What is the very first thing we do when we enter this world? Simple question, simple answer–we breathe. It is also the last thing we do before we check back out. Anyone who has had the joy of witnessing the birth of a baby, or, conversely held someones hand while they “crossed over,” knows this first hand. When I began my studies of Pilates, (or Contrology as Joseph himself called his discipline) this message was strongly reinforced. When describing his 6 principles upon which his discipline was created, Joseph always left breathing for last so it would be the thing we remember best. If all else fails in Pilates, just breathe. To me, it is a metaphor for life.
So breathing is one of the few things our bodies do involuntarily, but can also be controlled voluntarily. During my own classes, I am always cueing people to breathe. Depending upon what class we are doing, that will determine what those cues will be, be there will always be reminders of how we should be breathing, because as much as I live to spread the word on why WELLNESS works, breathing is a vital ingredient in our recipe for wellness. If you don’t agree, go back and read the first 2 sentences of this entry!
Oxygen is carried through the body in the blood and has the job of feeding each muscle contraction. By practicing efficient breathing we increase the efficiency of the muscles in the rib cage and the diaphragm for the lungs to process incoming oxygen for maximum benefits. The lungs have NO muscles of their own and are dependent upon the respiratory muscles (intercostals) to enlarge the lung cavity during inhalation and contract the chest wall during exhalation. When practicing deep breathing, it is quite helpful to think of the rib cage expanding (like an umbrella opening) on the inhale and contracting (close the umbrella all the way) on an exhale. If this is new for you, try it naked in front of a mirror or place your hands on your side ribs and think about inhaling into your hands and then using them to help facilitate the gathering of the ribs back together on the exhale.
It’s important to keep in mind that normal age-related changes in the respiratory system include increased chest wall stiffness, reduced elasticity in the lungs and decreased respiratory muscle strength. This does NOT have to be the norm IF you learn and continue to practice deep breathing exercises.
There are a bazillion good reasons to work on your breathing exercises. While they can be done ANYWHERE and don’t take more than a minute or so, a bounty of benefits will be yours. While these exercises will certainly impact physical improvement in your lungs, they will also reduce stress and depression. In fact, current research in this field documents decreased anxiety and depression scores, increased cognitive performance and reduction in frequency of panic attacks.
Yes, Carolanne, I thought of you this morning when I posted this entry. I hope that you are remembering to do your breathing exercises and recommended by the doctor. I know you are still in pain, but glad to hear you are off the heavy meds.
Thanks to all of you for your good wishes. Thanks also to those that have recently visited the site offering some great feedback. Ken, if you happen to be reading this, I believe an RSS link is at the very bottom of the page. I have no idea how it works, so maybe one of you will try it and let me know. I am guessing once you “subscribe” it will bring my daily blog to your computer automatically, but again, I really have no idea, just trying to jump on some of the suggestions that were made to me by those a little more technologically savvy than myself.
Much love to all and remember – and I will save this for last…