The breathe of life… or a pain in the neck?

Breathing how can this be a difficult thing.

It isn’t because we do it without thinking as we should do to stay

alive, but to breathe in order to relax and get more

energy from your body or move more effectively is slightly more tricky.


Quite often when clients are doing Pilates because

they are thinking so much about all the other stuff,

the technique, keeping the body moving, etc, they tend

to forget to breathe and then go home and wonder

why their neck hurts or their shoulders are tense.


Day to day breathing tends to be more into the neck

and shoulders and if you place your hand on your

chest and the other hand on your belly, feel where

you breathe. Notice if you can breathe through

your nose — both sides.

Breathe and keep breathing.

Is your chest rising?

Are your shoulders rising?

Is your belly expanding?

(and by that I don’t mean sticking out like a pot belly.)

Your diaphragm is an amazing powerhouse of energy

that needs to get used otherwise you are only partially using your lungs. 

So what happens when you breathe. The diaphragm contracts when you inhale.

The chest and top of stomach should expand as the pressure

drops inside to draw air into your lungs. You don’t want to be trying to hold your

stomach in by over recruiting that girdle of muscles around

your middle, your transversus.

You could try laying on the floor, knees bent, cushion under head and put

hands on belly. See if you can breathe into your belly and feel it

expand with the inhale. As you start to achieve this action then

you could place a small book on your stomach to really see how well

you are inhaling and using that diaphragm. When you exhale don’t try

to add too much tension to your stomach muscles just let your stomach collapse naturally.

Once you are happy with this and allowing your diaphragm to

work try it standing up which will require much more focus.

Again don’t tense up the shoulders of they shrug up don’t

worry just keep your focus on what is happening in the centre. 



So think about this – your lungs are above your diaphragm

so if your diaphragm is not moving up and down, contracting and flattening on

inhalation and relaxing and returning to its dome shape on exhalation

you are going to be making it really difficult for your lungs

to work properly.

Visualise space in the upper middle of your body as you breathe in and then

that space decreases as you breathe out. Find your rhythm and stick to it.

See if you can deepen your breaths and play around with how long it takes

you to breathe in and how long it takes you to breathe out.

Notice what happens to your breathing if you breathe from

one side of your nose and then the other, if you breathe

through your mouth. Just play around. It will be relaxing

and very beneficial.

We will always come back to breathing as it is

the essence of life and can be a major obstacle in

withholding tension in your body if you can’t

learn to relax into your breathing.

So patience and keep on breathing!