Humming has many benefits, but here’s one that is not widely known. In a study that was reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (2002; 166: 144-145), researchers at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden found that nitric oxide levels in the sinuses were 15 times higher during humming than during normal, quiet exhalations. Nitric oxide (NO) helps to dilate the capillary beds and increase blood flow. Humming had the effect of dramatically increasing the gas exchange in the nasal sinuses. If fact, during normal exhalation the gas exchange between the nasal passages and the sinuses was about 4 percent. When the volunteers (all “healthy”) hummed, the gas increase incased to about 98 percent.
A poor exchange of gas, as well as poor circulation, in the sinus cavities, creates an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria and viruses. And this can quickly lead to infection. Based on the results of their study, the researchers believe that regular breathing exercises that involve humming may be able to help reduce the incidence of sinusitis and infections in the upper respiratory tract.
Over the last several years, I have been including sound-oriented breathing practices, including humming, in the work with breathing that I teach. My work with harmonic sound pioneer David Hykes showed me that humming has a powerful influence on our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Done on a daily basis it can help relax us and increase our mental and emotional clarity. I am sure that researchers will soon find, if they haven’t already, that humming can greatly increase oxygenation and blood flow not just in the sinus cavities but also in the brain and elsewhere in the body. In fact, I have included in my book Free Your Breath, Free Your Life an entire section about how making sounds during exhalation can beneficially influence our overall health and well-being.