Tag Archives: breath

Are you still breathing well?

I’ve had a wonderful summer this year – I loved the warm weather and made the most of it even if just at home, i.e. not on holidays.

I discovered the joy of immersing myself in the normally freezing water of a nearby stream! I revelled in the feeling of warm air on my skin at 10pm. I enjoyed seeing flowers thrive differently in such unusual conditions – some blooms outdoing themselves while others shrivelled and died.

I also got away for the third year running to a community ecocamp, (earthsong.ie) where we lived close to nature, sleeping under vinyl (wouldn’t canvas sound better!?) There, I got the chance to do lots of different movement classes, yoga and others. Very interesting…. I’m always learning. There is always some nuance to take on board.

The one common thread to so many movement disciplines is the breath. Keep coming back to your breath. Use it to ground yourself, to be in your own body. Without the exchange of oxygen that takes place automatically as we breathe, we’d be dead within a few minutes. Most of us don’t pay any attention to the act of breathing.

I’m not recommending that we breathe with awareness all the time, no, but do stop periodically and ask yourself whether you are still breathing well. This is especially useful if you’re engaged in some stressful activity – preparing to go to work, facing a load of laundry, thinking about the shopping (… I could go on!)

Lift your heart and crown, drop your shoulders and lengthen your neck, focus on making your exhalation longer each time and the inhalation will naturally become fuller.

Look at a diagram of your lungs – visualise the air you take in coming into all the little alveoli. These are the tiny, balloon-shaped air sacs at the end of the respiratory tree and are arranged in clusters throughout the lungs.

Further along, notice the involvement of your pelvis, abdomen and ribs in the breathing action.

As you exhale, draw your low abdomen in and upwards. As you inhale, imagine you are in fact breathing in through your perineum (between anus and genitals). As you exhale next, seek again the in and upward pull of your low abdomen. Keep it gentle, about 20% of maximum.

The breath of life. Learn to breathe deeply and calmly.




Two great pilates tips

1. Tighten from inside out and bottom up! When you engage your core muscles (starting with a squeeze of the pelvic floor muscles, then recruiting the lower abdominals), you can visualise your strength growing from the inside out and spiralling upwards. You can do this even from sitting (waiting for traffic lights to change, for example).

2. Stand tall and notice your breath! If standing in a queue waiting for somebody or something, practice standing tall and watching your breath. Elongate your spine by lengthening up through crown of your head. Feel even weight on both feet, lift your sternum and bring shoulder blades a bit closer together at the back, allow your arms to relax down by your sides. Gently draw your lower abdominals inwards and upwards a bit, towards your spine. You will look taller, your heart will be lifted, your waist will reappear and your stomach will look flatter. Then lengthen your outbreath slightly; just notice the breath flowing back in. Stay with the breath just watching it coming in and out, like waves at the shore.

Pilates: mind and body

2014-09-15 MeAtopGalteesI love pilates for so many different reasons.

Initially, I was drawn in by the sheer physicality of doing pilates movements. I don’t mean that that it was physically very challenging or very hard (… pilates has a reputation for being ‘hard’ but it need not be when done safely and with awareness of the guiding principles… ), no, what drew in me was that I found the classic mat pilates repetoire made me intensely aware of my muscles and bones as no other movement discipline had before. It was very physical for me.

It’s a given that if you do pilates regularly and as suits your body, you will become stronger, increase your flexibility and improve your posture. Many of my regular clients attest to these benefits. These are the physical benefits.

But the more I engaged with the physicality of pilates, the more I have also tuned into the mindfulness of it. I know ‘mindfulness’ is a buzzword these days, but this is so for good reason. Mindfulness is simply a great tool for dealing with the stressful things that inevitably happen and thus it’s a great tool for improving the quality of one’s life.

Mindfulness is stopping and noticing this exact moment in time, right now in your body, noticing your breath, accepting what is. You don’t have to empty your mind of thoughts to be mindful. You notice your thoughts pass by, but you don’t have to follow them. You can choose to redirect your attention to the here and now, the present moment – to your breath, your feet, maybe to the sounds around you or to your posture for instance.

You can train yourself to become mindful and thus empower yourself to be master of your thoughts. It’s a great liberation to be in charge of your thoughts!

As a result of my own journey, my pilates classes are naturally evolving from not just teaching clients how to apply the five physical principles of Joseph Pilates so that they move their bodies with integrity, but also to sharing ways of being mindful and finding quietness in the present moment.

Mindfulness means things like not waiting for life to be perfect – your life is happening right now. It means doing your best in every moment – your best is good enough. It means appreciating what you have and doing what makes your heart sing; life is too short to worry about what others do or think of you!

New term of mindful movement through pilates starts next week. I’m looking forward to it! Some spaces still in some classes – so please get in touch ASAP to book!