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So, breathing...simple right? Well, maybe not. We take breathing for granted much of the time but the impact of breathing can be felt across the body and enable more efficient movement if done effectively. Pilates and Yoga both emphasise the importance of breath but take slightly different takes no how and why to do this. From my perspective on how breathing into the upper ribcage can loosen up the thoracic spine and enable more free movement throughout the spinal column, decreasing the stress on those areas that are more prone to tension (the over-worked lower back and neck/shoulders...you know which is your weak spot!) recent training in Pilates has helped me to develop my knowledge so here are some techniques to try to allow your breathing to improve your posture and movement and to work your abs.
In Pilates, several breathing techniques can be used but one method is emphasized: lateral breathing.
Joseph Pilates stated that exercisers should breathe fully, taking advantage of every breath cycle to draw in lots of fresh air and subsequently rid the lungs of every bit of stale air. The goal is to oxygenate the blood, increase the overall circulation, and experience the rejuvenating sensation that a full, deep breath delivers.
As one of the six original Pilates principles, the breath is a foundation of Pilates movement. Exercises in Pilates are designed to co-ordinate with the breath, using the inhale and exhale pattern. The breath is the point of focus to initiate and support movement. Learning the specific lateral breathing technique will not only establish good form for beginners but also enhance and improve results for more advanced-level practitioners.
Pilates is well known as a multi-tasking exercise method and learning lateral breathing will be no different. Keeping the abdominal muscles pulled inward and upward and also taking a great big inhale at the same time can feel like an exercise in advanced coordination. But that's exactly what will happen and you'll be an expert in no time at all.
What Not to Do
'Normal' breathing typically looks like this:
1. Place your hands on your low belly. Take a deep breath and let your abdominals expand outward into your hands.
2. Now exhale and empty the air watching your hands draw into the waist.
3. Take a few more breaths just to feel the natural rise and fall of the belly.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with this breathing pattern, but now that you've reviewed a normal regular style of breath control, let's move on to the lateral breathing technique.
What to Do
In this technique, we draw the breath upward and out of the low belly and focus on redirecting the breath into the back of the body and the sides of the ribcage.
1. Move your hands from the low belly in the prior exercise to the sides of the body around the rib cage for this next exercise.
2. Take a deep breath into the sides and back of the body. Remember that your lungs sit inside your torso and your ribs can expand with each breath. Feel your ribs pushing your hands outward as you inhale.
3. On the exhale your ribs will contract and the hands will draw back towards each other. Repeat this breathing pattern several times until you feel the ribs expanding and contracting.
Taking it further: Add the Abs and a Band
When the abs are pulled in properly, they protect the spine and act like a supportive corset for the whole trunk. Knowing how to breathe well while keeping the abs contracted gives us extra support throughout an exercise. As you practice lateral breathing, you will find that you are able to perform Pilates exercises (and maybe just move!) with greater ease. It helps make the scoop of abs easier and enhances the sense of lengthening the spine with the breath.
This exercise will help you feel the lateral expansion of the ribcage with the breath:
Diaphragmatic breathing, with a natural extension of the belly on an inhale, is still the healthiest way to breathe regularly. Adding lateral breath to your diaphragmatic breathing will increase your overall breathing capacity.
Have a go at breathing and take this further as a postural exercise - once you have got the hang of it see how this affects the position of the pelvis and the shoulders...you might then see what the fuss is about!
For a massage, postural assessment and assistance with rehabilitation exercises (or assistance with breathing techniques!) get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, book online via www.charlottelattinmassage.com or call me on 07725 334604.