"Breathing in I calm body and mind Breathing out, I smile. "
quote by Thich Nanh Hahn
Every day, the average human takes about 23,040 breaths a day. If you are fit and exercise regularly, you may be taking over 27,000 breaths a day. But, the average person rarely thinks about their breath. Breath is taken for granted. It doesn't take thought, it is involuntary, just like blinking your eyes.
Joseph Pilates, the creator of the classical form of Pilates that we teach at move!, said "Even if you follow no other instructions, learn to breathe properly." That is why, when we teach classes like Pilates or Body Flow, you will hear constant reminders of when to inhale and when to exhale.
The science behind the importance of breathing in exercise is simple. In your daily life, when you are at rest or not exerting your body with exercise, breathing is natural and doesn't require thought. You take a breath because you need oxygen and you exhale to remove the carbon dioxide that your body doesn't need or want. Studies show that the average person uses just about 15% of their lung capacity on a regular basis, because they are taking quick and shallow breaths...just what their body needs to survive that moment.
But when you exercise, your working muscles need more oxygen and your create more carbon dioxide that needs to be released which results in a increase in your respiration rate. Becoming more aware of your breath helps you feel more comfortable while you exercise and prevents complications like dizziness or faintness when you experience a lack of oxygen.
i often tell my clients, that they need to think of their breath as fuel for their body, like the gas they put in their car. Your body needs good quality fuel, that being breath, to run properly and to make it to the end of your journey.
In Pilates and Body Flow, we are taught to breathe deeply through the nose, keeping the abdominals engaged by pulling the navel in and up toward the spine as we fill our lungs with air allowing the chest to expand. And then we exhale through the mouth, opening the lips slightly and completely relieving our lungs of air. Picture blowing up a balloon to its fullest point and then completely deflating it.
Breath is equally important when doing cardiovascular exercise like Body Pump, spinning or GRIT. Experts say that diaphramhatic or "belly breathing" during more intensive exercise allows for deeper, fuller breaths making for a more successful and pleasant workout.
In the beginning, it will take practice and a conscious effort to focus on your breath when you exercise. but after awhile, it will become automatic and you will see the benefits.
One of the things I love about Body Flow is that we end our practice with a few moments of quiet and mediation where we focus on our breath to hopefully achieve a place of relaxation and quiet. By focusing our minds completely and totally on our inhale and our exhale, our bodies can achieve a state of quiet and mediation that gives our minds a chance to relax and enjoy the moment.
Thich Nanh Hahn, a teacher of the mindfulness practice said "So when you touch your in-breath and out-breath with your mindfulness, your in-breath becomes more harmonious, more gentle, deeper, slower, and so does your out-breath. Now you enjoy in-breathing and out-breathing. Naturally your breathing becomes more enjoyable."