Breathing is the first act of the life, and the last… above all, learn how to breathe correctly.Joseph Pilates
A crucial muscle to mention when discussing breathing is the diaphragm, a muscle that forms a canopy underlying the rib cage. During diaphragmatic breathing 75 percent of the respiratory effort comes from the diaphragm. When this muscle contrasts, it flattens, increasing the vertical dimension of the thorax. In addition, the external intercostal muscles contract, pulling the lower ribs upward. Because of the orientation of the ribs and their joints (the lower part of the rib cage is wider than the upper part), the lower region of the thorax expands laterally as the diaphragm rises, increasing the lateral dimension of the rib cage. In contrast, as the upper ribs rise they increase the anterior-to-posterior dimension of the thorax, with the sternum moving forward. The overall effect is an increase in thoracic volume, a decrease in intrapulmonary pressure, and air flowing into the lungs – INHALATION.
When the diaphragm relaxes, the organs in the abdominal cavity and abdominal muscles push it upward into its dome shape, thus decreasing the vertical dimension of the thorax. Added to this, the elasticity of the lungs and chest wall create decreased thoracic volume and increased intrapulmonary pressure, resulting in air flowing out of the lungs – EXHALATION.
In Pilates, we make an effort to emphasize the lateral and posterior expansion of the rib cage during inhalation (called lateral breathing). Besides drawing air into the lungs, this mode of breathing facilitates the maintenance of abdominal muscle contraction throughout the exercise, which in turn helps stabilize the trunk of the body. During the exhalation phase of Pilates exercises, the abdominal muscles contract further to assist the diaphragm and intercostals in expelling air. This promotes deeper inhalation on the part of the primary respiratory muscles and the auxiliary muscles (including the back extensors), bringing in a healthy quantity of oxygen-filled air to nourish and rejuvenate the body.
Lateral breathing is the preferred mode of breathing during some forms of physical activity, including Pilates. It can be practiced anywhere at anytime. Wrap a 3-foot length of elastic exercise band around your chest, hold the ends of the band in your hands, and expand your chest against the resistance of the band. This illustrates and emphasizes how it feels to breathe laterally.
To breathe correctly you must completely inhale and exhale, always trying very hard to “squeeze” every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet clothJoseph Pilates
So, how does it feel? Did you manage to breathe correctly?