At last, I’m getting around to breathing. Most of us don’t really breathe very well. We’re rather stuck in stress breathing – hunched over, shoulders up and forward, back slumped, head forward, and tense.
Stand or sit up tall and fully breathe. If you’re breathing only in your upper chest, you’re still in stress breathing. Do you know yoga? Do you know yoga or belly breathing? How about deep, diaphragmatic breathing?
Standing or sitting tall, exhale and squish your belly button to your spine. Put your hands over your belly, just below your belly button. When you breathe in, make sure you push your hands out with your inhale. Keep your shoulders and chest down. Look in a mirror or have someone watch you to make sure you’re not still trying to breathe in your upper chest.
Imagine filling up a bucket of water. First, you fill the bottom, then the middle, and last the top. Fill your lungs the same way – bottom, middle, top. If you fill the top first, you can’t fill the bottom or the middle. The lower lobes of the lungs are about 75-80% of the total lung volume and the upper chest is only about 10-20% of lung volume.
If you’re in a stressful situation (work, home, driving, etc.), take three deep belly breaths. You can do those in ten seconds. Remember that you’re supposed to count to ten if you’re upset? Do three deep breaths in those ten seconds and you’ll be relaxed and thinking more clearly and be less emotional. You’ll be able to effectively respond to those stressful situations rather than just reacting.
The reason your lower belly expands when you breathe this way is because the diaphragm muscle pulls down to make more room in the lungs. This causes the abdominal organs to push down into the lower belly.
However, to do Pilates breathing, you need to hold in your belly all the time. So where are you going to breathe now that you can’t expand your belly? Well, breathe into the lower BACK part of your ribcage. Wrap your hands (thumbs down and in front) on the sides and back of your ribs and see if you can expand your ribs sideways when you inhale. Keep practicing this if you don’t get it right away. You have to teach your intercostal (inter-rib) muscles how to do their job.