The Importance of Breathing

Most of us go about our day without the slightest thought to the fact that we are breathing. This automatic response in our body nourishes the brain, muscles, cells and organs, allowing us to perform simple and challenging tasks with ease and success.

On our inhalation, the lungs expand (like a balloon) to receive fresh air and to make room for this our ribcage widens and our diaphragm drops down. The breath we take in is full of valuable oxygen that is then exchanged for carbon dioxide through little sacs found within our lungs. On our exhalation, the lungs deflate (just like a balloon loosing its air) and the diaphragm rises upwards to create a dome shape within the now decreased size of the ribcage. Muscles between each rib and around our torso help to facilitate this action.

But, there are many factors that can disrupt this natural function that includes illness, poor posture, emotions (sadness, excitement), injury, tension and/or STRESS. In Pilates we focus on breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth to help replenish and relax the body. Tension and stress held in the neck, shoulders, stomach, back and face can decrease the amount of fresh air we take in and toxic air we let out.

If we never achieve a full cycle of air (in/out) then we may not be cleansing completely, leaving us susceptible to colds, injury, stiffness, headaches and fatigue.

So test your breathing skills now…

• Sit up tall. Eyes can be open or closed.
• Slowly breathe in through your nose while counting to 5 (in your head), filling your lungs like balloons, with the shoulders relaxed. Slowly breathe out through your mouth while counting to 5 (in your head).
• Repeat this 3-4 times (stop if you begin to feel dizzy or lightheaded).

Were you able to achieve a full cycle of breath while slowly counting?
Did you feel your body relax a bit?
Did your mind soften?
Did your heart rate slow down?

If you said yes, then try this little exercise throughout your day or anytime you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or tense. If it was hard to breathe in or out on a 5 count then try counting to 3.

Happy breathing!