Breathing….the essence of life and a fundamental part of your Pilates skill

Breathing is the first act of life, and the last

Joseph H Pilates

At a time when we are being hit with a virus that effects the respiratory system I have found myself focussing on one of the fundamentals of Pilates – Breathing. How I breathe and how I teach people to breathe whilst moving. Breathing is an automatic process that most of us dont think about however learning to breathe properly will not only improve your ability to do exercise but it will also improve the health of your lungs.

To breathe correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying very hard to squeeze every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth.

Joseph H Pilates

If you come to my classes you will have heard me saying dont forget to breathe! Normally I say this when someone is holding their breath and going red in the face! Many of us hold our breath while doing exercise which impacts our ability to do the exercise. We may find that we breathe shallowly or much faster than we should. If we breathe shallowly we are using only a fraction of our lungs thus reducing the supply of oxygen and thus also reducing our energy levels.

Learning how to breathe correctly is one of the fundamentals of Pilates. Breathing exercises are also used in meditation and to break up a period of anxiety. Currently there are many people feeling anxious of what is to come so I thought that I would share a couple of exercises with you that you can do at home.

Scarf Breathing – you will need a chair and a scarf or stretch band.

  • Sit or stand tall and wrap the scarf or stretch band around your ribs – make sure that it is not too low and is spread over the backs of your ribs, crossing it over at the front. Hold the opposite end and gently pull it tight (not too tight)
  • Inhale through your nose – As you breathe in focus on the backs and sides of your ribs, where your lungs are located. Your lungs will gradually fill and expand your ribcage. Do not force this movement as it will create tension. Keep your shoulders relaxed
  • Exhale through your mouth – As you breathe out you will feel the air gently being pushed out fully, right to the bottom of your lungs. You should feel your ribcage beginning to close as your lungs empty.

Do not puff your cheeks or purse your lips during the exercise as this will create tension in your jaw, face and neck wasting energy. Also make sure that you do not over-breathe, it should be natural, easy pace.

Relieving anxiety – you can stand, sit or lie down doing this exercise, most importantly you should be comfortable. You may want to close your eyes (please make sure you are not standing if you do!!)

  • Inhale through your nose for the count of 4
  • Hold for the count of 4
  • Exhale through your mouth for the count of 6
  • Repeat as many times as you like

If you find it hard to inhale for the count of 4 you can change this to 3 and then exhale for 5. You will find the more you do this the longer you can inhale for.

My classes are carrying on over the internet through this time of lock down so if you are interested in joining any of them please contact me for more information.

Stay safe and well.

Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body

Thich Nhat Hanh – Vietnamese Monk

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