Many of us do not use our full lung capacity and deny ourselves the benefits of correct breathing. The aim in Pilates is to improve the mechanics and the depth of breathing, which is essential to oxygenate the blood and remove waste products. When we inhale the lower rib cage should expand upwards and outwards and when we exhale it should move downwards and inwards. Osteopathically we see a great deal of patients who fail to use their lower rib cage and diaphragm to breathe, especially in times of stress. This then overworks the upper ribs and consequently the accessory muscles of respiration that attach to the ribs and sternum – these muscles are only meant to be recruited during forced respiration such as in exercise, running for a bus etc. The consequences are tight anterior neck muscles and resulting neck pain with occasional arm symptoms.
Here is an exercise to get you started:
Lie on your back with your hips and knees bent. Place your hands on your lower rib cage with your fingers touching in the centre. Breathe in and let your ribs expand sideways- your fingertips will draw apart slightly. Breathe out and allow your ribcage to move inwards and your fingertips may interlace slightly. To really help the lower rib cage expand when you breathe in feel your lower rib cage spreading wide into the mat underneath you.
Try this for 5 minutes every day, and in time this pattern of breathing will become habitual. It is also great for relaxation!
Next week we shall discuss and give exercises on Centering within Pilates.
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