After suffering a voice injury that made it painful to talk, aerobics instructor Aliesa George “was afraid of losing her livelihood as well as the ability to share her passion with others.” Remarkably, she turned to Pilates and discovered “a whole new way to breathe as well as exercise.” Her injury healed.
“Breathing was one of the things I realized I didn’t know how to do right,” George said. “I was a competitive dancer and gymnast. I breathed shallowly through the top of my chest and not into the whole lung. … I always hated running and cardio because I could never take a deep enough breath for it to be fun.”
George’s experience is not uncommon and, in fact, such benefits are well-documented in medical research. According to WebMD, “deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body.
“Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax,” the website goes on to say. “The way you breathe affects your whole body. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress.”
In her book Jumpstart Your Metabolism, Pam Grout notes that proper breathing can even be a key to losing weight. “You literally work at one-fifth of your potential when you don’t get enough oxygen,” she explains. “Your body slows down, gains weight, and becomes even more stubborn about changing.”
Deep breathing exercises have also been useful in treating illnesses such as ADD. In his book Healing ADD, Dr. Daniel Amen describes a simple technique that can benefit not only ADD patients, but everyone:
“One simple, commonly recommended way to start breathing deeply is to lie down and place a small book on your stomach. When you breathe in, make the book go up. When you breathe out, make the book go down. Or while sitting, place your hand on your stomach and do the same thing until you get the hang of it.”
Drawing on her Pilates experience, Aliesa George recommends this simple technique to increase awareness of how you breathe:
“Place a long scarf across your back with the ends in front, the bottom edge of the scarf sitting at the bottom of your rib cage in back. Cross the ends in front and take hold of them in your hands, drop your shoulders, and breathe. The scarf helps you to feel where your breath is in your lungs so that you can focus on breathing fully in both lungs. Most people breathe more deeply in one lung than the other…. You can work on breathing in one lung and then the other, and then on fully breathing in a balanced way in both lungs.”
“Breathing is going to make a difference for a healthy life,” George concludes. That’s advice worth taking – with every breath.
To read more on the benefits of breathing and Pilates, check out these recent articles:
“Use Full Lung Capacity for Better Health and Fitness” – http://www.kansas.com/living/health-fitness/article3952620.html#storylink=cpy
“Learn Lateral Breathing” – http://pilates.about.com/od/pilatesmat/a/LateralBreath.htm