It might seem a crazy thing to tell people, but I’ve recently found myself saying in class, “ ..and breathe ”. As we concentrate on a new move, or position, some of us have a tendency to hold our breath.
It’s important that we don’t hold our breath, particularly when exerting ourselves, such as lifting weights, or holding a plank, as this can lead to a sudden rapid increase in blood pressure.
In everyday life, if we’re busy and stressed, we can find ourselves taking quick shallow breaths, almost as if we haven’t got the time to breathe more slowly and deeply. The problem with ‘Chest breathing’, is you elevate the shoulders to enable the inhalation to occur and this can result in holding a lot of tension in the neck and jaw. This can lead to headaches, and even eventually result in cervical vertebrae disc damage.
Joseph Pilates said, “Breathing is the first act of life. Our very life depends on it. Millions have never learned to master the art of correct breathing”.
So what’s seen as ‘correct’ breathing?
In Pilates, ‘thoracic / rib cage breathing’ is the suggested most beneficial way to breathe. Inhale through the nose allowing the rib cage to expand, try to avoid breathing into the abdominals. Exhale through the mouth.
It takes time to master coordinating breath with movement. The general rule is to breathe out on the greatest effort of any given exercise. For those new to Pilates, a natural breathing pattern, that is not forced, is a great place to start.
A relaxed and full breath pattern can help to focus the mind and allow concentration with each exercise and avoid tension in the muscles. Exhaling deeply can help activate the deep abdominal muscles. Breathing fully encourages effective oxygenation of the blood.
A good way to check if you are doing thoracic/rib cage breathing, is to sit or stand and place your hands on your rib cage. Inhale through your nose and see if you can feel your rib cage expand. Try not to lift your shoulders. Exhale through your mouth feeling the ribs closing down, without pushing the abdominals out.
In everyday life, taking time to slow down and focus on your breathing can be really beneficial in reducing stress levels and relaxing your body and mind. What’s more it’s free and can be practiced anywhere. So when you’re rushing around, stressed, say to yourself, “take time ..and breathe.”