Whether we’re on or off our mat, there are countless benefits of facilitating our breath. At any waking moment our breath is bringing oxygen-rich blood flow into our muscles, which then fuels our body with energy.
This summer at Momentum Fest, we’ll be exploring our breath as a powerful tool to connect, fuel our movement, and deepen our relationships with our self and our community!
As a movement practitioner and educator, I always come back to the importance of our breath. There are many breath patterns in the movement world, and all of them bring a depth of knowledge of the relationships between our anatomy, our nervous system, and the world around us.
To begin the exploration of our breath, it is important to understand the anatomy of breathing. Our diaphragm is the primary muscle used in breathing. It is a sheet of internal muscle that separates our lungs from the organs in our abdomen. When we inhale, our diaphragm moves downward and our ribs move up and out, allowing for increased lung capacity. When we exhale, our diaphragm relaxes, causing the air to be forced out of our lungs.
Connecting these concepts with our movement is an ideal way to notice where our breath is (and isn’t) going. This meditative breath practice often leads us to places where we may be stuck, tight, or have experienced traumas within our muscular structure. Allowing for a full, expansive, and 360° breath capacity will inevitably assist in healing us from the inside out.
Our breath is also a powerful tool in controlling our nervous system. Although breathing is involuntary, it is unique to our other systems in that it can also be controlled voluntarily. This voluntary control originates from the cortex of the brain, which therefore allow us to self-regulate our breath in relationship to our mental capacity and surroundings. By having control of our breath, we have the power to calm our sympathetic nervous system simply by initiating a slow, deep breath pattern. This intentional breath gives us the opportunity to re-center our body and our mind, allowing only for focus on the present moment.
This is where our breath and movement act in unison. Often times with exercise, and other forms of movement, we’re working towards the next big thing, causing us to disengage from the present moment. By allowing our breath to initiate our movement, we’re more likely to maintain a sense of calm control in our thoughts, and therefore our body. The distractions in our head should never overpower the texture of our breath.
In some movement practices, there is a specific breath pattern associated with how our anatomy moves through space. Often times the inhalation breath is used to create space and decompression, and the exhalation breath promotes connection and engagement. Although these concepts are helpful, it’s more important to promote a full and expansive breath than focusing on when and where to put the breath within a specific exercise. As long we have breath with intention, we’re in the right place.
In Mr. Pilates’ words, “Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.” Our breath is what moves us through space, even when we’re perfectly still. It allows us to practice contentment, equanimity, and presence within our self and our movement practice- All the while, connecting us together under the same umbrella. This summer at Momentum Fest, we’ll use our breath, among other powerful tools, as a celebration of community and movement!
Whitney Shea, PTA, PMA® -CPT, RYT, is a Pilates Teacher and Physical Therapist Assistant in Boulder, CO, and she’s currently teaches Pilates at Physical Therapy of Boulder, Colorado Athletic Club, and at The University of Colorado at Boulder. She is PMA and Yoga Alliance Certified, and has Advanced Teacher Training and Master’s Program Certifications from the Pilates Center in Boulder, as well as a degree in Integrative Physiology from CU-Boulder. After experiencing a traumatic car accident in 2008, she developed a deeper appreciation of The Pilates Method as rehabilitation, which has brought her to her most current position as a PTA and Pilates Teacher. When Whitney isn’t teaching or practicing Pilates and Yoga, you’ll most likely find her outside hiking, skiing, rock climbing, or fly fishing with her husband Billy, and their pup, Solus!