Pilates Breathing - Discussion

Proper Pilates breathing serves as an important element in the execution of Pilates exercises. Joseph Pilates, the founder, once stated that "breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it".

Most babies demonstrate a full deep breath, seeming to breathe with the entire bodies, their stomachs moving up and down in perfect diaphragmatic breath. Yet at some point in life many of us forget how to breathe and instead take shallow labored breaths.

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A note about Pilates Breathing - Discussion

In natural health and healing, we believe in holistic health and healing, as we realize that different parts of the human body are highly interlinked, often beyond Man's understanding. We also believe that the body has the ability to heal itself of any disease, even supposedly incurable diseases.

In order to do so, the body needs the support of some basic dietary and lifestyle good health habits, such as a full body detox and a proper understanding and application of nutrition. Taking these fundamental health steps will greatly magnify the effects and benefits of any of our health-promoting efforts, including the use of certain holistic remedies.

Improper breathing expends far too much energy on the in efficient uptake of oxygen. A full, deep breath will allow you to exercise much more efficiently and effectively. Exercise will become easier.

Often, beginners tend to take shallow, rapid or ragged breaths, using the top of the lungs only. Pilates called this the "lazy" breath. Alternately, especially in a difficult new position, the breath becomes "stuck", or held. When performing your exercises, work to become mindful of your Pilates breathing, and try to elongate each inhale and exhale. Many Pilates instructors recommend a few Pilates breathing exercises before beginning abdominal exercises, so as to focus their students attention on creating a full deep breath.

The basic Pilates breathing exercises request that students lie on their back, in a relaxed position. The knees should be bent, and the head propped up on a towel or pillow if this feels more comfortable. The student should place a hand on the stomach so as to feel the movement of slow gentle breaths filling the lungs, expanding the chest, and filling the abdominal cavity.

A proper diaphragmatic breath will raise the stomach slightly on the inhale, and contract and lower the stomach on the exhale as the breath moves out of the air passages. Attention should be paid to shortening the pause between inhale and exhale in order to make the transition as smooth as possible. It helps to visualize the breath as a cleansing wave, beginning in the lower abdomen and gently sweeping through the heart center (your core) as it proceeds up through your body.

Inhalation and exhalation should be equal in length and depth. This exercise, sometimes called the "rising and falling breath", can also be practiced as a mindful meditation prior to beginning practice. Pilates states that the breath should be exhaled "on the point of effort", that is, the breath should be used as a tool when moving into and out of poses. You should think of the breath as facilitating the movement by creating the energy execute it. A natural full breath, rather than exaggerated one is key.

Some beginners, especially those who have not made a habit of breathing in a deep way, may find themselves to be slightly dizzy after the first few Pilates breathing sessions. The additional intake of oxygen sometimes causes dizziness or lightheadedness if the body has not experienced it for some time; persist as this initial feeling quickly passes, and the benefits of proper breath are numerous. Benefits include:

  • Improved cardiac health and stamina, leading to better cardiac health and athletic stamina

  • Prevention of lung infection or disease by improving blood and oxygen circulation to these vital organs

  • Increased relaxation response and ability to deal with stressful situations, as well as a general sense of calm and well being

  • Increased energy efficiency and a feeling of vitality

  • Enhanced gas exchange in your lungs

  • Strengthening of the diaphragm

  • Increased lung capacity

  • Enhancement and flexibility of ribs and spine

  • Provides a gentle internal massage to abdominal organs

  • Enhanced function of stomach, intestines and lymph system

  • Lower blood pressure

Remember to practice the breath each time you exercise, which should be a minimum of three or four times per week. Daily shorter exercise sessions improve stamina quicker than do prolonged sessions completed only one or two times per week.

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