Whilst we take about 20,000 breaths per day, most of us don’t think about our breathing. Besides the moment when your Pilates instructor is asking you to exhale when you feel you should be inhaling!
Like me, you might be feeling the repercussions of the imposed quarantine, self-isolation, physical distancing, separation from loved ones and of course, not being able to go to the Pilates studio.
Our physiological and psychological state can influence our breathing patterns but in reverse, our breathing patterns can influence our physiological and psychological wellbeing.
Effective breathing can not only provide you with a greater sense of mental clarity, but it can also help you sleep better, digest food more efficiently, improve your body’s immune response, and reduce stress levels.
Did you know that during relaxed breathing we use more muscles as we inhale than when we do to exhale?
This is because the muscles work hard to create more space in our chest cavity which in turn allows more air to flow into our lungs, providing more oxygen to our body.
The primary muscle which is responsible for this action is the diaphragm. This thin dome shape muscle sits at the bottom of your rib cage (imagine a parachute sitting below the lungs).
As you inhale, the diaphragm contracts pulling the outside edges of the parachute up, flattening the dome, which results in the ribs moving up and out. This allows the lungs to have ample room to expand.
Let’s take a few minutes to observe your natural breathing pattern. Sitting on a chair or standing:
- Take a nice deep breath in and out – do you breathe in through your nose or mouth?
- Now place your hand on the top of your chest, just below your neck, once again take a deep breath in and out – do you feel any movement?
- Now place a hand on each side of your lower rib cage – take a deep breath in and out – any movement there?
- Lastly, place your hand over your navel – one more deep breath in and out, what do you feel during that breath?
The benefits of taking a few moments to breathe more effectively are invaluable for all of us. Here’s a simple exercise you can do daily to reflect on your breathing. It’ll help improve your oxygen intake and the strength of your diaphragm.
Once again sitting tall on a chair or standing, place one hand on your chest and one hand on your navel:
- Take a few deep breaths in and out.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Feel what is happening.
- Relax your shoulders as you continue with some deep breaths in and out.
- Let your breath drop down into your belly, feel the bottom ribs gently lift and expand out. Feel your belly rise on every inhale and allow it all to relax on the exhale.
At first, you might not feel much movement in your belly or in your rib cage. That’s fine, try not to force it, you should feel relaxed and let the movement flow naturally. As you practice this exercise each day you might notice an increase in movement as the muscles begin to respond. This will allow the rib cage and diaphragm to move freely giving room for the lungs to expand and improving your oxygen intake.
Even if isolation has resulted in quieter times, it’s important for all of us to slow down and take a few breaths. Allow your breathing to help your body cope with the stress of lockdown and the impact this pandemic is having on your daily life.
Keep up your Pilates practice with our online Pilates At Home sessions – join a class or take a private session with your favourite Move Move instructor, or get a program to follow yourself.
Not sure which option is right for you? Just Ask, we’ll help.