Chances are you’ve been breathing wrong and don’t even know it! And if you sit all day (like many Americans), your lung capacity could be reduced by as much as 30 percent.¹ Reduced breathing can cause issues such as stress and fatigue, and is also directly connected to immune function.² It’s no wonder breathwork is such an important part of Pilates classes.
Pilates for immune system is a popular topic right now. Boosting your immune system is one of the most important steps in maintaining optimal health, especially this year! We all know that nutritious food and regular exercise can strengthen our immune system. But were you aware of the connection between breathwork and immunity? A regular deep-breathing practice is one of the best tools for improving your health, and can easily be incorporated into your daily routine.³ You don’t need to be a certified Pilates instructor to practice simple breathing exercises.
Whether you are practicing pilates for athletes or pilates for seniors, breathwork can benefit everyone! The healing benefits of breath work are profound and have been practiced around the world for thousands of years. Breath plays an important role in many traditional cultures, dating back to ancient civilizations which developed breathing techniques for spiritual and religious purposes. Yet modern-day breathwork studies are rather new, dating back to the 1960s and 70s.⁴
Many different breathing techniques have been developed in the last 20 years, and these techniques can be easily practiced at home. The problem is, most people take shallow breaths using just their chest and upper lungs. In order to fully strengthen your lungs, you should inhale and feel your ribcage expand completely. On the exhale, you must feel your rib cage contract and every bit of air empty from your lungs.
A popular exercise to build lung capacity was developed by Pilates Elder and Educator Ron Fletcher. He was a student of Joseph and Clara Pilates in their NYC studio. After Joseph’s passing, he continued to train with Clara and with her blessing went on to develop the Fletcher Pilates Method used in Pilates today.
Ron worked with a pulmonologist (Lung Doctor) to study the function of the lungs and diaphragm. Based on his studies he put together his Percussive Breathing technique which he then incorporated into the Pilates work.⁵ His Pilates breathing technique, named Fletcher Clock Breathing, is available on youtube for you to follow along if you’d like to learn more.
Here’s an easy exercise to practice correct breathing:
1. Place your hands on the sides of your ribcage.
2. Feel your ribs expand into your hands and toward the back of the ribs like an accordion.
3. On the exhale, feel your ribs knit back together and the nearby muscles engage.