Let’s face it, there is little doubt that 2020 has been a stressful and unpredictable year.
There have been times where we all have felt anxious and a little uncertain about the future. Basically, our worlds have been turned upside down. It has been during this time that I have found I have returned to a true fundamental of Pilates as a way to combat stress. Breathing!!!
Breathe! Since it gives us life, let’s talk about it a little more. Correct breathing is an essential part of Pilates, in fact, breath is one of the six original Pilates principles developed by Joseph Pilates and is still practiced in good Pilates studios today.
The benefits of correct breathing are many and varied, and especially in these stressful and unpredictable times, breathing can prove to be a vital component in relieving stress, improving posture and boosting your immune system.
Let me start by saying that in Pilates we have a specific breathing technique designed to aid in movement muscle activation, and pelvic floor activation. Our Pilates breath involves inhaling through the nose, deep into the lungs and expanding the ribs laterally. We then exhale the breath through the mouth, closing the ribcage down and in.
Pilates breathing helps to release stress and tension. In particular, this distinct breathing technique increases the supply of oxygen to your brain which stimulates the activity of the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a sense of calmness. This parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for reducing heart rate, decreasing blood pressure and regulating the relaxation response.
Joseph Pilates was passionate about deep breathing. Consider this quote from his book:
“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.” 1
Scary huh???? With deep breathing the heart rate increases, therefore improving circulation and the carrying of nutrients and oxygen to each cell as well as the removal of waste products, thus helping you to improve your immune system.
When inhaling deeply, the lungs expand causing each rib to separate and lift up and away from the pelvis. As the ribs pull apart, (since the ribs are attached to each segment of the spine), every segment of the spine is lifted apart, reducing pressure on the discs and developing both length and strength through the torso.
Additionally, the full expansion of the ribcage promotes an opening through the chest and upper torso, thus preventing roundness through the shoulders and upper spine. This encourages a more upright and improved posture and if, like me, you have been sitting too much during quarantine, this is a good thing.
Now that you are reminded of the importance of the big, beautiful breath, use it! Among many other important benefits, use breathing to relax you, use it to keep you healthy and use it to improve your posture.