Breathing is your teacher
“Breathing is the first act of life, and the last. Our very life depends on it.” said Joseph Pilates, who as you may know was a little obsessed by cleansing our lungs and driving out impure air - remember the ‘100’ was the first exercise in his Contrology repertoire! Pilates is famously intentional when it comes to breathing, but as we say in our teacher training: breath should be used as a tool, not as a rule.
Nature designed breathing to be as easy as possible, but it doesn’t always feel that way does it?! This is the paradox with breathing - as living creatures, we are breathed rather than needing to mechanically control our breathing. The body knows! We do not need to force ourselves to breathe in because as a living thing, we are breathed. Think ‘doing’ vs ‘being’. The typical adult takes something like 14,000-20,000 breathes every day - imagine having to think about doing every one of those!
While our relationship to our breath can be confusing, breathing is a wonderful teacher, letting us know how we are in mind and body while also offering us different experiences physically and mentally. We have a saying in Pilates that “movement facilitates breath, and breath facilitates movement”, in other words our posture and movement habits can improve our breathing patterns and vice versa. Have you ever left a Pilates class and just felt like you can take a deeper breath? Maybe you felt more grounded, yet lighter at the same time. Maybe you feel like you literally take up more space!
So how should we breathe, during our Pilates practice and in our everyday lives? The secret is that our body knows, we just need trust this and maybe give ourselves a gentle nudge sometimes to remember to do it! Part of the beauty of breath work is that your breath is always available to you no matter where you are and what you’re doing. You literally don’t need anything other than yourself and a little focus. The problem is, in our always-on, overstimulated world, and with life being the rollercoaster that it is, ‘stuff’ gets in the way of our natural ability to breathe, and you could say that we even get in our own way a lot of the time holding our breath, over-breathing, holding our tummies in or doing other funky things!
If you’re curious to find out more, join Ria on her virtual ‘Better Breathing’ workshop on Sunday 25th April, 10am-11:30am. This experiential breathing session will help you develop a better understanding of your breathing patterns, and how to connect better with your breath. Ria will not only offer some tools to help you breathe in a more mindful way reducing stress and anxiety, she will also take you through a series of movements to explore how breath and movement are so intimately connected.