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The big deal about breathing

I can go on and on about breathing. It’s so ingrained into our existence and simultaneously something that you might not even think about as you go about your day.

Joe Pilates is quoted to have said:

“Above all else, learn to breathe correctly”

and then never writes about how to actually do said correct breathing.

Breathing is a big part of Pilates, yoga, meditation and other “mindful movement” modalities. Quite often I have clients who notice it’s hard to breathe while they are doing Pilates. Certain exercises like the 100 are especially difficult, and it’s really hard to pull their abdominal muscles in. The list goes on and on and these difficulties are directly related to the specific patterns of breath that they have.

The fact is we need to breathe to live, but we may not always breathe in an optimal way. Inefficient breath patterns might lead to abdominal weakness, pelvic floor dis function and chronic neck tension. According to Joe's philosophy on breathing:

“Lazy breathing converts the lungs, literally and figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying and dead germs.”

Even when we’re exercising hard -only about 50% of the air in our lungs gets expelled when we breathe out. Joseph Pilates believed that the air left in our lungs was a “haven for the multiplication of harmful germs,” and sought through his exercises to purge lungs, thus cleansing our systems.

This, he said, “is the equivalent of an internal shower.” Elaborating on the theme, he said: “As a heavy rainstorm freshens the water of a sluggish or stagnant stream, so does the Pilates method purify the bloodstream.”

Certainly Joe Pilates had a lot to say about breathing.  And yet his method wasn’t a breathing technique.  True, there are breathing exercises built within, and there is even a gizmo he created called a "Breath-a-cizer" designed to show you how to breathe while moving. Still, I've never had a client tell me, “I just want to focus on my breathing technique.”   (Although if someone did say that, I would be pretty excited!)

There are a whole range of benefits to a breathing practice and intentional breathing.

Here’s just a handful of some of the benefits that studies have shown breath work can provide. According to research, breath work may:

  • Boost mood

  • Decrease high blood pressure

  • Deepen relaxation

  • Reduce symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Improve alertness, focus, and memory

  • Increase energy

  • Boost immune system

  • Increase heart rate variability (a metric associated with longevity, fitness, and mental health)

  • Promote creativity

  • Promote quality sleep

  • Soothe emotions associated with grief and trauma

  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression

  • Reduce symptoms of asthma

  • Reduce symptoms of stress

There is just so much benefit to this practice, and the list goes on and on. I can attest that in the 25 years that I have been intentionally breathing I have personally benefited from several of these.

I am so grateful to have been able to discover this practice at such an early age. I know that going through college and stressful situations over the years I quite often found myself unconsciously breathing those deep breaths to clear my mind and relax.

Recently I completed a 10 week breathing practice designed to help the body release stored emotions and attune to the present moment.  It was an incredible experience on so many levels.

There are so many amazing facets to this essential and simple act.  It truly can be a practice you can work on at any time and can help you in so many ways.

It is the first thing we have ever done, and will also be the very last.

All this to say - I love breathing!

In summary, there are two main ways that the body executes the breathing process, but there are also breath holding  patterns that the body might adopt over time, and there are patterns of breath itself that we can practice to create specific outcomes.

If you would like to explore the patterns of breath that you hold, work on improving your ability to breathe, or just explore your body’s connection to breath and mind I would like to invite you to come to the newest class at the studio:

Breath, Mantra, Chakra.  Wednesdays at 4pm!

We will focus on the act of breathing, as well as movement to free your breath. We will also explore the body's healing power through breath as sound and vibration. I hope to see you there!


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