Breathing and movement

How breathing is associated with movement and its importance.

BREATH: it is not only a principle for the pilates method but for any activity the human body is able to perform. Breathing is essential for life and we all repeat its mechanism 24/7.

But why do we need to be mindful about it if it happens anyway?

Have you noticed that we can’t directly control our heart rate or blood pressure, or the speed of our digestion, nor our temperature regulation by the power of our will? However, we can control the way we breathe. We are able to make it slower or quicker, deeper or shallower, through the nose or through the mouth. And that happens because part of our respiratory system is made up of body parts that we can move voluntarily, like the muscles attached to our rib cage and abdominal wall, for example. And that’s why breathing is so interconnected to our movement patterns and posture.

And Joseph Pilates knew that!


The fact every one of us does breathe is an obvious statement, but do we know HOW to breathe correctly?

It does look simple and we do not necessarily need to think about it for the air to come in and out of our airways. But our posture and our movement patterns can directly affect the quality of how it happens, and in the long term they can determine the breathing performance and the health factors associated with that.

A simple example is the diaphragm muscle, which sets a division between our thorax and our abdominal wall, and it’s suppleness is crucial for a deep breath to happen, meaning that it will make space for more air to be flowing to a larger area of the lungs.

The nerve responsible for the diaphragm function passes through the neck, so if our neck is compressed and out of alignment, it would be like stepping on a hose. The message won’t go through and the diaphragm won’t work properly. So we will be breathing in a much more shallow way, utilising the top of our rib cage and muscles that are placed there just to give extra help, not to do the whole work. So they will create a lot tension around the chest area and help to promote a forward posture and stiff neck. This makes easier to visualise the vicious cycle of a bad posture and poor breathing pattern.

So, should we work on the posture or on the breathing?

I would say both, of course. But we need to have in mind that we repeat the breathing mechanism during the whole day and the whole night, and we tend to get very good at things we repeat a lot. So, we just need to choose which strategy we want to be good at: a slow, calm and deep diaphragmatic breath (like a baby does), or a shallow and short accessory breath? If we choose the first, sometimes it can be hard work, but that’s when MOVEMENT will be a facilitator and will help to reeducate us on how to breathe like babies again.

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