It could be one of the most over-used mantras of the 21st century, but in the face of a global pandemic, changing lifestyles, daily tensions and the dramas our internal voice plays out, simply 'breathing' is becoming a lost art.
Breath has always been a core element of Suna Pilates, and new research suggests that a focus on correct breathing is one of the simplest ways you can alter your mindset - and improve your emotional and mental state - because our breathing patterns influence the sympathetic (“fight or flight”) and parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) branches of our nervous system.
Researchers like Elissa Epel, a Professor at UC San Francisco, are exploring how using breathing techniques can help people combat anxiety - and yes, they’re confirming that breathing can be key to feeling calm.
“The rate and depth we breathe at is a huge determinant of our mental state,” says Epel. “If we’re breathing really shallowly and fast, it causes our nervous system to up-regulate and we feel tense and anxious; if we’re breathing slowly, it actually turns on the anti-stress response.”
In his new book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, journalist James Nestor argues that modern humans have become pretty bad at this most basic act of living. We breathe through our mouths and into our chests, and we do it way too fast. There’s even a phenomenon called “email apnea,” where multitasking office workers breathe irregularly and shallowly - or even hold their breath for half a minute or more while glued to their devices.
- Read the TED article.
Mindfulness and calm through breath
We often work on reshaping our thoughts to move out of anxiety, which is a useful technique - but sometimes breath can reset your body and mind within seconds.
Susie talks about using sighing breaths - 10 deep sighs in time of stress - to quickly move to a calmer state.
Because a focus on breathing brings you into a mindful state and essentially hushes the complex anxious thoughts you may be dealing with, your body can receive a swift, clear message - 'no danger here, we are breathing calmly, everything is safe' and your nervous system can shift from fight or flight to rest and repair.
Hot tip - Combine this with 10 minutes of Sama Blocking for even more effect!
Regular breathing practice reduces anxiety levels - and focusing on breathing techniques in times of acute stress can instantly reduce anxiety too
A 2017 Chinese Medical University study found that when highly anxious people practiced diaphragmatic (deep belly breaths) breathing twice a day they reported less anxiety and the physical signs of anxiety levels were reduced.
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that people waiting to receive and electric shock were less stressed mentally and physically if they breathed slowly - and another study showed that a fast inhale and slow exhale worked best.
(And, you'll be happy to know the participants never received the promised shock!)
The powerful benefits of breathing with Suna Pilates
Breath is a central principle of Pilates – and there are some very compelling reasons why! At Suna Pilates we have a strong focus on the importance breathing correctly, with active inhalation and exhalation as this creates numerous benefits for your overall health, metabolism and energy levels.
Enjoy better Pilates form
Breathing well supports correct Pilates form during the exercises, and specific changes in breathing technique or rhythm are employed to increase the effectiveness of each Suna Pilates movement.
In Pilates we place emphasis on ‘strengthening the core’, and Suna Pilates exercises include using specific breathing patterns to activate our core muscles effectively. One of the key reasons we focus on breath is that the exhale in each exercise ensures that the abdominal muscles are engaged – which delivers quick results and strengthening of your core.
A strengthened core and supple intercostal muscles allow the lungs to expand more and support an improved the respiratory system, which is crucial to our overall mind-body wellbeing.
On that topic – breathing well increases the supply of oxygen around our bodies and brains. Fuller breaths provide extra oxygen to improve blood circulation, providing more oxygen and nutrients to our cells and relieving congestion.
Feel more energetic
It’s easy to see how breathing well fuels your metabolism with more oxygen and nutrients and improves your energy levels! Great pilates breathing makes you feel less physically and mentally tired, and sets your body at an optimum operating level.
Because of our focus on breathing, you can expect to leave a Suna Pilates class feeling physically extended, but energised and revitalised!
Breathing well also engages your diaphragm, massaging your internal organs and improving their cleansing and nutrient boosting functions for additional energy and detoxifying your system. You will literally be breathing out toxins too.
Get more beautiful skin – yes, really!
All this cleansing and metabolism boosting action is visible on the outside too - improved circulation and oxygen flow can lessen wrinkles and give your skin a gorgeous lasting radiance.
Increase clarity of mind
Breathing deeply with intention is a simple form of meditation and helps clarify the mind and calm the body. Breathe away stress and calm your nervous system. It’s all in your control.
Look fit and fabulous with Suna Pilates
Suna’s style of Pilates is an extremely effective form of fitness and our clients see results fast. Great breathing techniques are a critical piece of the formula and we will help make sure that you understand them and employ correct breathing in the classes to get maximum benefits. You can tone up and get in shape quickly, but once you feel the effects of our great Pilates technique you will want to make Suna a part of your lifestyle.
De Stress + Live Well with Time to Thrive
Our new Time to Thrive wellbeing programme has a module on De-Stressing which includes breathing techniques. Watch the intro here to find out what else you will learn online with this gorgeous wellbeing course: