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Breathing with awareness can positively influence your health.

By Nydia Tijerina Darby

I have been asked many times why I emphasize breathing through the nose with the mouth closed in the therapeutic practices that I share. I have found that my clients demonstrate an improved response to participating in activities that are done with a focused attention on keeping the breath smooth throughout the whole process of any activity that they are doing. It takes a lot of focus and concentration to keep the mouth closed while breathing through your nose, especially if you have never given much attention to how you breathe during your day. I realized this early on in when I was developing the unique therapeutic yoga practices that meld 40+ years of experience in physical therapy, fitness, yoga. Over the years, I have shared this gentle, breath-centered movement approach with my clients. It is very effective. I continue to use this approach with every client in the therapeutic yoga programs that I share. 

When I first started focusing my attention on breathing in my personal practice, I did not realize how it had become a form of a mindful meditation for me. I had read many books about yoga up to that time, and I am sure that those books probably spelled this out many times. I just don’t recall seeing this spelled out directly. It is interesting that you can read about and study something, see it repeatedly, but in my case, I was not able to completely understand and integrate what I was reading until I had an embodied experience of it. I had to do the work and put the breathing activities into practice to recognize their true value. This philosophy continues to direct the way that I approach my personal wellness programs and those of my clients. 

When you focus your attention on becoming aware of the breath as it moves gently into and out of your body, you can bring yourself into the present moment. The focused concentration on your breathing through the nose with the mouth closed is effective in calming your nervous system, especially when you encourage a gentle approach to lengthening the exhalation. Breathing with awareness can invigorate your cells, increase the amount of oxygen that is available to your body, add humidity to the air that enters your lungs, warm up your body, and bring your attention to the present moment. Nasal breathing is also recognized as a natural way to produce Nitric Oxide, a substance that has been recognized to have a positive influence on the arterial and venous system in the body. 

When you practice conscious gentle nasal breathing daily, the process can become second nature. In the practices that I share with my clients, we also use the focused attention on attempting to maintain smooth and gentle breathing to help recognize when we are doing more than the body is ready for during a therapeutic yoga posture or activity. We do this by noticing when we start to hold the breath, or when breathing smoothly becomes difficult during physical exertion. This awareness practice can help us to know when we are working at the correct intensity. If you can breathe smoothly through the nose with the mouth closed while you are doing an activity, your nervous system stays calm and lets your body know that you are working at the correct intensity. The benefits of maintaining awareness of our breath with our therapeutic yoga activities is that with practice, we may be able to gradually increase the intensity and effort of our work while maintaining soft and rhythmic breathing. Learning how to keep your mind calm during challenges that your body is experiencing during a difficult moment, in my opinion—is a tremendous accomplishment.  Mastering the art and skill of staying calm under pressure can benefit each of us in our daily lives and with our relationships. I hope that you will consider giving it a try.


Lundberg JO, Settergren G, Gelinder S, Lundberg JM, Alving K, Weitzberg E. Inhalation of nasally derived nitric oxide modulates pulmonary function in humans. Acta Physiol Scand. 1996 Dec;158(4):343-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-201X.1996.557321000.x. PMID: 8971255.

Nydia Tijerina Darby is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, an integrative physical therapist, therapeutic yoga specialist, researcher, and author that melds a variety of complementary approaches in the programs that she creates for her patients and clients to empower them towards improved function, overall health, and long-term wellness. She teaches them as much as they care to know about their physical and energetic bodies and supports them in their personal process towards whole health for the long term. She refers to this as being in “training for the next decade.” Her book, “Therapeutic Yoga Works: A Gentle Approach to Eliminating Back Pain and Improving Functional Mobility for Life,” is available on Amazon and soon at bookstores near you.


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