Breathing is probably the most important “task” we perform every moment of every day in our lives, yet very little thought and attention is given to it. Our optimal breathing pattern is adversely affected by imbalanced posture, workstation demands and lack of movement in our daily life. Reduced breath capacity may contribute to lack of energy, a sluggish digestive system and even illness.
Breathing is very much like posture - it is never “perfect”. We tend to be unaware of our posture and of how we breathe. We get used to “being in our posture” and to not breathing properly or fully. To feel this very clearly - sit slouched (as you probably do for long periods of time every day…) and take a deep breath in. You will immediately feel that your body wants to be more upright and that when you sit yourself upright, you can take a much deeper breath in! During all these hours that you spend slouched every day, your body is not getting as much oxygen as it should... Injury and pain, as well as stress and negative emotions, can also contribute to bad posture and shallow breathing.
The good news, as you might have guessed, is that Pilates, Yoga and Mindfulness can do wonders to your breath capacity and health. To start with, the fact you are moving more and in particular moving your rib cage in all directions means you are breathing more air in and squeezing more used air out. In both Yoga and Pilates you will be performing the movements while drawing your tummy muscles in, which means that you will be breathing more into the side and back of your rib cage, improving and increasing lung capacity (and releasing muscular tension at the same time). Focusing on your breath and doing specific movements will make you feel and understand your unique breathing pattern and how you can improve it. For instance, most people breathe more to one side of the ribs than the other, which can be changed and improved upon greatly.
Pranayama (Yogi breath practice) is believed to improve cardiovascular health by increasing blood circulation and oxygen capacity of the blood. It helps clear the nasal passages, improve lung function and can also bring down hypertension. On another level, breathing is one of the most “simple” ways to access mindfulness and “being in the moment”. Connecting the mind to the physical body through breath practice improves concentration and awareness and has a calming effect on the nervous system.
So, with so many great benefits, all that is left to do now is get on your mat and practice. Check out these classes, which focus on breathing
Have a wonderful, sunny and breath filled month