delivery to all the cells in the body by expanding the lungs and allowing more blood to be oxygenized (up to 15% more vs mouth breathing)
Combats bacterial and viral infections in the blood
Dilates (relaxes and expands) blood vessels which reduces blood pressure
One of the best ways to get the most out of your massage experience is to practice slow, controlled nostril breathing during your session. You will be decreasing emotional stress, relaxing muscle tension, expanding blood vessels, as well as improving the flow of metabolic waste out of tissues and bringing oxygen and nutrients into them.
Make the most of your massage time by shutting off the rational/logical thinking part of your consciousness and tapping into the emotional/organic side of yourself. Breathe deeply and “just be” in the moment with what is happening during your treatment.