Wake Up The Breath
From the very first breath at birth until the last whisper of breath leaves our bodies at death, breathing is something the body knows how to do for our basic survival.
When you were born your whole body breathed. Every bone, muscle and organ moved with every breath. Every nerve was energized by it and every blood cell carried it. Today, most of us have forgotten what it feels like to breath fully and wholly with the vitality of the newborn infant.
We have forgotten it and most of us tend to breath very shallow breaths but… we have not lost it.
Breathing affects your respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, muscular and psychic systems and also has a general effect on your sleep, your memory, your energy level and your concentration.
A full breath cycle spreads life giving oxygen throughout the body, gets rid of waste gasses like carbon dioxide and stimulates the spine and internal organs. As you probably know, one of the primary muscles used for breathing is the diaphragm which forms the floor of the thoracic cavity. When we breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and slides down and your ribcage move out and up and on breathing out the diaphragm slides up and the ribcage moves in.
In Pilates the breathing technique is conscious as opposed to unconscious, normal breathing. It relaxes tension in our bodies, utilizes oxygen more efficiently and encourages to use abdominals. In my classes, I always encourage my participants to maintain core contraction and breathe out when the spine is flexed and in when it is extended. This is called “lateral thoracic breathing“ and it requires a full breath that depresses the diaphragm and expands the ribcage out to the sides and into the back. We use this breathing a lot in Pilates exercise because it allows one to get a good, deep breath while the abs are deeply pulled in.
There are few principles of Pilates breathing:
- Do not hold your breath
- Keep the breath even and flowing
- Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth
- Breathe into the back and side of your ribs
- Relax your jaw, neck and shoulders
- Do not let the shoulders rise when you inhale
- Keep the navel drawn towards the spine
- Zip the ribs together as you exhale
Try this easy exercise to practice:
Place both hands on your ribs with you middle fingers meeting in the middle.
Breath in through your nose – focus the breathing into the ribcage and feel the sides and back of the ribcage expand and your fingertips come apart.
Breathe out through your mouth – feel the ribcage move back towards the middle, bringing your fingertips back together.
Avoid lifting the shoulders and creating tension in the neck and shoulders.
Imagine you inflating a balloon and then releasing as much air as possible. practise breathing 3-5 seconds each way.
Be patient and keep practicing – it will become more natural over time.