This should put into perspective just how very important our breath is. But how many times a day do you actually think about your breathing? Whether you are breathing correctly or how it is affecting your body?
Breathing is one of the cornerstones to our workouts on the Pilates mat. In fact, Pilates is a fantastic form of exercise to help co-ordinate breathing and movement together. Master this and all workouts become more powerful, safer for your body and more enjoyable.
But what exactly does breathing do for our body? I don’t mean to take you right back to Biology 101 but let’s just review the specifics of what breathing is about: you are drawing oxygen rich air into the body and expelling unwanted carbon dioxide out. Inside the body, the vital oxygen is taken to our cells where all the action of metabolism happens. These processes of chemical and physical change are continuous and include a build-up of new tissue, replacement of old tissue, conversion of food to energy, disposal of waste materials, reproduction and so on. Essentially activities that we would characterize as "life."
When our natural “fight or flight” system (sympathetic nervous system) is triggered it raises our heart rate, speeds up our breathing, and stress hormones like cortisol start pumping through our bloodstream. All this to prepare our body to face a threat. This is helpful if you are crossing the road in front of a speeding car but not so helpful if you are running late for work and stuck in traffic. In fact, regularly putting your body into this heightened state is damaging to your health. We will touch on this further another time but let’s turn back to breathing.
Practicing slow, steady breathing can have a dramatic impact on your state of calm. The opposite to the “fight or flight” is our parasympathetic system. It controls rest, relax, and our digestion. Using deep breathing to trigger the parasympathetic system will lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and guide your body into a state of calm and healing.
When we hit the Pilates mat, our focus instantly turns to our breath and combining it with purposeful movement. We use strong and wide breathing across the ribs to encourage the core muscles to contract, provide better support for our spine and strengthen our movements. This is fantastic for building solid core strength, activating deep stabilising muscles and teaches the body to move more freely from a secure centre.
The rhythms that our breathing and movement creates helps to eliminate stress and clear the mind. We incorporate focus and control to our exercises which requires our concentration thereby eliminating all thoughts and worries away from the mat.
So just starting with good breathing is the perfect way to look after your body, improve your health, improve your mental health and prepare for an amazing workout which will leave you feeling even better.
Join us on Saturday 5th February for our breathing workshop where we will uncover the not-so-secret trick to breathing on the Pilates mat.