Maybe you’ve never even thought about how you breathe and how it affects your health. If not you should! Joseph Pilates talked a lot about the importance of learning to breathe correctly in his book, Return to Life.
Joseph Pilates said, “Breathing is the first act of life and the last and our very life depends on it. It is deplorable to contemplate about the millions and millions who have not mastered the art of correct breathing.”
The Pilates method of exercised is based on the fundamental idea of learning to breathe fully and properly and to use breath to help our body move more efficiently! Read on to learn about some more benefits of practicing your breathing.
One of the biggest consequences of poor breathing habits is a lack of energy. The first goal of breathing is gas exchange – to rid the body and CO2 and take in O2. In addition to the physiological needs, we also improve posture with better breathing techniques and can change our mood or state of mind with more energetic or quiet breath styles. Long, slow breaths can bring us toward a more calm state. This is often the goal of meditation and relaxation techniques. A more vigorous breath gives us energy and can make us more aware and alert.
Here are 3 ways Pilates can help you breathe better!
1. Pilates movements help to create mobility throughout the body which is crucial for good and efficient air exchange.
2. Stretching exercises lengthen your muscles, increasing your flexibility. Aerobic exercises use large muscle groups to move at a steady, rhythmic pace. This type of exercise works your heart and lungs, improving their endurance. This helps your body use oxygen more efficiently and, with time, can improve your breathing.
3. Pilates exercises are encouraged with a natural breathing pattern to breathe in wide and full to the sides of the ribcage. This is called “lateral” or “intercostal” breathing and promotes the full use of your ribcage and respiratory muscles. Like any muscle, they need to be exercised to cope with increased physical demands. As you exhale you should empty your lungs fully and allow relaxation of the muscles and ribcage.
This Pilates breathing system of effective inhalation and exhalation allows the gas exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide to occur effectively, ensuring blood pH is maintained. Deep breaths are preferred because shallow breathing restricts the movement of the diaphragm and can cause symptoms of dizziness. Efficient gas exchange also minimizes any build up of muscular tension.
Think about the breath cues next time you’re in a class. Focus on your breathing and see what a difference it makes!