Get to Know the Principles of Proper Breathing

Posted on Jul 6, 2017

Breathe in… Breathe out… If you think that’s all there is to breathing, think again.  Breathing or Respiration is defined as the process of taking air into and expelling it from the lungs as a regular physiological process. The air goes inside your body as oxygen and comes out as carbon dioxide. Respiratory rate is one of the four primary vital signs along with body temperature, blood pressure, and pulse or heart rate.

You might not realize it, but your regular breathing pattern is probably disrupting your bodily functions. Before you know it, you could be experiencing sleep deprivation, mood swings, indigestion, and heart failure. Disrupted respiration can also affect your nervous system, muscles, brain and even the development of your teeth and facial structure.

Although we usually take it for granted, breathing effectively is a major factor that contributes to better health. Find out how to respire the proper way and learn some useful breathing techniques.

4 simple principles of proper breathing

 First of all, find yourself a comfortable position. Either lying down or sitting, it is important that you are at ease so you can take deep, slow breaths. You can try lying on your back with your arms at your sides. Keep your legs straight or bend your knees slightly. You may use pillows or cushions to support your body.

1. Breathe in through your nose

Inhale through your nose and keep your mouth closed, especially during deep breathing. Nasal breathing provides the body with warmth and humidity in cold temperatures, as dry air is easier to take in. It should be noted that when you breathe through your mouth, the lungs get more “unfiltered” air that is raw, cold, dry and full of harmful microorganisms (e.g. viruses, bacteria).

If you feel your nose is too stuffy when you breathe through it, that’s most likely because you’re used to breathing through your mouth and your nose has adapted to the habit. Don’t worry, it only takes a couple of days of nasal breathing to re-open your nostrils. It is better to start now. 

2. Breathe with the diaphragm

The diaphragm is the dome-shaped muscular partition located at the base of the lungs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand on your stomach, just below your rib cage. Breathe in gently through your nose until you feel your stomach start to rise. Try to keep your chest in place, and that it is not moving upward.

When you allow your diaphragm to control your breathing, you’ll breathe more easily and effectively. Other advantages include helping your lungs with the gas exchange; and decreasing the pressure in the chest and belly which normalizes your heartbeat. Moreover, breathing into your diaphragm massages your liver, stomach, and intestines, giving your organs a rhythmical balance. 

3. Breathe out through the mouth

When you exhale, open your mouth slightly and let the air out. Force the air up and out using your diaphragm. Pause for a moment after exhaling your breath, and then take in another breath through your nose. Sighing when you exhale will also help you to relax. Make it a habit to do deep breathing for five to 20 minutes every day. 

4. Breathe in a relaxed way

Learning to control your breathing and making it more relaxed allows your body’s systems to relax as well, which leads to better bodily functions in general. Like a car which needs fuel to run, our system requires enough ventilation to work smoothly so that we can perform well during our daily routine. 

Most of us breathe rapidly and loudly when we are stressed, cry or talk which could result in incorrect breathing. Coughing, snoring, and sniffling are also examples of irregular breathing. So, be careful and revert to relaxed breathing. 

Breathing techniques for Pilates

Proper breathing during Pilates improves your mood, energy, and endurance. This type of workout uses breathing in various ways in an attempt to improve one’s health. Check out some breathing techniques that you must learn for an efficient Pilates workout.

Lateral breathing

Also called rib cage breathing, this breathing method involves the deep abdominal muscles during both inhalation and exhalation. You will be inhaling largely into your ribcage and stretching it sideways. When exhaling, you engage your abdominal muscles as you expel all the air. Lateral breathing helps maintain abdominal contraction while performing these exercises.

Exhalation pattern

In general, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. But remember to exhale when your spine flexes or rounds forward, since during exhalation you engage your abdominal muscles. You should also release air whenever you need a strong abdominal contraction, such as when you move your arms and legs away from your body, like in the double leg stretch exercise.

Please note that Pilates exercises or phases are performed in various ways: some are more slow and smooth while others are more rapid and forceful. Hence, it is highly necessary to pay attention to your Pilates instructor and be sure to discuss any personal concerns.

Inhalation pattern

“The breath shapes the movement and defines its dynamic,” explained Ron Fletcher, an early student of Joseph and Clara Pilates and one of the pioneer instructors of Pilates.

The basic rule for inhalation in Pilates is to absorb air into your body when you extend your spine or arch your back— this is called chest breathing. This helps in expanding your chest as you inhale and vice versa. To do this right, bring your shoulder blades back while sticking your chest out and stopping your body from using stomach breathing. Always remember to suck in your tummy as you breathe out. Proper posture is the key to effective breathing. 

At Pilates Plus, we promote proper breathing techniques to help you maximize the results you get out of your Pilates class. Breathe your way to good health and wellness—join us today!