I’ve received a lot of questions this week about the importance of breathing during pilates. People always wonder if they are breathing correctly or at the right time. There are many opinions about proper pilates breathing. For me — since I see mostly beginners, I am more focused on whether my clients are actually breathing or not. If you do too much belly breathing, yes I’ll stop and encourage you to breathe more into your ribs, but most of the time, if you are breathing to enhance your movements, I’ll be happy. Some people hold their breath which as even bigger issue I think. So, just breathe!
Why do we focus on Breathing?
As many of you notice, I always give a breathing direction before I instruct you to move your body. Why? Breathing is the foundation of your proper movement. It helps center you, relax you, and stabilize your body for movement. Focused, conscious breathing also does many more things for your body and mind…read on!
What specific benefits does breathing consciously do for you and your body?
Check out this excerpt from a long list of ways breathing supports every system of the body:
(reprinted from breathing.com)
THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
Gives you more energy.
Reduces mental and physical fatigue.
Reduces chest pains due to tight muscles, thus the tension causing anxiety of “heart attack potential” is reduced.
Improves blood circulation and relieves congestion.
Increases supply of oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout the body. Major organs such as brain, and eyes need copious oxygen.
Eases the strain on the heart by increasing oxygen to the heart.
Helps increase the supply of blood and nutrients to muscle blood and bones.
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
Better breathing can calm or stimulate the nervous system, balance or unbalance brain hemispheres, depending on the technique.
THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
Diaphragmatic action acts as a pump to massage the internal organs, aiding their *function. “Rest, digest, and heal.”
Given a complex carbohydrate diet, toxic CO2 waste is eliminated more directly through breath.
Wrinkles can be lessened due to improved circulation and blood oxygen flow.
Radiant skin is observable and more pleasing to look at.
BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT
Look more rested.
Relaxes muscle spasm and relieves tension.
Helps increase flexibility and strength of joints; when you breathe easier you move easier.
Sounds amazing, right? The list goes on too! I’ll put the link to this specific page at the end of the article.
Here’s a simple breathing exercise you can do right now:
1. Sit in a dining room chair – not the couch. Find a stable chair.
2. Close your eyes. Place 1 hand on chest and 1 hand on belly. Begin to breathe naturally. But notice how your chest rises a little as you inhale and your belly hollows in a bit as you exhale. Try to breathe like this for a few few minutes.
3. Now put your hands even with your chest but around your ribcage. Index fingers are around the front and the thumbs around around the back of the ribcage. Now imagine breathing to open up the sides and to the back of ribcage. Do this several times.
4. Now sit on the floor with you knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you. Round forward with arms curled around your shins. Head and neck are also rounded forward.
5. Inhale and Exhale naturally. On the exhale tighten your abs and try to keep them engaged. On the next Inhale try to keep your abs engaged and inhale as if you are breathing into the back of your ribcage. Each exhale, slightly tighten and contract your abs a bit more. Do this a few times.
Make sure you breathe deeply – if your breathing is too shallow you might hyperventilate or get light headed.
Now that you know some reasons why we breathe, tomorrow I’ll talk more about WHEN we breathe in pilates.
Ready to start breathing more deeply? Come to a pilates group class or get a customized online workout.