take a deep breath

I wanted to talk about breathing this week. For something that should happen automatically, it's often the hardest thing to get right! Most beginners starting off with Pilates struggle with the breathing. It's ok not to get it, as long as you breathe! But if you do get it, it is integral to proper form, pelvic floor health, core strength and general well being.

One of the reasons people feel so relaxed in Pilates classes is because of the focus on thoracic (or rib cage) breathing. Day to day we tend to use our secondary muscles for breathing - our chest and neck muscles - which leads to shallow breathing and is linked to our fight or flight instinct so keeps us on edge. By breathing into the rib cage we can take deeper breaths which helps us de-stress and brings a sense of wellbeing.

If you're not sure if you're doing it right, resting your hands on the bottom of your ribs can help give you feedback, as can wrapping a scarf around and breathing into the scarf. We've also been using the imagery of an umbrella opening and closing - you can visualise this easier if you click the link to see this video. It is an amazing animation of rib cage movement when breathing properly. It also shows the movement of the diaphragm and the lungs and then the muscles.

The other focus I talk about is the lifting of the pelvic floor as you exhale. I filmed this video to show how the movement of the diaphragm controls the breath. The pelvic floor then mimics the movement of diaphragm - this way it keeps pressure in the abdomen constant.

By training pelvic floor with the breath out on exertion you can prevent downward pressure on the pelvic floor and so prevent continence issues and prolapse. It also aids recovery of abdominal muscles and teaches proper recruitment of the core rather than an over-reliance on the six pack muscles - this imbalance in muscular strength can lead to back pain.

So by focusing on thoracic breathing we can get so many benefits - from relaxation to reduced back/neck pain, improved core strength and less incidence of pelvic floor dysfunction and more! So, take a deep breath!


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