Updated: Jan 21, 2021
"Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it. Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never mastered the art of correct breathing." Joseph Pilates.
The world is currently facing the biggest challenge it has seen in years: the coronavirus. During these unprecedented times, many of us could be feeling stressed or worried about the future. There are a number of different ways we can control these feelings of anxiousness whilst also improving our Pilates workout.
We do not consciously think of how we are breathing from minute to minute. Our nervous system responds quicker than our muscles. If we are highly stressed, our breathing becomes short and rapid. If these stress levels are sustained for a long period of time, our breathing can become dysfunctional. As we breathe shallowly, the air is compressed; it cannot travel to the bottom portion of our lungs. This can lead to increased stress, as well as fatigue. Additionally, breathing in this way can cause specific muscles(such as the neck and shoulder) to tense, causing discomfort and if sustained can lead to pain. The skeletal muscles are not receiving as much oxygen which can cause inflammation and irritation of nerves and this may lead to lack of energy and strength. Signs of this breathing pattern include shortened breath and lifting of the shoulders.
This short video demonstrates diaphragmatic and Pilates breathing.
There are a number of muscles involved in breathing, primarily the diaphragm is our main muscle involved in respiration. It originates under the rib cage and connects with many other structures and muscles involved in our inner core unit, including the pelvic floor and lower back. It is quite common that if the diaphragm is not working properly, you may suffer with lower back pain.
Joseph Pilates emphasised lateral breathin
g greatly during his time. It is a breathing technique which encourages expansion of the rib cage. This will not only help strengthen the main breathing muscle, the diaphragm, but also the accessory breathing muscles, such as the intercostals.
To avoid a dysfunctional breathing pattern, we can use Pilates to strengthen the diaphragm to fully oxygenate the blood. The mobility of your rib cage will also increase, leading to improved movement of the spine and shoulder blades. Once you have established an effective breathing pattern, you will find Pilates exercises easier to perform and feel much better within yourself.