Breath and movement
We can divide breathing into two main types: the abdominal breathing and chest breathing. Abdominal breathing has the great power to dispose of anxiety and in many disciplines such as Pilates it is performed completely, thus also moving the back and side areas corresponding to the areas touched by the diaphragm (remember that the diaphragm fits into the dorsal vertebrae ). To try the diaphragmatic breathing just try to “inflate” the belly while inhaling, without moving the chest and exhaling trying to “deflate” the belly as much as possible. It helps a lot in execution hold one hand or both on the abdomen.
This type of breathing helps bring one increased body awareness and increases circulation and blood supply to all the organs contained in the abdominal cavity, inside the peritoneal sac. They improve digestive functions, decrease blood pressure and also increase the level of general concentration. The whole posture improves, the shoulders are opened, the muscles around the spine are strengthened.
In chest breathing, inhalation involves the expansion of the rib cage due to the air entering and the lungs which dilate. When you exhale the diaphragm relaxes and the rib cage shrinks. In this breathing the diaphragm does not work to its full potential in either phase. The continuation of this type of breathing reaches the level of the collarbones and is called clavicular breathing. Once the thoracic is complete, the collarbones and shoulders are raised.
The maximum would be to be able to explore all three breaths separately and thoroughly to then unite them and often make complete and profound ones.
Breathing in free body exercises or with loads
Breathing gives us energy and greater strength, makes the body vital and active, dynamic, elastic, fills it with oxygen. A difference must be made in the ways of breathing that affect the free body and weight-bearing exercises. When working free body, correct breathing is inspired by the principles of classical respiratory biomechanics.
When you take in air, the diaphragm contracts, with a consequent lowering of the same, which then pushes all the intestines down, which are thus crushed and compressed. At the same time thanks to the intercostal and other respiratory muscles, the ribs rise and the rib cage expands. So when in bodyweight exercises it expands, the spine extends and it is better to inhale, take air. When you bend forward, you close yourself, then it is good to exhale. The body, if left to do, feels what to do and this type of breathing then becomes natural.
If instead we decide to work with weights, when the muscle contraction or concentric phase (also called active phase) occurs, it is good to exhale; when the passive phase is performed, in return, then when it is decontracted (in the eccentric phase), it is good to perform the inhalation.
Never block your breathing
It must in any case avoid going apnea (especially in the loading phases if you work with weights), both in the free body and in the exercises with load to avoid excessive intrathoracic pressure and problems with the cardio-circulatory system, caused by going into oxygen debt, hindering the venous return to the heart. Not breathing results always wrong as it takes away from the body the great value of discovering its limits also through the oxygen we put in. If we stop breathing we learn late, badly and with restriction. Always remembering to breathe instead, let’s expand our engine models and renew them.
We should also ask ourselves in everyday life – and not just in the gym or in the Pilates studio – if we are breathing right or if we have short, anxious breaths. The nice thing about breathing is that we can easily regulate it if we maintain a minimum of self-observation. In this sense, breath and consciousness go hand in hand and enrich each other. Paying attention to the breath is tantamount to loving yourself a lot. Putting a hand on your stomach, for example, is a great way to get immediate contact with the way we’re breathing. For various reasons – often given by the stress of everyday life or by pathologies – they can occur alterations among which we mention:
- dyspnea, or breathing carried on with breathlessness, fatigue;
- apnea, in which you stop breathing;
- tachypnea, in which you breathe quickly, suddenly increasing the respiratory rate;
- bradypnea, in which the frequency decreases;
- hyperpnea, which implies an increase in breathing depth and rate.
The body has its own form of wisdom, although when we learn something new we may subconsciously go into a state of tension that doesn’t make us breathe well or that makes us keep the breath. Instead, by relaxing, blocks are removed and tissues open, muscles work well and bones and joints move smoothly. The mind also draws its benefits both in the sense of concentration and focus and in the sense of release of stress and anxiety or nervous states, bringing the movement back to a mental condition of well-being supported by the natural physiological function of the breath.