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Just breathe...

As I sit here about to turn my 'out of office' on my email I thought I should write a blog post before I take some time off!

Many of you will know that I am married to Terence-the-Cockney, so not only did I marry in to an East End faaahhhmmly, I married in to a big one at that. My father-in-law is one of 10 and I was lucky enough to see many of them at one of their grandchildren's 21st birthday parties on Saturday.

Aunty Jenny, my father-in-law's older sister, was there looking amazing as usual (seriously, she just gets better with age does Jenny) and we got on to the subject of Pilates...not because I turn up to family doos and bore everyone with my work and passion, but because she's been going to classes up in London for the past few months. Jenny is really enjoying her classes but then came the question 'what is it with the breathing???'.

My first words of response were to tell her not to worry about it too much, remembering the frustration I felt way back when I was learning the Pilates ropes. As a beginner, there is so much to learn that if you get too worked up about what breath goes where, everything else can go to pot and you end up losing all focus on your connection and movement. With time however, you of course want to master the breathing technique as it offers so many benefits that go way beyond the inhale and exhale.

That got me thinking about why we breathe the way we do in Pilates and how we can apply it in life. We aim towards lateral thoracic breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth. This breath shouldn't feel forced, but it does encourage the breath deep and wide, thereby keeping tension out of the neck and shoulders. The depth of the breath and slow speed by inhaling through the nose encourages the maximum and most efficient gaseous exchange, bringing oxygen right down in to the tiny alveoli and through in to the capillaries to literally feed our bodies with the required oxygen while removing the waste carbon dioxide. Breathing out a full exhale through a slightly pursed lip, or sighing out as is also popular, both allow an enhanced connection through the abdominals, helping the obliques engage in a stabilising role to support the torso.

We use the breath in Pilates to give pace to our movement, we also use the inhale/exhale at different stages of a move to either exhale at the point of exertion to assist the body's movement, or maybe even inhale at the point of exertion to make it more challenging. Inhaling encourages the spine in to extension while exhaling encourages it in to flexion (go on, give it a go and feel the difference), so we may use the exhale as a 'protective breath' while extending so we don't go too far!

All in all, breath is key to Pilates, but I often say to clients getting worried about their ins and outs, 'somewhere in the world, it will be taught with that pattern' so although we aim to master it, sometimes it's ok to just breathe!

And now we are a mere two sleeps away from Christmas Day, I think this 'just breathe' attitude is key to a happy relaxed time.

Many of us will have ventured in to busy, hot, crazy shops in the last few days. I survived Oxford Circus Top Shop on Monday and more than once, I stood, stopped and just took a deep breath. I turned in to Top Shop Ninja and got out of there unscathed.

Many of us may lay there awake tonight in bed wondering if we've bought enough parsnips. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 6 and breathe out slowly for 8 - if nothing else you'll be super-relaxed and the parsnips will be happily jumping through your dreams.

Many of us will sit for hours on Christmas Day with very full tums watching television. We may slouch, Quality Street to our right, Celebrations to our left and you may notice that you're taking really shallow breaths. Sit up (better still, stand up and poke your head out the front door) and take some deep mindful breaths. You'll feel so much better fo

r it and it may even inspire you to do a roll down or two.

So as you potter through Christmas and all that comes with it, have an amazing time... and just breathe!

Happy Christmas everyone! x

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