‘The respiratory system is the key ingredient of the core, the key to all other systems that supports and enhances posture, alignment, oxygenation and circulation. Optimal breath leads to the focus required in the Pilates environment. ‘ Marie Jose - Blom
Inhale. Exhale. Take a deep breath. Feel, use, find you breathe. All these phrases are used on repeat in Pilates and yoga classes (mine included!). Joseph Pilates was insistent his students adhere to his direction for breath. In his book, Return to Life, he wrote, "Lazy breathing converts the lungs, literally and figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying and dead germs as well as supplying an ideal haven for the multiplication of other harmful germs." Intense, right? After teaching for several years, I have to say, I agree with Pilates, and have seen incredible growth in students at every level from implementing proper breath technique. So how do we improve breathe and why is it so important? Unpacking these questions can lead to a deeper understanding of core work, and enliven any movement practice.
The Mechanics of Breath. What happens, or should be happening when we breath?
This is the fancy way of saying breathe back and breathe wide. This is the breath that we teach in Pilates practices, which allows for maximum air exchange with the most consistent abdominal connection. As we inhale, we want to feel the back and sides of the rib cage expand. This allows air to reach the deepest part of the lung lobe. When breath is shallow, usually about 30-40% of the air is exchanged, and the rest remains within us, just there holding carbon dioxide (a waste product) inside the body. This will also strengthen to diaphragm system. A weak or dysfunctional diaphragm system will inhibit the other core players. So how you breathe, and your ability to breathe will directly affect you abdominal engagement. So, no breath = no abs. It will also equal a system that is fighting for balance and power in dynamic, coordinated movements. If you have a goal to improve balance, breath work is wonderful place to start.
Mind- Body Connection
Breath can bring us into the present state more quickly than any other action. An inhale can happen only in the present, never the past or future. Each breath cycle is inherently unique. Breathe is one of the fastest ‘ins’ to connection, the most ready tool in slowing a wandering, distracted mind.
Simple breathe exercises can be done almost anywhere, and need no special equipment. Start by placing your hands on high your ribs, with the fingers in front and the thumbs in back. Inhale feeling your ribs open into your hands while you press your thumbs away from you. Start to lengthen your inhale by counting to 4, then 5, and so on. Over time, Increase the duration of you inhale and the strength of your exhale.
Breath is a gateway to incredible discoveries in your body, and any Pilates or movement practice. We look forward to diving in deeper with you at WHP, and would love to hear any questions this may have sparked for you. Comment below with any and all thoughts! See you on the reformer!