Easy Fitness–Pilates Breathing

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but breathing is fundamental to health.  I’m not just talking about the fact that if you cease doing it you’ll die; I mean that if you breathe healthily, you will feel healthy.  My mother was an ardent student of Lamaze when she was expecting me.  As a result, she was able to bring my 10 pound 2 ounce infant form into this world au naturale.  Yep, that’s right.  Ten pounds with no pain meds and, possibly even more impressive, no crying out.  She simply monitored her breathing and focused her mind and blocked out the pain.  And, make no mistake about it, she had pain.  In fact, her hips came out of joint and were sore for 3 months following delivery.

After her Lamaze success, my mom became convinced that controlling your breath could control your emotions and your emotional responses.  She told us to “breathe through your mouth” to handle just about everything from crying at a funeral to calming nervousness before a speech at school.  Now I realize, she was on to something.

My Pilates instructor tells me the same thing, and I’d like you to try it.  Lie on your back with your arms at your side.  Relax your butt muscles, but stay long.  Don’t let your shoulders ride up.  You should be comfortably stretched long on the floor or bed or wherever you are.  (I’m on mat on the floor at work when I do this.  If my boss ever sees me, I’m doomed never to get a promotion.) Take few breaths and let your stomach rise and fall with each.  Make sure it’s your stomach that’s moving and not your chest.  If your chest is moving, breathe deeper and place your palm on your belly to monitor its movement.

Once you’re sure your breath is traveling all the way to your stomach, tighten your stomach muscles.  Just pull them in as if you are pressing your belly button into your spine.  When you need to inhale, force your ribs out to the sides, but keep your abdominals pressed to your spine.  You may need to practice this a little before you get the hang of forcing your ribs out and holding your stomach in.

Now, we’re getting to the really good, Pilates part.  Inhale through your nose, forcing your ribs out.  Then, exhale through your mouth as if you are fogging up a window.  Open your mouth and force the air right out of the back of your throat by pushing it with your abdominals.  If you do it right, you will feel your abs working at the deepest, lowest part.  If you don’t feel it right away, try placing your palm on your abs and focusing the energy again.  Bring your muscles and your breath together by using the former to expel the latter.

Once you have the hang of it, you’ll know it.  You’ll feel muscles waking up.  I took Pilates this afternoon and I could feel the soreness when I just followed my own instructions to you.  Seriously, you can get a little ab workout just by doing some Pilates, open-mouth breathing.  Linking your abs and your breath like this is a great practice before any exercise since you should always have your abs pulled in tight to support your lower back.  Try adding Pilates breathing to your workouts intensify them the easy way!

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