If you thought humming was only good for annoying those around you, think again – oddly, there’s scientific evidence that it could have real benefits like boosting our moods and our immune response.
Breathwork specialist Brian Lai explained more in an interview with VICE.
“When a person first hears that the simple act of humming has various benefits, it sounds way too simple, almost ridiculous. But when we take a look under the hood of the human body, we can begin to understand why it has been used for centuries, and why the science is finally beginning to catch up.”
It turns out that humming is an ancient skill known among yoga enthusiasts as “Bhramari Pranayama, which translates as “breathing like a big black bee,” and according to a 2018 meta-analysis, has proven benefits.
“The effect is pronounced. All the studies directly or indirectly have found the effect… to have parasympathetic predominance and this was the basis for their results derived, namely; reduction in heart rate and blood pressure, reduction in response to cold pressor test, improvement in cognition, reduction in irritability in tinnitus, favorable EEG changes and reduction in stress levels.”
Other studies have linked humming with improved cognitive control and response inhibition, better heart health, and improved mental health, as well.
Clinical psychologist Arielle Schwartz thinks that’s likely due to the vagus nerve.
“This power cord is the bidirectional highway of communication between body and brain. The vagus nerve is a near-magical sounding bundle of fibers responsible for the regulation of our internal organs, our reflexes, and, as evidence is increasingly confirming, our mental health.”
She says that humming can promote a “rhythmic rise and fall of the heart rate in synchronization with the breath in its optimal zone, which is actually putting the brain into what’s often referred to as flow state.”
This study from 2019 also found that Bhramari Pranayama also can have a positive impact on the sinuses.
“There are several mechanisms by which humming is supposed to relieve the symptoms of sinusitis. The first mechanism… is that humming acts as a sonic cleanser. Humming creates sound vibrations that encourage air to move back and forth between the sinuses and nasal passages.”
The paper goes on to explain this airflow helps unblock tiny openings called ostia, which helps prevent sinusitis by draining clogged up tubes – but there’s a biochemical aspect to this little health hack, too.
“It has been proven that humming increases the endogenous generation of nitric oxide level by 15-fold as compared with the quiet exhalation.”
According to professor of molecular and medical pharmacology Lou Ignarro, that’s a super important fact.
“Nitric oxide in the lungs will kill or inhibit the growth of many bacteria, parasites, and viruses, especially the coronavirus. …Nitric oxide dilates the pulmonary arteries and veins so more blood can get into the lungs and therefore pick up the oxygen. It also widens the airways the trachea, and the bronchioles so more oxygen can get in and get picked up by the increased blood getting in.”
Ignarro and other experts say that immediately after humming, a deep breath through your nose will cycle out old air and exchange it for clean, nitric-rich air.
There are other ways to increase nitric oxide in the body, but this is fast and anyone can do it – and there are zero risks, which is amazing.
So give it a try, and if you’re worried about bothering someone while you do, there’s always your drive into work!
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