Now more than ever, our God given breathe has never been so precious. The after effects of Corona virus have left millions still struggling with short breaths and fatigue, just to name a few! It seems more important than ever before to highlight the benefits of utilising our breath fully. Yes, I have had some laugh at me even tell me that they are too old to relearn breathing techniques and they know enough. I remain humbled by how much Pilates continues to change peoples lives despite starting late.
Pilates benefits are endless! Pilates promotes lateral breathing, which expands your overall breathing capacity. Breathing technique helps us gain energy and also to relax, proprioception, ability and resilience to deal with Chronic pain better. Chronic pain is a term used for the length of time of a person’s suffering, more so the type of suffering.
As some of you might already know, I suffered an injury which was complicated due to my hypermobility. As a result of Pilates, I maintain my daily function pain free almost but have needed other aids at times such as sports tape, acupuncture to help me release tension. Other factors can also result in my hands fatiguing and tightening. The cold weather, too much desk work (a normal day for most), stress!
During this last year of lockdown, life has been beyond stressful for us all! I send love and my sympathies if you have lost a loved one or suffered any losses. Losing homes, jobs and loosing our normal as we know it can have serious mental health affects also. I personally have found this one the hardest but finding myself having to push through one day at a time. How about you? I know the grey skies, snow and prolonged screen times have been testing even my happy self! Despite our best efforts to stay safe, sane and well – our adrenaline glands which need to be looked after to produce Cortisol (stress Hormones) are under constant stress as our situation stays the same.
In this highly pressured time, most people are turning to exercise to help with wellness but not all exercise is ‘GOOD’ exercise. High intensity exercises such as running or HITT will increase the level of Cortisol which can result in high blood pressure, weight gain and even osteoporosis! Even though you might see bad advice on ‘Google’, telling you to go hard, changing your high impact exercise routine during your cycle with a safe option like Pilates will relax your mind and even help alleviate your pain.
Breathing regulation and control are affected by our emotions and vice versa. Studies on emotions such as pleasure, anger, laughter and pain dating back to 1916 show us that our breath has a unique signature. For example, we know that people who are depressed tend to be shallow breathers and often hyperventilate.
Whilst most of us do not classically hyperventilate, our pain, anxiety/panic, depression, insomnia, OCD, hyperactivity, asthma, gut problems, increase blood pressure etc can at-least be partly caused by not breathing well. Generally, people diagnosed with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder frequently use a ‘bracing’ pattern with breath holding in an attempt to improve stability and use more force.
We take breathing for granted. Breathing is not as simple as breathing in (O2 and breathing out (CO2). Whilst the main production of respiration is to get O2 into the cells to help with energy production and the many cellular reactions that our bodies need to survive, this action is dependent on the adequate level of CO2 being present in our bodies. CO2 is the highest in our system when we are happy.
We are often told to ‘Breathe deeply’. This concept has been taught in Yoga and meditation for many centuries. This often leads a person to a state of drowsiness, a state mistaken for a meditative state. This leads to Hypoxia, as there is too much air is being inhaled. Shortage of CO2 in the body reduces cellular uptake of O2, leading to the reduction of O2 in the bloodstream travelling to the brain and muscles. This induces a state of Hypoxia; which is often mistaken for the relaxed meditative state that Yoga and meditation hope to achieve. If the Hypoxia is localised, extreme pain may also be felt at or around the site.
Normal breathing requires the use of our Diaphragm and intercostal muscles also known as the primary respiratory muscles. Sadly for the shallow breathers, there are worse side affects. If the primary breathing muscles do not engage, it forces the secondary muscles to work. These include he upper Trapezius, Scalene, sternocleidomastoid, Levator scapulae and Pectoralis minor. The required effort to be activated which in term can cause adverse underlining issues to your alignment longterm. Especially spending our days sedentary, the force of gravity propels our necks forward deactivating our deep Neck flexor muscles.
Knowing what I now know, I still did not realise, how much bracing still infringes in my potential full recovery. This lockdown, I went back to the beginning and spent time working on the root of Pilates structure, the breath! It is truly incredible how much better we can feel after a focussed minimum 30 mins session. While the body rejuvenates, the mind can experience Homostatus, some might say they have only experienced from a good drink or smoke!
I challenge you to give yourself some me time & join me for a special (Donations ONLY) 1.5hr session – ‘Breathe with me’ this coming Mothers Day, Sunday 14th 3pm!
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References – The Health Equation, Rehab U