Emerging From Covid: Let's Breathe Together

It has been an unexpected, anxiety ridden, and unpredictable year and a half for everyone in Los Angeles. My beloved city continues to endure and cautiously emerge from a dramatic and taxing shutdown. Finally there are Dodger games, Hollywood Bowl concerts, gatherings with friends and family. It is hard to decide what to do first.

Our first step At Pilates On Robertson, BREATHING. Bringing people back into real space into the Pilates studio and on the Pilates equipment away from the non-contact virtual world of endless meetings and distance learning has highlighted the one thing we have stopped or forgotten. Breathing properly. The increased screen time, sitting at desks and on couches, and immeasurable stress have led to universal shallow breathing. We have been holding our breath for 1.5 years. We have been shallow shoulder breathing.

How do you know if you have been shoulder breathing? Why is it so bad?

There are a few easy to spot signs and symptoms that you are shoulder breathing:

  1. Tight neck and neck pain with restricted range of motion.

  2. Rounded shoulders and collapsed chest.

  3. Frequent headaches.

  4. Shoulders which rise and lower when breathing.

  5. Back pain

Why is shoulder breathing so bad?

  1. Using external shoulder muscle groups to inhale leads to a vicious cycle of sending the head forward which ultimately leads to the breakdown of the delicate cervical spine.

  2. Shoulder breathing over time rolls and rounds the shoulders forward to the point of impingement of the complex shoulder joint causing pain and restricted arm movement.

  3. Shoulder breathing leads to a reverse compensation backwards of the thoracic spine and ribcage, weakens core connection, tightens back muscles which can cause back pain and potential for back injury.

What should we do to correct our breathing?

Neck and shoulder stretches are not enough to undo the effects of shallow shoulder breathing. The solution lies in a complete overhaul and reorganization of breathing and posture. This requires finding and connecting with the internal force from within to exhale completely, Then combining that with an internal pull to draw air deeper into the lungs. All this needs to take place with the awareness of postural alignment.

Try these three steps and introduce yourself to healthy breathing.

  1. Inhale from your back lower ribs and expand into the middle to lower back instead of lifting your shoulders. It will feel like a smaller inhale than normal

  2. Exhale by funneling your ribcage downwards, creating an internal force upward to expel the air completely from the bottom of your lungs.

  3. Exhale three to four times longer than you inhale and feel your abdominals contracting and connecting.

  4. Try this for 10 breaths, then see if you can increase the number of repetitions.

Benefits of healthy breathing include:

  1. Decreased neck pain

  2. Decreased headaches

  3. Improved stamina

  4. Decreased back pain

  5. Stronger core

  6. Improved posture

  7. Decreased hypertension

  8. Decreased stress

So, is it worth the effort to move and breathe with focus and attention? Let's try together, try Pilates, and see.......

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