I have been lucky enough to recently work with a client who suffered from very bad asthma. I am pleased to be seeing her asthma improve as a result of her new found love of Pilates and our private weekly sessions and it has brought back to my attention the real importance of breathing properly and the little thought we consciously give to this amazing process, so here is some information on the topic.
Pilates was created with asthma rehabilitation in mind
I realise that you already know how to breath, so if I tell you that many of us don’t know how to breath properly then you might think that doesn’t make much sense because breathing keeps us alive, right? But breathing is both a voluntary and involuntary response system and is much more complicated than you might think.
Breathing involves the use of many joints and muscles. Consider that even your shoulders move to allow enough space for your lungs to fill, think of all of the deep intrinsic muscles that you are less aware of that must shift to make space for air, not just in your lungs but all of the pipes and the respiratory system as a whole. Starting to sound complex now?
A good Pilates teacher will have studied in detail, the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system
I believe that any exercise teacher should, but in addition Joseph Pilates actually had very bad asthma as a boy and incorporated his understanding of breathing as an exercise into the Pilates method.
There are Pilates exercises that concentrate only on the respiratory system, but breathing patterns in other exercises will further strengthen the respiratory system as well.
The coughing and wheezing associated with asthma is a result of blocked and constricted airways.
With practice, Pilates teaches us to connect the mind to the body to understand and improve our personal breathing process. It teaches us correct posture and exercises and strengthens those deep intrinsic muscles that support the breathing process, allowing for a full range of motion.
If you do suffer from asthma, then it is important to let your teacher know because some exercises should be avoided until the respiratory system has improved. Lying on your front for example (prone position) may aggravate asthma symptoms and so should be approach with awareness.
As with any body, in any condition, the most important thing I ask my students to do before class is assess how you are feeling on the day; How busy have you been today? Did you sleep well the night before? Have you eaten yet today? Just a few moments checking in before you start moving will allow you to assess how much your body is willing to accept today and will make a huge difference to your results.
In short, Pilates can be hugely beneficial for reducing asthma symptoms. Here’s a short list of benefits.
- Enhanced better posture (allows for full inhalation)
- Relieves stress and promotes relaxation
- Improves ventilation
- Improves the chest and thoracic spine mobility
- Increases the effectiveness of the cough mechanism which promotes airway clearance
- Improves the strength, endurance and coordination of the muscles of ventilation
- Corrects inefficient or abnormal breathing patterns and decreases the effort required for breathing