To Breathe or not to Breathe - Practical tips to practice breathing
Breathing is so simple right?
We do it all day every day.
No conscious thought to how we do it, or even if there is a right or wrong way.
Breathing is so important in so many ways, especially in Pilates.
If done correctly in Pilates, breathing helps us to relax, clear our head, engage the right muscles as well as avoid unnecessary tension in our neck and shoulders. It is such a crucial part of Pilates, yet it really is very simple.
Just after my oldest son was born, I had my first visit to an osteopath. The resounding memory I have from that appointment was the osteo saying to me ‘you don’t breathe well.’ I thought hmmm, what do you mean? Sadly, there was no explanation. It wasn’t until several years later when I began Pilates, that the penny dropped and I realised he was right, I didn’t breathe well.
My breathing journey began 20 years ago, and yours starts now.
Breathing starts with our nose. Our nose processes the air that we breathe. From our nose, down through our windpipe and into our lungs. It is from our lungs that the oxygen is pumped into our bloodstream and circulated through the body. What goes in must come out, so as you exhale you want to do so through a pursed lip. Like you’re blowing out a candle or blowing through a straw.
In through your nose, out through your mouth. Seems straight forward right? However, statistics show most of us breathe at about 10-20% of our lung capacity. When breathing, our goal should be to get our air to reach the lower depths of our lungs. Not only does this result in greater amounts of oxygen being distributed around the body, but this is also where the nerve receptors are that assist in calming the body and mind.
With that all being said, it’s now your turn to practice. Think of learning to breathe properly as an exercise on its own. Give it the time it deserves because long term the gains are immeasurable.
‘How do I practice breathing?’ you ask. Here you go.
Find a quiet space.
Sit, lie down, do whatever feels comfortable for you.
Wrap your hands around the sides of your ribs, firmly.
Take a breath. Did your hands move at all? If they didn’t it’s okay, so many of us breathe poorly.
But you have to try again now.
This time when you breathe, try to expand your ribcage out into your hands.
Fill up the backs and sides of your lungs like an accordion.
As you exhale out through your pursed lip, try let all of the air out of your lungs.
Try make each breath now a little bit longer and a little bit deeper.
Breathing for 4 counts, 5 counts, 6 counts even!
Repeat this 8-10 times, and you’ve completed your introduction to breathing.
It’s that simple, but so important.
Never underestimate the power of breathing.
“Breathing is the first act of life and the last.” Joseph Pilates