Take a deep breath… And release. That may be the first time today you have been conscious of the essential activity we call breathing! An important part of life and movement, breathing delivers oxygen to our bloodstream (food for your body’s cells!) and conveniently expels a waste material called carbon dioxide. But did you know that there are different ways to be conscious of our breathing? Tracking and manipulating your breathing style and rate can be used for relaxation, meditation, pain relief and many forms of exercise.
Conscious breathing is an important part of the Pilates experience. The technique that commonly compliments Pilates movements is called posterior lateral breathing. This just means that you breathe in and expand your lungs into the back and sides of your ribcage. It increases your breathing capacity (more delicious oxygen for your cells!) and encourages an increase in your lung function (your muscles shouldn’t be the only ones having fun in the studio!). The expansion in your ribcage and focus into your back provides support for your lumbar spine and allows for more movement in your thoracic spinal area, encouraging better posture.
Posterior lateral breathing is not just for special occasions. You can try it next time you are relaxing, meditating or doing your Pilates homework. On a comfortable surface (yoga mat, towel, bearskin rug etc) lie on your back, with bent knees and feet on the floor at hip width and breathe in. Consciously feel your breath gently moving into the back of your ribcage and out to the sides of your lungs. It should feel as though your ribcage is fanning out laterally from your spine. And breathe out.
This technique isn’t just for the floor. Try it when you are sitting in your office chair or taking a walk. It’s amazing what a little extra oxygen and a few moments of conscious breathing can do for your day.