Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Importance of Using Your Pilates Breath

     The first Pilates principal is BREATHING and I do believe it is the most overlooked Pilates principal by Pilates students.  When I say I want to hear everyone exhale, this is no joke. It sometimes feels like a bribe when I tell my students that they will have stronger cores if they truly use their Pilates breath, however it is not a bribe but the honest to god truth.  This Article Optimal Breathing: Pilates Breathwork By Brian Alger has many great points to help further convince you of the importance of using your Pilates breath with your Pilates exercises. Read On!

Optimal Breathing: Pilates Breathwork
by Brian Alger
http://exploring-life.ca/1181/optimal-breathing-pilates-breathwork/

[Exploring Life] Correct breathing is a primary goal and basic fundamental in the Pilates method. Practicing Pilates exercises while using abnormal breathing patterns can be very detrimental to both the body and mind. Unless a student is capable of breathing correctly under normal conditions, the probability of breathing correctly during exercises is poor. Breathwork is therefore the first component of Pilates training.

Pilates’ Original Principles of Breathing
In Contrology and Your Health [1], Joseph Pilates emphasizes the importance and elements of proper breathing. He viewed correct breathing as an essential element in health and well being. Pilates also viewed breathing as a neglected aspect of exercise, and poor breathing habits as a root cause of poor health of body and mind.
"Lazy breathing converts the lungs, figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying, and dead germs as well as supplying an ideal haven for the multiplication of other harmful germs. Therefore, above all, learn how to breathe correctly. (Pilates 1934) 
Pilates emphasized the need for practicing and developing the maximum capacity of the lungs. In other words, the student was taught to breathe to their maximum capacity. Special emphasis is placed on the exhalation:
 "To breathe correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying 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… SQUEEZE EVERY ATOM OF AIR FROM YOUR LUNGS UNTIL THEY ARE ALMOST AS FREE OF AIR AS IS A VACUUM" (Pilates 1934)
In educating children Pilates stated that the first lesson is that of correct breathing. (Pilates 1945) He reiterated the basic importance of learning to take a full breath that emphasized a complete exhalation. 
"The lungs cannot be completely deflated at first without considerable effort. With perseverance, however, the desired results can be accomplished and with increasing power, gradually and progressively develop the lungs to their maximum capacity. That will actually cause the chest to balloon and at the same time bring practically every other muscle into play. Thus the child’s posture will then be normal" (natural). 
"With proper breathing and correct posture, the child has no need for artificial exercise."(Pilates 1945) 
Correct breathing is intimately connected with correct posture, since full activation of the breathing muscles also stimulate postural alignment and strength. With correct breathing and posture in place, a child can then simple enjoy the act of playing (walking, running, jumping, tumbling, climbing, etc.) as a natural and normal means of exercise.

Pilates Breathwork 
Timing of the Breath: Throughout the thirty-four mat exercises that form the foundation of Contrology, Pilates precisely coordinated a series of movements with an inhalation or exhalation. Breathing was a focus of conscious control and attention and is required to be accurately timed to specific kinds of movements within an exercise. In this sense, the rhythm of breathing is linked to and inseparable from the specific body movements being made. Thus, the Pilates method integrates the benefits of conscious breathing [2] with postural integrity and body mechanics[3].
In my own training, breathwork usually occupies the first couple minutes of a session and is focused on taking a deep, full breath. However, learning an unfamiliar exercise usually focuses on specific kinds of movements. In the early stages of learning a new exercise, I think it is important to first establish the breath relative to the movements, without being overly concerned, at least in the beginning, with precise body mechanics. The reason for this is simple, if the student gets the breathing rhythm wrong in the beginning, it can be very hard to change later on. 
"Breathwork Principle 1: Establish correct breathing in all exercises is of primary importance. In training students, the first and most important aspect to teach them is how inhalations and exhalations are timed to specific sequences of movements in an exercise. Correctly visualizing and achieving the correct flow of breath is more important that making precise body adjustments in the early stages of learning the exercise. Once breath is under control, then precise body mechanics can be focused on."(Daniel Lyon- Pilates for Men) 
Breathing the Mantra – Pull the Navel to the Spine (pull in the powerhouse): The core abdominal area (a.k.a. the powerhouse) begins at the base of the pelvic floor and moves up to the bottom of the diaphragm. [4] On of the most common mantras in Pilates is the command, “Pull your navel to your spine.” This really means contract the powerhouse or core area of the body, since you need to engage the complete range of muscles within the core. 
This can making breathing feel somewhat awkward since the natural motion of the diaphragm is restricted by the contracted core. Daniel Lyon sorts this issue out nicely for us: 
"Breathwork Principle 2: When drawing your navel to your spine during an exercise, sucking in your stomach in such a way that makes you hold your breath will only weaken your powerhouse… Do not hollow out your midsection. Instead, hold the abdominals in so that the stomach doesn’t expand on the inhale but rather remains firm and hourglass shaped at the waistline… Anything that hinders your breathing, such as sucking in your gut, will consequently slow or stop your movement." (Daniel Lyon- Pilates for Men) [5]
Pilates teaches us to breath while the abdominals are engaged. A common example given is to have someone place downward pressure on your stomach while lying on the floor, and learning to inhale and exhale.
Another exercise is to inhale, hold the breath while moving the core area in and out. This also helps to isolate the feeling of the core muscles acting independently from breathing.

Breathwork and the Core: 
The Pilates method focuses on the development of the core area of the body. The mat exercises require constant control and contraction of the core area. Because of this, it is crucial to learn correct breathing and regularly practice breathwork. It is all to easy to fall into abnormal breathing patterns [6], which in turn have very negative effects on body and mind.

Pilates: Breathing and Breathwork – Key Points
The foundation of Pilates is conscious controlled breathing. 
-Practicing the full (maximum capacity) breath is essential to physical and mental development. 
-The rhythm of inhalations and exhalations throughout the Pilates exercises is where training begins. Once breath is under control, more attention can be given to body mechanics and precision. 
Learning to breath while maintaining a firm core area is a primary skill used in all exercises.
   
Notes
[1] Joseph Pilates published two books, Contrology (1934) and Your Health (1945). Both of these important publications are available in A Pilates’ Primer: The Millennium Edition (1998). For quotations I refer to Pilates 1934 or 1945.
[2] See Breathing: Conscious Breathing.
[3] See Themes: Body – Posture.
[4.] See Posture: The Core Area.
[5.] Lyon, Daniel. Pilates for Men.
[6.] See Breathing: Abnormal Breathing.

by Brian Alger

Find This Article Here - http://exploring-life.ca/1181/optimal-breathing-pilates-breathwork/

Joseph Pilates' 6 Principles of CONTROLOGY

The exercise method we know today as Pilates

 


"Be in control of your body and not at it's mercy." -Joseph Pilates

Joseph Pilates originally called his meathod of exercise "Contrology." He considered this to be an approach to movement founded on the integrative effect of principles such as breath, centering, concentration, control, precision, and flow. These basic principles infuse each exercise with intention and fullness of expression.

1. Breath: “Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it.” -Joseph Pilates
Joseph Pilates emphasized using a very full breath in his exercises. Most Pilates exercises coordinate with the breath, and using the breath properly is an integral part of Pilates exercise. Breath is the most encapsulating principle. Without the use of the breath, none of the other key elements are being done to the best of their ability.  Oxygen, blood flow, increased space to move, and many other benefits are just some of the variables of using the breath.  Most people inevitably hold their breath when under stress.  Learning to first breathe, and then when to breathe certain ways, helps any Pilates practitioner reach their goals. Learn more: Breathing in Pilates.

2. Centering: "You will develop muscular power with corresponding endurance, ability to preform arduous duties, to play strenuous games, to walk, run or travel for long distances without undue body fatigue or mental strain." -Joseph Pilates
Centering is physically bringing the focus to the center of the body, the Powerhouse area of the body. Energetically, Pilates exercises are sourced from the center. The powerhouse is found from the bottom of the rib cage through the hip line, the abdominal muscles, low back muscles, pelvic floor, muscles around the hips, and the glutes (butt muscles). Not only are you focusing on these core muscles, you are also balancing the right and left side of the body, while simultaneously balancing dominant and weaker muscle groups.
     -The abdominal muscles are a combination of the
          Transversus abdominis – the deepest muscle layer of abdominal muscles.
          Rectus abdominis – slung between the ribs and the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis.
               When contracting, this muscle has the characteristic bumps or bulges that are commonly
               called ‘the six pack’.
          External oblique muscles – these are on each side of the rectus abdominis.
          Internal oblique muscles – these flank the rectus abdominis and are located just inside the
               hipbones.

3. Concentration: “Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all vital benefits.”-Joseph Pilates
If you bring full attention to the exercise and do it with full commitment, you will obtain maximum value from each movement. In other words allowing the mind to drift off to your day's list of to-do's, what you plan to eat after class, or the shiny object in the corner of the room will distract you from reaping the full rewards of each exercise. Instead Pilates creates an active meditation that pulls an individual away from their surrounding stressors. Every movement starts with the conscious thought of moving followed by engagement, then the movement. Making the decision to think about the motion and what muscles to activate, versus just moving through it, provides increased performance and better results that transcend into your everyday life.


4. Control: “Every moment of our life can be the beginning of great things.” -Joseph Pilates
Every Pilates exercise is done with complete muscular control. No body part is left to its own devices. It is all a conscious, deliberate movement that the mind is controlling. Even if we are doing an exercise that does not directly involve the legs we continue to keep muscle tone and control in the legs, they are not forgotten or allowed to become spaghetti. Every movement in Pilates is deliberate, and the mind should be directing every muscle.

5. Precision: “A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.” -Joseph Pilates
In Pilates, awareness is sustained throughout each movement. There is an appropriate placement, alignment relative to other body parts, and trajectory for each part of the body. A common misconception of Pilates is that it’s “too easy.”  That is directly translated as exercises being done too quickly and not knowing what muscles should be working.  Each Pilates movement has a purpose, placement and technique that needs to be followed in order to be successful. Long term this will also help to have the same deliberate precision in every day life; whether we are running, cycling, lifting weights or sitting at a computer, driving a car or doing another activity that makes bad posture or misalignment easy.

6. Flow: "Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities." -Joseph Pilates
Pilates exercise is done in a flowing manner. Fluidity, grace, and ease are goals applied to all exercises. The energy of an exercise connects all body parts and flows through the body in an even way. Flow is involved is what stitches each movement together.  Every motion in our body needs to be executed with ease versus pain or difficulty.  Reminding ourselves that we should only move and function when good flow is possible is imperative and should be stopped when it’s not.  Patience with this concept will improve our overall health in our everyday lives.