As mentioned in an earlier post, over the next few weeks we’re going to explore how the principles of Pilates can drastically change your life. We’ll start with my favorite…
Pilates Principle: BREATH
How often do you pay attention to the way you breathe? I’m guessing for most of us, not very often. Learning how to breathe properly and incorporate breathing techniques into your daily life can have a profound impact on your state of being and overall health.
And guess what? Learning how to breathe effectively is a key factor in breaking free of the guilt-laden, unsuccessful diet & exercise cycle that we all seem to get caught in. Sound crazy? I’m serious, keep reading.
Deep breathing improves your mood, reduces stress, increases circulation and improves your brain function. To put it simply: your brain needs oxygen to function in its optimal state and deep breathing increases blood & oxygen flow to the brain. If you’ve ever felt stressed or anxious about something and unable to calm yourself down, there is a good chance that you unknowingly began take shortened breaths that restrict oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Reduced oxygen in the brain leads to more stress and panic which leads to a vicious cycle of shorter and shorter breaths…you can see the connection.
Breath is an important aspect of the Pilates method. Pilates teaches “lateral” or “intercostal” breathing, meaning that you breath deeply into the abdomen, specifically paying attention to the expansion of the side and back of the rib cage (a part of the lungs that is often underused). This allows you to maintain an abdominal contraction during exercises. Outside of the studio, diaphragmatic breathing can provide the same results. Diaphragmatic breathing simply puts more of an emphasis on breathing into the belly and allowing the belly to expand as you inhale.
Regardless of the breathing style, I encourage you to incorporate intentional breathing into your life starting today. Why? Because it increases your awareness and improves your mind/body connection. It is a skill that helps you connect with your body – what you feel, what you need, what you don’t need…thus allowing you to think clearly and make smart decisions regarding your health. The more in-tune you are to your body’s needs the LESS likely you are to make impulsive, unhealthy decisions and the MORE likely you are to make decisions that nourish your body and support your goals.
Next time you feel stressed and want to reach for a bag of Doritos, take a few deep breaths to focus on what your body is telling you. If your body is really telling you that you need Doritos, then go for it. But chances are, after a few deep breaths, you’ll be able to think more clearly about what it is that will truly nourish you when the cravings come rushing in.
A Daily Breathing Exercise:
Lie on your back with hands resting down by your side. Take 5 breaths, inhaling for a slow count of 5 and exhaling for a slow count of 5.
For the next 5 breaths rest your hands on your belly. Feel your hands rise as you inhale and lower as you exhale.
Next, place your hands along the front/side of your rib cage. Repeat the 5 slow breaths and feel your ribs expand out to the side as you inhale and relax as you exhale.
It’s simple, but the effects are profound. Give it a try and let me know what discover!
Question: Is breathing something you ever think of “practicing”?