Breathing and the Body

For most people, breathing isn’t really something that is given much thought, it just happens naturally. Yet this exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is integral to our survival.

The transportation of oxygen that occurs during the breathing process allows the body to store and release energy. Each inhalation replenishes the blood with fresh oxygen while each exhalation transports the carbon dioxide, or waste matter, back out of the body. The oxygen rich blood gets transported throughout the body to all the different cells, including the muscle cells, where it is used in the production of energy and movement.

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This process of breathing works to both energize and purify the body and mind, either as a conscious or unconscious act. There are two basic types of breathing which occur naturally; diaphragmatic and thoracic breathing.

 Diaphragmatic Breathing - Also known as ‘abdominal breathing’ is the healthy and natural state of breathing that is usually practiced when relaxed or sleeping. This style of breathing engages the diaphragm which works to draw the oxygen all the way down into the lower lobes of the lungs. This is the most effective form of breathing and naturally stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming and focusing effect on both the body and mind.

Thoracic Breathing - Also known as ‘Shallow breathing’, or ‘Chest breathing’, often occurs when we are scared, angry, nervous or upset. Though it can be beneficial in some specific practices, this type of breathing can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight response), which in turn enhances these unpleasant emotional experiences.

 The rhythm and flow of your breathing ultimately affects your autonomic nervous system, which means it is intrinsically connected to the mood and energy of your body. Just as exercising, sleeping or getting a fright can all alter the flow of your breath, so can the flow of your breath alter and change the mood and energy of your body.

This is why breath awareness is an important consideration in all activities that work to move and manipulate the body. Learning efficient breathing techniques will not only enhance your experience and ability to practice yoga, Pilates, the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM®, dance, tai chi, qi gong etc., it will also improve your overall quality of life by determining how you respond to stress.

Practicing nostril breathing, as mentioned in the Elephant Journal, has numerous health benefits, including optimized oxygenation. Inhaling through the nose, as opposed to inhaling through the mouth, is more efficient at pulling the oxygen all the way down into the lower lobes of the lungs because it effectively engages the diaphragm. This means that nostril breathing works to both support maximum oxygen/carbon dioxide transport, as well as stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Learning to breathe efficiently is an integral aspect of conditioning the body, which is especially important for mind / body practices like Pilates and the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM®.  By ensuring that the diaphragm is completely engaged in the breathing process, you will not only deepen your physical experience of the practices, you will also be optimizing your energy levels, as well as your clarity and focus of mind. 

 Inspiral 2016 Self-Care Tip #1: Practice deep breathing

Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth with a deep sound of satisfaction.  Make a nice sighing sound.  Repeat 4 times.

Follow this with – inhale deeply and slowly through the nose counting to 5.  Pause.  Exhale slowly through the nose counting to 7.  Pause.  Repeat 5 times.

Enjoy the calm!