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Exhale: Finding your breath during a time of crisis

During times of stress, it is even more important to breathe, and breathe deeply. After watching the news, I find that my body gets tighter, my jaw clenches, and my breathing is shallow. We are all feeling a wave of extremely complex emotions, and it is tough to process what we are experiencing. But, if you allow yourself a few minutes to breathe deeply, it may calm your mind and help you to momentarily let go of the worry.

Joseph Pilates always focused on the importance of breath; in fact there's a famous line from his book Return to Life Through Contrology, "above all...learn how to breath correctly." Oxygen is part of almost every chemical reaction in your body, so you need a lot of it! Breathing deeply has many benefits such as helping to lower blood pressure, lowering inflammation, and reducing anxiety and stress.

There are many techniques for deep breathing in Pilates and in Yoga. One technique that I find helpful and that many Pilates instructors advocate, is called lateral (intercostal) breathing. Lateral breathing happens naturally when we breathe with a strong, engaged core. My exercise below helps you to find a deep, lateral breath (see written directions and video.)

I hope you can find a few minutes to calm your mind and breathe. Stay safe and healthy! I would love to hear about your experience with the exercise below!


Lateral Breathing

Sit in a comfortable position - legs crossed on the floor or seated on a chair.

1. Sit with a lengthened spine - crown of the head reaching to the ceiling and sits bones grounded on the floor or chair.

2. Place your hands on either side of your rib cage.

3. Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel your ribcage expand into your hands (in the sides and back.) Hint: think accordion.

4. Exhale through your mouth, slightly purse your lips as if you're blowing out a candle. Feel the ribs contract and draw back towards each other and feel your lower abdomen deepen and draw in.

5. Repeat this several times until you feel the ribs expanding and contracting.

***Option: add a count with the breath; for example inhale for 8 counts and exhale for 8 counts.You can increase the counts as you become more comfortable or play with the counts (ex. inhale for 6, exhale for 10.)

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