Breathing - We breathe more than 20,000 times every day. It is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do before we die. While this vital input of oxygen into our bodies occurs most of our day on autopilot, conscious breathing can have a significant impact on virtually all bodily functions. In his book, Return to Life through Contrology, Joseph Pilates discusses the importance of learning how to breathe fully and completely through active inhalation and exhalation and the resulting wide-ranging benefits for your overall health and energy; "To breathe correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying very hard to “squeeze” every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth." - Joseph Pilates from Return to Life Through Contrology
Getting a little technical, your diaphragm is attached to your lower ribcage, thoracic wall, and lumbar vertebrae. When breathing is executed properly the diaphragm expands into the abdominal cavity on the inhale. This movement causes a pressure change which pulls air into the lungs. As a result of the diaphragmatic movement, intra-abdominal pressure increases and lumbar spine stiffness, better known as stability, also increases. The diaphragm acts in coordination with the abdominal muscles, spinal muscles, and pelvic floor to create lumbar stability in all directions. This is what some in the Pilates community refers to as “360 degree of stiffness.” The contraction of the diaphragm creates core stability from the inside-out.
Focusing on inhale and exhale during movement helps your body move in a more efficient way. As your mind focuses on the breathing, your awareness naturally spreads to the parts of the body in motion and you feel the connection taking place. You’ll find this meeting of mind and body becomes instinctive, to the point that the next time you’re practicing Pilates, or lifting your baby, or running, walking, even laughing, your breath will fall in line and you’ll feel more coordinated and in command of your activity.
Joseph was not an educated man in the traditional sense but intuitively knew and by careful observation, learned the importance of breath. "To properly deflate the lungs is an art in itself and this final step in correct breathing is least understood. ...It is seldom, if ever, taught unless the individual is privately coached by one who understands what it really is all about." - Joseph Pilates from Your Health
Are you creating the connection between your breathe and your practice of Pilates? If not, work with you instructor on the most basic of the Pilates Principles.
To learn more on the origin of Pilates visit: https://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/pilates/origins-of-pilates.html