“Before any real benefit can be derived from physical exercises, one must first learn how to breathe properly. Our very life depends on it.” – Joseph Pilates
It is our first breath that initiates our physical and physiological independence as a human being and our last that determines the end of our living existence. Breathing is a fundamental movement pattern and breath is “the energy that drives life, the power that animates the body, enlivens the mind and spurs the soul.”(Robert E. Svoboda).
In the world today, many of us live sedentary lifestyles and encounter high levels of stress on a daily basis. These elements of our modern lifestyle seem to have had a negative effect upon our postural and breathing patterns and a startling number of us now suffer from ailments such as shallow breathing, thoracic kyphosis, lower back and neck pain and anxiety.
By nature our breath is continuous, nourishing and cleansing, however it has the potential to become rigid, restricted and inefficient. Three dimensional breathing is a rudimentary corrective exercise that improves hip and shoulder conditioning and the alignment of the thoracic, abdominal and abdominopelvic cavities.
Positioning the body optimally in preparation for three dimensional breathing exercises is of great importance and is as follows:
- Ankles, knees and hips are flexed in a 90/90 position and supported by either a Swiss ball, chair, couch or coffee table.
- Neck is long and there is a slight tuck to the chin. Place a folded blanket or towel under the head if necessary to avoid hyperextension of the cervical spine.
- Ribs are not flared or sticking out but are slightly sliding downward towards the pelvis. This is not a ‘bearing down’ or forced contraction, but is more of a subtle activation of the core musculature and creates stability for the spine.
- Once in this position place your hands on your lower abdomen and breathe into your hands, continue with full inhalations and exhalations for a few breaths.
- Next place both hands on either side of your ribcage and breathe laterally into your hands, allowing your ribs to expand and move away from one another with your inhalation and ‘knit’ back toward one another with each complete exhalation. Continue for a few breaths.
- Shifting the focus towards your posterior rib cage, take a deep inhalation allowing your back to expand into the mat beneath you and fill up with air. With your exhalation let your sternum soften and sink down towards the mat beneath you. Continue for a few breaths.
-After completing the diaphragmatic deep belly, lateral and posterior breathing exercises separately allow your awareness to incorporate all three of these movements in to each and every breath.
Be sure to relax and to take full inhalations and exhalations as you perform three dimensional breathing and enjoy the effects of this calming, centring and nourishing exercise!
Aliza Beliveau, NASM CPT