In. Out. Oomph.
More Energy is a Breath Away
By Linda Knittel
Sourced from Pilates Style.
To breathe is to live, but to breathe consciously is to live well–or at least with more awareness. Certain disciplines such as yoga and meditation often use breath work to relax the body and calm the mind. But in some, like Pilates, breath can also be used to challenge the body, or to boost energy and increase mental function and according to Amber Zuckswert of Epicself.com, it can all be done while you run errands.
In most cases, Pilates instruction emphasizes posterior-lateral breathing, or breathing into and across the back. Not only does this increase lung capacity and function, but it also improves posture and creates additional abdominal support for the lumbar spine.
“I use a lot of visual cues when teaching students how to expand the ribcage using their breath,” says Zuckswert, a San Francisco-based Pilates instructor. For example, she might tell students to imagine they are wearing suspenders, and inhale to lengthen those suspenders. “Exhaling is just as important. In Pilates we always say, ‘you have to out your air in order to in your air,’” she says.
The question then arises, when is the best time to “out” your air? “There is a breath pattern to every movement in Pilates,” says Zuckswert. In many cases, that means exhaling upon exertion, but not always. “My teacher Ron Fletcher teaches that the breath is meant to challenge the coordination of the body, so instead of exhaling when you are moving, we learn to inhale.” Which is an important skill to master, when you consider that while going about our days, we need to be both inhaling and exhaling regardless of when we are moving.
Unfortunately, most of us aren’t thinking about our breath much during the day. Granted, we are focused on more immediate tasks such as making meals, meeting deadlines, and merging into traffic, but this inattention to breath often gives rise to shallow breathing and the fatigue that comes with it. “I teach my students techniques to use anytime to boost their volume of air, align their bones properly and increase awareness,” says Zuckswert. “The added bonus is that it makes them feel alert and energized.”
A perfect example of these techniques is Zuckswert’s “3 Minute Energy Boosting Breath and Posture Exercise” video, which inspired her to create a series of downloadable videos that use breath, awareness and core muscle activation to bring new life into one’s day. The videos will be available on her site this month, and will only take 5-10 minutes each. “Ideally, you would do one Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and the other on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday,” says Zuckswert. Of course once you know the techniques, you can do them again whenever you need a boost during your day. “Hopefully, people everywhere will be sitting at their desks or standing in the grocery line activating their core with breath and awareness,” she says.