In this crazy busy world of fast pace technology, instant information and insane schedules, I have become acutely aware of the need for simplicity in my life. I can sum this up in one word: breathing!
Breathing is the very essence of our existence. It is the key to calmness, inner peace and the absence of stress. Yet, certainly for me, it is something I do without thought, focus or attention. Until I hit my Pilates mat!
Oxygen forms part of almost every chemical reaction within our bodies so we need plenty of it. Indeed, our muscles cannot function without oxygen and it is for this reason that Joseph Pilates built his exercises around it. The purposeful breathing patterns specifically use the muscle contractions to help our bodies work hard but with control and support while on the mat (or equipment). Our breath leads the movement and gives it power.
But there’s so much more to it. Our breathing can influence our inner self, and our thoughts and psychology can influence our breath. The two are entwined. Breathing fully and deeply, with intention and focus, centres us. It frees tension in the body, relieves stress and encourages the release of endorphins which boosts a sense of well-being.
Deep breathing exercises can be used for almost anything. There is a wealth of information available on the subject and entire books dedicated to it. Physically, deep breathing stimulates the internal organs, including the heart, thereby increasing the circulation of oxygen and the expulsion of stale air. It is the most accessible internal cleansing mechanism, supporting the lymphatic system to help rid the body of toxins.
Psychologically, deep breathing can be used to combat fatigue, boost energy and vitality. Similarly, it can fight the negative impact of anxiety and anger, helping to restore mind and body to a balanced state.
It is no wonder then that after each Pilates session, I feel far more relaxed and happy than when I started but yet feel energised and ready for more. The purposeful breathing through each exercise sees to this. Pilates teaches us to use the space within our lungs fully, breathing deeply into all corners of the ribcage. It brings fluidity and strength to the movements, creating, at least in my body, a sense of grace and elegance – positive feelings in any woman’s book!
So, the challenge I put to myself, and to you, this summer: bring that deep, purposeful, intentional breathing into every part of every day. Fill your lungs and fill your life with the goodness of breath.