“Breathing is the first act of life, and the last. Our very life depends on it” *
Breathing is one of the 6 Principles of Pilates and is essential in facilitating movement.
Inhalation facilitates spinal Extension (Swan)
Exhalation facilitates spinal Flexion (Rollup, Spine Stretch Forward)
There are 2 types of breathing:
Diaphragmatic (use of the diaphragm, otherwise known as belly breathing)
Costal (directed breathing into the ribs)
Improper breathing, or stress breathing is common in our society. It is the overuse of accessory muscles in the neck & upper chest. This results in shallow breathing which causes decreased mobility of the ribs & poor air exchange into the lungs. In other words, it’s the inability to take a deep breath! Poor air exchange results in poorly oxygenated blood to all our organs.
If you’re looking to deepen your Pilates practice & improve your health try both types of breathing…
Diaphragmatic breathing: Lie comfortably on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Take a deep breath and notice which hand rises more. Try to make your belly hand rise more than your chest hand. Then let the air naturally come out allowing both hands to lower.
Costal breathing: Lie comfortably on your back, or sit tall with your spine straight. Place both hands on the sides of the rib cage with fingers along the front of the ribs. Relax the shoulders. Take a deep breath into the ribs and imagine expanding your hands and fingers all the way around your ribcage. As you exhale feel the front side and back ribs draw in & away from your hands as if your snugging up a corset.
Unilateral breathing: Try this same technique but breathing into the left rib cage, repeat on the right side, front ribs and back ribs. There may be one side that is a little harder to expand but keep practicing. Your mind, body and spirit will thank you for it!!!
Written by Kelley O’Connor, Bodylines Instructor and Physical Therapist Assistant
*Return to Life by Joseph PIlates