THE BREATH PATTERN AND DYNAMIC AND THE INTENTION BEHIND EACH MOVEMENT IN REFINED PILATES IS EQUALLY AS IMPORTANT AS THE MOVEMENT ITSELF.
BREATHING IN THROUGH THE NOSE AND BREATHING OUT THROUGH THE MOUTH.
When I first learnt Pilates I knew that each exercise had a breath pattern. What I learnt was the breathing was even. I learnt to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
THE HUNDRED gave a rhythm and evenness to the breath since I was taught to breathe in for 5 beats of the arms and breathe out for 5.
I learnt from Eve Gentry that one of the reasons that Pilates wanted us to have the mouth open on the out breath was in order to relax the jaw. We all know how many of us and how many of our students have tension in the jaw. Many people grind their teeth at night. It seems to be a modern way express of stress.
In order to improve your awareness of relaxing the jaw on the out breath I suggest the following exploration.
Sit comfortably in a chair with your elbows resting on a table in front of you.
Place the second, third and fourth fingertips along the skin at the hinge of the jaw. You can find the right place by gently opening and closing the mouth so see where the joint is.
Your touch should be very gentle as if you were touching a butterfly.
Begin consciously breathing in evenly through the nose.
The lips are closed but relaxed.
As you breathe out allow the mouth to open by gently allowing the jaw to travel down.
Very gently encourage this opening by softly pulling the skin down with your fingertips. As I said before the touch is super gentle and no harder than the weight of 10gms.
We access the fascia of the area through the skin.
The body will respond to your touch if it is gentle. If you touch is too hard the body will move into resistance mode.
Make sure your shoulders are totally relaxed when you do the exploration.
You may experience spontaneous movements as a reaction to your touch. These movements are not ones coming from your brain but rather issueing from the wisdom of the cells of the body.
Accompany these movements as closely as you can. Avoid judging or changing them. The closer you follow these internal movements the greater healing will take place.
These movements can be subtle or even quite large.
Repeat 7 times.
Close your eyes, relax and notice the effects the exploration has on your body. Give your body time to absorb all the effects of the exploration.
Repeat the exercise. This time when you breathe in, have the intention that you are not just drawing oxygen into the body but also strength and energy. As you breathe out consciously breath out not just carbon dioxide but also tiredness, tension and negativity.
Each breath is a chance of renewal.
Breathing literally cleanses your body.
Pilates stressed the importance of breathing. Follow the master’s advice and spend your practice being conscious of your breathing until it becomes an excellent habit.
WHAT JEROME ANDREWS TAUGHT ME ABOUT BREATHING IN THE PILATES TECHNIQUE.
Jerome was the first teacher to show me the wide variety of types of breathing that Pilates used.
Here is a list of the different types and dynamics in breathing.
A LONG SLOW OUT BREATH.
The breath in could be dynamic and strong and the out breath slow, long, soft and complete.
The out breath definitely has the quality of letting go, relaxing and releasing accumulated tension.
HOLDING THE BREATH OUT.
Pilates utilised the breath being held out for as long as possible. If the out breath is the emptying phase on all levels it is interesting (and challenging) to explore and stay with the “emptiness “ of a breath being held out.
The space between the out breath and before the in breath is a healing space. The body can move into a place of deep quietness, which is called a "still point" in the cranial sacral work. Not only is the breath suspended but the cranial rhythms stop. Sometimes there is a suspended tranquil state. Very subtle internal movements can happen in the body leading to very fine readjustment.
Exploring the moments where the breath is held out one can often find one can deepen what is happening in the body. For example you may find you that you can drop the lumbar spine just that bit more down to gravity.
I stress that we train ourselves to be able to rest in the pause after the out breath without any strain at all.
STACCATTO OUT BREATH.
An out breath could be sharp; with the mouth being opened wide and definite loud sound was made.
This had the dynamic of pushing or clearing something off your back or with the added sense of dynamic the heel would lengthen more to the ceiling.
When you think that Pilates had studied self-defence this all makes a lot of sense.
THE "SIGHING" BREATH.
Pilates uses different qualities of breath in order to achieve different types of release.
“The Sighing Breath” is a very soft out breath which could be used in the “Spine Roll” for example.
As you breath out it is as if you are softly letting go of, tensions or tiredness just like we do when we sigh.
As one refines this it can feel like you are breathing out of each vertebra.
The effect is euphoric.
When you consider that Pilates studied self defence, had a great interest in yoga these varieties of breath no longer seem surprising but rather a missing part of the puzzle.
He may have been influenced by the dancers he worked with one of whom was Martha Graham who was creative and bold with breathing.
Paying attention to the breath requires patience and consistency but the results are well worth the challenge.
My digital CD about breathing and relaxation is an excellent preparation for the variety of breath work in the Pilates system of exercise. It is available on all digital platforms as well as at http://store.cdbaby.com/cd/jennycolebourne
Email me for a digital Greek copy.
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