Shut Your Mouth

I think of myself as a moderate health nut, eating well and exercising. I never sign up for extreme sports and I won’t become a Vegan. (But I should be a vegan. I feel so guilty.)

So when my friend…let’s call her S….told me about her new health kick, I was intrigued but a bit skeptical. Here was the deal. Every night before bed, she and her husband would tape their mouths shut. Picture something like this, but less pretty.

The reasons for doing so came from a book called ‘Breath,’ by James Nestor. I didn’t have the book but thought I’d try taping my mouth shut at night, just to see what would happen. I lasted 15 seconds. It was like being straight-jacketed by the night shift staff in a film noir psych ward.  Why would anyone try this? Well, for the following reasons.

Being a mouth breather is a bad, bad thing. It causes bone loss in the face, a narrowing of the mouth, and problems in the throat. So, mouth breathing: Bad. Nose breathing: Good. I got the book from the library to find out why. 

Our nose is like a shield for the rest of our body. It keeps the dust and dirt out and gently warms the air heading for our lungs. The bad side effects of being a mouth breather include asthma, sleep apnea, exhaustion, and crooked teeth.  Also, most of us aren’t chewing enough anymore. Our food is too processed. The people who lived three hundred years ago had to chow down on wild boar meat and whatever vegetation was on hand, resulting in much straighter teeth. Scientists have the skulls to prove it. 

There are many kinds of breathing covered in the book. You can lie on the ground and breath hard and fast to induce an experience that replicates taking LSD. I think I’ll skip that one. There are exercises that Buddhist monks do, where they can stop and start their hearts just by changing the way they breathe. Over breathing is bad, slow breathing is better. Each breath should be 5.5 seconds in, and 5.5 seconds out. (With your mouth shut.) The carbon dioxide in our lungs plays an important part in our health and longevity. Nose breathers live longer.

Since I’m a moderate health nut, no crazy shenanigans for me. I keep my mouth shut at night by using a small piece of medical tape, placing it in the center of my lips like a lowered Charlie Chaplin moustache. It’s quite comfortable and definitely helps prevent mouth breathing. I’m considering it for the daytime, too. Hopefully I’ll remember to peel it off before I leave the house.

Did you know you can grow back the bone you’ve lost by doing this? The guy who wrote the book gained bone the width of six pennies slapped together. I’m hoping that within a few years, you’ll see me on Main Street and think, wow. Her jaw looks bigger. Mostly, I hope you notice that I only open my mouth to talk. Which happens frequently. In fact, I might have to rethink my whole personality. On the other hand, I”m just a writer standing in front of readers I might not know, asking them to tape their mouths shut at night. In honor of that, here’s a song with an appropriate title. Just pretend I’m watching you.

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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